Sis amplexibus Amor alios mututa memini et amoris in mutationes memini.
May you be embraced by a love beyond recall that alters others
and a love within recall that alters you.
Trevor was standing impatiently at the entrance when Harris arrived and they sat at a table in the quiet room of main house.
As they pulled their chairs in Alex came over to wipe the table down. Harris made eye contact with him. This is the face that had been bugging him all week? Did the busboy remember him?
“How are you gents tonight?”
“Fine.” Harris was chagrined that there was no reaction to his look.
A couple of tables emptied and the busboy rushed over to clear them. Harris was disappointed. After all this expectation he had hoped for more of a reception. That Alex would acknowledge him somehow. But how? With a big wet kiss in front of Trevor.
“So, what’s this surprise.” Harris asked.
Cally came to the table. They ordered Sapporo’s and his standing order of fries.
“Cool it Dog. You’ll find out soon enough.”
Harris quickly filled Trevor in on a few of things that had happened in the past week. Pulled up his Venom tee-shirt to show the bruise.
“Whoa, now that a bruise all right.”
He was getting to the almost home invasion that afternoon when Trevor pulled out his cell.
“Look I gotta call my mother. Shouldn’t be too long Dog.”
He went upstairs.
Alex came to the table. “ ‘Bout last week …”
“You remember that do you?” Harris was relieved and not relieved. He didn’t understand why it was this man and not say one of the waitress that had stayed in his mind.
“I’ve been thinking about it myself.” The busboy was heavier set than he remembered. “I’m heterosexual.”
“I reckon as much. I don’t know what made me …. ”
“Here’s my number. Call me.” Harris jotted his number on a coaster like he’d seen many women do. He could remember them doing it but not who they were.
The busboy grabbed the number and shoved it under his apron and into a pocket. “I will. We c’n meet fer coffee or sometin’.”
“Yeah I think I’d like that. See you in broad daylight.”
“Lots of tables upstairs, Alex.” Cally nudged him with her hip.
Alex bowed and left.
“He’s not bothering you is he?” Cally asked.
“Yeah. I hate having my table cleared.” Harris laughed. “He’s bothering you?”
“No. No. Alex is my baby brother. He has a bit of …. an anger problem … chewed a couple of guys out the other night for not tipping us well enough. I didn’t him to do that with you.”
Harris raided his eyebrows.
“Not that I mean you’re a bad tipper. You guys are regulars, is all, and well ….”
“Cally, he’s not bothering me.”
He wanted to ask more about Alex but Trevor came down the stairs. A stunning woman behind him. They came to the table.
“So this is the surprise?” Harris stood as she sat down.
She wore well tailored slacks, a deep red blouse over a light blue camisole that framed very inviting cleavage. Her long black hair had streaks of red and blond in it. Or was the red a reflection of the room’s lighting. On her left breast was the tattoo of a star that drifted up and down under the edge of her camisole.
“You don’t recognize her.” Trevor grinned.
From his expression Harris knew this was a woman he should know.
“It’s not your sister.”
The woman laughed and sipped her drink. Her eyes gleamed playfully.
“Nope, nor is it my Auntie Nilasha. Take a good look.”
The woman leaned forward and pulled her hair back. Harris tried to keep his eyes on her face but the little star was hard to resist.
“Come on, Harris, surely you can’t have forgotten me. You promised you never would.”
“Laura!” He recognized the voice instantly. He was flabbergasted. It was as if he’d spoken to her yesterday.
“I told you he’d be happy.” Trevor hoisted his bottle. “To old times.”
“But how … “ Harris looked from Trevor to Laura.
“Dog, after the way you went on about her last week I figured you should see her. You know. See if those old feelings were holding you back.”
“How did you track her down.”
“Oh that wasn’t too hard.” Laura explained. “He looked me up in the phone book. Doctor Laura Jameson.”
“Doctor! What kind?”
“Psychiatry – geriatric research is my main area. I have you to thank for that.” She patted his thigh under the table. “They have memory problems.”
“Well, Dog, I’m going to leave you two to get caught up. I’ll call you later.”
Once Trevor left Harris wasn’t sure what to say or where to begin.”
“I made things pretty hard for you once upon a time.” He started to apologize.
“Not many eighteen year olds get that much attention. It was flattering on one hand and confusing on the other.”
“What was so confusing about roses?”
“Oh, the roses” she laughed. “They were quite a shock. A pleasant one. Everyone at the store thought I was dumb for not taking up with you right then and there. It was a rom-com movie moment. They might have worked too if … well … I after I cold shouldered you that afternoon at the bookstore, I looked for you that night. Came across you at that campus pub. You and some girl were all over each other. My heart sank, it meant the roses didn’t mean anything.”
“I’m sorry I …”
“Yeah, any port in a storm to mend a broken heart. Consequently the other things you tried after that didn’t hold water at all. I knew your reputation too, though I never got it, you know what the girls saw in you. I tried to remember what had made me attracted to you. Not that you are repulsive but ….”
The waitress brought them fresh drinks.
“You weren’t my type at all. When I first saw you struck me as that chubby loser type who had more luck with his comic book collection that the opposite sex. Yet after talking to you for a few minutes I was willing. Later I knew I’d slept with you. But I couldn’t remember it at all. Nothing. Which made me wonder about memory and took me down the path into the geriatrics and cognitive awareness.”
“Wow.” Harris sipped his beer, glanced at her star. “So you found me unattractive and yet …”
“ Maybe it was your pheromones. I had sex with you. Yeah. I was young and horny I suppose. You’re aquainted with what that’s like.”
“Oh, yeah.” He looked back over the years. He recalled body parts, tongues, breasts – he sensed the slipping of bodies, of his cock into vaginas but there were no faces to go with any of those scenes, no entire bodies either, except for Laura. All these years since her no one’s face, even name, has stuck to him except hers. “You know, I understand you not remembering.”
“Yeah, well guys are different and you had a reputation for being a box hound. I doubted if you could remember half the girls you slept with. The mind can only hold so much information. At least Casanova had a better memory.”
“But I remembered you. I still do. The birth mark under your left breast.”
“That is impressive. I should use you in one of my memory studies. Long term good. Short term not as good. What have you been up to.”
“Got my MA and ended working for an online comic-book collectors’ magazine for a few years writing specs and things like that, learned about graphics, animation, and now am an editor-at-large for dE.tail Co. We look after on-line businesses, catalogues, purchasing platforms of various types. Apps are shaking up the market. I’m essentially a proof-reader and shadow tweaker.”
“Shadow tweaker?” She reached for her drink and her star bobbed in and out of view.
“As TS said ‘Between the motion and the fact falls the shadow ….’ or in my line of work between the … uh … objects on the screen is an area of dark that gives the appearance of depth. By manipulating pixels I can create a shadowy depth that invites the motion of purchase. Santa’s Sex Toy Shoppe is very pleased.”
“Good enough. Bought a condo last year.”
“Yes.” He wanted to tell her about the curse. She might be a person who would actually understand. “You?”
“Almost. No one has brought me roses, yet.” she laughed sending the star dancing along her camisole. Was there was more than one of them?
“I don’t think I’ve done that for anyone else. I still have that memory problem.”
“What? So excited about the possibility of the next one you can’t remember the last one. Typical human behavior. We’ve done cognition studies on how expectation can effect what we retain in our memory.”
“The easier it to get things the less we bother to remember them when we get them.”
“Something like that. It’s been great meeting you again. When Trevor called me I wasn’t sure but then what the hell. I did wonder what had become of you, if you might have changed at all. In some ways you have?”
“How? Besides being a little heavier?”
“You didn’t make a pass at me.”
“True. I was waiting for the right moment.” he laughed.
“When there’s no interest there is no right moment. I wanted to see if I was at all interested in you. I’m not. Now if you’d been hitting the gym, maybe. Seems there are enough who like your unformed look.”
“Guess I’m one of those guys who needs the right woman to look good for.”
He walked her to the sidewalk in front of Story and waved down a cab for her. “Be well.” She kissed him quickly on the mouth and got in the taxi.
He went in to pay their tab. Her kiss brought back that first their kiss. No kiss he had before or since her had that same effect. Not that he heard bells but it complete and satisfying. A kiss he didn’t want to forget.
What did she mean by ‘unformed look?’ Was that a code for too fat or what? He wasn’t that much over-weight. That emergency doctor said he was packing a few extra pounds not that he was obese.
He’d never paid that much attention to his body. Why worry, when he had women always hitting on him. But that wasn’t because he was attractive but because he was cursed. Fuck, he could be ugly as sin and anyone would be caught in a compulsion to be with him. Had anyone ever really wanted him, or even liked him?
Back outside he wondered if he should walk back to his place, take the subway or hail a cab for himself.
“Harris.” A hand on his shoulder.
He turned around it was Alex.
“I’ll call ya.” Alex stood too close.
“Yeah sure.” Harris didn’t know what to do when Alex abruptly kissed him. Once again it was unexpected but perfect. Harris wondered what tattoos Alex had.
Harris started walking. If his Dad’s intent has been to turn his son’s life upside down he had certainly succeeded. Knowing about this curse, or whatever it was, confused him. Did he have a friendship that wasn’t in one way or the other the result of it?
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