by Tsipi Keller


Tsipi Keller Every so often she got stoned to loud music, sometimes country, sometimes rock. Every so often she got off the couch and swayed melancholically with the music, letting her head roll from side to side. Melancholy, she thought, becomes me. Too bad no one is here to see it, to see me in it. And yes, she liked the way her thoughts looped and swirled according to their own whimsy or program. And yes too bad no one was there to see it. Our best moments gone unseen. C'est la vie, oui, oui.

Yes, she knew a bit of French, she was a faux-French, or a francophone. A disgrace these days with a Bushie and a Dickie in Washington, D.C. Derelict City. Dereliction is a way of life in our capital city. Her life, too, was an open-ended dereliction. A life of scheduling, routinely, then loosening the noose a bit.

Open, and ended. And a bit of a twirl - voilá, another French word. How fast and deep are you willing to reveal your wonderful self? When your door is locked? Do you even know who your next-door neighbor is? Perhaps the one who would finally proffer his other cheek?

Maybe you are hungry? Yes, you are! But, stop the party? Because your tummy cries food?

And her dancing shadow on the wall. And the song, and the music, and the cry, and the vague longing, and the need, made of the moment. It is all of the moment. You take it in, and then you let go, retaining something, maybe the essence. And up in the sky a full but a watery moon. Like yesterday. Aloof.

Very profound, this. She was getting more profound by the pound, no, by the minute. C'est la vie. She was on the verge of forgiving herself, tout. At least for the moment. At least for the now. She was not one to worry about the order of things and other sure perishables. When she worried, she worried about the small things. A friend of hers said it was because of the Holocaust, because her parents had died, no, survived the Holocaust. That particular friend blamed it all on the Holocaust, but she, the one who could, said, No, it's not the Holocaust.

She ate her food on the carpet on the floor because it felt ceremoniously foolish to sit alone at the ornate dinner table. And, no matter what others might have to say about the matter, she was convinced she enjoyed her food as much as anyone. Even if she ate on the floor, hunched over her plate of salad and spaghetti, and then straightening up for the chewing.

Besides, she liked to watch something while she ate, and, eating at the table, she'd see only the faint reflection of her image in the thick glass of the tabletop. And so, consuming her dinner on the carpet, she watched TV - like many others, in fact - and followed the story of the hour with the insatiable appetite of a scandalmonger.

The fact was, she had met a new man the night before, and was now thinking about him, even while she didn't want to be thinking about him. The Split/Conflicted Brain Syndrome - she worked the acronym in her head, hoping for some chance musicality that would prove it had been in the cards that the two of them should meet.

She didn't want to think about him because she wasn't sure whether she really liked him, or just wanted to be coupled. All night last night, on her couch, she said that, and he said that, and she said that, and then he, in response to a question, said something quite profound, which she tried to remember now and couldn't, but she did remember appreciating his answer, for it was an answer concerning her - of this she was certain. She thought it profound because it surprised her, it went in a direction she hadn't anticipated. A question she had asked in all innocence, and he had answered in all seriousness, the seriousness of a first date, of getting to know you, of wanting to like you, of wanting to impress you, of wanting to spend some time with you, in bed, and outside it.

Inside and out. Simple, and yet intricate and potentially disturbing. Maybe profound! She had the sense that he was a nester, a man who needed a lot and therefore got himself a dog and a cat. She had the sense that he had suffered at the hands and mouths of women, and that he sought such women out.

He was good-looking, she had to admit that her heart and eyes and mind, in some order or other, responded as soon as she saw him in the room. It was Christmas dinner with old friends, and she didn't expect any surprises, no newcomer. But there he was, like a lost cowboy, a last-minute addition, so said the hostess in a whisper, a long-gone cousin who had suddenly reappeared and had to be invited. After all, they were family, however distant.

The "distant" part got her approving attention instantly. No exchange of gossip between prospective lover and inquisitive cousin hostess, who would be eager to know all the dirty details, on and from both sides. With all good intentions, with all good and best wishes.

I bruise easily, she told him at some point, meaning that her skin was delicate and bruisable, but, as she heard herself speak the words, she realized he might be understanding her meaning differently, yet couldn't think of a way to amend the words that had already come out of her mouth. Still, she felt certain that whatever meaning he gleaned from her words, her manner told him that she was keeping all escape routes open.

At her door, as they were saying good night and goodbye - it was high time, 3am - and she extended her hand, and he took it, she wished him a happy new year and leaned forward, seeking his cheek, but he, mistaking her intentions, and eager as well, it showed on his face, and surprised by this sudden gesture on her part, also leaned forward, offering his lips, then realizing, in a flash, it was the cheek she wanted, and he offered it, making a quick, perhaps disappointed, adjustment.

In bed, after he left, she read for a while, forgetting all about him, and then fell asleep and into a long, tortuous dream, where she and he are making love, or trying to, but, intermittently, he takes off and flies in the air, performing tricks for her, perhaps to amuse her, perhaps to annoy her, so she tries to fly, too, and, to her great amazement, succeeds, she flies in the air, and does all sorts of cat-woman acrobatics, but, as she flies, she tells herself, This is all unreal, as she knows herself incapable of flying.

She awoke from the dream disheveled and broken and fearful, blaming all the drinks they had had at the dinner party, and the pot they had smoked when they sat on her couch.

She didn't like to fret, but fretting was part of her makeup, fretting, and debating, and analyzing, and second-guessing herself. And listening to oldies on the radio late at night, like, for instance, to Sinatra singing, That old black magic called love. American singers, she believed, poured their hearts out, more so than their European counterparts, who were, on the whole, more circumspect in their delivery. She wanted to believe she was, in many respects, just like everyone else, corny and sentimental and pining after something or someone, or the idea of someone, in the abstract, a being she didn't bother to endow with the prerequisite looks and intelligence, but someone who already came custom-made, so she could get right down to business and create the first witty conversation they would have, or were having, at the moment.

How frank and honest and candid can you be? The first time? How far would you go? To reveal your wonderful inner self? Like, your real real inner?

She swayed with the music. Her life, if you had to sum it up, wasn't all that bad. She had her moments, like everyone else. Her generous moments, her loving moments, her bad moments. She liked late-night radio because it was then when they played the best music, the best songs. Or so they sounded, late at night, when all was quiet on the street, and she was alone, completely alone.



Copyright 2007 by Tsipi Keller