Sticks and Bones

The first part of a chronicle of a crush-turned-obsession. I'm sorry, Julie.

To experience this in natural reading order go to A Bright, Ironic Hell: The Straight Read .

Also, try Satellite Dance and Crystal Delusions--Parts 2 and 3, respectively--complete.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Sympathy Waltz (6/23/09 Tuesday)

I keep talking because hope doesn't die. Hope, the biggest, most ignorant fool of all. Hope doesn't make me any smarter, but it does make me happier. Reason may be the reason hope goes away. I can't stop reasoning, but maybe I can pause it when hope rings me.

Tuesday morning through lunch--Julie- and stress-free. After that it seemed impossible to avoid her, but I survived it much better than most days with My Mid-Life Crisis. At one o'clock we were at opposite ends of the workroom, she at the window, I at backup. But as we both had bookdrops to empty, we both had books to sort onto the carts on the battlefield between us. I took an assorted armful into no-man's land, scanning for the enemy, spotting her with juvenile fiction. I opted to unload my CD books onto the nearer cart, nearer aisle. I bent to put a Grisham on the bottom shelf. I rose as Julie rose from the other side. It was Groucho and Chico facing off in the mirror scene in Duck Soup. All that was missing was matching nightshirts and caps. We stared at each other a moment (how can eyes be navy blue?) before she said sharply, "Hello." I was the deer to her headlights. "Hello," I finally replied, surely without expression. We immediately turned from one another and headed back to our posts. There were no casualties, no victory claimed by either side.

The courier mail came, and Julie returned the favor of two weeks ago and helped me unpack it. It was a strange dance of reconnoitering side-long glances and intricate patterns of avoidance. Though I was becoming as hot as before, I also became increasingly amused at the care she was taking to avoid my personal space. We truly were dancing, with me leading. When the window called her away I missed her and wished her back. She didn't return, but at the end of the hour I was to replace her at the window. I marched up sheepishly and diffidently--from the same rostrum from which I declared to her "This cold-shoulder stuff has to stop," all I could do was stand there like a little boy with a message for his teacher. "Are you my replacement?" she said. I barely said, "Mm-hm," then, "Thank you for helping." "Sure." I don't know if she looked at me because I didn't at her.

I was caught away from the window once that hour when a car pulled up, and Julie answered the call. I let her finish it, and when she did she looked at me. I tried to thank her, but when she smiled my lips moved but no sound issued. Oh, hope! Hope saw that smile, such a one as I'm sure it would swear it had never seen. Pride saw it, too, but what it saw was sympathy. Sympathy was the music to our dance among the mail bins. Julie isn't indulging me. She cares. What it is she's caring about I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to know. She's thrown off the cold shoulder. Neither am I sure I want to know what hope I'm hoping. Hope certainly doesn't want to know.

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