After a long silence, my body is making demands. It began with a request for exercise, and then in a confusing example of self-interest, it started asking for less food.
Now a bit trimmer, it feels like it owns the room.
“I want a friend,” it asks, protesting my recent lifestyle of solitude, as if I can so simply comply.
“But we're doing so well alone,” I counter, a bit annoyed with Body’s sudden demands. “Why mess it up now with complications?”
But Body just snorts as if my words are too stupid to acknowledge. Body wants more.
It’s my fault. I broke the calm by speaking to a man, a man with whom there was just enough history to spark Memory. The voice – the carefully placed laugh, the gentle-toned question, a genuine, ‘Ah, that’s so sweet,’ to my reply – sprung Body from its passive state that allows me hours on my couch with books and laptop.
It feels risky to disturb the peace by suddenly looking outside for pleasure. Looking is always the problem. Interactions I can handle. They are alive, active. But looking is just Desire, and Desire isn’t very smart. Desire has bad judgment. Desire can take you down dark alleys at foolish times.
But Body no longer has patience, so in pushing Desire in my face, I must counter with Reason, though Reason is dull. No one likes to hang with Reason. Reason gets invited to fewer parties.
In an attempt to please Body, I stop at a bar for a cold beer on my way home. The place is packed, social, friendly. Bodies crashing into bodies. Casual conversation is easy and expected. But in coming, I forgot to bring Interest. When you take Interest and Desire with you to a bar, you make greater effort and a bit more eye contact. But by not stopping home to pick up Interest, I lack the proper companion to launch conversation.
I park Body on a cushioned bench by the window where I can look out at the sidewalk smokers and in at the potion drinkers. Without Interest, I sit and sip my beer. After a quarter of a glass, Boredom speaks, “Can we go home now?”
“But I didn’t give Body what it wants,” I reply.
“You gave it cold beer on a hot night. It can’t be so greedy.”
So Boredom accompanied by Reason walk me to my car. Luckily, Disappointment doesn’t climb into the passenger seat. Instead, Calm sits down and says, “Well, that was interesting. You saw what it was like to go back out in the world with a bit of Intent.”
“Intent!” I cry. “I left Intent in the bar.”
“Intent will find its way home,” Calm reassures.
Calm is very smart. In trying to please Body, I will remember to bring Calm with me.
“What about me?!” Mind speaks up.
“Ach, you’ve been getting all the attention,” Body jumps in. “Don’t be so Greedy.”
“Hey, I resent that,” Greedy chimes in. “You always use me as an example of what not to be. I have good qualities, too.”
“Name one,” says Calm in a nearly silent voice.
“I spark Need.”
“Need does fine on its own,” Body says dismissively.
But I feel I must speak. “Need sometimes needs help,” I say, nudging into the conversation. “Need’s been patient and has been ignored. And, Body, if it weren’t for Greedy, I may not have stopped for beer after an already pleasant night out.”
Body and Calm suddenly feel sheepish, even judgmental.
“We’re sorry, Need,” they say in unison. “You, too, Greedy. We forgot we all have a purpose.”
The ride home is silent. Not bad, just silent.
But one little adventure isn’t enough for Body. Body wants results not just attempts, so Body gets more demanding. It starts reading the paper looking for events to attend, using its secret weapon on me.
“Doesn’t this look interesting?” Curiosity says, pointing to a live music event at a local museum. “Or this?” citing a bookstore anniversary party.
“Maybe,” I reply.
“’Maybe’ isn’t enough,” Greedy jumps in.
“Okay. Tonight. I promise. We’ll go somewhere.”
“You better bring me!” says Intent.
“And me,” says Interest.
“But most of all, me,” whispers Calm.
Destination: two-year anniversary party for the nearby art bookstore and gallery. The black and white postcard invite reads, ‘In dog years we’ve been here a lot longer.’
A hot muggy night. I dress for the weather. Short skirt. A top of thin straps and material. Body-hugging. Flip flops for an easy walk.
I hesitate as I exit my home, not sure if I really want to venture out, not sure if out there is better than in here. But Body nudges me, “You promised.”
And I had. So I go.
I arrive. The room populated with a few lured to early arrival by free entry before 9 p.m. and an open bar. I take a quick spin through the room lined with first editions protected in plastic covers. Books and periodicals celebrating assorted artists, designers, musicians – anyone who has contributed to the creative landscape through the years – cozy up with the collectibles. A room divider displays the night’s offering of art prints by a guy working through his romantic woes. On one, hand scrawled letters read, ‘Today I Lost The Love Of My Life, What Did You Do?’
I grab a vodka and cranberry, the drink the sweating bartenders are pouring in the-room-that-has-no-moving-air, and walk towards an open door seeking breeze, but I’m quickly fumigated by a team of chain smokers.
The band is setting up, and I notice that they’re teenagers and I can’t tell if that makes me feel old or feel young. A little of both, actually. And then I pass him, a guy I could set my eye on. Satchel over shoulder, slightly shaggy hair, rectangular glasses, casual dress. A sense of art hovers around him. Our eyes meet. He smiles. I smile back. And he continues to move through the room. Observing. Surveying. But it was a moment. I know it. Body knows it.
I move to a counter-high ledge between me and the teenage band battling with amps and cords and instruments as the store’s owner prods them, “Ten minutes. You gotta start in ten minutes. And you’ve got twenty to play. Twenty.”
“Twenty?” mutters the lead guitarist as if it’s an insult, a boy of shoulder-length splayed blond dreadlocks colored with turquoise and green.
I fidget and play with a fountain pen and watch a two-year-old child crawl along the counter destroying the center divide of native desert plants as parents look on with amusement.
He stands across the divide, playing with the strap of his satchel. He doesn’t see me seeing him. I go back to my fountain pen willing the music to start. Patience enters and nuzzles up against me. “I know it’s hot, but just hang in there.” I listen as I wipe the sweat off my forehead. He walks over, towards me, to me, near me. “This is why we came,” Body whispers in my ear.
“Nice woodwork in here,” he says, and before I know it, we’ve made it through the obligatory entrée words, and in my mind, I’m agreeing with Body. It’s been a long time, but I remember what mutual attraction feels like. I recognize Intent in another. I can’t help but leap forward as Anticipation joins the conversation.
A photographer, web designer, graphic artist. I like the combo. I like his ease. I like that he came to me. He tells me of the home he owns cross-town and the trips he takes to a retreat he owns in the desert. Solvent. Good. Finally.
And I tell him of my visit to that desert town, how when hiking I felt vulnerable in the quiet as if danger could hide behind tumbleweed.
“Were you alone?” he asks. And I hesitate as Fear saddles up beside me.
“Well, my son was with me,” I say as I look for a disappointed reaction in his eyes but find none.
“Twelve now, but he was about ten at the time.” And we clear that hurdle and Fear leaves for fresh air.
My new friend recommends we do the same, move closer to the door. He asks the bartender for another beer, asks if I want something, but I decline. The room grows crowded and we’re forced away from the hint-of-air back towards the band. And somewhere out of nowhere, no prompt remembered, my new friend says, “I have a two-year-old. He’s with my partner back east for two months.” I’m sure he continued talking, giving me details, but Mind is waving arms wildly, screaming, “Partner? Is he gay? Partner!” as if my friend had just confessed to a horrendous felony rather than simply misleading me.
Hope slumps. Interest fades. Calm feels emboldened. “This is what I’m here for.”
“She’s a successful artist,” my friend continues, “and had to go away for work, but my work’s keeping me here.”
And I actually don’t care anymore. Don’t care that it’s she and not he. In this context, they're interchangeable. Interest turns to Small Talk. We go outside to escape the heat and the unimpressive sounds of the teen band. I’m ready to leave, Disappointment having joined the party.
We stand on the sidewalk, and I can’t help but notice how Friend is looking over my body. “It’s nice to get out and meet people. It’s lonely with the family gone,” he adds. “So, do you do yoga?” he asks in a curiously timed non sequitur. “I mean, how do you stay in such good shape?”
I don’t even want to answer. Does my exercise routine matter or is this all about his partner being away and his loneliness and his wanting to meet new people?
I walk to my car after wishing him a fun remainder of his evening. Strength glides in to hold my hand. Good Sense puts a hand upon my shoulder. I want to call myself stupid, but I wasn’t. I didn’t imagine his attention, his focus. Our meeting was just like any other that leads somewhere, somewhere beyond a sidewalk and a discussion of how having a kid changes life.
“You did the right thing, leaving when you did,” Good Sense congratulates.
And I nod, slowly, still lost in where I was, wondering how something that had felt so close was so profoundly far away.
Today Body gives me a break, a sympathetic gesture after seeing how its demands jolted my spirit last night. In exchange, I smile and I mean it, and I promise Body that I won’t return to my shell, that I’ll embrace Daring and let them both push me out the door again.