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© 2005 - 2008 Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas.

 

“Sure you don’t want someone to accompany you?” he said, and she stopped and turned around.  “I absolutely don’t mind going out of my way.  It’s not that cold and I like to walk and I’ve nothing to do now but go home.  Oh, that must sound ridiculously pathetic.  Or pathetically ridiculous.  Neither is what I intended it to be.  It’s just that it’s still so early.”  “Go back to the party, then,” and he said “No, I’ve already said goodbye to Pati.  It’d seem too peculiar, coming back, ringing up to be let in, putting my coat on the bed again, etcetera.  I’m happy to go home.  I’ve plenty to do.”  She nodded and resumed walking and he headed for the subway station on Canal Street.  He looked back a short time later and she was gone.  He remembers thinking she walks fast and disappeared as quickly as she did at the party.  He hoped she wasn’t hurrying to meet up with a boyfriend.  Weekend night; it makes sense.  But if she was, why would she agree to meet him?  Maybe to get rid of him and when he calls she’ll say she changed her mind and doesn’t think it necessary to give a reason why.  Or the reason is that she’s seeing someone or she’s too busy with her work to meet anybody now, even for coffee.  Or she might have agreed to meet him because she likes to take a break herself and the boyfriend she can always see in the evening.  It’s all innocent, in other words, he thought, walking to the subway station, tantamount to nothing.  She has no plans whatsoever in getting to know him better than as someone to meet once, and if she finds him interesting enough, maybe meet for coffee a second time, but just for talk.  But he was so inarticulate and clownish with her, what could she have thought they could talk about?  Her author, for one thing, but she must know ten times as much about him than he does.  He should have asked if she was presently seeing someone, he thought.  Well, he sort of did, she skipped around it, and anything more on his part would have been prying.  Later—a couple of months or so—he was thinking about the first time they met and said to her “If you were seeing some other guy, when we first met, would you have agreed to meet me for coffee or even told me how to get your phone number?”  “I doubt it,” she said.  “I knew you were interested in me and I wouldn’t have wanted to lead you on.  Of course, it all would have depended on how serious a relationship I was in.”  “As serious as the one you’re in now?” and she said “Then, no.”  “Semiserious?” and she said “Maybe.  Or maybe it would have had to be several notches below ‘semi.’  A relationship that wasn’t going anywhere or I was coming out of, with no chance of going back.”  “Can I ask why you did agree to meet me?” and she said “The usual reasons.  I wasn’t seeing anyone, hadn’t in a while, and I found you attractive and pleasant and smart—” “Smart?  You thought I was smart?  I acted like a complete putz.”  “No, you didn’t.  Let’s just say I saw past what you called that night your bumblingness.”  “I didn’t say it that way exactly, but you were close.  I’m surprised you remembered even that much of it.”  “I also liked your nervous approach.   You weren’t cocky or presumptuous or anything like that.  But another thing that interested me was that you were a writer.”  “Writers turn you on, eh?” and she said “No.  But writing about them and their work is a lot of what I do.  So I think I was interested in talking to you about your work and how you go about doing it and what keeps you at it, and so on.  I didn’t at the time have much of an opportunity to speak to a live writer.”  “I’m sorry,” he said, “that was a stupid thing for me to say.”  “It wasn’t one of your brightest remarks,” she said, “especially because you knew the answer.”  “Okay, I won’t make that mistake again, or I’ll try not to.”   

 

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How They Met by Stephen Dixon