Catching A Cougar (Even When You Don’t Want To)
|Poco a poco|
“Yeah,” she said, “keep looking smug and pretending we didn’t have really good chats for two weeks before you disappeared and dumped me like a piece of trash.” She straightened her black skirt. She looked around forty. Tiny cracks around her eyes.
You’re not my piece of trash, I said, I can say that for sure. I’ve never seen you before.
“Dating a cougar dot com,” she said. “Ring a bell, you ass? Just before we were going to actually meet in person, you left me hanging.”
I re-situated myself on the bench. The morning had been so peaceful. The man on the other side of the bench pulled out his Blackberry and began busily searching for something. I didn’t say anything.
“It’s you, all right. Your hair is a little longer than in your pictures, but you can’t pretend it’s not you.”
Date a cougar dot com? I asked. I’m not in that business. Wild animals scare me. I’ve always been scared of desperate women.
She started crying. She sat next to me. “You don’t understand,” she said, “you were so perfect, and then you just disappeared, and now I see you here sitting around not even thinking about me like we never even talked. I was going to take you to dinner. I’ve got money.” Her mascara was running. She had smooth legs.
I really like the opera, I said, but I can’t afford the good seats. But I have no time for bullshit. I talk politics, I drink a lot of coffee, I’m pretty concerned about the state of affairs. I think there’s an elite power base that controls much of our society, and a fair chunk of the world. Maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist, but I–
The guy sitting on the bench next to the woman and me said, “It ain’t a conspiracy. You see building seven fall?” He laughed. “It just fell. Out of nowhere. Implosion style.”
I nodded. That’s fair, I said. But listen, I said to the woman. She avoided my eyes. I’m not what you want. I’m paranoid, constantly. I keep up a blog with a lot of incendiary, childish political ranting. Every moment I’m afraid the FBI will break down my door. Mostly I have that fear in the early morning and late night hours.
“There’s no such thing as paranoia,” the man said.
Not these days! I shouted. It’s 2011. Paranoia doesn’t exist. Everybody should be fearfully suspicious. We’ve got nothing but lies going on in this world. Everything Obama said about the killing of Osama bin Laden was a lie. And Bush. Jessica Lynch. Pat Tillman. The Iraq War.
“Except it’s not a fucking war when there is only one fucking army,” the man said.
Exactly, I told him. And like you were saying, there’s something shady about 9/11, but I can’t figure out what, exactly, but I know it doesn’t fit right in my gut. The Feds just put to death a man that might not have been guilty of the crime he was charged with. Even the unemployment rate. The White House always gives us the milquetoast version. Nine-point-one percent.
“Bullshit,” the man said. He stuffed his Blackberry in his pocket. “Bullshit. The real unemployment rate is around twenty percent.”
But if you watch ESPN and CNN, you won’t know that. Our society is an obese, sports and reality TV saturated collective that sits around hopped up on sugar all day long discussing the details about celebrity weddings and whose throwing arm is stiffer. It’s a real–
“Pay attention to me!” the woman shrieked. She threw a pocket mirror into the street and then a tube of lipstick. “Pay attention to me! You never treat a woman this way!”
I do all the time, I said. You’d better get used to it.
My friend on the bench laughed.
What is your astrological sign? I said. You’re probably a Gemini.
She sputtered a few words and finally she said I was right. “So what?” she asked.
So what? If we hooked up, you would be screaming at me every day. We would be wrapped up in our own astrological misery. Our inclinations are set to fight themselves to their own bloody ends. You may pacify me by taking me to the opera, and we may have a good bedroom chemistry, but I refuse to discuss politics in detail and have you demand that I pay attention to you. Our country has fallen apart, and you would want me to admire the creases and folds in your face. You’d want me to look so deeply into your eyes I could see your frontal lobe. And I would see that it’s shriveled and dried. Like a prune in the sun.
I left her on the bench weeping and stamping her high heels. I heard the man with the Blackberry tell her he too was a Gemini, and maybe they’d fare better.