"Why the hell are you alone?"
I was sitting against a log at the beach, watching the way the sunset dissolved into the sea, when a guy walking past asked that question. I half-turned and almost said the first retort that came to my mind when I noticed that he hadn't paused for an answer. He had walked on.
What a perfectly bad waste of a perfectly good retort.
I returned to the sunset. Thankfully sunsets didn't ask annoying and potentially thought-provoking questions.
(So what was I doing alone?)
Oooh, look at that pink-fringed cloud in the sky. Beautifulness. Every cloud has it's...golden lining? Silver lining? Pink lining? And what kind of lining does my cloud have? Cloud. Pfft. Clouds bring rain and cover the sun. I'm not gonna compare myself to a cloud. They're depressing enough without the added knowledge that -
"You're here alone?"
A random dude seated himself on the log. My log. He was complacently certain that I wanted him there. Gosh, I hate complacent guys.
(Why the hell are you alone?)
I gave a "mmm" that could have meant either yes or no. He smiled.
"Can I talk to you?"
"You know, I'm kinda busy at the moment."
His smile dissipated about 6 degrees.
Yeah. My story didn't hold water, since I had nothing with me but my iPod and was doing nothing but immersing myself in the sunset.
Immersed. In the sunset. Would that ever be a cool line in a poem.
I dug my hand into the pocket of my jeans and pulled out a crumpled fragment of paper. But did I have a pen? Okay, okay, that would be too much to ask. But I must have a pencil...surely a pencil...pencil... Nope. Oh great, I was gonna have to ask the dude for a pen. I couldn't let that line slip away. It wasn't just the line I would be throwing away, it was a whole poem, a poem that I could feel tingling at my fingertips.
Problem: how does one change from determined shut-guy-down mode to appealing-to-guy's-knight-in-shining-armour-complex mode?
"You know, you're right," I said. "I am doing nothing. Do you have a pen with you?"
His smile vanished. Completely. It was actually intriguing the way his face deleted The Smile That Won A Thousand Hearts and pasted A Bewildered Look in its place.
"A pen? P-e-n," I spelled helpfully.
"Pen...pen..." Clearly, he was paging through his mental dictionary, searching for the word.
"Oh, pen," he said at last.
"Exactly," I beamed, giving him the oh-what-a-wonderful-man-you-are look.
From his pocket, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes (ugh, I hate smokers), a lighter, a grubby list, a wallet, and...
"Pen," he offered.
I snatched it and jotted down the line. But although I could feel inspiration throbbing through my veins, it was really just a fragment so far. It needed something more to make it into something beautiful. Reflectively, I began to chew the end of the pen. Then I saw the shadow to my right.
Oops. The dude was still there. I glanced up, and he tried unsuccessfully to dethrone The Bewildered Look, but it wasn't working.
"Sunset," I pointed at the sky.
"Poem," I pointed at the paper.
"I've...gotta go," he said.
Wow. I had just discovered an entirely guilt-free way to get rid of guys. I should patent it. The Tried and True Poetry-Writing Method.
"And she annihilates yet another guy." Flopping down beside me, my friend smiled lazily.
"Jen. Late, as always." I patted her arm affectionately.
"Seriously, how many guys have hit on you in the twenty minutes you've been here?" she asked, slipping off her flip-flops.
"Just two," I answered defensively. "Actually, one, really..."
She rolled her eyes.
"And you're single. How could it be."
I did not deign to answer, and continued musing on the poem. Oh right, I still had the dude's pen. Let's hope it wasn't a dying gift from his precious father, because I had a strong feeling he would never see it again.
The pink-lined cloud had melted into the bright red sky, and Canada geese were honking overhead. Against the shore, the waves gurgled, reflecting the sky.
Immersed. In the sunset. Wonder what it'd be like to be inside a sunset. Almost like swimming in rainbow sherbet, except -
"I've got it!" Jen exclaimed.
I was startled. "Got what? What? Oh Jen, you haven't found that earring that I dropped around here last week..."
She looked at me scathingly.
"No, I Have Not Found Your Earring."
(As if finding my earring was equivalent to garbage collecting or the ancient Egyptian art of mummification.)
"I," she continued, "know why you don't have a boyfriend."
Not again. Please not again.
Although she was a wonderful friend and incredibly fun to be around, Jen seemed to belong to the group that must surely be titled Those Who Have Boyfriends Must Find Boyfriends For Those Who Don't, otherwise known as TWHBMFBFTWD. Yeah, complicated. Most people just spell it out.
"It's because you are so used to pushing men away, you don't know how to deal with them any other way. You go into automatic I-don't-need-you-in-my-life, and you don't even take a second look at the man. Who might," she went on, jabbing her finger at me, "be The One. Your True Love."
"Gosh, I can't believe you believe all that stuff about True Love and The One," I complained. "And, for your information, my charming companion of a minute ago, the one who left me this -" and I held aloft the pen - "was clearly not The One. By anyone's standards. Particularly my own."
Jen raised her eyebrows.
"And How Do You Know?"
Seriously, she sometimes reminds me of my grade nine science teacher, the way she makes every word she speaks sound capitalized when she's lecturing me.
"He smokes," I said triumphantly.
Pityingly, Jen gazed at me. A ‘you poor mortal' sort of look.
"And can't smokers quit?" she asked.
I gave up. The woman was hopeless.
"Cute guy just walked past," she said brightly, a few minutes later.
All right, I did look. Cute guys are, after all, few and far between.
"Oh, him," I said.
Jen paused, lip gloss halfway to her lips, and spoke in even tones.
"Did You Just Say ‘Oh, Him'?" she asked.
There was that ninth-grade-science teacher thing again. Really, I'd have to speak to her about it. It was getting annoying.
"I asked a question!" she barked.
"Oh. Yeah. He walked past a while ago."
"Gosh, Jen, it was nothing. No love at first sight. My heart, if you can believe it, didn't even beat faster."
"Whatever, he just asked me what the hell I was doing alone."
Stiffly, Jen arose, held my arm, and made me stand. She pulled me over the log to the sandy pathway. She tugged me to where the guy was standing, staring at the sky.
"Hey," she said to him.
She tried again. He turned around, and she looked at me.
"Karla, this is - "
"Dave," he supplied. Surprised. But, thank goodness, not Bewildered. I'd had enough of Bewildered.
"Dave," she said. "Dave, this is Karla."
I've always thought those kinds of introductions were pointlessly formal. If Karla has just been addressed by name and told that Dave is Dave, where is the need to repeat the information and tell Dave that Karla is Karla? But that's Jen for you, always...
"Sorry," he said, smiling at me. "I...I was just immersed in the sunset." Then he stopped. Looked reflective.
"Wait, do you have a pen with you?" he asked.
"A pen," I said. "A pen..."
But I wasn't searching through my mental dictionary for the word. I replaced my Bewildered Look with The Smile That Won A Thousand Hearts, and held out the crumpled fragment of paper.
"I meant a pen..." Then he stopped. Took the paper. Read it.
"Immersed in the sunset," he said slowly.
Jen cleared her throat. I could tell that, according to the rule book of TWHBMFBFTWD, all was not going as planned.
"Well," he stated.
"Yeah," I grinned.
"You do realize that I hold the copyright for that line?" he asked.
"I got it down first," I smiled sweetly. "There are witnesses."
"Well, then, I guess we'll have to finish the poem together. Dinner, Friday night, six thirty?"
Jen began to beam once more. I gave her a ‘do not disturb' glare.
"That," I said, "would be wonderful."
"Shake on it," he said.
I held out my hand. The pen dropped to the sand. But I was too busy deleting all those prejudices against True Love and The One to notice.
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