This was her only romantic fantasy. One in which the man she is in love with becomes incandescent with jealousy because of a man who was in love with her. This was her only fantasy so she frugally squeezed infinite versions out of it. So many versions it should have been the same old dal, but it remained sweet and creamy.
She is staring at the checkerboard floor of the bar smiling gently and her lover is smiling at her. His is a beautiful smile with a clear varnish of smugness, a smile in full possession of the knowledge that she is in his thrall. He is a beautiful man, so it is easy to ignore the radiance of his sureness. Or it should be easy, but she is finding it hard. Everything is hard with this one. She keeps her bra on when she is on top as if that will shield her from her unsureness, as if it will steady her rhythm with him. Then she sleeps with her clothes off because under the sheets in the dark, she is as smooth and unblemished as she would wish to be with him.
Unable to be less in love with him, she has decided it is easier if she is also in love with someone else.
Someone else. It could be someone brand new, but really where is the fun in someone brand new? What would be better than the man with whom she has most deployed ‘it’s complicated’? Let him descend the staircase from the afternoon stillness of the first floor of the bar onto the checkerboard. Let him almost leave before he sees her. He is not so beautiful. He is as beautiful as she is, just beautiful enough to feel like they have, as the song goes, game by the pound. He almost leaves and then sees her from the corner of his eye, holding hands with a good-looking stranger. He pivots and greets her warmly. Introductions abound. The two men chat. This is the part of the fantasy she dislikes the most, but she hasn’t found a way of making the transition to the next stage with any other filler. Surely the waiter cannot drop a tray before introductions are made. If the tray is dropped too far from them, they wouldn’t care. If the tray is dropped too close to them, her lover is either likely to say something to the waiter and either damn himself or requite himself with his grasp on their class dynamic. Either way, this would tilt the balance dramatically. She doesn’t want to pick one or the other lover. She wants them to pick her. So, introductions have to be made.
Her complication leaves the table smoothly after a brief conversation, but then circles back to ask to speak to her in private. The complication has a dense, dark, powerful upper body and a dense, dark beard. She knows from intimate experience that the old-god body rested on surprisingly thin legs and that his power was fuelled by rage. He draws her to a quiet corner of the checkerboard. A wall of fire explodes between them and over the flames he rages at her. He summons up an ethical argument for being angry that she is with this new golden lover. She is scornful of his moral outrage and tells him straight: you are a dog in the manger. His forehead registers a tsunami of frowns. She is delusional, he signals, but she stands her ground. She lists the occasions he has wanted her—all the times some other man wanted her. He looks like he is going to laugh in disbelief. She reaches her hands above the wall of fire and takes his hands. He is perfectly capable of shaking her hands off, being a wholesale rager and a wholesale fake-rejecter of sentimentality. She stands her ground and holds his hands. You will always be my darling complication. Always, darling.
She turns around and glides smoothly across the checkerboard stage in her black tulle skirt, glides across to her lover who is in position for her grand jeté. She never worries about him not catching her when she leaps. She doesn’t look back at the complication because his hurt would make her hurt and lose her lines in this karmically and aesthetically appropriate exit.
This version makes her cry and also gives her an orgasm. Always.
Some afternoons she can’t make the two men disaggregate their conversation and display of manliness. The men talk to each other and laugh and show their strong, white teeth. On one occasion, when she didn’t keep even her modest control on the reins of the fantasy, the scene dissolved so badly she avoided her blanket cave for anything other than sleep for many months. That time, the golden boy expressed his admiration for the complication’s manly, hairy chest visible at the top of his soft, cotton shirt. They laugh. She just sits at the table with a fixed, benign expression, like a woman in a Mahesh Elkunchwar play.
It’s hard to get the rhythm and pressure right, but once you do, and you know what works best for you, then you can build castles and dig rivers and make whole landscapes behind your eyes as your fingers work away. It’s an MMORPG for one. It’s an orgy for one. Oh gee. Oh ji. Oh oh oh.