When you thought of some girls, you saw the image of a pigeon and dirt under fingernails but not when you thought about her. She had a shape and rhythm about her. When others stepped with their feet she stepped with her hips. They swung menacingly like a club in the hands of a seasoned golfer. Men bent over backwards to do her favours. She had come to expect it and she took it all in stride. Except of course when it came to men she wanted. It’s funny, human nature. We push away the people who give us the world and grovel before the ones who push us away.
Adam was now just starting to date and he was going to bed not once with a heartache. He would often fall asleep with his phone in hand. Because he had tried calling her and gotten no response. He would call again and it would be the same scenario over and over. ‘Leave a message after the beep,’ a tone would drone on the other end and he would hang up and try again. When fatigue got the better of him he would curl in a foetal position and stare at a phone that never rang back unless it was his supervisor asking if he had closed his cash register for the day.
It never occurred to Adam that she wasn’t fit for him. He was always the one calling and arranging dates. Dates which were often accepted in an offhand manner. Done because she was bored and she needed someone to pump some excitement in her otherwise dull day.
It bothered him, at least for a short span of time before he went back to pining for her. Often he would discuss it with his roommate, Tim. Tim who had no business giving relationship advice because his face was often stuck on the screen with a video game console in his hand.
“Why do you think beautiful girls act the way they do?”
“The same reason richesse people act cavalier.” Only Tim used words like richesse to replace wealthy, or cavalier instead of indifferent. Adam thought it was the effect of working in a lab. All those fumes were going up his nostrils and straight to his brain.
“Um, what do you mean?”
“Options. The ridiculous thing is that even with their options they still end up making some pretty fucked up choices. Look at the most miserable people in the world and they are probably moneyed, beautiful or both,” he said while shifting his weight from left to right on the couch.
“Is that how you comfort yourself for being fugly and broke?”
He let out a laugh. He looked boorish, almost, like an overgrown bush in his fro. He had a cold and he kept wiping his nose with the back of his hand. He breathed back a chunk of mucus, wiped the liquid that seeped at the edges of his nostrils with the base of his thumb and continued.
“Do you, for example, ever ask yourself whether you want to be with Grace because she’s pretty or if its because you actually like her as a human being? Or do you pursue her so relentlessly just because you want to bed her?”
He said it loudly as if he was trying to sound convincing but it came out porous. The last thing he would have wanted was for Tim to call his bluff.
“You know women sleep with lesser men everyday; it’s just a question of how they perceive you.” Half his hand disappeared in his hair. An itch had developed on his scalp.
“Every man who is anybody has a pretty girl on his arm,” Adam said, briskly changing the bedding subject.
“Wouldn’t you say that that’s the problem? There isn’t a manual, or there is and it’s broken. The world makes it feel as if you are on top of the pile when you’re arm in arm with a shapely thing, with a face that shines like the stars and hips that could start a seismic movement. They never say anything about her character and if they do they never emphasise it.”
When Tim got into his speeches he went on and on like a road without a stage. Adam sat there in silence. His mind having wandered off into the valleys and canyons of Grace. The makeshift lunch of noodles and eggs he was having going cold on the table.
“But who says she doesn’t have character, uh?” Tim tottered expansively. “She’s probably just exhausted that you’re using the same old tricks the blizzard of men she comes across use on her everyday. How about you try something different like giving her a cold shoulder and focusing on that cashier job of yours a little bit more for a start. What is that saying again, that if you love something you let it go?”
That afternoon Adam had plans to take Grace swimming. Tim’s advice fell on deaf ears. Adam wasn’t going to listen to him—not when he had a chance of seeing the woman he idolised in a swimsuit. He called. She picked on the seventh ring and said she was on her way.
She looked just as good as he had seen her in his imagination but it ended up being a sour experience. She ended up flirting with a European man the whole time. Adam was reeling. He had tried to distract himself by racing a group of toddlers across the pool but he couldn’t help overhear the direction of the conversation which was now speedily heading onto ‘exchanging contacts’ street.
When they were leaving, he brought it up. Her reply was smooth and cheery, as if the walls of her throat were glazed with honey. She could do well on the many superficial radio stations that were running amok in the country, Adam thought as he digested the words that made him feel as though he had a concrete chance with her. “It’s no big deal, I was just making a friend.”
He bought her lunch in an upmarket restaurant. After they were through he asked her if she could perhaps come over to his place since, as it happened his roommate was away. “I’m in a bit of a hurry. I’m meeting a cousin of mine, I will make out a day just for you, promise.” It was always a cousin, wasn’t it? She didn’t seem to be in a hurry when she was gobbling down the expensive meal, did she? Adam fished his phone and called her an Uber. He got a hug for it and felt flustered. As if he was floating on a cloud.
When he closed the door of the Uber he saw his reflection on the dark glass. A distorted shape full of angst. He stood there as the car motor came alive and his reflection started ebbing with the cars movement and he felt as if his relationship with her was blurring too. He stood there until the car was the size of his nail. Until he could no longer hear the sound of it’s engine.
He got home and sat on the couch with a sagging face. He didn’t know what bothered him more. The fact that Grace wasn’t falling for his charm as quickly as he would have wanted or the fact that he felt as if he had just wasted an entire afternoon.
It was Tim who told him what he needed to hear.
“You dole out cash to that girl as if you’re an executive in a blue chip company and she were your trophy wife. You know, you should try being yourself. You’re a cashier not a tycoon.”
Those words stung but they rang in Adam’s head for a while. Together with other words he had said. ‘The world never says anything about character and if it does it never emphasises it.” But who in his right mind listened to Tim, a cynic who spent the better part of his time in front of a box playing video games? No one. Adam fished out his phone and texted her, “Had a great time, how about a movie next weekend?” He sat back and wondered how long he would have to wait for the reply but it didn’t matter because he had all the time for her.
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