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Emily's Diary: Confessions of an Emotional Predator by David Curtis

I am 23 years old and I’m waiting for my life to begin. And I'm not talking about romance. Heaven forbid. No, in that regard I don't feel the need to love anyone. I only desire to be loved, and then only by those of my choosing.
Emily's Diary: Confessions of an Emotional Predator
Emily's Diary: Confessions of an Emotional Predator by David Curtis
Actually I've never had a problem getting men to fall in love with me. How do I do this? It's easy really. Usually one encounter is enough. I come on strong, get their attention, and flatter their ego. And then after they take the bait, I hurt them, I back off, I ignore them. I act like we never had that encounter, that I never said those words. That's the exciting part, the seduction and then the denial, the rejection. That's when they fall in love, the moment I hurt them. From then on I can crush them quickly or slowly depending on the challenge they present me. Some men crumble instantly like the petals of a rose kept pressed too long between the pages of a book. Others are more emotionally agile and will hold out a little longer. I like a challenge so I let them live awhile. I give them hope that they may get the upper hand; that my walls will tumble down allowing them access to my heart and soul. The joy, the ecstasy, the anticipation they feel as they see the ice queen melt before their eyes. But alas, it's just an illusion. And in the end they crumble as well. I squeeze them and squeeze them until I squeeze the last bit of life from them. Then I drop their emotional corpse by the side of the road. Interestingly enough, as they lie there crushed and broken, their heart reeling in torment, they cry after me begging me to come back and squeeze them some more. Pathetic and yet funny really when you think about it. Do I feel any guilt at the pain I've caused? No, why should I? Pain is love and love is pain and I am the harbinger of both. Thursday 4/7 Dear Diary, Today I made my move on Gregory. Gregory, who is this tall super cute guy from work, has been ogling me since the first day he saw me. I can feel him mentally pursuing me, stalking me, chasing his fantasy of me. I just started this job a couple of months ago, and though we don't work side-by-side he and I have had visual contact in the break room and hallways and such. Several times during this period I've caught him staring at me. I've seen the longing in his eyes, the longing to know me, to be close to me, to have me for his own. I of course paid absolutely no attention to him. I work on my own timetable. I like to let the tension build for awhile before I move in on my victim. Today when I saw him ahead of me walking to the train I decided that the time had come. So I ran up behind him, grabbed his arm, and yelled "BOO!" You should have seen the expression on his face. How can I describe it, a combination of disbelief and ecstasy? "Did I scare you?" I giggled, as I bounced around him like a giddy school girl. Though he quickly shrouded his excitement, I could tell he was working frantically to get his brain and heart back on the same page. Here he failed miserably. The element of surprise is one of my greatest weapons. We boarded the train and sat down together. For the next several minutes he tried unsuccessfully to regain his composure and engage me in some intelligible conversation. I enjoyed watching him stumble and grope over his words, trying to impress me with his wit while fearing every second that he might lose me by saying the wrong thing. A couple of times I purposely disagreed with him on some view he proposed and he quickly compromised his position. By the time we reached my station he didn't have an original thought in his head. What I believed, he believed. My views were now his views. With every opinion he expressed he searched my face for confirmation. Even my slightest frown forever exiled that idea from his head. I owned him. As I was leaving the train I agreed to meet him tomorrow for lunch knowing full well that I won't be there. Friday 4/8 Dear Diary, It gives me malevolent satisfaction envisioning Gregory as he sits in the cafeteria anxiously awaiting my arrival. He would have been thinking of me nearly every waking moment since our train encounter yesterday, carefully planning his strategy and diligently rehearsing his clever retorts. He knows that he lost round one and would be looking forward to our meeting today as a chance to get back on even ground. Of course I didn't give him that chance. Last night I called my friend Amy and we made plans for lunch at Water Tower Place. I hadn't seen her for awhile and this was a good excuse to get together. And not coincidentally it fit perfectly into my plans for Gregory, as did her offer of a ride home after work. I avoided the break room all day and after work I left by way of the rear entrance. Gregory in the meanwhile would by now be worrying ardently about my health and well-being. What else could explain my mysterious absence? Our office space spans several floors of the John Hancock Building so tracking me down would be near impossible. After work he would rush out to the elevator feverishly awaiting its arrival. Downstairs he stands by the door that he knows I always leave by. He may even ask passing co-workers of mine if they had seen me today. When they answer in the affirmative he will feel alternately hurt and perplexed. What could have gone wrong he will wonder. Maybe there was a misunderstanding. Maybe somehow we missed connections or something unexpected had happened and I didn't know how to reach him. Perhaps it was somehow his fault the date had failed to ensue. As he walks alone to the train after waiting well past the time I normally leave, he longs to see me, to talk to me, to clear up this mystery that is eating at his heart. But it's Friday and he won't see me again until Monday. Oh what a long, dreadfully painful weekend awaits him. God, why do I love it so? Monday 4/11 Dear Diary, It feels so good to be home from work. And as I sit here now in my big red chair, staring out the window of my 2nd story perch above the corner of Belmont and Clark, I can't help but savor it even more. Watching the frenzied activity below helps me to relax and clear my mind of all the stress that comes with day-to-day living. I adore the city. I enjoy being in the middle of the chaos that rages about me. If I begin to feel alone or depressed just one glance out the window or a short walk to the store chases those feelings right out the door. The city is my therapist. The city is my priest. The city is my lover. As for today, I can safely say that at this moment Gregory is not sure whether he's in Heaven or Hell. As his heart feels the warmth of what it thinks is love, his brain can see that this warmth is in reality the first flames of the hell fire about to engulf him. His brain is desperately trying to relay this information to his heart, but of course his heart has the phone off the hook. This morning I had just sat down with my first cup of coffee when Gregory walked into the break room. Though he looked slightly haggard, he had an almost feverish spark in his eye as he anxiously scanned the room. I pretended not to notice him as he made his way towards me. He was telling himself to mask his fervor, but as soon as I turned and smiled his face instantly betrayed him. He smiled back and asked me how I was and how my weekend had gone. I answered him back with short unenthusiastic responses. Then after an uneasy period of silence he asked the question that was burning in his heart. "WHAT HAPPENED ON FRIDAY?" The words shot out of him like air out of an overinflated balloon. "Friday?” I responded with a questioning innocence. "YES FRIDAY", he bellowed much more forcibly. "Didn't we agree to meet for lunch in the cafeteria at 12:30?" "Oh", I said as I "struggled" to recall the details of our conversation on the matter. "Was it that definite? I thought it was only tentative. I'm sorry." After taking a moment to gauge Gregory's reaction I continued by telling him that I had talked to my poor friend Amy on Thursday night and that she had some things she needed help working out. So I had agreed to have lunch with her on Friday. "I'm sorry", I repeated as I reached out and gently touched his hand. "I hope you didn't wait too long for me." My “heartfelt” words laid the groundwork, but it was the touch of my hand that brought the forgiveness. We talked after that and later met for lunch. We even rode the train home together after work. But all of that is inconsequential. The first incision has been made and Gregory has accepted the pain. And now that the skin is broken the cutting will be that much easier. From this point forward every time I hurt him he'll fall that much deeper in love with me. And that's just the way I want it. Monday 4/18 Dear Diary, It's been a week since my conquest of Gregory and I've never seen anyone so joyous in his suffering. If it wasn't so comical it would be annoying. For example, when we go out to lunch he not only keeps the restaurant stub but writes the date and time on it as well. He said each place we go will always hold a special memory for him. I told him he was being overly sentimental about something as mundane as eating. "It's just a basic bodily function", I said callously. "Don't make it into some kind of religious experience." Though I know for him being with me has become just that. He worships me. I constantly catch him staring at me, studying my every move and gesture. It's as if he's reinventing his perception of perfection with me as his standard. So how do I respond to his veneration? The only way I know how. I constantly berate him, belittle him, and make fun of his feelings. I cancel or cut short our lunch dates, and when other men are around I play up to them and ignore him completely. As I shower my affections on these other men, whom I would otherwise disregard, Gregory stands by hurt and dejected. Despite all this, or more so because of it, he is altogether consumed by me while in constant fear of losing me. Why do I gain so much pleasure from destroying another person's fond illusions of love? Am I that evil or do I just need to feed on their torment to satisfy some emotional hunger within me? This hunger has been part of me for as long as I can remember; a constant feeling of emptiness that I myself can't fill. Therefore I must select victims who have what I need and are willing to gamble it for the chance of getting what they want. They believe they want what they see in me. On the surface I appear naive and innocent, totally incapable of inflicting pain on another person. But behind my waifish facade lurks the heart of an assassin. I shed no tears nor do I feel remorse for those I execute. Before I slay them I plunder their heart for what I need. And what I need is their love, their warmth, and their compassion. These are the things that sustain the soul and these are the qualities that are not inherent within me. I give nothing back to those who love me simply because I have nothing to give. Or maybe it's just that I don't like leaving my heart vulnerable to another's sentimental dagger. The love I get from others I burn up instantly and continually demand more and more until they themselves are empty. The men I drain are under the illusion that I will just reflect back some of the love that they’ve been giving me. They don't realize that this love is used up as soon as I receive it. I am in essence an emotional black hole. So how does it end? The way it always ends. As with the vampire, once the victim is drained he’s of no further use to me and is unmercifully disposed of. Thursday 4/21 Dear Diary, Today Gregory tried to make me jealous by paying attention to another woman. I paid him back by cancelling our lunch plans. This type of insubordination will not be tolerated. Anyway, even though he's cute and rather witty at times I'm starting to get bored with him. I totally misjudged the challenge he would present to me. It's true that I've let far less desirable suitors hang on for much longer periods, but something about Gregory is irritating me. I think that it's the totally reckless manner in which he’s allowed his soul to be penetrated. It's not pity I feel for him. What I feel for him is contempt…contempt that he would subjugate himself to what amounts to sentimental slavery. Why does he allow me to debase and humiliate him? Why doesn't he just spit in my face and tell me to go to hell? Where is his self-respect? Where is his dignity? Where is his manhood? It's not my fault he's languishing through some sort of romantic Armageddon. All I've done is provide the rope. He's the one that looped it around his neck. Now what is there left for me to do but kick the chair out from under him. It's funny but deep down inside him I can sense that this is exactly what he wants me to do. Some people revel in the agony of a broken heart. To them this is what love is all about. How RUDE!! Don't they realize it takes all the fun out of it for me? Sunday 4/24 Dear Diary, Yesterday was actually somewhat enjoyable for me, a real rarity these days. As a rule I normally don't allow myself to experience happiness, but every once in awhile it just sort of happens. On Friday I finally agreed to go on a "real" date with Gregory. We arranged that he would pick me up around 5 o'clock Saturday evening and that we would go out to dinner and maybe a movie. But of course I'd have a surprise for him when he arrived at my door. I had called my friend Amy before I agreed to the date and proposed doing some shopping together Saturday afternoon. I also suggested that she join Gregory and me for dinner that evening. She understood my intentions completely and everything was set. I refer to Amy as my friend though in truth we're more akin to casual sisters. Neither of us really have any actual friends as you'd call them. Her because she's a workaholic and has little time to socialize, while I due to my unfortunate nature am completely incapable of true friendship. Just ask anyone who has tried. I make no sacrifices for others nor do I pretend to be interested in their personal problems. To me the act, and I do mean act, of friendship is a burden that I have no desire to bear. Amy makes no demands on me whatsoever. Our conversations are purely generic, never venturing too deep below the surface. We talk mostly about other people, rarely about ourselves. We never offer advice to one another nor do we seek to alter the other one's character or personality. We accept each other as is, period. Anyway, Gregory rang the downstairs bell exactly at 5 o'clock, though Amy had seen him out the window walking around looking at his watch at least 20 minutes earlier. When Amy greeted him at the door she told me later that Gregory's eyes sort of glazed over in confusion. She stood there silently and waited for him to say something. He finally asked sheepishly, "Is Emily at home?” Amy rather coolly told him that I would be ready shortly and invited him in. She then yelled out, "Oh Emily, Gregory's here". When I came out of the bathroom about 10 minutes later Gregory rose abruptly from the couch. He sported an uncertain look on his face as he saw what I was wearing. He was dressed in a suit and tie, holding in his right hand a small yellow flower bouquet. (REALLY!!!...What is this, the prom?) I in contrast had on jeans and a red gabardine pullover sweater. I moved quickly towards him and gently touched his arm. "Is that for me?", I beamed, looking down at the bouquet. "Yeah, I mean, yes it is", he replied, though he made no motion to give it to me. "Well silly, aren't you going to pin it on me?" "Oh yeah, sure", he said, as he fumbled about trying to get it out of its plastic wrapping. As he was pinning it to my sweater he was ever conscious of the fact that he was maneuvering so close to my breast. I enjoyed his nervousness and even slid myself up a bit so it brushed ever so slightly against his hand. For a moment I thought he was going to hyperventilate from the intimacy of this whole bouquet affair. But finally it was attached and he pulled quickly back out of the danger zone. What urges he felt at that moment were quickly doused when he reawakened to the fact that a third party was still present in the room. "Let me see it", yelled Amy from the red chair near the window. I walked over and bent down so she could smell it. She fussed over it for several moments, straightening and repositioning it on my sweater. Gregory sat down on the couch possibly realizing that it was he, not Amy, who was now the third party. "So where are you taking me?" I said, finally re-acknowledging Gregory's presence. "Well……. I made reservations at this French restaurant downtown", he said hesitantly, "but I'm not sure if they allow jeans there". "Oh Gregory!", I said emphatically. "I don't want to go all the way downtown. Let's just stay in the neighborhood. I haven't been to the Pizza and Oven Grinder in a long while. That way we could all go.” I hesitated a moment. “It's ok if Amy comes with us, isn't it?" I asked casually. A pallid look of disappointment fell across Gregory's face as this latest salvo struck its mark. "Ah yeah…sure… I don't mind," he lied as the glint of a tear made its telltale appearance in the corner of his eye. "I'll call the restaurant and cancel the reservation", he continued as he discreetly wiped the moisture away. "Oh don't call them", I said. "They'll figure out we're not coming when we don't show up. Anyway they're so uppity in those nouveau French places it will serve them right." With that and a final look around we headed out the door and down the stairs to the street below. Gregory said he would drive but that he was parked several blocks west of my apartment. Before he had finished his sentence I had already flagged down a cab. "You're not in suburbia anymore Gregory", I chided him as the cab pulled up and we all piled in. It was 5:30pm when we got to the Oven Grinder and we were immediately shown to the last remaining booth near the back. We sat, talked, and ate for well over two hours before plowing our way through the now long line of waiting diners and back out onto Clark Street. "I'll hail a cab", Gregory said confidently as he walked towards the curb. "Oh let's walk", I countered; grabbing his arm and pulling him back. "It's only about 12 blocks and we can stop for coffee on the way." We didn't get back to my place until after 9 o'clock and I invited both Gregory and Amy up for some wine. We talked till well after eleven before Amy said she had to get up early to get some work done at the office. "On SUNDAY”, I screamed as she was reaching for her purse. "Amy, you’re impossible." As we hugged goodbye she whispered in my ear, "So, what are you going to do with him now?" "Oh I don't know. Maybe I'll give him a treat for being such a good boy tonight", I said, before slowly closing the door behind her. Turning then to Gregory I smiled and ran my fingers thru my short, reddish-blond hair. "Well, alone at last", I said as I walked over and sat down beside him on the couch. Then without warning I leaned over and gave him a long passionate kiss on the mouth. The combination of the wine and this long anticipated but unexpected intimacy sent Gregory's head almost spinning off its axis. We spent the next half hour engaging in all the various kissing techniques known to man/or womankind. Only a few times did I have to stop Gregory's wandering hand as the excitement overwhelmed his libido. Finally I "tore" myself away from his passionate embrace saying it was late and that I needed to get some rest. He kept trying to involve me in more kissing, but I finally managed to shovel him out the door around midnight or so. I hope that in his heightened state of exhilaration he didn't get into an accident on the way home. I'm not quite finished with him yet. Thursday 4/28 Dear Diary, I finally regained custody of my dog today. He has spent the last 2 months at my Mother's house where I had to leave him when I moved out on my own. Maxwell, that's his name Maxwell, is an Old English sheepdog. And even though he's almost 5-years old he still has the same puppy dog face that he had when I first got him. He's named after my grandfather Maxwell who hated his name profusely, so much so in fact that on more than one occasion growing up I heard him say that he wouldn't wish that name on a dog. So of course with my contrary nature that was the first name that came to mind when I got him. And now that spring is in full bloom I plan on running with him quite a bit down along the lake front. Speaking of dogs, Gregory has been lapping at my heels ever since our "big" date last Saturday. At work he comes upstairs to visit me several times a day. My co-workers have started kidding me that he's at my desk more than I am. Yesterday he brought me flowers with a card that said, "The gardens of the world pale at your beauty", or some nonsense like that. I thanked him, but later gave the flowers to a co-worker of mine to bring to her ailing grandmother. I don't know what became of the card. Maybe the grandmother got that too. Wednesday 5/4 Dear Diary, Today I got into it big time with Derrick, my supervisor at work. Although he knows well enough not to mess with me, he constantly badgers this girl Darla who sits next to me. Granted she’s not the smartest girl in the world, but she stays late and tries hard to keep up with her assignments. Nothing she does though is good enough for Derrick. He brings back her work for the most minuscule mistakes. And he speaks so harshly to her at times that I've seen her brought to tears after he’s left. She’s scared to say anything however because she’s bringing up a 2-year old by herself and needs this job badly. Well the first thing this morning he comes over to her desk and starts in on her again. It finally reaches the point where I can't stand it anymore and I tell him to stop picking on her. He in turn tells me to keep my nose where it belongs. And I tell him I'll put my nose anywhere I damn well please. He says to me, "Maybe you and your nose would feel more at home out on Michigan Avenue". And I say to him, "Maybe my nose and I would feel more at home up in the personnel office filing harassment charges against you". He says that I should mind my own business and get back to work. I say that taking down big assholes like him is my business. By this point in the conversation I am standing eye to eye with him. (Actually, I'm on my tiptoes, since he’s about 6'2" and I am only 5'6".) Also by this time a rather large crowd has begun to gather as the volume and intensity of our little "discourse" has reached a fever pitch. Apparently my standing up to him in front of all his subordinates was too much for his male ego to handle and unimaginably he raises the back of his hand as if to strike me. With victory assured I deliver the clinching line, saying coolly, "If you lay one finger on me you'll be carrying your balls home in a jar". He knew he was defeated and in deep humiliation turned and stormed away. Well as you can imagine this scene caused quite an uproar among my co-workers as word spread quickly, not just on our floor but to every floor of the office. Of course Gregory was at my desk as soon as he heard the news, asking me if I was ok and if there was anything he could do. I told him the best thing for him to do was to go back to work and not worry about me. He had a hurt expression on his face as he left, but I really didn't want him fawning all over me like some overly protective grandmother or something. Anyway, I know what he wants. He wants to possess me, to control me, to own me. And the best way for him to do this is for me to be weak. Weak enough that I need to lean on him for comfort and protection. This desire to possess someone is in most cases what the emotion of love is, or at least what it’s mistaken for. But I for one can not and will not allow myself to be possessed by anyone. No how, no way. Wednesday 5/11 Dear Diary, Maybe it was fate's way of paying me back for all the pain that I have caused others, but today was probably the worst day of my entire life. I was out running with my dog Maxwell before work when tragedy struck. Since we go out so early in the morning I usually let Maxwell run without a leash. He’s normally very obedient and always stays right at my side. Well just as we get to this alleyway a car comes barreling out in front of us. And although it only mildly startled me, it terrified Maxwell. And like a shot he took off down the street. After only a brief timeout to flash the driver a flying gesture, I dashed off frantically after my poor, frightened dog. To my dismay, within about 30 seconds he had totally disappeared from sight. I ran a few more hopeful blocks looking down every side-street and alleyway desperately straining to catch a glimpse of him. Finally I could go no further. My pace slowed to a walk, and then to a complete stop. It was at this moment that I did something I haven't done for as long as I can remember…I cried. I sat down in the middle of the sidewalk and cried. I cried so hard I thought my eyes were on fire. I don't know how long I sat there, but anyone seeing me in such an uncontrollable emotional state probably would have turned away in utter contempt. By the time I staggered back home it was well past the time I usually leave for work. So I called and told them that I’d be there as soon as I could. The remainder of the day would go down as possibly the longest in history. Gregory of course was at my desk as soon as I sat down asking me why I had been so late. To avoid a repeat of last Wednesday's debacle of him trying to comfort me "in my hour of need", I told him that I was out late drinking with some other guy and we didn't hear my alarm go off this morning. He wasn't sure whether to take me seriously or not, but at least it got rid of him until he could think about it awhile. The first thing I did when I burst through my door that evening was to check my answering machine. Luckily, I had just put Maxwell's new license on him yesterday, but stupidly I had put my home phone number on it instead of my cell. Though I feared for the worst, I hoped beyond hope that someone honorable had managed to grab him. As I anxiously pressed the play button under the flashing red light, my heart was pumping blood through my body at an almost feverish rate. "Emily", the amazingly handsome male voice said. "My name is Riley. I found your dog this morning in the gangway of my apartment building. He looked pretty haggard so I brought him inside and gave him some food and water. He's doing fine now so there's no need to worry. Just give me a call and I'll bring him over." With that he gave me his phone number and reassured me again that Maxwell was ok. Well you can imagine the relief I felt knowing my poor Maxwell was safe and had not been slaughtered by a bus or something. I immediately picked up the phone and called my hero. What was his name, Riley? What an interesting name. The phone rang about 4 times before a recording came on. I was just about to leave a message when a real person broke in. "Hello, hello", the voice said in a semi-breathless tone. "This is Riley, this is Riley. I'm home, I'm home". "Do you always say everything twice?” I asked, silently laughing at the frantic cadence of his voice. "No, no... I mean, no", he replied. Then, after a brief respite to catch his breath he asked confusedly, "Who IS this?” "It's Emily", I said in a way which implied that he should have known. "Emily?", and then there was a short pause. "Oh Emily, the dog girl", he said finally. "My, aren't you the charmer", I retorted. "I can't remember the last time someone called me dog girl." After an embarrassed laugh he said, "Oh I'm sorry. I'm afraid my social skills are pretty awful. I haven't had a lot of contact with women lately." Then he hesitated for a moment. "I guess I shouldn't admit stuff like that should I?" "Don't worry", I said. "Your secret's safe with me. Anyway, you found my Maxwell so you can call me anything you like today." "Actually", he said, "Maxwell found me. I was fixing a window frame on the basement apartment when Maxwell just strolled thru the open gate and down the gangway. He walked right up to me and looked me straight in the eye. I can't explain it but it almost looked like he had been crying. Well as I told you already I brought him inside and gave him some food and water. When he finished he just wandered into the living room, laid down on the throw rug and went to sleep. It was a funny thing though. Right before he laid down he licked my hand, like he was thanking me or something." "It sounds", I said, "as if you have a much better rapport with animals than you have with women". "You're right", he laughed, "You’re right". "So", I asked, "when can I come by to pick him up"? "I can bring him over to your place", he replied. "No that's ok Riley", I said. "You've done so much already. I don't want Maxwell to be any more of a burden on you." "It's no problem", he responded, "I can bring him". "No I'll come there", I said more forcefully...forcefully enough that he relented immediately. After he gave me his address I told him in my most seductive voice that I would be over as soon as I "slipped into something more comfortable". He was trying to come back with a witty reply but I hung up the phone while he was still in mid-sentence. I quickly showered, and then put on my running shorts and most adorable sweatshirt. I don't wear makeup, but I did spend a little extra time on my hair before darting out the door and down the stairs. If there is any street in Chicago more exhilarating to me than Clark Street it's Broadway, especially at this time in the late afternoon. As I turned south on to Broadway off of Belmont, the sidewalks and streets were teeming with every sort of person imaginable. All walking, running, biking, or rollerblading thru a menagerie of sights, sounds, and smells, with each separate entity together creating a montage of humanity all vying for the attention of the others. I of course love to be noticed, especially by men. I'm not really concerned with what women think. I'm not one of those who look at other women as competition. I think the women who do are very insecure. The way I see it, there are plenty of men to go around, though I suppose in the end we just pass the good ones around between us anyway. Actually I love men…really I do. Otherwise I wouldn't spend so much time and energy trying to lure them into my little escapades. The fun is in the catching however. Keeping a man is a whole other story. After I catch them I prefer to just trifle with them a short while before tossing them back and throwing my hook back into the water. The care and feeding of a man is really much more work than I feel like dealing with right now. Anyway, I finally got to Riley's building and rang the bell to his apartment. R. Wells…that was the name on the mailbox. Hmmm, Emily Wells. I always do that though I don't know why. I have no plans to marry, nor do I have any intention of taking my husband's last name in the unlikely event that I do. A voice crackled over the intercom, "Hello, Hello". "If you continue saying everything twice", I commented, "Your voice is going to run out half way thru your life". "I'm afraid I'm already past that point", He laughed, "and so far the old larynx is still holding together". After he buzzed me in I climbed the carpeted stairs up to the first landing. As I started up the next set of stairs I instinctively looked up, and there he stood at the top glaring down at me. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON, DANGER! This was the only thought that went thru my head as I gazed up into the deep velvety blue eyes which were meticulously following my ascent. This man could defeat me. I knew it instantly though I'm sure he didn't have the slightest notion of it in his head. Though I could tell in a glance that he was somewhere in his late-30's, he had the look of a total innocent. His face was rough, yet boyish, and his physique strong, but not intimidating if you know what I mean. He greeted me with a rather goofy grin intimating that it was he who was the intimidated one. When I finally reached the top landing I held out my hand to him. He took hold of it delicately, like one would take hold of a tomato trying to feel its firmness without squishing it. After this initial physical contact neither of us said anything for quite a few seconds. It was as if time stood still. In fact the electricity running from his hand to mine was so intense that it temporarily shorted out my brain. During this brief interlude I actually forgot why I was there. "So", I said finally, being the first to regain my composure. "You're the one my dog ran to in his hour of need. I must say I trained him well." Riley wasn't altogether sure what I meant by this remark but he guessed it was a compliment. "Thank you", he replied rather hesitantly. "Come in, Come in, (a slight pause) I mean…come in", he said, now ever self-conscious of his double talk. Just then Maxwell came galloping around the corner and into my waiting arms. "My baby", I cried as I hugged his neck and rubbed his soft doggy back. After a few moments of this I stood up and chastisingly pointed my finger at Maxwell saying, "Don't you ever do that to me again"? But when he looked up at me with those big, sorrowful brown eyes I knew I couldn't stay mad at him and I just reached down and patted his head. It was at this time that I reawakened myself to Riley's presence, though in reality I must confess I had been subconsciously aware of him every second. I was experiencing a yearning inside that I had not felt for ages, if ever. It was so overpowering I was certain that at any second my face would reveal everything. But of course it didn't. My defense system knows to kick in automatically when I temporarily lose my head. And luckily it didn't fail me this time. I knew though that I had to get out of there fast. My shields were not strong enough to withstand his presence for very much longer. Riley was at least consciously unaware of my inner turmoil and still sporting that goofy grin on his face when I turned to thank him one last time. I then quickly grabbed Maxwell's leash and gave a hurried wave good-bye before racing down the stairs and out the door, my poor dog dragging bewilderingly behind me. It didn't dawn on me until I was half way down the block that the leash I was holding wasn't mine. DAMN! Well I wasn't going back now. I needed to gather my thoughts and figure out what was going on here. When I got home I decided to turn off my phone and unplug my answering machine the rest of the night. I didn’t want to be tempted to call Riley and did not want to hear his voice even on tape. It was all so irrational, but at the time it was all so necessary. I sat reflectively in my big red chair by the window and stared blankly out at the still busy intersection below. The late afternoon changed into early evening and then into twilight. As the tempo of the street slowed, my internal tempo began to slow down as well. Eventually it would all be back to normal, I tried to convince myself, and this whole ugly episode forgotten. I wanted to be back to my old unaffected self again, detached from all these stupid feelings of longing and desire. As I lay nearly comatose in my chair, drained from the emotional turmoil of the day, I made a determined vow to myself. I will not fall in love. I refuse to fall in love. "Please don't let me fall in love", I whispered as I gently drifted into an uneasy sleep. Thursday 5/12 Dear Diary, After the chaotic events of yesterday I spent most of today walking around in an incoherent stupor. I knew I wasn't myself when I actually agreed to another date with Gregory. What does he see in me anyway? Why doesn't he just go find a nice, innocent, unaffected girl with whom he can live out his deluded fantasy of finding happiness thru love? You'd think by now he would realize that he's in way over his head with me. He aspires to scale my castle walls but all he brought with him was a step ladder. What an insult. Well I've had more than enough of his pathetic pandering. It's time to pour the boiling oil over the ramparts and down upon his silly heart. He'll have the scars for quite awhile, but maybe they'll serve as a reminder not to surrender his soul so easily the next time around. Enough about Gregory and on to more important matters. I spent the majority of the day trying to ascertain why Riley had such a profound effect on me yesterday. Just when I thought I had this emotional tomfoolery licked I find myself going gaga over some middle-aged Bo hunk that has a better rapport with my dog than he could possibly ever have with me. I finally came to the conclusion that I have two choices. I can either pursue this relationship strictly from a scientific angle, seeking to discover what is causing my heart to throb and then subsequently shutting and bolting that back door entry into my system. Or I can treat this as some one of a kind anomaly of nature and just avoid the guy altogether. Still reeling from the effects of yesterday's encounter I decided it would be much more prudent to follow the latter course. There, that was easy. Now the only thing remaining would be the return of that damn dog leash. Giving it back in person was quite out of the question. Mailing it back seemed ludicrous. The only reasonable solution was to drop it off at his building without him spotting me. Most people I suspect would just keep or toss the stupid thing, but I can't do that. I am inherently honest about returning things that don't belong to me. I don't say this to brag or to feel better about myself. It's just an incurable part of my nature and I've learned to live with it. I thought about returning it tonight after work, but when I stumbled thru the front door of my apartment I literally collapsed into my chair and nothing short of World War III was going to uproot me from that spot. Friday 5/13 Dear Diary, Today I not only cancelled my "date" with Gregory, I cancelled Gregory. Yesterday he had asked me out, and for some unknown reason I had accepted. In order to avoid a repeat of what I did to him on our first date of bringing along a 3rd party, Gregory this time had suggested that we leave together right from work. By last night however I had already decided that I wasn't up to spending a whole evening with him slobbering all over me. Rather than confront him on the issue and listen to his pleading and pandering, I decided to just avoid him all day and then quietly slip out the back door as I had done on a previous occasion. Unfortunately he had wised up since then and he came by early to pick me up. When he discovered me heading the "wrong" way down the hallway he called out to me. Though I did my best to ignore his bellowing, he ran and caught me at the rear stairwell. "You didn't forget about our date did you?” he asked as I turned reluctantly to meet his gaze. "No I didn't forget", I said unflinchingly. "I just can't go out with you tonight, that's all". He was stunned. "Wha…what do you mean?” he stuttered. "We had a date. You told me you'd go." "Well now I'm telling you I can't so that makes us even", I said. getting increasingly angrier at the demanding tone of his voice. He was shaking by now. "What do you mean that makes us even. I don't even know what you're talking about." I just glared at him. "What else is new", I finally replied. "You can't even begin to comprehend who I am or what I'm all about. So do yourself a favor and go look for some nice sweet uncomplicated girl that you might possibly have some small concept of. In the meantime, why don't you go home and ask your mother what you should do next. I'm sure that after she dries your tears and cooks you a hot meal, she'll say that you can do better than me and that time heals all wounds. Then after you brush your teeth and say your prayers, you can climb into your little bed and cry yourself to sleep with thoughts of what might have been." With that I turned abruptly, opened the door, and descended the concrete stairway, my heart pumping blood at an uncomfortably furious rate to my overwrought brain. The cool lake breeze gently caressed my face as I walked slowly home along North Avenue Beach. The last thing I felt like right now was a train full of people. Anyway, walking would give me a chance to calm down and get a grasp on all that was stirring around inside me. With the quiet glistening waters of Lake Michigan on my right, and the rapid buzzing of cars cruising down Lake Shore Drive on my left, I felt a certain convergence of these contrasting elements in the center of my being. I experienced alternate states of serenity and turbulence as I moved in and out of my fluctuating emotions. I continued north along the lake until I reached Diversey Blvd where I veered westward towards the soon to be setting sun. I stopped for a few moments to watch a man and woman playing tennis. I then treated myself to a chocolate swirl frozen yogurt from a snack bar nearby before resuming my trek homeward. As I snaked my way thru the city streets I was only vaguely cognizant of where I was at any given moment. My body traced its path purely by instinct as I was totally given over to my mental ponderings. Awakening from my trance I was shocked back to reality at finding myself on the corner of Wellington and Broadway, only a stone's throw away from Riley's apartment building. After a quick glance around to make sure he wasn't out tinkering about, I hastened my way home to the sanctuary of my apartment overlooking Belmont and Clark, and my big, safe, cozy red chair by the window. There I sat in deep contemplation. I mostly thought about Riley and why I had not as yet returned his stupid dog leash. For what reason was I purposely delaying the inevitable? Was I scared of accidentally running into him? Or could it be that I was scared that this might be my last opportunity "to" run into him. The thought that I was actually afraid of the latter was scarier than all my other fears in life combined. Wednesday 5/18 Dear Diary, It's been a week since my contact with Riley and I believe that I’m finally back in total control of my emotions regarding him. I have not attempted to contact him, nor has he called me. I must admit Dear Diary that I did expect to hear something from him after my abrupt departure at our last encounter. But that doesn't matter now. And no I still haven't returned that damn leash, but I have every intention of doing so this weekend. I'll just drop it off down in the foyer of his apartment building and that will be that. No more thoughts of Riley Wells. No more inane imaginings of love, or intimacy, or of losing my head over a man. Actually this whole episode may have turned out to be a good thing after all. I had a chance to once more test my resolve. And though I initially acquiesced to my emotional ramblings, I was eventually able to realize the folly of its arguments and returned to listening to the sensible advice of my head. In regards to Gregory, who I so brutally lambasted last Friday, I'm afraid to report that he is still in the early stages of emotional melt down. I have passed him a few times in the hallway and saw him another time as we waited for the same train home. On each occasion he totally avoided eye contact with me. But as insane as it sounds, I believe that he is now more in love with me than ever. Love…what a funny word that is. As a concept it has a simple universal meaning, yet in practice it is more complex then all the scientific laws lumped together. Of course I have my own definition of love which I'm sure is quite different from what most others would ascribe to it. Love as I see it is the desire to possess someone or something that fills an empty emotional cavity within our being. The more this particular person or thing fills us up, the more we love it. The mistake most people make is in not realizing that there are certain persons who can make themselves appear to be just the right size and contour to fill that emptiness, but who are in reality only shape changing parasites (And I must include myself in this contemptible class) who's only desire is to gain access into the person's inner emotional being and feed on what is in there already. And what’s in there is the love, the warmth, and the tenderness that most people desire to shower on the heart of another. The victim, in order to keep the parasite within the walls of their emotional cavity, is willing to inundate it with all he or she has. When the parasite eventually moves on, be it days, weeks, months, or even years later, the victim is left emptier than before. Unfortunately, the first thing the victim does upon realizing this emptiness is to chase after the parasite in hopes of regaining what was taken from him or her. The folly in this is that the parasite has already consumed everything and has nothing left to give back. (Not that they would anyway since parasites are by nature takers, not givers.) Gregory should feel lucky that I only fed off of him for a few short weeks. Yet I'm afraid he will eventually pursue me again and, as much as he disgusts me I may have no choice but to feed off him once more. As with the vampire's thirst for blood, my desire to feed on human emotions is ravenous and unending. Do I myself have a cavity that needs filling? The answer is No! Fortunately, I use Crest. Sunday 5/22 Dear Diary, Oh God, what's to become of me!? It was only a few short days ago when I felt so certain that I had totally conquered my shameful emotional shortcomings. Now here I sit curled up in my big red chair, the morning sun just beginning to filter thru the half-drawn shades of my apartment, balefully writing the eulogy to my lucidity and pragmatism. I have worked all my life to exorcise the emotional demons from my soul, only to now allow myself to be completely blind-sided by some blithe spirit with the innocence of a child. Lucifer himself couldn't have seduced me any better. Normally my contrary nature works to my benefit. But this time it only played into the hands of the evil one, namely my miserable, deceitfully foolish heart. I left home early yesterday morning to return the dog leash I had accidentally taken from Riley last week, he of the penetrating blue eyes and frantic demeanor. Most women I suspect would have begun this journey with every intention of returning the leash in person, only to let fear and palpitation terrify them into just slipping it thru the mail slot before scurrying home to wallow in their contemptible cowardice. I on the other hand started out with every intention of just dropping the damn thing off and slinking away unnoticed. During my walk over however my reprehensible pride and haughtiness overcame my common sense, and by the time I had turned onto Wellington I was determined to face the enemy head on. What a fool I was. As my finger hovered over the button located under the name of my heart’s Achilles Heal, my brain made one last appeal to my obstinate arrogance. Too late, the deed was done, and all I could do was hope that my utter contempt for love would prevail over my wretched desire for it. "Yes, who is it", came the crackly familiar voice thru the tiny metal speaker box. "It's Emily", I said boldly, trying to mask the turmoil I felt stirring up through out my inners. Though my heart was pounding at a hellish rate, I knew my outer features were still holding firm. The buzzer rang and my feet guided me deftly thru the door and up the stairs. I didn't dare look up until I had reached the first floor landing. There he stood, sans shirt and barefoot. Wearing only a faded pair of Levis and that goofy grin he held out his hand to greet me. Refusing to suffer thru a repeat of the mental blackout I had experienced the last time I took his hand, I simply reached out and deposited the dog leash into his outstretched fingers. "Here you go", I rigidly said, quickly pulling my hand back and stuffing it into my pocket. His initial startled facial expression was quickly replaced with a huge grin and then laughter. "You didn't need to come all the way back here to give me this old thing", he chortled, as he absentmindedly wrapped and unwrapped it slowly around his fingers. "But I'm glad you did". Though my face remained expressionless, my guts were so knotted up that they were cutting off the circulation to my brain. "Why don't you come in for a few minutes", he said finally. Do you want something to drink"? "No thank you", I said firmly. "I really must be going." "Don't go", he responded. "Stay awhile." "I..I can't", I sputtered, as I turned and bolted down the stairs. Just as I reached the bottom I heard a voice thundering down from above…A voice which seemed totally foreign to me. "You're not fooling anyone you know", the voice rumbled. "You didn't come all the way over here just to return this mangy old leash." "OH?!" I said, spinning on my heels and storming back up the stairs. "And just why did I come here O great Seer of the western world?" "You wanted to see me again and figure out what it was that so fascinated you about me", the voice replied. "Women never say what's really on their minds." I was momentarily startled by his astute perception regarding my inner workings. But instinctively I went into battle mode and came out firing with all guns. "Oh so now you're the premier authority on the female mind", I retorted. "Maybe you should write a book on the subject. Better still, why don't you send a copy of your REMARKABLE findings to the Library of Congress? I'm sure that if they really expound upon it, they could fit the sum total of your valuable insights onto the face of a 44-cent commemorative stamp, and still have room enough for a picture of the head of a jackass. No, wait. Your head is way too big for a stamp. Maybe the Goodyear blimp would be more the right size. At least the shape and contents would be appropriate." With that I turned and quickly started down the stairs. He caught me at the bottom, and holding the door shut he looked guilelessly into my eyes. "I'm sorry", he whispered quietly. "I don't know why I said those things. I just...I just didn't want you to leave so I said the first thing that popped into my head." He paused for a moment before continuing. "I don't blame you for being angry with me. You were sweet enough to come here and return something you could have easily just kept or tossed. And instead of thanking you, I returned your veracity with nefarious pronouncements and ludicrous innuendos." Actually these last words weren't the specific words he used, but my brain reinterpreted his statements to match up with what I felt he should have said…namely something totally self-abasing and mortifying. Though I have all but erased the memory of his actual terminology, I vaguely recall the words "rude", "insensitive", and the ever profound, "I'm an idiot". But since this is my diary I'll use the words I want. Anyway, it was the tone, not the words, which ultimately satisfied my noble pride. "So”, I finally asked, “do you have any juice up in that apartment of yours?", "Uhh, No", he responded. "Is beer alright"? "Oh sure", I replied sarcastically. "I'm just dying for a nice, cold beer. Hey it's almost 9 o'clock in the morning. I'm usually on my 2nd 6-pack by now." With a slight shake of my head and an eye roll skyward, I told him that I would just have a glass of water thank you, if he happened to have any on tap. We went back up the stairs to his apartment and I sat down in the Queen Anne chair near the door. He disappeared momentarily around the corner, returning within a couple of minutes with my water in one hand and a beer in the other. He also had donned a shirt, socks, and shoes while he was gone, though he still looked fairly disheveled. "Emily", he said matter-of-factly, as he sat down on the chair opposite me. "What do you do for a living?" "You mean when I'm not turning tricks down on Broadway?” I replied abruptly. "Yeah", he laughed. "What's your day job?" "I do public relations work for a firm in the Hancock Building", I said with more than a touch of pride. Then after several moments of uneasy silence he asked, "Do you have to travel much in that job?” "Actually", I replied, "I just got promoted into a position that does require me to take an occasional junket here and there". "Why do you ask?" "Uh, no reason", he responded. "Just trying to make conversation, that's all." Then there came the uneasy silence again. This was going nowhere. Neither of us could muster up enough courage to say what was really on our minds, and the emotional tension of being in his presence was beginning to gag my innards again. Well, time to go. What was I doing here anyway? He still had the same effect on me as before, and my original plan to just avoid him and carry on with my life seemed a wiser choice than ever. I took one last sip of water, stood up, and pronounced my intentions of leaving. I turned and made quickly for the door hoping beyond hope that he would just let me go in peace. No such luck! "Emily", he said anxiously. "I'm thinking of going down to Lincoln Park this afternoon." (OH NO!!) "Maybe to, you know, walk around the zoo and visit the Conservatory and stuff." (Please don't ask me to come.) "Would you like to come?" (OH GOD!!) This time my shields failed miserably and my stolid face melted like ice cream in Hell. Luckily I had an out. "This afternoon I'm supposed to meet my friend Amy"(The truth actually), I began. And I had every intention of concluding this sentence with (So I'm afraid that I can't go with you today). But what I heard myself actually saying was, "But I can see her anytime". WHAT!! I DID NOT SAY THAT! HOW COULD I HAVE SAID THAT? I DON'T BELIEVE I SAID THAT! Then he says, "Why don't you just invite Amy along." HEY, THAT'S MY LINE. WHY ARE MY WORDS COMING OUT OF HIS MOUTH AND HIS WORDS OUT OF MINE? WHAT KIND OF A BAD NIGHTMARE IS THIS ANYWAY? When all was said and done it had been arranged that I would meet him back here at around noon and that I would ask Amy if she wanted to join us. Of course the wise decision would be to have her come with us, but my brain had somehow gone off the deep-end or something. My usual self-confidence and assuredness had been replaced by a sudden feeling of trepidation and inadequacy. What if Riley liked her more? She's sexier than I am and she's quite a bit bigger on top. That's what men look for, isn't it? NO, I'm not asking her. And that's final. I arrived back at Riley's place just before noon. I rang the bell and 30 seconds later came Riley bouncing down the stairs. I told him that I had begged Amy to come but that she had decided to just stay home and get some things done. In reality, ashamed to tell her the truth (that my foolish heart had won out), I had told Amy that I wasn't feeling well and suggested getting together some other time. Too bad I can't lie to myself that well. After a brief greeting, Riley and I jumped on a number 36 bus heading south down Broadway and off we were on our little date. To avoid saying anything too revealing in my current unstable condition, I decided to allow Riley to do most of the talking. And boy could he talk. The trip down Broadway and then Clark Street, which Broadway merges into, became for Riley a resplendent trip down memory lane. He would point out this place or that, be it a restaurant or club, and he would tell me of some exploit or drama that he had taken part in during his younger days. Around my age, I asked. Yeah, around your age as I recollect, he laughed. There was the Octagon where he had been a DJ for a couple of years. And then there was Neo, a popular nightclub where he had met and actually been jokingly embraced by Bill Murray the actor, after drunkenly blurting out to the star, "I love you". Then there had been the Parkway Restaurant and the Belden Deli, both long since closed and replaced by more upscale establishments. These were the places he would go after the clubs closed; talking till dawn with his friends or with some girl he had met that night. All and all, he said he was having a wonderful time. But as well as his social life was going, the rest of his life at that time was a total loss. He had no real job, no real plans, and in his own mind no real future. All he had he finally figured out was a passion…A passion for old buildings. He enjoyed looking at them and picturing in his mind what they would look like all shiny and new. This passion had been born within him when he was just a boy. He remembered visiting his Grandma Dorothy's old Victorian mansion in Logan Square. Actually, to him it was more than a house. It was a museum filled with hidden treasures and erstwhile stories lurking behind secret doors in long forgotten rooms and alcoves. Treasures and stories that it seemed only he could see and that only he could understand. The towering gables and intricate carvings made it feel like he had entered into another world, another time, when things of beauty were cared for and appreciated. A time when people took time to attend to the details that gave character and personality to those things that they had lovingly created. He remembered wandering from room to musky smelling room, imagining what great event or tragic story had unfurled itself in this house over the many decades since it was built. Each chip of paint and each scratch of wood whispered a secret and opened the gateway to a mystery needing to be solved. He fantasized about what this place had looked like when it was first built and wondered if it could ever look that way again. If only he could strip away the faded varnish and tattered wallpaper and see the original colors and textures that were lovingly woven into the fabric of this house. If only he could spend time there and listen to the tales it had to tell him. If only, he wished. If only. It wasn't until several years later that his wish finally came true. His Grandma Dorothy died in the winter of his junior year in high school and the following summer his dad and uncle decided to fix up the old place and see what they could sell it for. His dad asked him if he wanted to make a little spending money on the side by helping out. He jumped at the chance. His previous summers had been spent playing ball with friends, or hanging out at Oak Street Beach. Never before had he considered working during his time off from school. And never had he worked harder in his life. But thinking back now, he couldn't recall a better summer than that one. He could still remember the joy he felt in watching that old house come back to life, and the pride he experienced when the job was done. And of course he remembered the old house itself. How magnificent it looked with its renewed splendor and recaptured youth. It was then that he knew that he loved making old things new and bringing life where once there was death and decay. So years later with those joyous memories rekindled in his soul he set out to turn his passion into his life's calling. He secured a small loan from his uncle, bought an old run down two-flat for $18,000, and began weaving his dreams into reality. Ten months later he sold that same building for $127,000, and he was on his way. He bought more buildings, hired a crew, and made his first million by the time he reached 27. Everything was going great, including his romance and engagement to the daughter of a wealthy socialite who he had met while buying furnishings at an old estate auction. His life was on the fast track and the only direction was up. Then the roof caved in. Trying to make a big killing so as to be financially worthy of the girl he was about to marry, he took on some risky projects in a depressed area of the city. Everything went wrong and he lost a fortune. Then a couple of his investments went bad and his once bulging bank account had dwindled down to nothing. It was also about this time that the socialite's daughter decided that maybe they weren't "romantically" compatible after all and broke off the engagement. In the end all he was left with was his building on Wellington and an unquenchable desire to douse the flames of his burning sorrow with 12 ounce bottles of beer. He gave up on success, he gave up on women, and he gave up on himself. He tried to bounce back, he said, but he just couldn't muster up the strength to go back out there and start over again. So he basically just sat in his apartment and drank. First he drank to survive. Then he drank to forget. Now he just drinks to drink. As he told me his story it was as if he was in some sort of trance. And when he awoke he apologized for boring me with the pathetic details of his miserable life. He said he had to tell someone and I just happened to be the unlucky person to be around when he couldn't hold it in any longer. I was touched, but I didn't tell him that. Instead I yawned and said that I had sat through much worse stories than his. We disembarked the bus at Webster and walked the couple of blocks east to the zoo. It was a warm sunny spring afternoon and all around us couples were walking hand-in-hand together. Never in my life had I felt the urge to publicly display my affections for someone in such a manner. So why was I feeling it now? This really was turning out to be a good learning experience. I should have brought a note pad. As we walked through the quiet serenity of Lincoln Park Zoo, I found myself marveling at the contrast of this peaceful sanctuary being only a short walk from the hustle and bustle of big city living. In some ways one zoo is just like the other. We saw the usual lions, and tigers and bears. But Lincoln Park is more than a zoo. With its urban setting it’s really sort of sanctuary from the sometimes violent streets not so far away. At least in here the animals were behind glass. After touring the zoo we walked down to the Lincoln Park Lagoon. There we sat outside the Cafe Brauer sharing some fried zucchini and watching couples rhythmically peddle their little two-seat paddleboats across the peaceful shoal. From there we took a stroll by the lake and later stopped for sushi at small place on Clark Street. By the time we started back home it was early evening. With the sweet warmth and tender breathe of springtime dancing ever so lightly on my skin and in my heart, I suggested that we skip the bus and instead return home on foot. Though I insisted it wasn't necessary, Riley walked me all the way back to my apartment. It was nearly dusk when we arrived there, and as I fumbled through my purse trying desperately to get inside my door before anything else could happen Riley put his hand on my shoulder and whispered ever so softly, "I'm glad you came." "So am I", I heard myself say. After that everything is sort of a blur. At some point I stopped looking for my keys, chiefly because my lips had somehow become attached to Riley's, and my eyes were mysteriously closed. NOW WAIT A DOGGONE MINUTE HERE! I never close my eyes when I kiss. Then again this wasn't kissing, was it? At least it wasn't kissing as I had known it. This was electric shock therapy. When our lips finally parted I realized that my arms had become wrapped around Riley's waist and my right foot was raised well off the ground. As I slowly became re-aware of my surroundings I was further shocked to find that we were standing on the sidewalk, IN FULL VIEW OF EVERYONE!!! AND EVERYONE WAS WATCHING!!! Weren't they? This was contemptible. This was outrageous. This was magnificent. Riley grabbed hold of my hand and squeezed it gently for a few moments. "I'll call you", he said. And with that he smiled, turned, and walked away, my hand dropping limply to my side still tingling from his touch. He turned once more and waved as he was going around the corner. Then he was gone. I slept uneasily last night and woke up well before dawn. Since then I have sat in this chair writing and quietly reflecting about who I am, what I am, and how I want my life to be. Now after much thought and teary-eyed contemplation I have made my decision. I must never see Riley Wells again. Thursday 6/23 Dear Diary, It has been over a month since I’ve been able to put pen to paper. Several times have I tried only to gag at the thought of delving once more into my contemptible soul. After my humiliating defeat at the hands of my despicable heart, I had fallen back from the front lines in order to take stock of where I was and where I wanted to be. As far as Riley goes, I have not seen him since that ill-fated kiss 32 days ago. He has several times tried to contact me by phone, but each time I have been able to either put him off or avoid the call completely. To my knowledge he has not attempted to confront me in person, though I have tried to be away from home as much as possible. I know I have hurt him and for this I’m truly sorry. I realize that this sentiment sounds somewhat phony coming from me, the self-proclaimed "harbinger of pain". But in this one instance I actually do feel sympathy for the innocent victim of this continuing battle between my head and heart. Anyway, enough of that. It's time to catch up with what's been happening in my life over the last several weeks, which has been quite a bit actually. And much of it I must say was rather surprising even to me. I spent most of the first week alternately bawling my eyes out and cursing my emotional infirmity. To stop the tears I poured myself into my work. I had just recently gotten a promotion, so I spent many long nights at work reviewing the parameters of my new responsibilities. Interestingly enough, this resulted in my spending a great deal of time with Derrick, my former supervisor who I had such heated words with not so long ago. We are now pretty much equals on the corporate ladder, and due to the interconnectedness of our positions we need to constantly coordinate our efforts to achieve maximum efficiency. In view of our past history I at first approached this affiliation with some apprehension, as I'm sure did he. However our long nights together and intensive work schedule created something of a bond between us. And it wasn't long before this bond extended outside the workplace and we began dating. It started with after work coffeehouse excursions and progressed to late dinners and even later nights at his place. What I'm feeling I couldn't say. All I know is that this relationship is filling a need in me that previous to Riley I didn't know I had. Am I in love? Not that I'm aware of, though in my present emotional state who can say for sure. Oh, and Gregory is speaking to me again. It started a couple of weeks ago when he said "Hi" to me as we passed in the hallway. I responded with the same and since then he has re-established himself as someone in my life. He also has somehow designated himself as my personal romance advisor and confidant. Of course he is dead set against my relationship with Derrick. "Emily, I don't believe you", he'll say disapprovingly. "How can you go out with that jerk?" When Gregory comes up to visit and sees Derrick and me together he just shakes his head and rolls his eyes heavenward. I usually just stick out my tongue at him and continue my conversation. Sometimes though, just to irk him, I'll put my hand on Derrick's shoulder or arm to which Gregory just gives me a wave of disgust and goes back down to his own floor. Where do I go from here? That I don't know. At present I feel as though I'm in a safe place, detached from my feelings and devoid of any mental scrutiny from my ever-probing brain. In essence I'm on vacation from myself. When will the battle begin again? Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Wednesday 6/29 Dear Diary, Part of my new job responsibilities includes attending conferences and workshops around the country. As a result, I’ve spent the last couple of days in Boston. And what a magnificent city it is. Though much of the time was consumed with business matters, we did have some time to see the sights…we being me plus Derrick, who was along to help coordinate my presentation. After our first-class flight into Logan Airport, we took the water shuttle across Boston Harbor to our hotel. We of course had separate rooms, but Derrick made it clear from the start that we would have a much better "collaboration" if we only made use of one. To this suggestion I responded with my usual grace and charm. I slammed the door in his face. Derrick as of late has been pushing for a more sensual relationship. But my aversion to the loss of physical and emotional control, which of course is the whole aspiration of sex, pretty much excludes me from participation in this sport. At dinner he made a few more subtle attempts at getting me to submit to his vile little scenario to which I responded with less than subtle refusals. He finally became resigned to the inevitable and spent the remainder of the evening in a sullen stupor. The next day, still nursing his injured vanity, Derrick spent most of the time behaving like a spoiled brat. I'm used to dealing with his little tantrums and childish behavior, and more than once had to give him a verbal scolding. By last night he had finally, at least on the surface, acquiesced to my disposition on the matter. Following our last business engagement, we enjoyed a delightful dinner at Durgin Park and afterwards strolled hand-in-hand thru Quincy Market, stopping frequently to browse at its many little stands and shops. We spent several minutes kissing and hugging in front of the door to my room before, with one last beseeching look, he trudged back to his own room despondent and unfulfilled. I know what he wants, but I'm afraid that at this time I am unable or unwilling to supply it. As wonderful as our relationship appears to be going at present, I'm afraid that this issue will be the point of contention that eventually drives an intractable wedge between us, overthrowing everything else that binds us together. How sad. How very sad. Saturday 7/2 Dear Diary, Here I sit in my big red chair staring out the window above Belmont and Clark. How few opportunities I’ve had lately to snuggle up within its soft, willowy cushions and just think. Think about my life, my loves, my sorrows, and my dreams of the future. It's funny to watch my dog Maxwell sitting on the chaise lounge in front of the other bay windows staring endlessly down at nearly the same view as me. I wonder what he's thinking…or if he's thinking at all. Oh to have no thoughts. How glorious it would be to flow through life purely by instinct, with no worries, fears, or decisions to make which you know will result in self-inflicted agony. Before I met Riley my life made perfect sense. I knew WHO I was, WHAT I was, and WHY I was. Since his fateful intrusion into my life however, I've lost that person and I don't know where to find her....that's a lie. The fact is I know exactly where to find her. She's right where I left her. And tomorrow my Dear Diary I must go back and get her. Sunday 7/3 Dear Diary, I rose early this morning, and with Maxwell in tow set out on my appointed journey to regain my past. Or was it to discover my future. Maybe it was both. Whichever it was, it was waiting for me at Broadway and Wellington. It was waiting for me in the guise of Riley Wells. I arrived at his door sometime before 8am…when exactly I'm not sure since I was beyond time and space. I was zooming around in some type of black hole, unsure of where I was or how to proceed. My finger once again floated uncertainly above his bell, trapped in a state of suspended animation. It was as if my brain cells had suddenly forgotten the neurological code needed to make the nerves in my hand obey the "push the button" command. Just when I thought that I would spend the rest of my miserable existence forever frozen in this position, Maxwell let out a series of barks and yelps that were so penetrating I'm sure even those long-since deceased would have been nearly awakened by the deafening clamor. Within a matter of seconds Riley had his head out the window ready to scold the violator of his precious last minutes of Sunday morning sleep. But before his mouth could form the words that were already being transmitted from his brain, his eyes had spotted the perpetrator and its master and the vocalizing of his beratement was terminated instantaneously. Actually no sound emitted from him whatsoever as this new data was being entered into his still groggy noggin. "Well", I said finally, "aren't you going to invite me up for a nice cold beer?" Three minutes later I was sitting apprehensively in the Queen Anne chair sipping some apple juice and wondering what the hell was going to happen next. Riley sat across from me fidgeting with his shirt buttons while trying to apologize for how messy the apartment was. Only Maxwell seemed at ease as he lay contentedly on the hardwood floor half-way between Riley and myself. If I didn't know better I'd have said he was smiling. When Riley had finished buttoning he looked up and into my eyes for the first time since I had arrived. What he saw I can't be sure, but a faint smile crossed his lips. "This is a surprise", he said finally. "I thought that for some reason you had decided you never wanted to see me again. I'm glad I was wrong." "You weren't wrong", I responded. "That's exactly what I had decided." There was a short pause as we sat facing each other waiting to see who would speak next. "So what changed your mind?" Riley asked finally. I thought for a moment and then said directly, "I lost my persona here and I want it back". Riley's face suddenly took on a totally confused expression. Then he got up from his chair and started looking around the living room. "What color was it?" he asked worriedly. "Was there any money in it?" "NOT MY PURSE YOU IDIOT", I cried out as I rose involuntarily from my chair, "my persona, my identity, my essence. You stole it from me and I want it returned. I want things the way they were before I met you." And then after a momentary pause I despondently sighed, "I want my life back". With these last words I slumped back down into my chair and held my emotional face within the now moist palms of my trembling hands. When I finally pulled my fingers down over my drained countenance I looked up and saw Riley standing across the room staring at me with the most perplexed looking expression I had ever seen on another human being. He didn't have the slightest clue what I was talking about, did he? "I've got to go", I said as I rose from my chair and started gathering up Maxwell's leash. "It was a mistake to come here. Goodbye, good luck, good..." But I couldn't for the life of me think of anything else that I wanted to say that started with good, so I just repeated "Goodbye". As I turned and reached for the door knob I heard for only the second time that strong, thundering, unfamiliar tone of voice emanating from the mouth of Riley Wells. "NOW WAIT JUST A DARNED MINUTE", it bellowed. "Every time you come over here for some cockeyed reason or another, you always end up running out the door. I want you to turn around right now and sit your neurotic little butt back down in that chair. Then let's see if we can't find out together what it is you think you lost." WELL!!! Nobody has ever dared speak to me in that manner before, and my first inclination was to give him the verbal lashing of a lifetime. But that's not what I did. To my surprise, and I'm sure to his, I obeyed his orders and returned to my seat. Then we went silent for quite a few seconds before Riley, in a quiet, reflective tone said, "I like you Emily. I really do. And I don't like many people, especially many women. The better I treat them, the worst they treat me. The nicer I am, the meaner they seem to get. Maybe I don't know what they want. Maybe they don't know either. But in any case, I've spent the last few years just trying to stay out of their way. And up until you I was doing a pretty fair job of it. So maybe you're not the only one who lost something here." With that, he rested. Hmmm…maybe he understands more than I thought. "OK, fine", I said after a few moments of reflection. "We're both a little lost at the moment and we don't know how to proceed. Let me offer a suggestion. We'll spend some time together and try to help each other get back to where we were before we met. Once we see that this relationship can't possibly work we can both get on with our separate lives, a little older, a little wiser." There, that made sense…didn't it? "O.K", Riley replied, grinning from ear to ear. "If that's what you think we should do then that's what we'll do." He then hesitated a whole three seconds before blurting out, "So you want to go out today?” I just looked at him and shook my head. "We don't have to start this minute", I said curtly. "Anyway, if I'm going to be seen out in public with you then we need to get you something half-way decent to wear." Riley was abruptly taken aback with this latest statement. Looking down at his flannel shirt and cutoff jeans he shot back, "What's wrong with what I wear?" "Nothing", I said, "If our dates are going to be on some uncharted desert island. But if you're planning on taking me to any restaurants that don't require me to hunt down and kill my own food then we need to get you something more suitable to wear." He had a hurt expression on his face, but I did not attempt to cushion the blow. "I'm only working half a day on Thursday", I told him. "Meet me down in the lobby of Water Tower Place at noon and bring your credit cards. With any luck we should have you ready to re-enter civilization by the time the stores close." With that I got up, called for Maxwell, gave a fleeting wave to Riley, who sat motionless and dumbfounded in his chair, and out the door I went. As I walked the still sleepy Sunday morning streets back to my apartment I suddenly became aware of a quiet contentment within my being. OH GOD! I can't be thinking that this relationship is actually going to work. That is NOT part of the plan. Leave it to my foolish heart to start trying to take over again at the first sign of romance. Well I'll be damned if I'm going to start feeling contented at this stage in my life. My far more dominant intellect will most surely come riding to the rescue to save me. Won't it? WELL WON'T IT?? Friday 7/8 Dear Diary, Through my many years of experience I have decided that there are only two types of men in the world, fools and idiots. Fools are the ones who have all the aspirations for greatness yet allow one small obstacle to keep them from its fruition. Idiots are those who have all the elements needed for greatness, yet have no aspirations for attaining it. Simply put, Derrick is a fool and Riley is an idiot. Let's start with Derrick. Though he's childish, self-centered, and terribly egotistical, Derrick has a certain allure that captivates my imagination. The inflated perception he has of himself as some irresistible romantic figure somehow transcends his human frailties. And at least in some instances he actually does appear to ascend to his own mental self-image. These moments are rare granted, but when this apparition materializes it truly is mesmerizing. It’s in these interims that I feel an almost uncontrollable urge to bask in the brilliance of his effervescent light and tingle in the heat of his incandescent flame. Unfortunately, due to his absurd lack of maturity he’s only able to sustain this level for short periods of time before slipping back once more into his ever so reproachable humanness. As with most men, the stake in the heart of his noble aspirations is his overriding proclivity for sex. Why men allow this only mildly titillating vexation to undermine their ascension to greater heights I will never know. Men associate sex with conquest when in fact it functions more as an undertow of sorts, pulling them down by the very appendage which they rely upon to deliver them heavenward. It’s ironic yes, but not funny by any means, at least not to me. For it robs me of my ideal man, a man that can stand tall before me, a man who I can admire and look up to. Not that sex itself is wrong. I'm not saying that. In fact, of course, it’s a natural and essential component to the creation of an all-pervasive bond between a loving couple. What I'm saying is that men, at least the men I've had contact with, hoist up the banner of sex on the tallest turret while relegating all other aspects of emotional expression to the dungeon excrement trough. In turn my love for them sadly drains down to the same trough, where it’s unmercifully carried away to that lachrymose land where all lost loves find there final resting place. The details of our last confrontation are insignificant, but yesterday Derrick was the latest emigrant to this land. I lament his departure, but rest secure in the reasons why I cast him away. I could have been his queen, but instead I became his executioner. Goodbye Derrick. Riley is a different animal altogether. He’s an idiot of almost Herculean proportions. He has all the elements for greatness and yet not the slightest impulse to procure it. He has even conquered the greatest obstacle to success, being a single-minded focus on sex. He has replaced this with passion, an expression of feeling that in my estimation is both more dignified and enrapturing than its baser, more popular cousin. What is there to do with such a man? The obvious choice would be to try to reawaken the warrior within him. To inspire in him some ambition to flaunt his manhood by confidently taking the reins of the bucking bronco heart of the woman he loves and ride it hard until it submits willingly to his every pull and jerk of the bit. After which we would journey forth together into the valley of utopian bliss where we would eat freely from the mango tree of love, and drink eternally from the ever flowing spring of silvery passion. The question here is whether this ambition is inherent within him or if it’s forever dangling just out of his reach. This I have not yet determined. The only positive signs that I have seen so far were his verbal changes in tone the two times it looked as if I was walking out of his life. Both times the words that blistered off his lips had their source from a reservoir deep within his being…a reservoir rich in golden masculinity which even to Riley is totally virgin and uncharted territory. It is in essence the mother lode of his intrepid virility. If only I can somehow manage to gain access to it I might be able to bring its contents to the surface. As for our shopping spree at Water Tower Place yesterday I would have to say it was an unmitigated success. Not that it wasn't without its rough edges and ruffled feathers mind you, but in the end the desired results were arrived at. Riley, at least for the time being, has submitted to abiding to the dress code required to be seen in my presence. And I have to say he does look cute in his new little outfits. Maybe some would consider my methods for changing Riley somewhat heavy-handed, but I would rather be direct and risk some hurt feelings at first then to do what most women do, which is to try and covertly change their man little-by-little without him being the least bit aware of it. For one thing this takes far too long and I don't have the patience for such antics. And secondly, I don't like dealing in subtleties when I know with all certainty exactly what it is that I want. Many women want the man to believe that he’s in control, so they feel the need to manipulate him secretly. I on the contrary want my man to know up front who's in charge…ME. And the sooner he gets used to the idea the quicker we can get on with things. Did I just say my man? Oh dear God just listen to me. I sound like I'm actually considering Riley as a lifetime commitment or something. Of course it would probably take that long just to beat him into shape. Oh well, somebody's got to do the dirty work and right now I guess I'm the most qualified person for the job. Sunday 7/31 Dear Diary, The last few weeks have been filled with halcyon days and dream away nights. Magic moments and simple pleasures lapping over me like gentle waves upon a lonely shore. My resplendent heart has at one moment felt the intense heat of lava spewing from an erupting volcano, and the next moment sailed away on a cool, exhilarating ocean breeze. My brain in the meantime has been mysteriously quiet regarding these emotional escapades. I suspect that it’s lying in wait patiently anticipating the inevitable lethargy which arises as familiarity sets in. "Have your fun now", it says to my heart. "For the fog of beguilement will soon dissipate allowing reason and logic to once again shine down upon this sapient soul." As always, I myself remain little but a third party in this ongoing battle between head and heart, heeding only the call of whichever one is currently in control. Most recently, as I've just alluded to, the one in control has been my pathetically irresponsible heart. As to my affairs of late I’ve been seeing Riley almost on a daily basis. And as you can surmise from my initial soliloquy, the experience at least for now has transformed my translucent covering into a sheet of clear glass. No longer can I hide my emotions or shield my desires from the outside world, or from myself for that matter. I walk to and fro allowing all who care to look the chance to see the boundless joy that is teeming up within me. No matter what manner of mundane work or tasteless task I’m doing, the mere sense of being elevates my performance of said duties to near Quixotesque proportions. And although I’ve been a bit concerned about my propensity for making more silly errors as of late (due in most part to my incessant daydreaming), any lingering traces of self-contempt for my shameful mental meanderings are swiftly swept aside by a glorious feeling of utter contentment and the wistful dreaminess of what will enfold in our next rendezvous. Of course all is not wine and roses. There is still much work ahead in molding Riley into the viral godlike creature I require. I intend to accomplish this transformation by constantly challenging his manhood while pushing his willpower and personal ambition to their ever expanding limits. And although he still shrinks inward a bit when I'm too coarse in a reprimand or reproach, I believe I can see his fighting spirit starting to extricate itself from the shadowy recesses of his inner being. Whether our relationship withstands this pressure until the desired results are achieved will depend mainly on Riley's emotional fortitude and, of course, his love for me. So far both are holding firm, but with something as fragile as the male ego you never quite know when one more push may shatter the whole thing into a million pieces. Wednesday 8-3 Dear Diary, As I sit here now in my big red chair reflectively staring out the window, I can't help but wonder if the brilliant flames of passionate desire burning within me aren't already beginning to diminish in illumination and radiance. Waning and ebbing towards their inevitable fate as smoldering embers of a festering love. Or maybe I'm just tired and need a break. Whichever, tonight for the first time since our torrid little affair began I cancelled a date with Riley. I gave the latter of these two possibilities as an excuse, and Riley reluctantly acquiesced to my disposition on the matter. Really though I still do feel as much enamored of Riley as ever. It's just that I've started feeling smothered by all the attention he’s been showering upon me as of late and felt the need for some time alone in order to step back and take stock of things. Not just with Riley, but with the rest of my life as well. My job for the most part is satisfying my intellectual needs, and my early morning runs along the lake with Maxwell are providing me with at least the minimum of physical stimulation needed. My poor Maxwell! I have all but abandoned him the last few weeks and I know he's hurting inside. It's a wonder he even acknowledges my presence anymore. I'll make it up to you soon my darling sweetheart. Speaking of sweethearts, Gregory my former pursuer is after me to be his "sweetheart" again. Ever since my breakup with Derrick, Gregory has been somehow under the delusion that he has a chance of catching me on the rebound. He’s unaware of my romance with Riley and I feel no current urge to tell him. Why should I? He has in the last 21 days invited me to countless lunches, a couple of parties, and even a wedding. I did go to lunch with him once, but then only because I had a taste for Thai and only two bucks in my wallet. Since then though I’ve put him off with any number of excuses hoping beyond hope that he might get the hint rather than having to become engaged in yet another confrontation regarding our future, or should I say non-future, together. Derrick on the other hand looks past me as if I didn't even exist in his universe. He has most recently taken up with some yellow-haired floozy from the secretarial pool. And I'm sure he’s taking his hatred of me, and probably of all womankind, out on her. He has paraded her countless times past my desk hoping I suppose to inspire in me some wanton desire to come crawling back to him and beg forgiveness for my foolish behavior. "Please, please take me back", he wants me to plead. And then after benevolently consenting to give my worthless self a second chance, he'll glorify in throwing this act of generosity up in my face on every possible occasion until I relent to his every whim and desire, sexual and otherwise. This is the way his mind works regardless of the reality of the situation. Within the universe created by his boundless ego, it isn't possible for a woman to dump him as I did without him inventing some future scenario in which he ultimately becomes Lord and Master over the silly wench. Let me tell you now that there is as much chance of that happening as there is of me becoming Miss Congeniality in the Miss America Pageant, or as I call it the Miss America Pungent. That's all I really have to tell you now, my dearest Diary. It's you and only you Dear Diary to whom I can unburden heart and soul without fear of judgment or condemnation. What would I do without you? Don't answer that. Sunday 8-7 Dear Diary, A PLAY [The setting is a rather large Deli Restaurant at the corner of Clark and Belden. The time is around 11:30 PM on a Saturday night. Amid the noisy and bustling activity of the crowded room there walks a woman…a woman in her late-30s, tall, angular, and handsome. She eyes her prey and stealthily approaches him. She’s reeling with anticipation as she draws nearer to him. He excites her still. Who's that with him? Ah, only a mere child; easily dealt with. Her now moist hand reaches out to touch his all too familiar shoulder.] Handsome woman: RILEY…IS THAT YOU? Riley: [Turning quickly, startled first by the touch, then by the recognition] Gloria!! [Said with widening eyes and a suddenly smiling face] WOW! What are you doing here? Gloria: Eating, silly. [Then after a momentary pause for eye contact] So how are you my darling? Riley: Oh I'm fine. I'm doing just fine. Gloria: You look great….REALLY great! Riley: You too. Geez, you haven't changed a bit. Gloria: Oh silly, you always say the sweetest things. [She regards the child out of the corner of her eye as she continues] How long has it been, [She asks rhetorically] maybe four, almost five years now? Riley: Has it been that long? It hasn't seemed that long. Gloria: Oh silly, it seems like FOREVER. I think about it constantly. [Then with the slightest of pouts] I was TERRIFIED that I would never see you again. Riley: Well, [He laughs that stupid, goofy laugh of his] here I am. Gloria: [Now turning for the first time to acknowledge the ‘child’] So Riley, aren't you going to introduce me to your little friend? Riley: [As if just first waking up to discover a stranger in his midst] Oh! [He stumbles] I…I'm sorry [He says to Gloria, not the child] this is uh...[More hesitation] Emily. [He finally blurts out] Yeah, this is Emily. Gloria: [Laughing] Are you sure? [Then reaching out a heavy bejeweled, extra-long finger-nailed hand] Hello Emily dear. I'm Gloria. Emily: [Making no movement to grasp the ring-encrusted, talon-like appendage thrust condescendingly in her direction] So I've heard silly. Gloria: [gradually pulling her unclasped pincer back across the table and turning her attention once more towards Riley] We must get together and reminisce about all those WILD [said emphatically for effect] times we had together. Here's my new address and phone number [she pulling a finely printed card from her silver pocketbook] I'll NEVER forgive you if you don't call me. Riley: Oh, uhh…don't worry, I'll call you. [Then turning to notice that the color of Emily's skin has recently turned a lovely shade of purple] Yeah ah.., I'll try to call you sometime…maybe [Another glance and goofy smile in Emily's direction] Gloria: Well, tata must be off. Have friends waiting and all that. [Then to Emily] Nice meeting you Amelia. I'd love to see you again someday. Perhaps I'll meet someone special [Looking at Riley] and you can stand up at our wedding. You'd make a lovely flower girl. Emily: Perhaps. [In a voice trying to imitate Gloria's haughty tone] I hear Edward Scissorhands is looking for a wife. And it would be so fascinating watching to see which of you could slice the wedding cake faster. Gloria: [Her face drops and her composure suddenly disappears] Uh…Oh. Well, goodbye [she says as she quickly turns and almost trips over the hapless busboy just passing by] [Riley's eyes follow her haphazard trek back towards the door where, with another woman, she disappears around the corner] Riley: [Finally turning back to Emily] UHH….That's my former fiancé. I told you about her. Funny running into her after all these years. [A half-grin, half-grimace as his eyes move rapidly trying to avoid the icy glare that is now focused directly on him] Emily: Oh Yeah, hilarious. I can't remember the last time I've laughed so hard. Riley: Not funny that way silly [His voice tails off, perhaps realizing that the more he talks the more trouble he's in] [After that not more than a couple dozen words are exchanged between the couple for the remainder of the evening. The taxi ride back to her place is deathly silent. His offer to walk her to her door is rejected, as is his awkward attempt at a good night kiss] Riley: [Despairingly as she exits the taxi] I'll call you. Emily: [Turning abruptly with fire in her eyes] Call her and we're through. [With that she slams the cab door and doesn't look back. Upstairs she sits curled up in her big red chair by the window, making no attempt to wipe away the tributary of tears that are streaming down her now pallid cheeks and dripping gently into the small reservoir of water of what once had been her lap. As the curtain comes down and the theater lights come up Emily, while tenderly rubbing the neck of her dog Maxwell, is heard saying five simple words] Emily: I'm back, Maxwell, I'm back. End of Act I Saturday 8-13 Dear Diary, Well it's been a week since the incident with ‘that woman’ and I've pretty much forgiven Riley for his unwitting role in humiliating me. Though as I've told him forgiven does not mean forgotten. In the meantime he’s sworn to me up and down that he has no intentions of calling or contacting Gloria, and has gone as far as tearing up her card in my presence. Though who's to say he hasn't written the number down elsewhere. At this suggestion he just threw his arms straight out to each side in crucifix style while hanging his head down to where his chin rested upon his chest. I got the hint and half-laughingly said, "Alright Mr. Dramatic, I believe you." He smiled like a little boy knowing his antic had succeeded. At that the subject was dropped and has not been alluded to since. If any good came out of this incident it had to be that I'm back. Back meaning that my head is clear and I feel like my old self again, like before I met Riley. Now don't get me wrong, I still have strong feelings for Riley. Some might even call it love. But these feelings aren't fogging up my brain cells anymore. I can now function normally again without thoughts of Riley constantly interrupting the flow of information circulating through my system. And I can, if necessary, even go for a day or two without needing to feel the touch of his hand or hearing the sound of his voice. Fortunately he’s not reached this level yet. If anything he’s more smitten in love with me than before. I like that. I like being in control. In fact, I need it. Being out of control in love is great for some people. And now that I've experienced it for myself over the last several weeks I can appreciate its appeal. There comes with it an airy sense of irresponsibility. A nothing can upset me and the world is perfect feeling that acts as an opiate on the nervous system. All worries dissolve, all troubles disappear, and all that matters is the person you love. The mysterious thing to me though is that somehow, while you're in this state of euphoria, the world manages to continue on as usual. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, your laundry gets done and your bills get paid. You may not remember how or when, but your brain is still able to process the mundane duties of life while your heart is away on holiday. And when you finally get back all you can say is WOW! …that was great. I had all of that fun and yet the rest of my life is still in one piece. It seems kind of like cheating somehow. So maybe, just maybe mind you, I'll let myself experience it again someday. But right now it just feels good to be back. Saturday 8/20 Dear Diary, Last night I took a much needed break from Riley to spend an evening out with my friend Amy. For the last month and a half or so Riley and I had been exclusively together every free moment. So when Amy called yesterday morning and suggested going out to the Rush Street area after work, I nearly wet my pants with anticipation of an evening free of romance. Riley of course didn't share in my enthusiasm, but reluctantly acquiesced to the inevitable (AKA me getting my way) and the evening was set. Amy was already waiting for me downstairs as I exited the revolving doors of the John Hancock Building. Her long jet black hair blowing in the wind as she waved at me from the driver's seat of her new red Mustang convertible (A gift from daddy). A minute later we were speeding north up Michigan Avenue on our way to what I thought would be a quiet relaxing evening, devoid of romance and devoid of men. Well as it turned out it was devoid of neither. And as I sit here this early morning penning my diary, the thoughts and memories concerning last night are just beginning to reformulate in my still throbbing skull. Things started innocently enough. First to Butch McGuire’s for nachos and margaritas, then on to She-Nannigans for Long Island Ice Teas. As we chatted and laughed about the oddity of life's comic adventures, I began feeling gloriously liberated from all the emotional chaos that comes from romantic involvements. Liberated that is until I came to notice two sets of eyes glaring at us. One set was blue and the other a deep set brown. Blue eyes was looking towards Amy, but Brown Eyes was gazing squarely at moi’. I endeavored to ignore them, but try as I may those brown eyes kept diverting my attention. After awhile it was becoming almost impossible for me to put together a comprehensible sentence. Enough, I thought finally, and suggested to Amy that we try another establishment. As we walked across Division Street on our way to Bootleggers, I casually glanced behind us. There they were, two sets of eyes following us. Brown eyes was in the lead with blue eyes tentatively tagging along a few steps behind. It was at this point that I decided to bring this little drama to the attention of Amy. BIG MISTAKE! Amy, who by now was getting a bit giggly, turned abruptly on her heels and waved merrily at the two sets of eyes. "Hi Brown Eyes", she bellowed. "And Hellooo Blue Eyes." The impact of this incident resounded mightily throughout the remainder of the evening. Both Blue Eyes and Brown Eyes were initially taken aback by this sudden turn of the tide, but Brown Eyes recovered quickly. Within a few seconds he had made our duet a trio. Soon after Blue Eyes somewhat more reluctantly joined our little party, but only after Brown Eyes had beckoned him over for the third time. "So here we are", says Amy astutely. I look at her vaguely, not sure I recognize the girl who normally is so refined and reserved in her dealings with men. Then I turn towards Brown Eyes and begin to say something witty. I stop... something familiar here…his detached expression, his analytical brow, his contrary mouth. What's that? No, It wasn't possible…but it was…kindred spirits. He was me and I was he. We both saw it simultaneously and stood frozen for time unbeknownst reflecting back each other's gaze. "HEY YOU TWO…Snap out of it". It was Amy's voice that had invaded our universe, momentarily breaking the incantation that had woven itself around his soul and mine. He gazes once more deeply into my eyes, and then surprisingly drops to one knee and speaks his first words to me. "She stands alone in regal grace, her soul a web of embroidered lace, I bow a knee and kiss her hand and accept her rule upon my land." The intriguing thing about his little recital was not in the words that he used, but that he spoke them in all earnestness without the glint of a smile ever crossing his lips. And my reaction...I BLUSHED. Can you believe it? I don't ever remember blushing in my life. This was embarrassing. We went into Bootleggers and sat down near the window. When the guys left the table to get drinks, Amy turned and looked hard at me. "Emily, what's up with you? You look as if you've seen a ghost or something." I just shrugged and gave some mumbled reply. My brain was working at maximum capacity trying to process the latest developments and I had no time for explanations or meaningless chatter. By the time they came back I was still somewhat foggy on things. I decided to say as little as possible until I could fully grasp the significance of this encounter. I wanted to learn as much about my soul twin as possible, and the best way to learn was to listen. At least that's what my grandfather used to tell me. So I listened and I learned. The first thing I learned was that his name was Christopher. He was twenty-six years old and worked as a commodities broker at the Board of Trade. He had two major pastimes. One was photography, and the other was climbing mountains. He hoped one day to make his living as a photographer, and I guess as with most mountain climbers, he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. On the romantic front he straightforwardly told me he was seeing a couple of women currently, but that these relationships were only casual at least as far as he was concerned. Where were these women tonight, I had asked. "Home pouting, I imagine", he replied casually, without a hint of bravado or braggadocio. He in turn asked me about my status and I openly told him about Riley and my feelings towards him. "Well I wouldn't want to come between true love", he exclaimed after I had finished. "There's so little of it these days isn't there." Again, though his words could have been construed as mocking there was no such innuendo in his voice. Only an even toned expression of his current thoughts on the matter. This propensity for his tone of voice belying his words remained consistent throughout the evening, so I can only assume that this is merely a part of his manner and not something he had pulled out of his hat just for me. As the night wore on I drank and talked much more than I had planned, and by evening's end I was pretty much sloshed. Only after I got home did I begin to wonder what had happened to the girl who never ever lost control. I'm thinking now that with Christopher there, alert and vigilant, that I was somehow free to let myself go. After all there were two of us now, kindred spirits, conjugal souls, aggregate egos. How many of us did it take to keep an eye on the rest of humanity and to make sure that the universe kept operating as usual? And even if I did tell him more than I meant to, he probably would have surmised most of it anyway. Even if he didn't, nothing would have surprised him much, just as nothing about him much surprised me. The only real surprise was that we had discovered each other at all, and that this discovery took place at Rush Street, the long-time social meat market of Chicago. Knowing the types of personas and mind sets we both shared, I can't help believe that we had a better chance of meeting at the North Pole than in a place where casual relationships develop as commonly as monsoons in Bangladesh and foggy days in London. Some may ask why enter into a relationship in which the sense of mystery and hope of intrigue is so minuscule. Where is the excitement, where is the drama, where is the discovery? My answer to this is that the payoff in any relationship is not in the discovery of the other, but in the discovery of self. And in our particular case this can be especially true. Here was a one-time opportunity where by viewing each other, almost mirror images, we could in turn see how others view us. How will it all end up? Of that I am uncertain. My guess would be that after we each learn all we can from interrelating with each other, we will disengage and go our separate ways. That's what my head says anyway. My heart on the other hand might believe that I have found my consummate man, and that this is the start of a lifelong romance. Which of these views is accurate will only become apparent with time. As for now Christopher has my name and my phone number, and we have a dinner date scheduled for Tuesday at seven. I know what you're thinking, Dear Diary…What about Riley? Well, what about Riley? I still feel the same way about him as I did before meeting Christopher. I am still confident that, in time, Riley will develop into the man I need him to be, and that when he does I’ll be able to give myself unto him heart and soul. But in the meantime this thing with Christopher is something that I simply must do. And if Riley can't handle it then that's the way it goes. After reading over my last couple statements I can see that I'm probably being very unrealistic about Riley understanding this arrangement or of going along with it even if he did. But if I am to make this one final journey into self-exploration it's a risk I'll have to take. It’s said that great rewards never come without risks. I can't help but wonder though if this time the risks may end up costing me more than I can possibly imagine. Monday 8/22 Dear Diary, As I surmised, though not exactly genius work, Riley did not take the news of this new twist in our relationship very well. In fact he suggested I leave before he told me what he really thought of me and my new kindred spirit. I left, but not before saying that he was being closed-minded and selfish in his reaction. As the door slammed behind me I got the distinct impression that this door might be closed to me forever. It was at this time that I first sensed a degree of sadness and loneliness that I had never experienced before and hope to never experience again. When the full impact of this pall came over me I was still standing on the stoop outside his apartment, and my first instinct was to storm back in and throw myself at his feet begging his forgiveness and promising to never, ever do anything of this sort again. This desire however passed quickly as my ever diligent brain reassured me that I was doing the best thing for everyone involved, including Riley. And even if he wasn't aware of it now, one day he would see this as the thing that was most responsible for building the foundation of our future life together. As I walked back to my apartment I was all but oblivious to the rush of pedestrians still making their way home from work this early evening. My mind was completely occupied, replaying over and over my choice of words with which I approached Riley on this matter. My original idea was to broach the subject delicately, explaining my thoughts and feelings each step of the way and in the end reassuring him of my love and my optimistic outlook for our future. But somewhere along the way I concluded that long-winded explanations and heartfelt meanderings are both useless and self-defeating. It would come off as weak and condescending causing Riley to lose all respect for me, not only as a romantic partner but also as a person. In the process I would probably end up losing a great deal of respect for myself as well. Then where would either of us be. Therefore I decided to just tell him straight-out that I had met what I considered a kindred-spirit, and that if he had any sensitivity to my situation he would allow me to explore this scenario to the degree needed to satisfy my need for self-knowledge. I assured him that nothing in my feelings for him had changed, and that in the end I would be all the more able to give myself fully to him. Evidently this was a major blow to his still insecure male ego, and after a long period of silence and inner contemplation he uttered his veiled threat for me to leave before slamming the door behind me. I can't help but wonder how this present scenario is going to play out. Will Riley and I stay together or have we already split up? If we have split up, will it be temporary or permanent? And what about me and Christopher? Will we remain together just long enough to learn more about ourselves before splitting up and going our separate ways, or are we destined to live out our lives together constantly discovering new and vital information about our similarities, and yes our differences as well? Stay tuned, Dear Diary. I have the feeling the next few months are going to be very, very interesting. Tuesday 8-23 Dear Diary, What a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening evening I spent tonight with Christopher. We both live in lively and invigorating parts of town. He lives in a loft condo in the River North area, and me of course just south of Wrigleyville. But anyway, considering it was our first date Christopher suggested that we make it more adventurous, and in turn more memorable, by travelling to someplace totally foreign to both of us. So we decided that from my place we would just hop on a Clark Street bus and head north until we saw a restaurant that fit the bill. We wound up at Reza's, a Persian restaurant up around Foster and Clark in the Andersonville neighborhood. After dinner we discovered a small art gallery which displayed works primarily dealing with women's issues. Though some of the pieces may have proved threatening to that thing we know as the male ego, Christopher showed an amazing talent for empathy and understanding of what these women were trying to express. A couple of times he seemed more aware of the artist's statement than even I was…how truly refreshing. I saw him to be an open-minded individual who wasn't afraid of expressing his opinion no matter what reproach he may encounter because of it. This was never more evident than when he confronted one of the displayed artists about something he disagreed with regarding her work. Again, as I had seen in our first encounter, his comments were so direct and biting that they easily could have been construed as mean-spirited and offensive. But when delivered in conjunction with his calming cadence and docile demeanor one could only take his words as an honest expression of how he truly felt. In the end the artist was left with only one appropriate response, which was to thank him politely for his thoughtful critique of her work. I learned from this experience that on the whole people appreciate an honest and forthright opinion, as long as it is not delivered in a threatening manner or that it not mask some hidden bias or personal agenda. Unfortunately most people are unable to detach themselves from these elements of human nature, and most comments expressed towards or about others, whether negative or positive, are almost always made with a large degree of self-interest attached. At present I would have to include myself in this self-involved crowd, but I plan on working long and hard to overcome my proclivity for such behavior. The remainder of the evening was spent in quiet conversation, which ranged from discussing our most disgusting personal habits to our views on love and sex. Our slants on most everything were remarkably consistent. The evening ended at my door with only a warm handshake, though he did blow me a kiss as he was turning to leave. Now as I sit here snuggled up in my big red chair, I've become suddenly aware of a warm glow emanating from inside me. What this feeling is I can not say. But whatever it is I hope I keep feeling it for a long, long time. Sunday 8/28 Dear Diary, I have tried several times during the past week to contact Riley regarding our status as a couple. Each time I have been greeted by that God awful answering machine explaining to me that Riley wasn't available to talk at this time, and asking me to please leave a message. The last message I left questioned the answering machine's right to exist, and contained a not so veiled threat that it may soon find its inner workings strewn up and down Wellington Avenue or lying at the bottom of the Lincoln Park Lagoon. To this the damn machine beeped in my ear and hung up…Stupid machine. Wednesday 8/31 Dear Diary, Last night Christopher and I went on our second date and I asked him why Tuesday night was the only time we could get together. He told me that he had other commitments and that for now Tuesday was really his only free evening. "What commitments?” I asked, with an interrogating intonation. He gave me one of those looks that needs no words, but then he supplied the words anyway. "Give me a break Emily. I told you from the beginning that I was seeing a couple of other girls. Don't start playing that betrayed female bit on me now." Of course I had been aware of his other relationships, but my pride was at stake here. Now that he had found me, what interest could he possibly have in spending time with these lesser women? Normally I would never tolerate such an arrangement, but my role in this relationship is radically different from any other I’ve been involved in before. I am the follower, not the leader. I am the moon to his sun. I am the lesser of two evils. In other words, he’s in control and I’m not. Needless to say the subject of date night was dropped. We spent much of the evening out with Christopher's best friend and his wife. They were both nice and all that, and I did actually get along with the wife surprisingly well. But I had been expecting to spend the evening alone with Christopher. So even though he came back to my place for a late night coffee before heading home, I was still left with an empty hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. The date ended in pretty much the same fashion as our first date, a warm grasping of my hand and a blown kiss goodnight. This normally would be more than enough to satisfy my physical desires, but I found myself wanting more…much more. What's happening to me? Why am I reacting to him in such an uncharacteristic manner? It’s all so foreign and yet terribly familiar somehow. When I entered into this relationship with Christopher I had done so to gain a better view of myself thru him. I don't know what I had expected, but so far I'm not sure I like what I see. Saturday 9-3 Dear Diary, I called Christopher tonight knowing full well that he wasn't at home. I called just to hear his voicemail greeting. I know what you're thinking Dear Diary. How pathetic can I get? Yet I was totally unable to stop myself from doing this. I was compelled by natural instincts and no amount of reasoning could keep me from making that call. This newly discovered compulsive side of my nature is really quite fascinating and my mind is coming up with all sorts of analogical concoctions to help me understand exactly what it is that's going on inside of me. I always turn to analogies to navigate my way through uncharted waters, and more times than not they bring immediate clarity to my dilemma. After my analysis I can usually make the decisions most prudent to leading me back to land and safety. For instance, in this particular situation there are two analogies that most clearly pinpoint my current position. Analogy #1 Christopher is causing some type of chemical reaction inside my brain which is creating within me uncontrollable bursts of emotional explosions. I'm like one part oxygen reacting to Christopher's two parts Hydrogen. The result being that my once airy, carefree essence has suddenly been changed into a pitiable puddle of stagnant water. Analogy #2 I feel like I'm watching myself in a movie. I am completely aware of what's happening to my character on screen, but totally incapable of crossing the invisible barrier to communicate this knowledge to my film image. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that my movie character is going to have to figure things out for herself. The only thing I can do is just sit in my seat and enjoy the action. So, who's going for popcorn? Monday 9-5 Dear Diary, Two weeks have gone by and still no word from Riley. I'm starting to worry that when and if I'm ready to re-cross that bridge, I might find it's been burnt. Oh well, no turning back now. I'll just continue my journey and see where it leads me. In the end I may not wind up anywhere near Riley, so what's the point of worrying about it. There's not much to update concerning my relationship with Christopher. He called me today at work to confirm our Tuesday night get together. During our brief conversation I made a point of stressing that two was company and anymore would be a crowd. He laughed and promised that tomorrow night he was all mine. I thanked him, if you can believe that, and then tried to end the conversation before he did. NO SUCH LUCK. By the time the words had formulated in my head, he had already said "Gotta go Hon", and hung up. Boy, he's good. I took out my emotional frustrations on Gregory by standing him up for lunch, and then by telling him he was being annoying when he came up later to find out what had happened. Poor Gregory…Why does he keep making me hurt him like this? I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the guy…but not that much. Oh, and my other ex-work romance Derrick came by to announce that he had just gotten engaged. Turns out that it's to some girl he's been dating for the last two years. Funny he never mentioned her while he was trying to lure me into a cozy little roll in the hay a couple of months back. Well maybe I'll mention it to her in the receiving line if I'm lucky enough to be invited to the wedding. Knowing Derrick, he’ll probably invite all his ex-girlfriends just to make the statement: Sorry girls, but if you had played your cards right this could have been you. I doubt there will be many tears shed by the women in attendance, except for maybe the "lucky" bride. Well, off to bed. I don't want to be drowsy for my big date tomorrow. If I'm boring Christopher may bump me out of my night. Tuesday 9-6 Dear Diary, Another date with Christopher and another pin in my voodoo doll heart. The evening began well enough with Christopher giving me the good news that Girlfriend #2 was out of the picture, thus moving me up into her Friday night slot. He told me that he hadn't heard from her in 4 days, so in his book she was history. Just to be funny I "confessed" to him that in order to move up on his date list I had found out #2's identity and had her knocked off. He laughed and said he'd be sure to tell #1 to sleep with one eye open from now on. Then he tells me that it was a good thing anyway, because he met a girl on the train yesterday and needed my Tuesday spot for her. I asked sarcastically why he just didn't move her into the vacated Friday spot, and he says "Oh, Friday has to be earned. I can't just give it away." Then as he saw me taking him too seriously he just broke out laughing. "It's a joke Emily. I didn't meet anyone on the train. In fact I'd love to go out with you on both Tuesdays and Fridays if you want. And to let you in on a little secret, number one is standing on pretty shaky ground herself. So who knows, you may soon wind up being the only girl on my dance card and that hasn't happened in a long, long time" At this latest revelation my spirits brightened considerably. We enjoyed a wonderful evening, first at Zum Deutschen Eck, a huge German restaurant on Southport, where Christopher actually got up and led the singing. Not just in English, but also in German, which he speaks fluently. Then we walked over to Pops For Champaign on Sheffield. It's a neighborhood establishment that serves up live jazz as well as, of course, very tasty Champaign. I had never been there before but after tonight it will always hold a special place in my heart. It was there where Christopher first put his arm around me. And it was there where Christopher first kissed me. After Pops we walked hand-in-hand back to my place. We stood and talked for about ten minutes or so before he said that he had to be going. I had expected another kiss, but instead I received the usual handshake and a tender good night. "Hey", I said, as he turned to leave, "How about a kiss for the road." He just looked back at me with that sad smile dancing on his lips and said, "You had your kiss for tonight beautiful. You don't want to overdose now do you?" With that he was gone and I was left standing alone at my door, licking my wounds and swallowing hard what remained of my pride. Thursday 9-8 Dear Diary, Why can't I get the thought of Christopher out of my mind? Is it his charm and good looks that so fascinate me, or is it the lethargic way in which he treats me that makes me want him even more? Of course it’s largely the latter. I know because this is the same character trait that attracts so many men to me. And not only attracts them, but captivates and mesmerizes them into a state of uncontrollable bliss. When a man is under my spell he acts against all reason, following the irrational beating of his heart instead of regarding the sensible advice of his head. My charms work at a subliminal level, constantly probing the weaknesses in my victim’s willpower while operating unseen and undetected in the guise of innocent flirtation. Though most of this talent comes naturally to me, I have worked long and hard at honing my attack skills while simultaneously insulating my heart to protect it from the invasion of those two most dangerous emotions, sentiment and desire. Up until a few weeks ago I thought my skills were unequaled in this regard. However, it is quite apparent to me now that in both offensive and defensive capabilities Christopher is light years ahead of me. I’m more than just humbled. I stand in awe. When I entered into this relationship I truly believed that each of us had something to teach the other. How silly I was. I have nothing to teach him that he doesn't already know. He is the master, the Buddha, and I am just the lowly headstrong student believing I knew everything when in fact I know absolutely nothing…nothing at all. Saturday 9-10 Dear Diary, At this moment the events of last evening seem like a horrid nightmare. And as I sit here this early morning in the secure sanctuary of my big red chair by the window looking out on the just waking streets below, I am only now beginning to recall the sequence of events that led up to my humiliating defeat. Christopher and I had planned to go out last night for dinner and a show, but things began going downhill from the start. First he called and said he was going to be late and that maybe we could just go to the show. Then he calls later to tell me he may not be able to make it at all. No excuse. No explanation. Finally he calls me at 9:30 and says that he's at Max Tavern on Racine and George (about 7 blocks from me), and asks me if I want to meet him there. Well I'm out the door and down the stairs in about 10 seconds flat. Damn, no bus in sight and three cabs pass me by. Then it begins to drizzle. Fine, I'll walk. As I hurry west on Belmont I’m aware that no matter how fast my feet move they don't seem to be moving swiftly enough to keep pace with the frantic beat of my overwrought heart. By the time I reach Racine I'm gasping for air, and the drizzle has evolved into a steady shower. Come on I urge my body, only four blocks to go. When I finally get to Max's I'm soaked to the bone and hobbling on an ankle that I sprained about three blocks back. As I strain to read my watch through my rain splattered, round-rimmed glasses, I'm despondent to find that I've already lost 20 valuable minutes of Christopher time. I take only a couple of seconds to get myself together (I actually needed a couple of days) before bursting through the door. Glowing with anxious anticipation, I desperately scan the crowded room trying to catch a glimpse of him. Where is he? WHERE IS HE? Then I see him sitting in a booth by the window, his back to the door. Seated with him are two women and another man. I, still dripping like so much newly washed laundry on a clothesline, walk up and tap him on the shoulder. He casually looks back and smiles. "Emily." And then he sees me fully, "What on earth happened? You look like something the cat dragged in". I just stand there dripping on myself for a moment or two, and then say, "If you haven't noticed, it’s raining out." He glances out the window and then back at me. "Why didn't you just take a cab sweetheart? I would have paid for it." He gives a sideways glance to his companions at the table. "There weren't any cabs", I respond. "And there weren't any buses, trains, boats, planes, or dog sleds either. Anyway, I'm here, so can't you just say you're glad to see me and order me a drink." "Of course I'm glad to see you, Emily. What do you want?" "A vodka martini", I say. "Make it a double." With that I plop myself down in the chair next to Christopher and watch all my aggravation flow off of me and into the steadily expanding puddle of water on the floor below. When I look back up I find four sets of eyes all gazing in my direction. "Emily", Christopher softly addresses me. "These are friends of mine from work. I forgot that tonight was our once a month get together." He looks at me for my reaction and then reaches out and takes hold of my still moist hand. "I'm sorry", he says in his sweet little boy voice. "I hope you're not mad." His hand feels so secure and his delicate caress so soothing that I instantly feel the anger draining from my body. And once I look up into his wonderfully sensitive brown eyes I am powerless not to forgive him completely. "It's ok", I hear myself say. "I needed a shower anyway." This was when the siren went off in my head. WHAT WAS I SAYING?? I had not only allowed Christopher to humiliate me. I was now taking an active role in humiliating myself as well. I sat in quiet contemplation after that, only half aware of the conversation that had resumed among the 4 friends who were now almost oblivious to my presence. This was surely the low point of my young life, and the only thing that kept me from breaking down completely was my previous analogy on the subject. I kept repeating in my head, it's only a movie…it's only a movie…it's only a God-awful movie. The party broke up after about an hour or so and Christopher suggested that we get me home and into some dry clothing. After arriving back at my place the rest of the evening is a blur. But rest assured there is no doubt in my mind about what happened. After spending the last few weeks turning me into an emotional cripple, Christopher had offered himself up as my only possible crutch. He had managed through coercion and manipulation to strip me down to my most raw, humanistic elements. And now, after reducing me to my lowest common denominator he takes me. He takes me with all the savagery and baseness of the cruelest rape. Not in the physical sense, mind you, for his words are tender and his touch sublime. The rape is of the spirit, the soul, the very fiber of my being. And when the final blow is struck and the victory complete, he puts on his clothes, blows me a kiss, and walks out the door leaving behind only fragmentary traces of the battle that has just ensued. The only physical evidence remaining is the gutted, naked corpse of the battle's lone casualty, a frightened little girl lying face down in a pool of her own tears. And the only audible sound, besides the girl's muffled whimpering is the gurgling of rain water as it descends ceaselessly through the rusted drainpipes and down onto the dark lonely street below. Wednesday 9-14 Dear Diary, My life is like a shattered piece of glass. Its millions of fragments scattered about on the floor, all too sharp to pick up yet each too valuable to sweep away. The only person I believe capable of piecing them back together is Christopher, and he appears completely unwilling to do so. I have tried repeatedly to break through his voicemail barrier, but to little or no avail. The one time I did manage to get through he said he couldn't talk and promised to call me back. That was two days ago. Why is he doing this to me? I've lost everything to him and now he won't give me the chance to get it back. I hate him. No, I love him. No, I love him and hate myself. God, what's to become of me? I have lost every ounce of self-value and self-respect. I am lower than the lowest creature on the food chain…smaller than the smallest atom in the universe…emptier than the largest void in the galaxy. I am an insignificant speck of dust on the time line of human history…worthy of nothing and guilty of everything. Friday 9-16 Dear Diary, Day 7 and still no word from Christopher. I desperately want to be with him. To gaze longingly into his deep set brown eyes and feel the touch of his soft soothing caresses. I remember that not so long ago I desired nothing more than the quiet solitude of my own company. Not a man alive I believed could ever infiltrate the sterile vacuum that I had created around my heart. A vacuum that no emotional arsenal could penetrate and no sexual battering ram could break thru. Though it was Riley who actually first breached my defenses, it was Christopher who afterwards entered thru the opening to ravage my heart and desecrate my soul. Without Riley there would probably have been no Christopher, and I would still be my old disaffected self. Now I hate them both. Woe is me…woe, woe is me. Saturday 9/17 Dear Diary, Today was to be my first relaxing day in awhile, but it turned out to be anything but. Amy had planned out our agenda which was designed to, in her words, "pull me out of my sullen stupor". Her means of doing this was apparently to drag me all over the city until I was so tired that by the end of the day the only thought on my mind would be to crawl back home and collapse into my bed. But now that I'm here, Dear Diary, I am compelled to share with you all of today's glorious events. Amy got to my place around 10 am, and after a quick cup of coffee I was ready to become un-stupefied. Our first stop was the Century Mall, at Clark and Diversey, where Amy helped me pick out some new shoes and a purse to match. Then for a more upscale approach we made our way to North Michigan Avenue where we shopped our way store-by-store up and down the Magnificent Mile. From Bloomingdale's to Nordstrom’s to Saks Fifth Avenue, we pummeled the racks of clothing, trying on everything that wasn't nailed down or bolted to the floor. By the time we had zipped the last zipper and buttoned the last button I felt better. Actually I felt great. Amy treated me to lunch in the atrium of the Saks building before we headed on to our next stop, the East Bank Club, of which Amy and her family are members. After receiving a full body massage and taking a dip in the whirlpool, my mind had become elevated to a state of semi-consciousness, and I began to feel inter-connected to everything around me. I remember vividly the sensation of sitting in the sauna and watching all my vaporous troubles drifting upwards through the translucent air. There they danced merrily about my head in what seemed a choreographed ballet, before floating effortlessly heavenward and dissipating into nothingness. For the first time since I don't know when, the cloud of emotional turmoil was beginning to lift and I was beginning to see clearly again. Unfortunately, the next thing that I saw clearly was the last thing on earth that I needed to see, or so I thought, at the time. As Amy and I sat at the bar sipping our juice and extolling the virtues of money, who strolls thru the door but Christopher. In his left hand he held a tennis racket, and in his right the hand of some tall floozy redhead who looked as if she just walked off the pages of Esquire magazine. "OH MY GOD!” I said, turning to Amy, "Christopher at 12 o'clock high." Amy, reacting quickly to the situation, tried to shuffle me out before he saw us, but I was already in full battle regalia. I'm not sure where the strength came from, but deep down inside me I felt the first tremors of a volcanic eruption about to explode. With fire in my eyes and smoke coming out my ears I rose from my seat and seethed towards the laughing, unsuspecting couple. As he turned and caught his first glimpse of me Christopher's smile dissipated and the color began to drain rapidly from his cheeks. In all the time we had spent together this was the first time that I ever saw his face betray him. Seizing upon this moment of weakness I struck the first blow. "Well, look what the cat dragged in this time", I began. "a big, baneful, bogus rat." POW! As I knew he would, he quickly regained his composure. "Well, if it isn't little Emily", he calmly fired back. "The last time I saw you, you were wearing far less sarcasm." WHAP! My turn…"The last time I saw you, Christopher darling, you were a wolf donning sheep's clothing. But if I remember correctly, you kept getting your tail caught in the zipper. (I pause) I see today you're sporting your grandma guise while trying to get close to Little Red Riding Hood here. Why grandma, what big lies you have." WHAM! POP! CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER, CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER! SHIELDS ARE DOWN TO 40% AND FAILING SIR! It was apparent that Christopher had momentarily gone into system shut down, for when he opened his mouth to speak nothing came out. Whatever witty reply it was that his brain was trying to relay to his mouth, it was left dangling precariously on his lips. Normally he would have had no trouble defending himself in such a verbal joust, but I had caught him off guard. Not only was he unprepared to encounter me under these circumstances, but after our last conjunction he had left me for dead. Now here I was, just one week later, emotionally alive and kicking. Also he would have rather engaged me one-on-one rather than in the company of a female companion. The redhead was excess baggage in this melee and I had already been able to utilize her as a part of my cannon fodder against him. Though I had gained a temporary advantage in our soul to soul, tête-à-tête, I knew better than to count him out too soon. So I braced myself for the full frontal assault that would be momentarily forthcoming, and I must say he didn't disappoint me. "Why Emily dearest", he responded after a few moments of quiet reflection. "I see you've been working on your fairy tale metaphors since we last met. Very good! I must confess though that you really disappoint me. Is this anyway to thank me for helping you break in your female equipment. I thought that after you realized what you had there you'd probably be out trying to find buyers for it on various street corners around the city. I mean if you don't know how to use it, you might as well sell it to someone who does." The redhead suppresses a giggle. He continues. "And in the unlikely event you plan on using it again someday, just let me offer you one word of advice. Practice Emily…Practice a lot. And oh, I do hope you weren't one of those girls who was saving herself until she fell in love and got married. I wouldn't want to be the one who came between true love." A feigned look of sorrow passes over his face. "There's so little of it these days." He pauses slightly to let the full effect of his words sink in. "You know Emily, he concluded, if I were you I'd get down on my hands and knees and crawl back to that Riley fellow. But you'd better hurry, a catch as good as him will probably be snatched up any year now." WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU MAAM! It was time to finish this once and for all, and the only thing I had left to hit him with was the emptiness we both shared. An emptiness created by fear… fear of feeling love, fear of feeling need, and fear of feeling pain. Basically it was the fear of feeling anything, anything at all. It was this fear I knew that was the driving force behind both of our unfortunate natures. It was this fear, and the emptiness it created within us, that I had to confront him with now. "Oh you are so clever, Christopher darling. But behind all your cleverness lies a heart of crass, sharing nothing, giving nothing, feeling nothing. Sure you have victory after victory over the kingdoms of fragile women and wide-eyed girls. But for all of your conquest you have nothing in the treasury. You take no spoil, no booty, nothing which endures past the moment of victory. Like a ravenous carnivore, you feed on the fallen victim until you’re full. Then you leave the partially gnawed carcass behind and exposed to be picked at afterwards by the passing scavengers that happen upon it. And after this emotional fodder has been digested and discharged from your system, all you’re left with is an empty hollow feeling in your cowardly heart, and an insatiable hunger to conquer and feed again. Your one great satisfaction in all this is that the victims you leave for dead are in more pain and agony than you are. Well I'm sorry to disappoint you this time, Christopher dearest, but when you left me I still had just enough life left in me to come back and kick your ass." KAPOW! GAME, SET, AND MATCH, NEWS AT TEN. With that and a look of utmost defiance, I returned to the bar, gathered my belongings, and stormed right past the still open-mouthed Christopher and out the door. Amy followed close behind me, a new sense of awe washing over her face. Sunday 9/18 Dear Diary, After my stunning upset victory over Christopher at the club yesterday my mood has improved dramatically. In fact I believe that I’m all but over whatever emotional virus that I had caught from him. But even though my tactics in defeating him were flawless, I am now faced with the prospect of confronting my own cowardly despicable heart. You see, everything that I accused Christopher of is just as easily applicable to me as well. For all the relationships that I've been involved in during my short lifespan, I have nothing to show except a bread crumb trail of broken hearts and a diary full of emotional lab notes. I've treated romance as some sort of disease, that by analyzing and categorizing all the experimental data I could gather, I could someday discover a cure for. Now looking back over everything I've been thru, or put others thru, I can see that my hypothesis was wrong…Dead wrong. Romance isn't a disease needing a cure. Romance is the cure, the cure for all the mundane emptiness that the world has to offer. Yes it can cause pain, but is pain any worse than no feeling at all? And sure there are other things in life besides romance, but which of them raises us above our human condition and elevates our soul to almost heaven like felicity. Romance isn't necessary for survival. It's only necessary for living. For without romance the heart eventually shrivels up and dies, leaving only an empty selfish corpse unable to give or receive love. Looking back over these last few sentences I might be overstating my case a bit, but in any case I have concluded that it’s better for me to open myself up to romance and risk the pain then to continue shielding my heart and wake up every morning for the rest of my life feeling nothing but emptiness. Well maybe easier said than done, but at least it's a path to follow. And here as in any journey the first step is the most important. Therefore I’ve decided that I must return to Riley and see if he would be willing to give our relationship one more chance. I mean what do I have to lose that I haven't already lost? HMMM…maybe I should rephrase that. Monday 9/19 Dear Diary, A PLAY: ACT II [The scene is a Brownstone apartment building located just east of the intersection of Broadway and Wellington. As the sun slowly sets in the west, a bespectacled young woman is seen apprehensively approaching the main entrance of the building, her faithful dog following close behind. She reaches the front door and tentatively extends her right index finger towards the buzzer. After a slight hesitation she urges her finger forward and pushes the little white button which is simply labeled "R. Wells"] Male voice over intercom: Hello, hello. Young woman: Well, some things just never change, do they Mr. Doubletalk. Male voice: Emily? [Slight pause] Emily, Is that you? Emily: Well who else could it be silly? Male voice: Uh, nobody, I guess. Emily: [After another longer pause] Well Riley, aren't you going to invite us up. Riley: [Somewhat confusedly] Us? Emily: Yes, us. I have Maxwell with me. Riley: [Still another pause] Uh…So how is Maxwell anyway? Emily: [A slight irritation in her voice] Well if you'd let us in maybe you can ask him yourself. Riley: [After yet another long pause] Uh…Yeah, sure, come on up. Come on up. It's OK. Emily: [Under her breath as the buzzer sounds and she pushes open the door] Well it's about bloody time. [Emily with Maxwell in tow climbs the double flight of stairs and stands before the yet to be opened door of Riley's apartment.] Emily: [Yelling thru the door] So Riley, are you going to open the door or do I have to huff and puff and blow it down? [She laughs to herself at the irony of this latest fairy tale reference] [The door begins to open] Emily: [trying to look and sound as enthusiastic as she can] Great news Honey, I'm home! [The door fully opens and facing her on the other side is not the face of Riley, but that of a tall handsome woman in her late-30s] Woman: Well, glory be for that. We thought we'd lost you deary. Emily: [Her mouth dropping to somewhere below her knees] Oh, Uh Gloria. I thought uh... [Her voice trails off into nothing] Gloria: Yes I know what you thought darling. But as you can see Riley has been doing just fine without you and your little doggie there. Riley: [Coming up along side of Gloria] Gloria, I think Emily and I should talk alone for a couple of minutes. Maybe I can clear some things up for her. Gloria: [Somewhat haughtily] Well if you think she can be trusted I guess a couple of minutes alone with her will be alright. I'll just be in the BEDROOM [Emphasized for effect] putting my things away. [exit Gloria] Riley: Now Emily Emily: [In what could only be described as a screaming whisper] WHAT'S THAT WOMAN DOING HERE? You swore to me that you wouldn't call her. Riley: [Now slightly irritated] Well Emily, in the first place that was before you decided to chase after Mr. Kindred spirit while I was left swinging in the wind. And secondly, I didn't call her... She called me. Emily: So now what? You two are some kind of…of couple or something. Riley: Well, no... not exactly. But I...I feel very fondly towards Gloria. She has given me a lot of support these last few weeks. Emily: Yeah, and I can just imagine what kind of support it was too. Riley: [Defensively, but irritated again] It wasn't anything like that. And it's really none of your business anyway. Emily: [More irritated] Oh, it's really none of my business, isn't it. I'm away for a couple of weeks and come back to find this...this...WOMAN moving into your apartment. Riley: She's not moving in. [A slight pause] Well OK, she is moving in, but it's not what you think. She's having her condo painted and because she's allergic to the fumes she asked if she could stay here for a week or two until the place is completely aired out. Emily: [Emphatically] A week or two?! A WEEK OR TWO?! What are they using, radioactive paint? Three-mile Island was aired out in less time than that. Riley: Uh, I don't know. She said she had this allergy and asked if she could stay here. I've known her for years and she's been such a help to me lately. What was I supposed to do, say no? Emily: Well Einstein that would have been a good start. [Short pause] You're such a dope sometimes. Don't you realize what she's doing? She's not just moving into your apartment, she's moving into your life. Riley: [Slightly puzzled expression] What are you talking about? She's allergic to paint. It's not uncommon you know. Emily: [Frustrated] This has nothing to do with paint Dopey. It has to do with her taking my place in your life. Riley: Nobody's taking anybody's place. And I wish you would stop referring to me as Dopey. Emily: [Totally frustrated] OK, fine. Who do you want to be? Doc, Grumpy, Happy…No, I've got it, Sleepy. That suits you perfectly. [She just stares at the floor shaking her head] This is what I get for trying to come back and make things up to you. [She looks up at him defiantly] Well I'm out of here. I hope you and Sneezy end up living happily ever after together. [As she turns to leave, the leash she is holding Maxwell by slips out of her hand. Maxwell darts past Riley and down the hall towards the bedroom. Then a scream is heard and both Riley and Emily head quickly in the direction of the commotion. When they reach the bedroom and look inside Riley and Emily have distinctly different reactions. As Riley stands almost frozen in shock, Emily bursts into sudden, uncontrollable laughter. The scene they are confronted with can only be described as a good old-fashion tug of war between Maxwell and Gloria, with Gloria using her hands and Maxwell, of course, his teeth. The object they have chosen for their little game is what looks like the last remnants of a silky black negligee, most definitely of the Victoria's Secrets sort.] Gloria: [evidently exhilarated from the game] Don't just stand there gawking you idiot! [Said in the direction of Dopey] Make this mangy beast release my nighty. [Riley, as if awakened from a dream, rushes forward, and after a short struggle coaxes Maxwell to relinquish his half of the nighty. Gloria stands in tears holding the remains of the torn garment as Maxwell triumphantly jumps off the bed and returns to Emily's side] Emily: [while trying desperately to suppress her laughter] Bad dog Maxwell…Bad, bad dog. [Though as she says this she’s gently caressing the back of his soft, doggie neck] Gloria: [almost oblivious to everyone and everything except for her torn nighty] It’s ruined…it's all ruined. Emily: [finally able to regain her composure] Don’t worry Gloria. Just send me the bill and I'll make Maxwell pay for it out of his weekly allowance. Though actually I don't know what you're so upset about. Wasn't that nighty meant to be ripped at and slobbered on by the male of the species? Maxwell just recognized you for the bitch that you really are. Gloria: [stammering thru her sniffles] I...I order you out of our home right now. And take that horrid creature with you. Riley's mine now, so you have no more cause to come here. Emily: [turning soulfully towards Riley] Is this true Riley? Are you hers now? Riley: [glancing confusedly back and forth between Emily and Gloria] Well, ah...well ah...ah [and that was it] Emily: [Sadly, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting] Well, [Looking down at Maxwell] at least I have one male in my life who's willing to step forward and fight for his love for me. Come on Maxwell, let's go home. [With that, Emily grabs hold of the leash and heads towards the door. Maxwell turns to give one last pleading look into Riley's eyes and then reluctantly follows Emily out the door and down the stairs to the street below. For the next few hours they walk the city aimlessly, early evening changing into twilight and then into cruel lonely night. Finally, when it appears neither can take another step, they miraculously find themselves back at Belmont and Clark, home sweet home. They trudge up the two flights of stairs and virtually collapse thru the door, physically drained, mentally exhausted, emotionally dead. With no messages on her cell phone or answering machine, and no hope in her heart, Emily collapses into her big, red chair by the window and slowly dozes off to sleep. And as she does so her final thoughts drip sadly off her slightly quivering lips.] Emily: I will never ever love anyone again. End of Act II Monday 11/21 Dear Diary, I'm sorry to have been away so long, Dear Diary, but my life has taken such a shameful and spurious turn for the worst that I have been reluctant to share the loathsome details even with you. After Riley's cowardice act of not standing up for his love for me in front of "that woman", I disengaged myself entirely from the amorous feelings that I once held for him, and instead returned once more to my life's calling, that of putting up walls and ripping out hearts. And after all that I had been thru the last several weeks I had come back more callous and cold-hearted than ever. Now where was I? I start with those that are most conveniently at hand, namely Gregory and Derrick. I lure each with the promise of what they most desire from me. And just when it appears that certain victory is within their grasp I rip out their hearts with all the empathy of a great white shark. The emotional havoc I wreck on each of their weak, miserable, insecure psyches is at once both exhilarating and repulsive. After them I turn to other victims who have at one time or another expressed a more than casual interest in me. One, two, three, four, they come as unsuspecting lambs to the slaughter. They prostrate themselves before me. The glistening moistness innocently dancing upon their exposed naked necks can be seen reflected in the hollow blackness of my cold, steely, impervious eyes. I then without warning unmercifully drop the blade of my vorpal ax. Whap, whap, whap, whap… Each of their severed hearts fall obediently into the waiting wicker baskets as their bodies collapse lifelessly to the floor, wriggling ever so slightly before being kicked into the waiting cart and toted off to Heartbreak Hill, where they are dumped unremorsefully into the pauper's graves already prepared to receive them. And as I stand triumphantly over their pathetic corpses, glorifying in my victory and hungering for more, who should appear beside me with such an approving countenance but Christopher, the Satanic messenger of heartache. He had called me repeatedly after our last confrontation, but it was only after he tracked me down at my place of work that we actually had any sort of conversation. And what a powerful conversation it was. He told me that quite frankly he had originally misjudged me, but that after our verbal row he had finally seen the similarity in our natures that I had apparently been aware of all along. We were conjugal twins, he said, and we belonged together. Others didn't understand us, he continued, and only together could we totally cultivate our personalities without constantly having to explain ourselves to whatever partner he and me might eventually settle down with. Sure we lacked a certain sentimentality that most mistaken for love. But we were bonded by something far greater than these idealistic emotional meanderings. We had the truth, and the truth had set us free. Free to live life on our own terms without trying to fruitlessly fulfill other's foolish pipe dreams of love and sacrifice. And what was the truth? The truth was that everyone does things based on what is in their own self-interest. They do what they believe they have to do to get what they want from others. To obtain what they want, they believe that they must first give others what they want. If they wish to be loved, then they feel they must express love towards another. And if they desire respect, they reason that they in turn must respect others as well. Of course, Christopher noted, these seemingly obvious beliefs are totally contrary to reality. To get what you want you must expect the best from others and accept nothing less. To be loved you must withhold your own love from others, giving of yourself only what is necessary. And to be respected you must hold fast to your own opinions regardless of what everyone else may think or say. That is the truth, he concluded, and knowing that truth is what separates us from the rest of humanity Though his delivery was cold and sardonic, his arguments were flawless. And when he had finished I had no recourse but to agree with everything he had said. Does he love me? He feels no more compassion for me than a worm feels for a fish that it’s trying to lure onto its hook. Do I love him? What I feel for him is just the all too familiar contempt that I have most recently felt for myself. What our union offers up I concluded was simply a reasonable solution to what seems an irresolvable conundrum, a solution that provides at least a semblance of compatibility, understanding, and acceptance of ourselves and of each other. More importantly, I felt that by us being together at least two other people would be spared the emotional torment that we most likely would wreck upon their miserable lives. So what about Riley you ask. Well first I must tell you that he did call me several times right after our last confrontation and that he left umpteen messages on my voicemail and answering machine. Most of these messages had to do with how sorry he was about what had happened and about any misunderstanding there had been. He also told me in detail of what had transpired after I left his apartment. Namely how he had told Gloria that under the circumstances it would probably be better for everyone involved if she just stayed in a hotel, or at another friend's house, instead of with him. At this suggestion she had broken down and told him how much she loved him and had always loved him. And that she had only left him the first time because she hadn't been ready to settle down, but that now she was. He said he was moved by her confession, but that he felt no more love in his heart for her, and that it was me he loved. Their parting was not amiable, as he tells it, but he believes she'll get over it in time. Though his actions were commendable, it was not enough to convince me that he’s willing to fight for me when our love is on the line. You must remember that his fighting spirit came only after the fact and not in the heat of battle where it would have mattered most. So needless to say his phone calls went mostly unanswered and his visits to my apartment were met with silent evasiveness and quick brush-offs. At first it was because I was ashamed of his behavior towards me. But later it was my own behavior that shamed me into avoiding him. Knowing what I had become I felt unworthy of his love, of his warmth, of his gentle and deep felt compassion. And as Christopher said, the pain Riley was feeling now was nothing compared to the agony I would most likely cause him if I entered into some long-term relationship with him. Here again I was forced to agree with the creep. But in examining my past and contemplating my future, I can't help but feel a sense of loss far greater than any I have felt before or think that I will ever feel again. Sunday 12/25 Dear Diary, Damn my reprobate heart. As I sit here now hopelessly seeking lucidity of mind, my life and future happiness are slipping ever so painfully through my grasp. With my rueful and lamentable treatment of those who most diligently sought my favor, particularly Riley, I have in essence stripped away my last vestments of human decency and thrown myself head first into the frigid waters of emotional debauchery. Now as I swim out towards the rock of maudlin indifference and sentimental insipidity, namely my romantic future, wave after wave of wanton cruelty wash over me. Each wave reminding me of some grievous injustice I have rendered upon the heart of another. My only hope of salvation lies behind me where Riley, standing alone on the shore, calls out to me. But with every stroke I take his voice grows fainter and my fleeting hope wanes. If only he had the vision to see that despite all appearances to the contrary I am drowning…drowning in a sea of iniquity. Even if he saw, he would need the courage of love to swim out after me and the strength of commitment to carry me back to land. After which he would have to suck the remorseless fluids from my soul and infuse into my non-feeling heart the resplendent air of benevolence and the innocuous breath of altruism and compassion. Only after this would he procure my indivisible being, body and soul. And only then would I accept his passionate lordship over my sensual essence. But alas I have already gone under twice and the icy grip of Christopher is threatening to pull me under for the third and final time. Riley my sweet, where are you? GLUB... Riley my love, please oh please come to my rescue! glub,glub…. Riley you idiot, get out here and save me! glub glub glub glubbbbbb…. Friday 12-30 Dear Diary, All is lost. My fate is sealed. Not only have Riley's flow of phone calls diminished to a trickle, but tonight when I happened to be walking Maxwell near Riley's apartment building I saw Gloria just going thru his front door. Maxwell saw her too and let out a series of barks and yelps. I should have done the same. Maybe I would have felt better. I wandered around aimlessly after that, as dismal reflections and melancholy thoughts once more pervaded my world. By the time I got home I had just enough time to ready myself for my date with Christopher. Actually date is the wrong term. I believe appointment would better characterize our nightly get-togethers. Yes Dear Diary, I said nightly. Since our conversation several weeks ago hardly an evening has passed that he and I have not been together. Together in the nominal sense, mind you, not in the carnal one. In actuality he has not even suggested any kind of sexual liaison between us, nor have I encouraged one. Our evenings are mostly spent at small gatherings of people he does business with, or at parties of his friends or co-workers. The number of parties, as well as the number of people he knows, seems endless. And Christopher is almost always the center of attention. His mountain climbing stories never fail to draw a huge crowd. And his biting yet poignant remarks regarding those not present, or those having recently left, are usually greeted with uproarious laughter from whatever audience he's entertaining at the time. On the few occasions he has been confronted by one of his verbal targets, he has managed to quite deftly convince the person that either he was grossly misquoted or that it was nothing more than a silly joke. As for my part in these galas Christopher encourages me to mingle freely and to see how many men, married or otherwise, that I can entice into falling in love with me. He does the same with the women and at the end of the night we actually tally up the scores, if you can believe that, to see who was the most charming, the most seductive, and the most deceitful. Our roles are clear, Christopher is the mentor and I am his student. He is teaching me everything he knows concerning the fine art of manipulation and control. Under his tutelage I have perfected my skills of knowing exactly when to move forward, when to pull back, and when to go in for the kill. I've learned to discover the weakness in each victim I encounter. Not the physical weakness, for we already know its sex. I'm speaking of the emotional weakness, the weakness of the heart. I have no interest in their lust. I am after their love…their obsessive, uncontrollable love. The thing that causes the victim to lose sleep, to miss meals, and most importantly the thing that makes him despise every other woman in his life except me. It's a hard game to master because in order to get the desired results you have to carry out the charade to the very end, which very few people have the stomach to do. The secret of course is not to care. Not to care about the other person, not to care about the consequences of your actions, and most of all not to care about yourself. I enjoy using my waifish innocence and girlish naïveté to lure men into falling in love with me. I enjoy pushing it to the limit, convincing them that they are the only man I could ever dream of being with, and that all they need to do to have me is but to ask. And then there is the chase, the all elusive chase. Once I have hold of their heart I lead them on a merry romp down what at first appears to be a gentle, playful path. Like a will-o-wisp I dart in and out amongst the trees, leading them eventually away from the path and off deeper and deeper into the dark forest of uncontrollable desire. Each time they reach out to grab me, thinking I am theirs, they end up with a handful of nothing. Instead of being discouraged they see me as a challenge, and come after me all the more. If I see them start to give up the chase I float back towards them and bestow in them renewed hope that maybe they can still catch me. It all ends when after I have led them to the deepest and most treacherous part of the forest I shoot straight up to the top of the trees and disappear back to the beginning to start the whole process over again with another. Meanwhile the victim wanders about hopelessly lost, calling out my name and wondering where I have gone with his heart. Most of these men will wander for weeks or months, some for even years, desperately searching for but never quite finding their way back to the path they had been merrily following before they had the misfortune of meeting me. The ones who are lucky enough to stagger out alive seek to vindictively steal the heart of another and lead that person on the very same chase. By inflicting pain on another, they feel they can somehow relieve their own pain, and in the process regain some measure of lost self-respect. This is most satisfying to me since not only have I caused suffering to one victim, but I have created a chain reaction of pain which could conceivably go on indefinitely. Causing pain to others when you have no right to is the ultimate seat of power. Also, if it’s the other person feeling pain then you are not. It’s always better to give than to receive, is it not. In essence I have finally achieved that which I had always strived for. I have completely silenced my heart. It is not dead, not yet anyway. It’s simply buried alive deep within the cavern of my soul. Reason and calculating intellect rule my every thought and action. Thanks to Christopher I am finally the person I have always wanted to be. So why am I so miserable? Friday 1-27 Dear Diary, A PLAY: Act III [The scene is a large front room of a condominium on Lake Shore Drive where a festive party is currently under way. Many of the party guests are scattered about in small groups of two or three, though there are several people gathered around a tall, debonair, brown-eyed man currently in the midst of telling yet another of his mountain climbing adventure stories. Seated in close proximity to this gathering, though not listening closely is a young, bespectacled, reddish-blond waif. She is herself engaged in what appears to be a sentimental conversation with an attractive, rather innocent-looking young man of about the same age. Though she appears semi-bored with their little conversation, he is altogether enthralled with her, and with every word that comes off her slightly pouty lips. There is a small commotion at the front door as another couple arrives on the scene. The man in his late thirties is altogether good-looking but slightly disheveled. And though he has broad shoulders and a masculine physique, his manner appears gentle and his face kind. The woman of about the same age is tall, angular, and handsome. As the hostess greets the couple, several people including the waifish young girl look intriguingly in their direction. To all of the regulars of these frequent get-togethers the couple is foreign and unfamiliar…to all that is except the young waif. To her they are not only familiar, they are her worst nightmare. She, breaking off the sentimental conversation with wide-eyed young man and leaning over to address the debonair, brown-eyed man] Young Waif: Christopher [He continues his monologue seemingly oblivious to the waif] Young Waif: CHRISTOPHER! [She says louder] Christopher: [With a yawn and a slight trace of irritation turns to acknowledge her plea for attention] Yes Emily darling. Emily: [Pointing discreetly towards the newly arrived couple] That's him…That's him. Christopher: [Looking confusingly in the direction where her outstretched finger is aiming] That's him? That's him who? Emily: [Whispering] Riley...That's Riley. And that Gloria woman is with him. Christopher: [Suddenly excited by this unexpected turn of events] Oh this is priceless. This is simply priceless [Then standing up and grabbing hold of Emily's hand] Come my sweet, we must go greet the lovely couple. [Christopher, with Emily reluctantly in tow, moves deftly towards his unsuspecting prey. His level of anticipation is matched only by her level of anxiety. Before the hapless victims have a chance to realize what’s happening Christopher is upon them.] Christopher: [Enthusiastically] Hello Riley...It is Riley, isn't it? Riley: [Stunned momentarily] Ah…yes. Yes it is…But how…who... [Then he notices Emily] Emily: Hello Riley [She leans forward and gives him a delicate kiss on the cheek] How have you been? Riley: Well...ah…ok…ok, I guess...How have been you...I mean…how have you...? [But before he can finish Christopher has his arm around Riley's shoulder.]Christopher: Riley, old sport. [Then turning towards Gloria] You must introduce me to this vision of loveliness beside you. Riley: [Still somewhat stunned] Well...ah…oh, this is....this is ah.... Gloria: [Looks irritatingly at Riley then extends a hand in Christopher's direction] I'm Gloria you sweet young man. And who may you be? Christopher: [Taking her hand and looking seriously into her eyes] I may be Christopher, but under the spell of such beauty who can be sure. Gloria: [Giggling] Oh you are a little charmer, aren't you. Christopher: [Removing his arm from around Riley while still grasping Gloria's hand] Come Gloria. There are some people here you simply must meet. Let me introduce you around. Gloria: [Slightly pulling away while glancing hesitantly at Riley and Emily] Well I don't know. I ah... Christopher: [Picking up every nuance of her spasmodic movements and irregular expressions] Oh, don't worry about your precious Riley. Emily here will take ever so delicate care of him. In fact that's her specialty. [He flashes that effervescent smile in Emily's direction] Isn't it Emily my love? [Before Emily can answer, Christopher is already dragging poor Gloria towards a small elitist group on the other side of the room. Riley and Emily stand side-by-side for several moments, both silently wishing they were any place other than here. Finally the silence is broken] Emily: [Turning towards Riley] Well Mr. Socialite, this is the last place I ever expected to see you. Riley: [Nodding in agreement] It was Gloria's idea. She thought I needed to "broaden my horizon's" as she put it. But to be honest I really don't feel very comfortable here. Emily: [Half-smiling] Well, if it’s any consolation you don't look very comfortable here either. As pathetic as this sounds, I much prefer you in that musty old apartment of yours drinking a cold beer and saying everything twice. Riley: [Smiling back] Yeah, me too, me too. [Then there is another lengthy silence as they stare at Christopher and Gloria on the other side of the room] Riley: [Finally] So that's him Huh. Your....what did you call him, your kindred spirit? Emily: [A look of resignation flashing over her face] Yep, that's him alright. Don't you see the resemblance? Riley: [After a momentary reflection] No Emily, I DON’T see the resemblance. I don't see any resemblance at all. Emily: Oh come on Riley, sure you do. The cynical look, the detached expression… NO HEART. It's all so obvious. Riley: [Looking with disbelief towards Emily] Is that how you see yourself Emily? Is that really what you see? Emily: [Thoughtfully] Yes, that's exactly what I see. Riley: Then I feel sorry for you. Emily: [Suddenly irritated] Oh you feel sorry for me do you. Like I'm some object of pity or something. Well let me tell you something mister, I don't need your pity...and I don't need you. [She turns to walk away but he grabs hold of her hand and draws her back] Riley: What DO you need anyway? I'd really like to know. I've done everything but jump off the Sears Tower to try and please you and all I get in return is kindred spirits and smart-ass replies. You never say what you want. I'm always supposed to just guess at it or something. Well, I guess I'm not a very good guesser I guess. Emily: [Laughs despite herself] Well I guess not [then more seriously] Look Riley, it's not a matter of guessing. It's a matter of knowing, of sensing, of anticipating my needs. That's what I want, someone who knows me. If you have to guess at what I need then you’re in no position to provide me with it. You say you care about me and yet Christopher, who has never cared about anyone but himself, has a far greater sense of who I am and what I need than you probably ever will. Christopher: [coming up from behind, Gloria on his arm] Did I just hear my name mentioned? How flattering. It was flattering, wasn't it? Emily: Oh it was flattering alright…much more flattering than you deserve. Christopher: Why Emily, how can you say such a thing after all we've meant to each other? So what was it you two were talking so intently about anyway? Despite my reassurances, Gloria was beginning to worry that you might be contemplating getting back together or something. Gloria: [Totally taken aback by his statement] I WAS NOT! [Then gaining her composure] Why Christopher, you know I thought no such thing. Why we were having so much fun I forgot all about you two. At least I forgot about Emily. And so did Christopher. Didn't you Christopher? Christopher: Oh No [looking seriously towards Emily] I never forget about Emily. As a matter of fact she’s the one constant always on my mind. We're twins you know, Emily and I. Gloria: What? [A sudden look of surprise crossing her face] But I thought that ah...I had no idea that [and then looking more closely at the two of them] I don't seem to see any resemblance between the two of you. Riley: [Cynically] That’s what I said. Christopher: [Laughing] Oh not physical twins, Gloria dear. We're spiritual twins, kindred spirits, made of the same essence and all that sort of thing you know. Riley: That's a laugh. Christopher: Ah, A cynic. Well that's to be expected. Some of us aren't quite as perceptive as others. Riley: Maybe not [Getting visibly upset] but I'm perceptive enough to know that you two are a sham, and so is your relationship. There's no love there. There's not even any like. The only reason you two are together at all is that you're both miserable and misery loves company. [Riley then turns towards Emily] It doesn't have to be that way. Come back to me Emily. I need you Emily. Emily: Oh so now you need me do you. When did you make this great discovery Einstein? [She stares directly into his eyes] When you had the chance to demonstrate how you felt for me you cowardly shrunk back into the shadows, afraid to fight, afraid to commit, and afraid to declare your feelings. And talk about someone wallowing in a pool of self-pity, you've been doing it for years. And because of it you've ruined any chance you might have had for getting the happiness you wanted out of life. [Turning away sadly] And in the process you've ruined my chance for getting it as well. I hate you…I hate you for that. Riley: [As though the substance of her words has unlocked a door deep within his soul, a look of revelation rolls painstakingly over his face] You're right Emily, my God you're right. I see it now, everything you've said is true. [Pauses reflectively] When I was young I wasn't afraid of anything. I fought for what I wanted and I didn't quit until I got it. I took risks, I played reckless, and I always won. Of course it was easy back then, I had never failed. I didn't know what failure was. When I finally did fail I was lost. I had no idea of how to cope with it. So instead of getting up and fighting on I just laid there feeling sorry for myself and feeling angry at the world. I realize now that it's not failure that defeats a man, its self-pity. Self-pity is what robs him of his courage, his dignity, and his will to fight on. From the first moment we met I wondered what it was that you saw in me…me who was such a failure and a coward where life was concerned. Now I know. You saw that man, that man I used to be. That man who I buried deep down inside me. That man I was afraid to let out, afraid that he might fail again. [Looks hard at Emily] All your little games and the verbal lashings were your attempt at making me see him too. [Pauses] But I didn't want to see him. To see him would have forced me to look at myself now. To look at the man I had become. And that was more frightening than anything I could think of. Well no more. Now the thing that most frightens me is the thought of losing you…of losing your love. That prospect I couldn't stand. I need you Emily. That inner man needs you. You are the only one that sees him and you are the only one who can bring him back to the surface. He’s the one asking for that chance. Please Emily, give him that chance. Give me that chance. Christopher: [Breaking into applause and feigning deep-felt emotion] Bravo! Bravo! What a moving performance. [Sniffling] I don't know about anyone else [Wiping away crocodile tears with his Armani tie] but I'm getting all bleary-eyed. Emily: Knock it off Christopher. You can be such a jerk some times. Christopher: [Somewhat surprised by her reaction] Oh come on Emily. Inner man indeed…give me a break. Don't tell me your fell for that crock of crap. And remember, while you were with me, he and his "inner man" were spending all their time with Gloria here. Do you think that while he was being comforted by her that he was thinking about you? Do you believe that while he lay in her arms that he was wishing they were yours? If you do then you’re a bigger sucker than he is. Why not ask Gloria if he seemed in much emotional pain once she started coming around. Ask her how many sentimental conversations they had about you and him. Ask her how many times when in the heat of passion that he called out your name instead of hers. Emily: Ok, I will. [Turning to Gloria]....Gloria? Gloria: [A sudden pall crosses over her face] I...I don't feel very well...I have to leave now. Are…are you coming Riley? [Turning with a hopeful look in his direction] Riley: [Gently touching her shoulder] Answer her Gloria...answer her. Gloria: [Starting to cry] ALRIGHT, alright. Nothing happened between us. [Looking dejectedly at Riley] There was no romance...there was no heat of passion.... and he talked about you constantly....Is that what you wanted? [Totally breaking down] Is that what you wanted to hear? Christopher: Oh this is pathetic. [Shaking his head] Who are you people and what planet did you come from? [Then looking at Emily] You can't seriously be thinking of going back with him. Tell me you're not actually in love with this…Neanderthal. [Then nodding in the direction of the now slobbering Gloria] LOOK! Look what love does to people. It turns them into blubbering fools…always at the whim of another person's will…always susceptible to pain and suffering because of the other person's least slight or unkindness. You know its power. You know the damage it’s capable of doing if you open yourself up to it. You who have wielded love so unflinchingly and astutely in the past. How can you now expose yourself so blindly to it now? A loveless path is a lonely path. But with you I can make it. We can make it together. And in the end we’ll have done what few have done before us. We will have conquered love, conquered our emotions, and conquered the miserably deceitful heart that resides in each and every one of us. Stay with me Emily. Riley: [Applauding] Bravo! Bravo! Now it’s my turn to get all choked up. Don't listen to him Emily. He talks as if love is an enemy that must be fought and conquered. Well love isn't something to be conquered. Love is something to be cherished and embraced, like a child just brought forth from the womb. Love is life Emily, and without it we would surely die. Please Emily, choose life, choose love…choose me. Emily: [Genuinely confused for the first time in her life] I...I don't know...I just don't know. Riley: [After several moments of waiting for a response] Well now I've done it. My indecisiveness has rubbed off on you. I've contaminated you. Maybe I should just go. Christopher: [With a wave of his hand] Good riddance. That's the first intelligent thing you've told us all evening. Riley: [Clenching his fist] Here, let me tell you a few more things Mister Kindred Spirit. [The blow catches Christopher square in the jaw, dropping him instantly to the floor. Christopher sits there for a few moments, a stunned smile crossing over his face. Then taking Riley's outstretched hand he pulls himself up and wipes away the trace of blood trickling from his lower lip] Emily: [As the room has gone suddenly silent] Oh that's just great. Riley, what are you doing? Riley: [Regaining his composure and then turning to Emily] I'm doing what you wanted Emily. Wasn't it you who wanted me to stand up and fight for our love? Well I'm doing it the only way I know how. I love you Emily, and nothing anyone can say or do will ever change that. You've put me through hell the last several months. You've given me your worst and I'm still coming back for more. If that's not proof enough for you then maybe he's right. Maybe you two do belong together. [With that he turns to leave] Emily: [touching his arm] Riley...wait. Christopher: Emily!? Emily: Christopher...I'm leaving.... [Glancing towards Riley] We're leaving. Christopher: Emily, don't. Don't do it...It's a mistake. Emily: I have to...I have to try. Christopher: [Shaking his head] But I had such high hopes for you. You were my prize pupil…you were my running mate…we were a team. Emily: Prize pupil, running mate, team. Sure...but you don't mention anything about romance, about love. Those are the words that are missing and those are the words I need to hear now. Christopher: Romance? Love? Come on Emily, those words don't mean anything to us. That stuff is for suckers. You know that. Emily: Yeah, I know that. I guess I'm just a sucker. I suppose I have been all along. [Turning to Riley and then back to Christopher] Good-bye Christopher, I hope you find what you're looking for. Christopher: [Sadly] But that's just it, Emily, I'm not looking for anything because there's nothing to find. Emily: You're wrong Christopher, you're so very wrong. [Silence…then finally turning to Riley and taking his hand] Come on Riley. Let's go home. Gloria: [Approaches Riley with tears in her eyes] Riley....What about me? What about…us? Riley: [Reaching in his pocket for a handkerchief and handing it to her] I'm sorry Gloria, I'm afraid that...there is no us. [He stands staring at her for a few more moments and then touches her arm] I'll see you Gloria. [Emily and Riley get their coats and exit stage right. The elevator ride is silent as is the taxi ride home, as each of them quietly reflect on their past and contemplate their future together. And as the curtain comes down on the third and final act of our play, the only thing Riley hears is the sound of Emily's gentle rhythmic breathing as he holds her tight against him. And the only sound Emily hears is the soothing beat of Riley's heart as she rests her head securely upon his chest]

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