Entries: January 2005


I wave at my coworker from across the busy car park, and she takes it as an invite and makes a beeline for me. Wait, why is she carrying a motorcycle helmet? Because this girl isn’t who I thought she was. It’s that new girl who, admittedly, bears a slight resemblance to my coworker. But only from twenty yards. My bloody nearsightedness has betrayed me on more than one occasion, which is why I’ve gotten into the habit of not making eye contact with anyone. Generally I try to look like I’m lost in thought—better safe than sorry. For the eccentric artist there are many things to ponder, after all. But this time I was so… sure.

“Oh,” I say. “I thought you were someone else.” My feet carry me forward, compelled by convention, until we are standing between a row of cars and the bicycle rack.

“Your’re scamper, right? Allison.”

Allison the new girl. “I’m scared and I don’t want to talk to new people,” I explain to her.

“Everyone says, ‘you’ve got to meet scamper!’ Ha ha.”

I grimace. “You’re pretty,” I say. “I feel scared and creepy.”

She sets her motorcycle helmet down on the bed of a pickup truck so she can tug her riding gloves off. When she proffers her hand my heart stops beating for a moment, and then doubles its rate in order to catch up. “I don’t like to touch people,” I say.

She takes my hand and pumps it. “I’m going to be working with Rob,” she tells me. Rob is my supervisor. “So we’ll probably end up working together on one of these projects they’ve been talking about.”

“You’re happy and nice, and I don’t like people,” I say.

“You heading out for the day?” she asks.

“I don’t have any more words,” I say.

Just then a man I don’t know squeezes between us to get to the bicycle rack, “Excuse me,” he says. We both back away to give him room to untangle the security chain. Unfortunately, Allison’s helmet is now out of reach, sitting on the back of the pickup, and we’re left facing each other, our horrible conversation now artificially extended.

I look down at the scruffy little bicycle man. “Can I just leave now?” I ask him.

He slides the chain out from between the spokes of the rear tire and drops it into his side bag.

Allison asks, “So will you be around tomorrow?”

“This is awkward,” I say.

At last the bicycle man pulls his bike from the rack and walks it toward the gate, so that Allison can retrieve her helmet. “Okay, well, see you tomorrow, scamper!”

Thus emancipated from social slavery, I slink back to my car, my gaze well below the horizon this time. Does everyone feel a captive to civility, or is it just me? It is a question I may forever ponder, since I’d prefer not to engage anyone with it. I put my car into reverse, and plow into Allison’s motorcycle.

Her rear tire lifts off the ground, and her hands fly from the handlebars. When the bike comes back down it comes down hard, and fairly leans her into the ground. I put my car back into park and jump out, rushing around to the back to find her pulling herself out from beneath the fallen machine. I can hear her muffled swearing before she can lift off the helmet. Which she is doing right now.

Why bother? I think. Does she want to engage me in further conversation? She seems so upset now, which is truly odd, because she didn’t seem upset at all before our vehicles collided. She was happy and nice then, I remember it clearly. So why is she so stiff with rage now, and yelling at me? What has changed?

If people are going to be angry with me then they should be angry with me right away. Why should I have to go through the effort of upsetting them? It seems like a lot of extra work to me, to go around building up hope only to manually scuttle it a moment later. It’s dishonest is what it is.

“What can you expect,” I ask Allison, “when the terms of our relationship are predicated in a lie?”

No wait, it isn’t the new girl after all. I squint across the car park to make sure. Yes, it’s definitely my coworker, which is what I thought. Good thing too, that new girl Allison makes me nervous.

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Being You

A week ago Jeremy was glowing. “Last night I told Sara that I loved her.” He bought us two horchatas, and then ignored his as he recounted the events of the evening.

“Wow. That’s really…. Well done,” I said. I’m always impressed by new love, and I put my hand out for shaking. Now it was official.

“I know. Everything’s just really coming together now for us, and last night I just felt this overwhelming…” he searched for the words, “all-encompassing thing.”

“So there it was.”

“Right. And I have to say, it feels great.” He scooted his glass, now frosted with condensation, back and forth, obsessively.

“Congratulations,” I said. I’d never been as rigorous with my own thoughts to assume that I understood love, which made his declaration—or any declaration of love—all the more miraculous.

“Thanks, man.”

I’d finished my horchata, and the straw sucked spiritedly at the bottom of the glass. “It makes me wonder though,” I said. “Would you like to be her?” The question didn’t strike me as the definitive acid test, but it did seem like a natural consideration.

“To be her? I don’t know, she’s doing pretty well now with the new job and all. I certainly wouldn’t mind that commute.”

“No, I’m not talking about swapping places with her. I mean would you want to be Sara?”

He cocked his head and blinked at me. “What do you…?”

“To live the life she’s living,” I said, “in her skin. I mean, you say that you love her, and that’s great. But I just wonder if being in love with someone—the one—also suggests a willingness to be that person.”

“That doesn’t… I don’t know what you’re driving at.” He laughed and shifted in his chair, looking around the restaurant, as if he might see others listening in.

“I’m asking if you’d be open to the possibility,” I said.

Jeremy sat up in his chair. “I mean, I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I like myself,” he said, making chopping gestures with his hands, “and I’ve become the person that Sara can love. We’re not interchangeable.”

I laughed. “I’m not saying you’re interchangeable. If you were, the question would be moot.”

“The question is moot!” he barked. “Sorry. I just….” He looked around the room again.

“I don’t think you’d be so defensive if the question were moot.”


“And,” I added, “I don’t think you’d be so defensive if the answer were ‘yes.’ I basically asked if you’d like to live your life as Sara, and I infer from your response—from your reaction—that the answer is no.”

He looked like he really wanted to get up and leave, but was unable to. “So what, you’re drawing a conclusion from that? Some metaphorical question that has no basis in…? So would you be willing to swap places with everyone you love? And if not, is that love?”

I shook my head. “That begs the question.”

“What? I just asked the same thing you asked.”

“You asked another question. I’m asking you if you’d like to be Sara, the woman you love.”

He sighed heavily. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why are you asking me about Sara?”

“I’m asking you about you. But now that you mention it, I wonder what she would think if she knew that you wouldn’t even entertain the notion of living as her. I think that’s enlightening. I didn’t mean it to be confrontational.” I rapped on the table twice: case closed; no biggie. “Can I…?” I indicated his beverage. “If you’re not going to?” He released the horchata into my possession with a wave.

After a moment he said, “I think she’d be amused.”


“This whole idea, I think Sara would find it amusing. That’s all.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Think so?”

“For a second. And that would be that.”

I pointed my straw at him. “You know what? I think she wouldn’t move on. I think it would stay with her, that knowledge.”

Now he really was ready to leave. “That knowledge. Whatever, man. When you’re in love, feel free to swap all you want. This isn’t a conversation that two people can have.” He didn’t care who else heard him.

“Fine,” I said, palms raised. “Just be careful if you tell her what we talked about, okay? You may want to leave this part of the discussion out.”

“Look, you know, we don’t have any secrets from each other. That’s love, see. That’s a legitimate measure of love…. If she asks, I’d tell her.”

“Right. Okay.” Let her ask, I thought. I didn’t need to win an argument, but I consider myself a pretty good judge of character. “Just be careful.”

A month later I was buying Jeremy a beer. He told me how Sara hadn’t been able to drop the idea, and how, over the course of a few weeks, it became the cancerous seed that finally made the relationship untenable. “Things just fell apart like you wouldn’t believe, and all over that. So I gave up,” he said. “After she gave up, I gave up.”

I clapped my friend on the back.

“So you tell me,” he said, “is that the essential question? Is that love’s litmus test?”

“No idea.” I shrugged. “I thought the question up just before I asked it. Besides, I agreed with your implicit answer. Sara can’t deal with existential questions like you can. It would have been a real loss for you either way.”

He sat up from the bar. “Shut the fuck up, man. Not funny.”

“You’re right, bad joke.”

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