This is fan fiction. Though the characters involve real people, this does not recount real events. The rating on this story is NC-17/Hard R. If you are not 18 years of age, please do not read!
M Y A M E R I C A N M U S E
P a r t O n e
© Radiantbaby, 1999
* * *
She's here again today as she is every week, almost like clockwork. Who I am to judge? I am here myself, if only to witness her presence. Creatures of habit. We dance the dance of routine, strolling through life waiting for something to happen to change our path. I want to speak to her, know her, but she seems so far away.
I have been working on this sketch of her for a few weeks now. I have found myself walled up at my desk doing graphic design for so long, it almost felt alien at first for me to do a simple portrait. Still, once I began it was like riding the proverbial bike and I just got caught up in it.
I wonder what she would think if she were to see that I was drawing her. I know she must feel my eyes on her, she has to sense it. Whenever someone comes near, I cover the picture. It is like an invasion of my privacy. Like if someone were to see the drawing, they would see right into my heart...my obsession, my infatuation.
She is speaking now, speaking to a man. He does not seem to be her lover, an acquaintance, perhaps? She seems distraught over something and I want to comfort her. Stop it, John. You are sounding as if you know her, I chastise myself. She hurriedly finishes her breakfast, packing her stuff and rushes suddenly outside. She is almost so quick, that I do not realize she is moving. I am too caught up in the fluidity of her movement to understand that she is leaving.
I finish up my tea, packing up my own things. It is time to get to work. I rush outside into the blast of cold wind, making my way down the street to my office. I think of her lips brushing the cup as she drank her tea and the way she lazily twirled her hair in her fingers as she read her magazines. Always the same magazines. Film magazines. Perhaps, I work for the wrong one, or maybe I could impress her with my work. Maybe I need to find a way to get my magazine in her reading pile and see what she thinks.
I am so caught up in my thoughts that I trip over a break in the sidewalk and find myself falling in slow motion onto the ground...falling into her. The papers of my satchel flew up into the air, caught like doves on the wind, scattering around us in circles, the whistle of the wind giving them life.
I moved off of her quickly as she was laughing. We both brushed off our clothes and she reached up to grab the papers, grasping her portrait. It was as if fate had somehow intervened. Everything stood still for a moment as she slowly brought it to her face to see, the other papers now falling to the ground around her. Her expression was mixed -- joy, surprise, and something else I couldn't quite read. I looked down at the ground, getting on my knees and gathering the papers and stuffing them back into my satchel.
I wanted to run, the mortification of her seeing the sketching running through me like the blood in my veins. I felt maybe if I stayed close to the ground, everything would stop spinning and perhaps I might find myself awakened and sitting at home, laughing at the ridiculous daydream I had. I closed my eyes tight and reopened them, only to find nothing had changed.
"Is this me?" her voice broke the silence.
I stood up, looking down at her, grabbing the sketching from her loose grip. All I could do was smile at her, a half-hearted smile even. My words were trapped in my throat. There was so much I could say, something clever, something witty, something charming. I had played this scenario over and over in my mind and here I was mute before her. I bowed my head, tipping a nod to her and walked away.
I was happy to find myself just in front of my office building. I ran through the lobby, catching an empty elevator. I pressed the button for my floor and sank to the floor of the elevator and wept.
* * *
I suppose I need to clarify some things. First off, I have all my mental facilities in check. I might be a little daft and eccentric at times, but I have never been insane. I don't know where the crying came from. I am certainly not adverse to crying. I do not find it a slight against my masculinity or what have you. Still, it is unlike me to have such an emotional outburst in such a "normal day" circumstance.
Maybe it is all about the outburst itself. It was such a deep release, a release of the built up tension of my infatuation with this mystery woman. It was almost like an emotional orgasm. Perhaps it was brought on by the whole shock of my contact with her. I had always kept myself at least a few feet from her, never approaching. I was waiting until I was ready, which could have been never.
I have no idea what brought her to the front of my office building this morning, but she was there. I feel utterly foolish for having practically tackled her with my clumsiness. Great first impression. She seemed to have not been angry though. I still remember her laugh as we hit the pavement, my arms stretched around her back to cushion her fall, her backpack taking most of the blow. And her voice...speaking to me..."Is this me?"
"Hello, John. How are you this morning?" Martin's voice pulled me from my thoughts. He stood in the doorway, his head leaning against the door frame as he twirled his keys in his hand.
Martin was one of the staff writers of the magazine I co-own called D Generation. What do they call it? "A cutting edge music and pop culture rag wielding the sword of the future." Or something like that. A friend of mine named Nigel Tunney created it way back in 1981 (has it really been that long?) and I've been a part of it since it's inception. Am I allowed to feel old now?
Nigel and I actually met in art school that year when old "Nigel T."'s (his nickname for himself) school records got mixed with my own. It was quite a fiasco until the board realized the were dealing with two students, not one. See, my name is actually Nigel Taylor, but Nigel is not the hippest name to have back home in England (though don't tell Nigel Tunney that), so I decided at twenty I had nothing to lose and took on the more common first name of John, my middle name.
Anyway to make a long story short (and it is indeed a long story), I had almost dropped out of art school at that point to form a punk band. Yes, you would probably hardly guess looking at me now, but it's true. An old mate of mine, Nick Bates, and I tried several line ups for a few years, but nothing worked, we just couldn't find anyone with chemistry. Nick finally gave up and moved to Paris. He is the owner of several art galleries there now from what I hear.
With the whole failed band concept, I started to lose my ambition and even began drinking heavily to numb my insecurities about the future. Birmingham (England, my hometown), though my heart's home, is a bit like a black hole. It is difficult for one to escape and many do not. Your grandfather is a factory worker, as is your father and you become one yourself and if you have a son, well, he usually becomes one as well. There was, as the Sex Pistols said, no future. God save the fucking Queen.
Nigel had the ambition and drive that I could latch on to. He had the ability to make me pull my own resources together and make something of myself. When I found out he wanted to create a new magazine that could even rival the N.M.E. - The New Musical Express (God forbid!), and that he was canvassing the school for help, I jumped at the chance to join in. Our art school, Birmingham Polytechnic, was loaded with wannabe artists from all walks of life, many of whom were very, very talented. I had to prove myself to Nigel for him to let me join him. My graphic design work had always won me top marks in school and I had the occasional freelance job utilizing my skills, but it was my music trivia savvy that cemented the job for me of first staff member of D Generation.
It all seems so long ago now when I think of the nights we spent until the early morning photocopying hundreds of pages for our first issues. Nigel had scored an old Xerox machine at a swap meet in downtown Brum. It was truly a monster, an old unit that was several years out of date but satisfactory for our needs (plus the price of 50 pounds sterling was a selling point.) It weighed so much that we could barely load it by ourselves onto his brother's van and had to acquire the help of some burly working class boys who happened to be at the swap meet that day. Their services cost us 10 quid, but was well worth the investment. We called our new behemoth "Ladytron" and fixed it up to run proper. "She" seemed to almost be held together by all the music stickers we had stuck all over her and it seemed as if you peeled that one Clash sticker off, she would completely fall to pieces before you. We never tested the theory. She lasted an amazingly long time and is now retired and, I believe, residing in Nigel's basement. I hear those first issues, about 30 pages stapled together, go for $1000 for collectors. I'll never sell mine though. They are too sentimental. "You've got me girl on the run around run around, You´ve got me all around town..."
We have come a long way since those old days. Now the magazine is full gloss and one of the most read magazines in the world -- right up there with Rolling Stone and, yes, N.M.E. I'd say Nigel and I came out quite successful (and we are the only two members who have been with the magazine consistently, me becoming co-owner around the third issue), but I have never let it go to my head. I have a nice flat, but it is an expensive luxury one only for its location. I like the accessibility of everything around me, I can even walk to work (and often do). My living space is pretty minimalist, my only indulgence is art and music. I do find myself spending large sums of money on art at galleries and sometimes too much money on compact discs and even entertainment centers. One has to have some vices, you know.
So, how did I end up in New York? Well, as I said HQ (headquarters, of course) was originally based out of Birmingham. We had a rented space which doubled as Nigel and I's flat. As comfortable as we were there, though, we knew we could only expand our business so far within the confines of the city. We needed a place more cosmopolitan, a place where we could make more contacts and get more distribution.
We packed up and relocated to London around 1983. The magazine had already achieved an almost cult status by that point being distributed throughout most of the U.K. Upon moving to London, we became international. It only took a few years there to secure our status as England's newest contender in the war of global music media. The advent of MTV also helped us a lot as some of our staff doubled as MTV's news team in Europe, so we had our share of shameless plugs.
Around 1992, we opened up these offices here in New York City. In the beginning only employees worked there and it just served as a hub for distribution for the United States while Nigel and I stayed in London. Then Nigel began frequently flying (he did love his Concorde, jet-setter) back and forth from London to New York and was spending weeks at a time there "checking up." It was no surprise the day he called and said that he was staying there permanently. He had fallen in love with the city...as did I. I ended up following him two years later after tying up loose ends in London. London is a great city and was great to live in, but it had become almost trite. We were both getting bored and we needed a change before our work began to suffer. I think that the relocation galvanized the two of us, it certainly did me. I came over that one summer in 1994 and have been here ever since.
I am sure that most of this is fairly mundane for you, but I just wanted to establish that I am just an average guy. Maybe this all stems from me becoming almost too average, even boring. I remember being at the gym a few weeks ago playing racquetball with a few other CEOs and it was all talk about stocks, bonds, yachts in the Caribbean...I remember thinking to myself, "Have I really become this dull?" I remember just staring at myself in the mirror in my locker at the image I presented. I feel like I have slowly turned into what I always strived to not be -- a dull, mainstream suit.
And then I saw her. I remember thinking that it was like some bizarre art-house film where both her and I were the only ones who were in color and the rest of the world was black and white, except no one noticed the difference except me and her. It was like we shared a secret that no one else was privy to. I began to sense a change in myself. I have a lighter step and even catch myself walking around humming a lot. It was enough for my friends to notice. And it was enough for me to pull out my old sketchpad and begin to draw with passion again...to draw her -- my American muse.
* * *
"My my, you are spacey today," Martin giggled, walking into the room with his briefcase.
I snapped back out of my nostalgia and smiled at him. "Oh, I am sorry Martin. I am just feeling a bit pensive today."
"Pensive, hmm?" he teased, mimicking my British accent. It sounded odd contrasted with his usually Midwestern lilt.
He walked in, setting his briefcase down on the work table. We were laying out the interview with Gay Dad's (yes, that is a band name) Cliff Jones. They are all the rage in Britain and I found both Cliff and their album "Leisurenoise" most agreeable. Okay, so you might be asking yourself why a CEO of one of the biggest magazines in world still spends his days doing graphics layouts and eyes spec sheets? Well, because I am a very tactile, hands-on sort of person by nature.
Yes, I could theoretically be swanning on the beach somewhere in the Mediterranean (actually where Nigel is on holiday at this moment), but both me and Nigel have always stayed in contact with what we publish. Nigel still writes many of the articles and I still do much of the layouts and the occasional photography. I prefer it this way actually. It gives me better control of the final outcome.
I reached into my satchel to pull out some of the sketches I was working on as layout ideas. "Oh John, that satchel. I think it is as old as I am!" Martin teased. He was right. Martin is 21, so he is only a few years older than both it and the magazine. Still, I had used it since we began the magazine in 1981, somewhat as a good luck piece, but mostly because I find it so sentimental.
"Oh stop you!" I pouted, trying to sort out all the crumbled papers I had shoved in my bag outside.
"Do you always pack so neatly?" Martin quipped, peeking at my mess.
"I had an accident on the way in," I said, smoothing out the sketches on the table.
"An accident?" Martin asked, looking at me puzzled.
"Excuse me, Mr. Taylor?" Cynthia, the new receptionist, interrupted us via the speakerphone.
"Oh Cynthia. Mr. Taylor is my father, please just call me John. You make me feel ancient," I teased, winking at Martin. She was actually fun to tease, always shy and blushing. Martin always jokes that she has a schoolgirl crush on me. It is very flattering, I must say.
"Oh...okay, John," she stammered, nervously, "Your 10:00 is here."
"10:00? Oh my, that is right, I almost forgot completely. I have been so scatterbrained lately! Tell them I will be there in just a moment!" I said, looking around the room trying to gather myself.
"That must have been some accident," Martin laughed as I walked out the door in a flurry.
I rushed downstairs. I had completely forgotten that while Nigel was away I needed to meet up with the new Public Relations representative. They were hopefully going to be nicer than the last one. He was a stuffy old man who couldn't promote an air conditioner in Hell. I think Nigel felt sorry for him when he hired him, or maybe he was paid off. I always wondered, but never said anything.
I primped myself in the glass mirror of the interior of the elevator, finger-combing my hair and straightening my suit jacket. The first day I met Mr. Stevens, the last PR man, I was wearing a Vivienne Westwood "Sex" shirt under my suit jacket. While we were talking, I took off my jacket as it was hot in the room and I saw his eyes roaming over the words on my shirt. "Craft must have clothes, but the truth loves to go naked...SEX," he murmured as he read them aloud. "Indeed," he looked down his nose at me. I didn't like him immediately. I only hope the new person likes my Stooges shirt. I suppose it will stand as my Litmus test.
I realized walking out of the elevator that I had forgotten both paper and a pen. I swooped by Cynthia's desk and borrowed some from her. I glanced up at the security monitor on my way down the hall to get a preview of what this person might look like awaiting me in the conference room. I stopped, my mouth agape with panic. It was her. Why was she sitting in there? Was this all a big joke? I had told no one of my infatuation with her...She must be who I am meeting. I made a detour into the bathroom.
Thankfully no one was in there as I rushed to the sink, almost hyperventilating. I was sweating profusely, my whole body beginning to shake with fear and anticipation. I cannot meet her, not yet, not after this morning. She most certainly thinks me a jerk, running into her and running off. I took a deep breath and calmed myself down. I looked at my watch, 10:05. Great, I am making yet another wonderful impression by my tardiness, I sighed. I took in another deep breath and made my way out of the bathroom.
I walked down the hall, the doors seeming to pass by in slow motion. I could hear the clicking of the ceiling fans and the squishing sound the leather of my new boots made as I walked. It was as if I was ultra-aware of everything around me. I placed my hand on the doorknob, slowing my breathing and saying a little prayer to whatever being might be listening, and opened the door.
"Hello, I am so very sorry, I was just in another meeting and..." I began to say casually pretending to not recognize her as I walked quickly into the room and sat in the chair across from her.
"It is you," she said surprised, interrupting me.
I straightened my glasses, pretending to get a better look at her. "Ah yes, the girl from outside. I am so sorry for my clumsiness," I said, trying to keep my demeanor as calm as possible. "I hope that you were not hurt."
"Well, except for this run in my stocking, I am great!" she said with a smile, running her hand along her calf over the material's tear.
I felt my mouth go dry at her action, my eyes lingering on her legs. I caught myself and replied, "I am so sorry. I am always tripping and falling. I have two left feet," I smiled back weakly, feeling as if I could easily become a part of the chair of was sitting on -- just blending in and no longer existing.
After some small talk, we spoke about what the job would entail for her. We also spoke of her background. Her name is Maya and she is from somewhere in the South, though she will not confess where. She seemed rather impressed with my accent and my attire. We actually were getting along quite well and I was surprisingly able to speak in complete sentences to her. It was a wonder, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her. I was just drinking her in -- her eyes, her lips, the way she folded her hands on her lap and wrung them nervously as she spoke, and those legs...God...
"So, I don't want to sound presumptuous or anything, but I have been wondering all morning...was that sketching of me that I saw this morning?" she asked, a bit of her own shyness beginning to show, though she was certainly at an advantage with me.
I looked down at the floor, lifting my pen to nervously chew on the cap and then pulled it from my mouth, smiling nervously. I couldn't run this time. "Well...yes...I mean, sort of...I mean yes..." I stammered, gripping tightly onto the arm of the chair.
"Why...why did you draw me? I have seen you at Cafe Bari a lot, is that where you drew me?" she asked, looking deeply into my eyes.
I was worried that she could read my mind with such a piercing gaze and I felt inept at lying to her. "Well, yes. That is where I began to drawing you..." I said almost defensively. "But I mean, I am not, I mean..."
"Not what, John?"
"I just wanted to sketch you. You were a good subject," I said, trying to sound objective.
"Thank you," she said gathering her things. As she walked out the door, she turned to me and smiled, blushing, "Would you mind joining me to perhaps work more on your sketch at lunch today?"
* * *
I practically bounced back into my office after the meeting. We had planned to meet up again downstairs at 12:30 for lunch, as she had to run some quick errands first. Martin looked up at me as I entered, sitting on a couch in my office reading a magazine while I was away.
"Well, I assume the meeting went well then," he smiled, a look of surprise on his face as he arched an eyebrow.
"Why would you say that?" I answered coyly. I plopped down in my desk chair and spun around several times.
"Hmmm, I wouldn't know, John," he replied sarcastically, "I suppose it is usual for you to treat your desk chair as an amusement ride. Besides, you are blushing fiercely."
"I am? Oh my," I said, grabbing a CD from it's case an using it as a make-shift mirror, "I hope I wasn't blushing all along." I was almost talking more to myself than Martin as I studied my flushed cheeks in the mirror. I was certainly glowing.
"Well, I am going to take a big stab in the dark here," Martin began, setting the magazine aside and approaching me, "This interviewee was no Mr. Stevens. I am guessing they were more likely a woman...a very attractive woman."
"What makes you say that?" I grinned.
"Oh, I don't know," he laughed.
"Well, yes Martin you are most correct," I said, replacing the CD and picking some lint off my jacket.
"Ding! Ding!" Martin called out, as if he'd won a prize. "Come on, spill..."
"Well, if you must know. She is not just an amazingly attractive goddess," I began, trying to ignore his amused face, "but, she is also someone who I have had a bit of a crush on the last few weeks. And she has invited me to lunch with her."
"Lunch? My, my Mr. Stud. No wonder you are blushing!" he laughed.
"I am not a Stud, I was just charming."
"Like how so? Did you talk about your James Bond video collection? Or perhaps that you like to pick your nose and eat it?" he teased, ruffling my hair.
"Hey, hey! I did none of that, thank you! Actually, I just...well, I just fell into her," I blushed.
"Fell into her? Don't you mean, fell for her?" he asked, quizzically.
"No, I actually fell into her. This morning to be precise. Didn't see her and knocked her right down."
"Was this at the meeting?" he tried to stifle a laugh. "I always knew you were a clumsy son of a bitch!"
"No, it was actually outside the building this morning. The meeting was complete chance, I had no clue I was going to be meeting her. I think it went quiet well, if I do say so myself," I said proudly.
"Oh no, here comes the ego. I hope you are not going to get like you were when you were dating that one girl...what was her name? Airy-head?" he asked, referring to an unpleasant ex-girlfriend of mine.
"It was Arianna and well, yes, she was an airhead, but..."
"She was a hottie."
"Yes," I chuckled, "I suppose she was. Until you tried to have a real conversation with her. But that didn't really matter then..."
"You were horny"
"I was lonely...okay, and horny."
"And you've changed?"
"Well, yes, of course. I mean, yes I am sexually attracted to this woman, but she is more than that to me. She is the light in the tunnel, Martin, I just know it."
"You've been watching too many romance movies," he quipped. "Let's get back to work."
Had I? Perhaps, but certainly not those mainstream God awful numbers like, dare I say, Titanic. I have always been a romantic at my core and always love the opportunity to express that side of myself to the women I love. Cheesy yes, but I suppose I am still making up for lost time. You see, I didn't even have a girlfriend until I was 19, not for lack of trying on my part. I was your typical geek in high school, you know the one, there is at least one in every school. I had the spots (that's zits to you Yanks), the huge heavy-framed glasses, the gawky, gangly tall body, and an intense shyness to top it all off.
My heart was (and still is) always on my sleeve and I often fell prey to girls just manipulating that part of me. I remember one girl in particular that I was utterly obsessed with. I used to follow her around school like a puppy. Once she caught on, she used that to her advantage, having me carry her books and things around for her. Not that I minded. I honestly thought one day she would come into school and declare her love for me. Boy was I wrong.
When I was in art school I met this girl named Roberta. Bertie was great for my ego as she seemed to be the first girl who was actually attracted to me (something at the time I thought was impossible). She saw past my awkwardness and saw me. She seemed to make it her mission to "make me over" and I suppose she was perfect for the job as she was in school for that very thing, cosmetology.
Her first thing was to cut my hair into a more "stylish" cut. I looked a bit like the New Romantics at the time. She also changed my style of dress from torn jeans and t-shirts to ruffled shirts, silks and baggies. I thought I looked like a pirate, but found people noticing me more in those clothes. Her final touch was convincing me to get contacts (not a lot of cajoling there). I have worn contacts on and off over the years. Lately, I have just worn glasses as my eyes get strained with my job.
Bertie and I had an intense affair for a few years, but it finally died down. I had an affair with another girl whom I'd met on assignment for an article, I believe on Spandau Ballet. I wanted to never tell Bertie, but I felt I owed it to her. We broke up immediately, breaking my heart as well as hers.
After Bertie I have had a few relationships over the years. Sadly, I have to be careful because I find a lot of people trying to cling to me for my money and fame. I suppose I wanted the fame to get girls in the beginning, but I have learned about the girls that often attracts. Arianna was one of the many one-dimensional relationships I have had. I am tired of that though. I mean, yes, I was getting laid and I had beautiful women on my arm (quite often models) to go to fancy parties with (most of which were quite boring), but it wasn't fulfilling me.
I want someone I can talk to about anything, that I can hold as she sleeps and make her breakfast in the morning. I can't explain it, but I feel inexplicably drawn to Maya. She seems as if she could be that person I am looking for. I only hope I am not wrong and I get hurt again.
* * *
I wandered downstairs about 12:20, a bit worried about looking desperate being early, yet never liking to keep a lady waiting (my Ma taught me well -- especially when it involved a lady such as this). I didn't want to have it look like I was just waiting around for her, so I struck up some small talk with Cynthia.
"So, Cynthia, how are your studies? You are still at university, correct?" I asked, leaning against the illuminated glass receptionist's desk.
She groaned, rolling her eyes, "Yes, yes I am still in school. I hate it," she replied, pushing aside the mouthpiece of her headset to speak a little easier.
"Ah, come now, it cannot be all bad. I am sure you get to meet all sorts of interesting people there."
"You mean guys?" she asked, straightening herself up in the chair. I could tell she was trying to steer me into a conversation about relationships.
Martin said she'd asked around if I was single. I must admit I considered her briefly. She is about 22 years old, tall and red-headed. She is pretty average looking, but has a lovely smile. Still, she often seems the better part of 12 years old as far as maturity and conversation and I think she views me as "sugar daddy" potential. Not a good thing.
"Well, yes...and girls. I am sure you meet a lot of people," I replied, trying to sound neutral.
"Mr. Tay-I mean, John, do you meet a lot of people?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, I suppose I do, Cynthia. Just like," I glanced over at the revolving door just to see Maya emerging and tipped my head in her direction, "her. See you in about an hour or so, hold all my calls."
I could sense her jealousy rear up as her eyes narrowed upon seeing Maya. I think she was putting two and two together over the interviewee's return and my late lunch. I strolled up to Maya who looked a bit frazzled. "I am sorry I am late, things just got a bit hectic," she stammered, her speaking quick.
"Oh, I only just got here, don't worry about it," I smiled casually.
* * *
We got take-out Chinese and settled at a quiet table in the park to avoid all the throngs of people during the insane New York lunch hour. I seem to remember the textual detail most. I can still smell the wood of the table and feel the prickle of the small splinters of wood poking against the material of my trousers. I remember how the sunlight seemed to break through the trees just so, causing Maya to be brighter than I and her half of the table more luminous. I remember the urgent squawking of the ducks vying for our attentions, a few so bold as to waddle right up to our table for food. They seemed to enjoy the bits of fried wonton we gave them.
It was Maya, though, that kept most of my attention. My heart was beating so loud and fast that it pounded in my ears and I prayed that she was unable to hear it. It was difficult for me to look her in the eyes as we spoke as I wanted to swim in the depths of them. I tried to only concentrate on her mouth, but that was even worse, plaguing me with overwhelming urges to kiss her and taste her tongue and to even wonder what those lips my feel against my... I think I was hard the whole time. A pulsing insistence in my trousers recalling my teenage years. Luckily, it was much easier to control nowadays.
"So, you are from England then? I love your accent," she cooed, finishing up the remains of her lunch.
"Yes, yes, but I love it here. I sometimes think I am a displaced American or something. I have always identified more with your culture," I replied, blushing at her compliment.
She laughed, her eyes dancing. "We don't have much of a culture, John. We are sort of a combination of other cultures. Sort of like this Pu Pu Platter we just ate, little bits of everything."
"That's a good analogy," I chuckled in reply. "Still, there is a definite American style, way of thinking. I think that fits me. I used to lay in bed dreaming of coming here one day. I would read about all my idols touring here and wonder what America was really like. I suppose that is based on the whole mythology of this country being paved with golden streets or what have you. For me, it is. Not really in the realistic sense, but certainly in the figurative sense."
"Funny, I always laid in bed and dreamt of going to England," she replied. "Maybe we should have switched places!"
"No...then we would have never met and had this lovely lunch -- me and you and a couple of ducks," I replied, trying my hand at flirtation, lifting an eyebrow.
She smiled widely at me, causing my breath to almost catch in my throat. "Yes, you are right. We couldn't have that happen."
Was she flirting back? I certainly could not tell. It is impossible to know for sure, it all comes down to ego. If I think she is, then I feel like I am being egotistical, but if I think she isn't, then I feel self-effacing. I can never read women in this way. I suppose they almost have to be blatantly obvious. Perhaps it is because I still feel like that awkward geeky schoolboy in front of them.
"So, why were you drawing me really?" she asked, taking a long draw off her straw in her drink.
I cleared my throat, my hands shaking slightly as I gripped onto the seat of the table. "Does it matter?" I stammered.
"Yes, it matters to me," she replied, her eyes questioning.
Oh, the things I could say to you. How you haunt my dreams at night and my thoughts during the day. The way you make me feel when I am around you. How your beauty bathed in this sunlight takes my breath away...
"Er, well, I just...well, I just...wanted to draw you."
"Do you think I am pretty?" she asked, a nervousness revealing itself in her tone. Her eyes needing my validation. She really didn't know how I felt towards her.
"Yes," I breathed out heavily, "I think you are beautiful."
My face was red with my nervous flush, I could barely even breathe anymore and my heart, which I thought could not get any louder, now droned so heavy in my head it sounded like a drum beat. Was this the beat to my march of folly? Had I made a complete fool out of myself in a matter of seconds? A few carefully chosen words could remedy everything, but I have never been that quick-witted.
"You do?" she asked, her face brightening as she pushed an errant of hair behind her ear.
"Most certainly, Maya."
* * *
We walked over to an Italian Ice stand on the way back to my office, leisurely enjoying our gellatoes. We had left pretty quickly after our conversation about my sketching of her. I could not tell if I had turned her off or if she had realized the subject made me somewhat uncomfortable and changed it duly. Thankfully, I had a feeling that it was the latter. Perhaps she knew I felt a bit on the spot and that I would share that part of myself in due time.
"I just have to say that I love your magazine. I think your feature on Velvet Goldmine was one of the best I'd read about the film. I just finally saw it on video and really enjoyed it. I went through the Internet trying to find reviews and features on it and came across yours. You guys seemed pretty adept on the subject," she commented.
"Well, I am most flattered that you have read our magazine and even more so that you enjoyed it so much. Yes, I think that it was a good piece, myself. Both Nigel and I put a lot of work into that one. Still, to be completely honest, I wasn't very impressed with the film overall. I felt like they sort of ruined that time for me. I am a great fan of the Glam era of music and it seemed as if they popped all the important figures from the time into a jar and mixed and matched their inter-relationships. Like, for example, the Velvet Underground type band doing Roxy Music songs, come on!" I scoffed playfully.
"Well, as your article even stated, a lot of that was because Bowie withheld permission for them to use his songs. They had to make due with what they had. Besides, it is a story based on the Glam rock era and the people in the scene at the time. Yes, the director took a few liberties, but I think that made it interesting. It is not called The Ziggy Stardust Story or The Iggy Pop Story. Besides, I don't even know for sure if ole Ziggy and Iggy were even cohorts yet at that time."
"Well, actually they had just met, but no, they weren't as close as they became later. Still, you are right, I suppose. It is just that I think they portrayed Glam badly. They made it all so fey. Glam wasn't about homosexuality, or even heterosexuality for that matter. As for sexuality, it may have been more about Pan sexuality, but that wasn't the gist of it. It was about being anything that you want to be, living up to your fullest potential. It was about fun and escapism, about putting color back into England and the rest of the world. People like Bowie really went in and shook things up. I still remember the first time I ever saw him. It was on Top of the Pops and he was singing 'Space Oddity' and he was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I wanted to be just like him. He was a great influence on me," I replied, letting her go in front of me through the revolving door to my building as I followed behind.
She waited for me to emerge from the door before saying, "Somehow I can picture you getting into your mother's make-up kit and secretly 'glaming' yourself up in the bathroom."
"Oh, it was much worse than just that," I laughed. "One time, I wanted to simulate Ziggy's whole look, especially his larger than life platforms, so I built some out of wood from some scraps in the backyard. Well, they turned out pretty good, so I figured the finishing touch would be to nail them to a pair of my shoes. I had some short black boots that I wore for church -- yes, I was a Catholic boy -- that I thought would do the trick. I painted the wooden platforms black and nailed them to the bottom of the boots.
Then I went into my Ma's makeup. I tossed my hair wildly with some of the hair gel Dad used to slick his hair back and then used the makeup to paint my face as close as possible to Sir Ziggy, with a little help from some of my paints as well. I thought I was looking pretty great, so I finished the look with the platforms. I was so excited that I had pulled it off, that I wanted to run over to my friend's house up the street to show him my transformation.
I ran downstairs and outside and upon running, one of the nails broke through the sole of the shoe and pierced my foot. I was in the front yard at this point and called out in anguish. A neighbor happened to see me and take me to hospital. So there I was in the waiting room, my platforms in my lap, my face painted up, when my ma comes rushing in the door in a total panic. Needless to say, I nearly gave her a heart attack. I couldn't tell if she was more in shock over my 'accident' or my appearance!"
She was laughing at me, tears pouring from the corners of her eyes. "Oh God! What a sight you must have been!"
I blushed, putting my hand to my forehead. "I can't believe I just told you that! I am so embarrassed!"
She grasped my arm and looked up at me with a warm smile. "No, I am happy that you told me. You've really brought a smile to my face. I haven't laughed like that in a long time. Still, I am not making fun of you, just laughing at the circumstance. You must admit it was pretty funny!"
I sighed, reveling in her soft contact, "Yes, it was."
* * *
I strolled towards the elevators, I know, donning a huge dumb grin. She had left, seemingly excited and happy and most importantly, pressing a paper with her phone number into my palm. I could see Cynthia staring at me out of the corner of my eye, trying to comprehend the situation, realizing that I may not be available, or so I was hoping. I just have to breathe and take things slowly. I cannot push such a woman as Maya from me with rash actions. She needs to be wooed, charmed...I just hope I am in the shape to do it.
I stared at myself in the reflection of the mirrored elevator door while waiting to go upstairs. Has life passed me by so quickly? Have I really become so old? Maya was young and vibrant and could have anyone she chooses; yet she seems interested in an "over the hill" guy like me. Maybe I am wrong. Perhaps she only wants to be friends, acquaintances...I cannot tell.
"Mr. Taylor, I mean John, are you taking phone calls now?" Cynthia called out over the desk, standing up and pushing her cleavage out as she spoke.
I smiled over at her. "Oh yes, of course, I am sorry. I have been a bit distracted."
"I hope that it was a good distraction," she replied, flirtatiously, seeming to believe it was her that was distracting me.
"Oh yes, indeed it was," I replied, stepping into the elevator.
* * *
"So, how did it go?" Nigel's voice crackled through the phone line.
It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and to say that my day was going well would be somewhat of an understatement. I kept pulling Maya's number out of my wallet, unfolding it, and tracing each carefully scripted number in my head, memorizing the way she wrote a 2 or a 5. Then I'd fold it up and replace it in my wallet, only to pull it out again later. It was my tangible proof that this day had really occurred and wasn't some daydream. This small scrap of blue paper had become my fixation for the day.
"It went wonderfully," I replied airily, the paper out again in front of me as I traced the phone number with the tip of my finger. "Where are you calling from? The connection sounds awful."
"I'm on the balcony on my cell. It is a bit windy, so the connection is somewhat choppy," he replied.
"Oooh, how decadent! Not even using a hotel phone, but your cell phone. And on the balcony no less. I can picture you now: You are wearing some tacky flowered shirt, khaki pants, and sipping a cocktail with some goofy ornament, like a little umbrella," I said with a laugh.
"You forgot the cherry on top. Other than that you are just about on target."
"Hmm, must be nice."
"Hey, someone has to hold down the fort in New York. Besides I sat all alone in my office while you went all Kerouac and decided to drive across the states last Summer. It is my turn. Besides, Miriam has been bugging me to take her here forever."
Miriam is Nigel's wife. They are the portrait of that sickly sweet couple you thought (or at least hoped) were only fictional. They met in Australia about ten years ago and fell madly in love with one another instantly. She is an author of Children's books and moved to England to marry him. Overnight, Nigel the International Playboy (he even made me sick) became Mr. Domesticated. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Actually I am a bit jealous. They have a son and a daughter and seem just as happy now as when they first met.
"Well, you know I have always loved America. I just wanted to see more of it. It was very enlightening," I whined. "So, enough of that, how are Miriam and the kids anyway?"
"Great! They are having a blast! Suzette is right here, do you want to speak with her?"
"Sure, put her on!"
I could hear the muffled sounds of him telling Suzette I was on the phone and then her high pitched, almost squeaky voice came over the line, "Uncle John! Guess what?"
"I'll be six tomorrow!" she replied ecstatically.
Yes, I know. You are getting to be such a big girl!"
"Did you get me a present?" she asked, almost serious now.
I could hear Nigel scolding her in the background for asking. I smiled to myself, answering, "That's a surprise for when I see you next." I had gotten her a red bike with her name on a little license plate on the back.
"On our next date?" she giggled.
Every time I went to their house, she would always set a place for me with her little tea set and we would have an imaginary tea party. Nigel jokes that she fancies me and that she is actually sizing me up for future husband material. "That is why she always has you play with her dolls," he always says. Figures the one female who seems to consider me the love of her life is still in nursery school!
"Yes, of course, my little Susie Q," I replied, singing our song "Susie Q" over the phone with her joining in. Susie Q, baby I love you, Susie Q...
"Daddy says I need to go bye bye," she sighed, stopping her singing.
"Okay, bye bye. And happy birthday!" I replied in an affected childish, listening to her giggling.
"Always the charmer, eh Johnny?" Nigel said, getting back on the line. "What did you say to get her so excited? She's positively beaming!"
"I just said she'd get her gift on our next date. She must have liked the song," I replied innocently.
"Yes, she loves when you sing that. I had to buy her the bloody record because of you...So, John, did anyone ever tell you that you'd make a great father?"
"Well, having a woman in my life would be a good first step. I think I'll have to wait a while for Suzette," I quipped.
"Who ever said I'd let you date my daughter?" he laughed. "Anyway, as for the real reason I called, you said the interview today went well then?"
"Yee-esss," I replied, playfully.
"Is there something you aren't telling me, John?"
I laughed nervously. "Well, you know that girl that is always at Cafe Bari every week?"
"The one that you have been drawing? Your little schoolboy crush?"
"Yes! She was who I interviewed!" I exclaimed.
"You are joking with me! What a coincidence! Adam said that she was attractive, but I never thought she'd be the one," he laughed, teasing me. "So, it went well then? She lived up to your little daydreams?"
"Oh stop! Actually, it was better than I could have ever planned. We even went to lunch today and," I paused for dramatic effect, "she gave me her phone number!"
"So, are you inviting her to the MTV Movie Awards this weekend?"
"What? Are you kidding? I couldn't do that," I replied, shyly.
"Why not? You have two tickets and no date. Who were you going to take, the doorman?"
"Ha ha. No, I hadn't thought about it," I sighed. "Do you think I should really ask her? Is that being too forward?"
"John, John, John...come on, now! Worse comes to worse you can conceal it as a company thing. Besides, she seems to like you. So, you like her, she likes you, what is the problem?"
"Me. What if she says no?"
"Well, if she does, she is stupid. Still, you never know what will happen unless you take the risk. I say go for it!"
"Well...okay. I'll call her tonight."
"Got get 'em Tiger," he said in a faux American accent.
"Will do, Dad."
N A V I G A T I O N :
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