We matched up online in the new old fashioned way, a teasing advancement of missives that grew more charged with each turn. From innocent takes on the weather to the inevitable buy which went something like this.
What’s with the dearth of sushi joints in your neighborhood? Can we figure out Nietzsche over steaks and scotch?
It scored me her number because she loved the charm. And when I told her that charm was nothing more than a well dressed sense of humor, she told me to call her straight away.
The facility of online dating is a Point A to Point B mechanism whose ambiguity is a ransom of untold things. The extent of my knowledge to that point had been a couple of head shots along with a profile whose architecture remained untested. Context the internet could not provide, a phone call did. Her voice was a dark contrast to the willowy feel of that bespectacled red head who sported a lonesome tattoo and a smile out of homespun upbringing.
She confessed that her profile picture was dated but true enough. And then, as if she could read my racing mind, she apologized about not having anything more current on account of being camera shy. She called it the vampire effect with nary a trace of humor behind the words. I was dubious when I should have been running instead.
There was a menacing undertone to her sexy cadence of nouns and verbs. As if she was curtaining a beast while positing grace, The more I learned about her, the less I knew. It felt to me as if she was re-arranging a character of herself, as one might re-arrange furniture; for the feeling of space it provides. I attempted to slow my hearing down in order to study the sounds she emitted, which lay tucked inside the crafted words. This sound, it pulsed, a low throttled shriek whose fingerprints were achingly close yet perpetually beyond my reach. I sensed in her a capacity to do bad things, savagely and with no remorse. It wasn’t nihilism, but survival. She didn’t believe in evil the same as she didn’t believe in good. Her existence was that of a tigress whose only religion is the acquisition of flesh and blood. How I was able to intuit so much, another mystery.
I realized the danger in keeping company with her, yet I was helpless to the aching want. I made the forty minute drive to Reading, Pennsylvania to see her. It’s a town that was born on railroad tracks and died with coal and whose inglorious rebirth as a hub for the drug trade keeps legitimate business at arm’s length. The town is a photographers paradise as it houses a confluence of time periods set against a depressed backdrop whose sentinel is a ghostly pagoda which overlooks the environs.
We met at a steakhouse around the corner from her apartment. She was a younger looking version of the ‘dated’ picture. Gone were the black rimmed glasses. Her hair was no longer tethered and it ran free and wild as a hard rain. Her style was Gothic, but not the mall variety. Her ivory skin bore a greater amount of ink and there was a seeming fidelity to each setting. Her eyes were a color I have never been able to adequately describe because I have no recollection despite the countless hours I spent inside of them.
Her apartment was a moody ensemble of Pier 1 and thrift shop finds. An antique floor lamp with an over-sized lampshade wrapped in vintage scarfs provided ambient light to a living room whose window space was purposely spare. Candles lurked about in asymmetrical regiments.
As she grabbed a bottle of red from the fridge, I digested the surroundings in search of the gaps in our dinner conversation where family and friends were spoken of with no real sense of structure or belonging. I found nothing. No evidence of a life beyond the one she rendered. The walls housed huge abstract paintings. A bookcase held several Lladros as well as a few black and white photographs of local landmarks and books by Jung, Bukowski, Keats and Campbell.
She moved behind me, kissing at my neck as if a predator in heat. After which, the hours spilled in primordial fragments until she was kicking me out before the dawn because she needed sleep and new lovers were problematic to such an idea. But it soon became apparent that daylight always fetched a different excuse. Our hiking trip was canceled on account of a cold. Our trip to Market was scratched because she had to work. She never came to my place and I knew better than to ask why. My visits never promised dawn.
At the end, there were no tears or curse words. We smoked cigarettes over Chinese takeout and vodka before losing ourselves to the need one last time. It was different inside the final hours. She behaved with a restraint that was more frightening than all those nights when control had proven scarce. I tried to lock the thoughts out, but they bled through: She was caging the monster inside of her.
I lay awake for hours, teeming with catastrophic ideas. A part of me wanted to stay, to succumb to her command. But it was her restraint which convinced me to go. It occurred to me that mercy was not a character trait of her abridged existence and if she was showing me the door it was probably wise to use it.
It’s been six years and I never dream of her in full. The twilight of my conscious moments is a place she visits. I have this one scenario that’s always the same. I’m walking down a crowded avenue, a cascade of strangers moving past me in the opposite direction, their faces are masked in the negative space of fog and sand. And then the crowd parts and she’s standing there in front of me, her eyes beckoning me into forever.
As for my eyes, they play tricks on me with increasing regularity. I’ll see her in the grocery store checkout line, or standing at a bus stop, or walking right behind me. I’ll see her standing in the doorway to my room as the moon pulls hard on the night. And then my eyes correct themselves and no one’s there at all. But then, that sound I never figured out becomes audible and it’s explaining the horrible truth of how we met and why she let me go.