Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Wrong Move

“Hi! I’m not sure we’ve spoken before, but I’ve seen you several times at our university. My name’s Jay.”

Her hair had been shorter then, just past her chin; the same mix of silken gold and black. She’d been wearing a satin dress, beige and black that showed off her slim, almost boyish figure and nearly flat heeled golden sandals. Arriving late at the outdoor wedding dinner that summer evening, he’d found most of his friends at the dance floor. He’d smiled and shook hands, spoken a few words with the couple and made a beeline for the bar.

Jay had recently moved jobs and was still single after the break-up with his ex-girlfriend 7 months ago. He’d always been fast with starting things, but slow to pick up the pieces. He’d had to push himself a bit to attend the wedding this evening and he was determined to make the most of it, given that the new job was taking up a lot of his time.

She’d been sitting at a high table, looking somewhat bored. He’d spotted her while ordering drinks at the bar. She looked cute and while Jay was not normally a forward person, he decided to make a try for her.

He took a sip to compose himself and set himself at ease, trying to reach for an inner calmness and center. He’d found over time that he needed to manage his own expectations of the outcomes of his actions. He figured she’d either recognize him, or she wouldn’t.

Since her back was to him, he approached her table calmly from the side and introduced himself in measured tones. She’d looked a bit startled and taken aback, at first, but then smiled hesitantly.

Jay smiled back and politely asked, "May I join you?” She seemed a bit flustered, “Sure! Please! Yeah, you do seem familiar.” She smiled and introduced herself. He glanced towards the dance floor at the bride and smiled, “So, whose side are you on? I’m with the bride.”

She was soon at her ease and told Jay that she was on the bride’s side too, but knew the groom well. She’d seen Jay around at university and had been curious about him, but then their paths had never crossed. They talked about their mutual acquaintances and noted some friends they had in common, about their studies, and their jobs. He expressed his delight at getting to know her, saying, “I’m glad we talked. I didn’t realize I’d have such a great time at this wedding.”

An hour later, the conversation was still lively and strong and they were both warming towards each other. Jay felt great and felt that she was enjoying his company too. He desperately wanted to get her number, but was unsure how she’d react to that. In a pause during the last story they swapped, he asked if she’d like to dance. She smiled and stood up in response and they made their way to the dance floor. She spotted her friends and excused herself saying, “I’ll be back in a minute.”

He waited. And waited some more. Shrugging he stepped towards some of his friends and had a merry time, dancing and singing along. He tried putting her out of his mind. He wished he’d asked her for her number. He decided he’d let her ask for his instead. His mood darkened despite the merriment and soon he drifted away from the floor to stand just a few steps away from the dancing mass.

Her hair flashed gold as she walked his way. She seemed hesitant as he stood there unmoving. “Jay. Hey, I’m sorry I got caught up with my friends. I’ve got to get going now. But it was great meeting you.” Jay’s response was cool. He smiled and wished her a wonderful evening. He noticed that she stood waiting for a few moments, hesitating. He wanted her to ask him for his number and stopped himself from asking for hers. She stood a bit longer, then smiled hesitantly; disappointed.

Jay watched her walk away.

That evening and the next he’d called  up everyone he knew at the wedding, discreetly asking about her. He couldn’t reach the bride, of course and she’d be away for a few weeks. The only other person who knew her said she’d ask her first and get back to him. He spent a few weeks trying to find people he knew at her work, or even where the offices were. All to no avail. He’d missed his chance and as the weeks passed, he felt more and more foolish at the prospect of finding her number and ringing her up.

She’d come back to him hoping he’d ask to see her again and he’d been stubborn and stupid. He’d seen her several times after, but their paths never seemed to cross and he never worked up his nerve to walk up to her again.

A Palpable Hit

Thud! Jay felt pierced inside. The woman’s gaze had done that. As the first inklings of pain radiated from his throat and his eyes watered, he wondered at the pain. Her golden-brown eyes were still locked with his own as the rest of the world seemed to recede from his consciousness.

With a blink, the world jump-started again. She moved in through the door and past him, into the restaurant, carrying with her a whiff of her perfume. His thoughts were jumbled and for a second or two he struggled to pull his chain of thought together – caught in mid-sentence.

He’d been talking about a podcast he’d heard. That was it! He started again, “… sixty minutes. The reporters were near Jerusalem, interviewing some of the Palestinians about the manner in which the Israeli forces were treating them.”

Jay was seated opposite and to the right of the entrance to L’Aubergine. Gasser and Rania’s group of friends were sitting on the red couches just inside L’Aubergine, waiting for a table to free up. He’d joined them a few minutes ago for a quick drink before he headed off to a friend’s birthday.

Gasser had been bitching about the partition that had been recently removed by the management. Earlier it had protected the couches from the draft of air from the door’s opening and closing as more patrons entered. Now, everyone in their group looked up each time the door opened to let someone in, followed by a cold chilly draft.

Mary, recently arrived from Boston, was filling them in about her fellow students at Brandeis, who were in favor of the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Jay’d responded with his story about the Sixty Minutes podcast, telling her that there was still some good reporting in the USA, when she walked in.

He closed his eyes briefly to concentrate and hold her image in his mind and freeze it. He had it now. Her eyes stared back at him, in the shock of mutual recognition and her fine brows rose gently to register her slight… was it amusement? Her long, almost elfin face held a slight frown, mouth slightly open, as if in a low whistle. Her almost silky  straight hair was longer now, a mix of dark gold and black, reflecting the light from the lamps outside. And her long neck ended in a round-necked shimmering blouse of a dark material. She looked pale from the cold outside.

The ebb and flow of noise around him continued as the conversation moved from that topic to Jess, and Omar, who were debating if they wanted to order an Irish coffee or just go with Baileys. Gasser settled for a beer and so did his wife, Asma.

As Hany sipped his customary Heineken he regaled them with a joke about Process. “So this guy walks into butcher’s and asks for a chicken. The guy at the counter asks him, ‘Do you want it skinned or with feathers?’. Skinned replies the guy. ‘The floor above,” says the man at the counter. Climbing a floor the man asks the guy at the counter, ‘A skinned chicken, please’. The guy at the counter asks, ‘Chopped or whole?’. ‘Chopped’, replies our man. ‘The floor above’, is the reply. Proceeding to the floor above he orders a skinned, chopped chicken. ‘Marinated or just plain?’, asks the man behind the counter. ‘Marinated’, says our guy.’The floor above,’ comes the reply. So he proceeds up yet again and states, ‘I’d like a skinned, chopped, marinated chicken, please’. The man behind the counter laughs and replies, ‘Well, we don’t have any chicken, but what do you think of our process?’”

Jay laughed with the others. It was a common enough complaint, about the bureaucracy and madness that Egyptian officials sometimes personified. He felt a bit of the earlier tension in him dissolve. And felt surprised to note that he was feeling tense. He felt a sour taste in his mouth and felt suddenly restless. Excusing himself, he stood and walked into the restaurant heading for the restroom on the floor above. He was hoping to catch a glimpse of the woman again. He saw her on the table just opposite the stairs.

She noticed him too, and they exchanged glances as he muttered something under his breath. He tried to regain some of his cool as he tried to run up the stairs unhurriedly, feeling her gaze at his back.