Jenice Gharib: The Object of Her Attention

Fall '06 TOC

      This was how they got through the tedious moments of the writers' conference: They had crushes. Each woman chose a man and they said to the others, "It's him. I have a crush on him." Sitting in the auditorium, they pointed, slyly, underhanded, tried not to make a spectacle of themselves, but often failed. They twittered and giggled like the teenagers they no longer were. They brushed their salt and pepper hair away from their faces. They smoothed their skirts and they uncrossed their ankles. And the others in their small group groaned or approved of their choice and whenever one of their crushes walked into the packed room one would nudge the other with her elbow and say, "Look, there's your crush."
At least once a day one would change the object of her attention. At least once a day one would ask, "Aren't we a little old to be having crushes?"

     Her crush had actually begun months earlier when, while cleaning out her desk drawer, she'd come across an announcement of the poet's new work. He was much younger than she and his first book was described as "superb" and "daring." She sat back in her chair and she looked at his photograph, him standing, his back against a tree, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes gazing into the distance, and it made her smile.
Once, in junior high school, she'd had a crush on her Spanish teacher, even joined the chess club to be near him. He'd had a kind face, dark eyes and a gift for language. All these years later, she still remembered what he'd written in her year book: "What's behind that quixotic smile?"
She slipped the announcement back into the top drawer of her desk.

     Not long after, she opened the catalogue for the writers' conference she planned to attend because she was a writer too, though not a poet, and she read that the poet would be teaching there. She signed up for a private meeting and when from the doorway she saw him sitting in the empty classroom, tapping the edge of the table with his pencil and looking out the window, she thought he looked even better in person and she hoped it wasn't obvious what she was thinking.
     She told him about finding the announcement in her drawer and he smiled and he asked her to read her piece aloud, the piece she'd chosen for him because it was the closest to his work, without being poetry. "I like to hear the words," he said.
     When she finished reading she felt that something intimate had passed between them and she wondered if he'd noticed it too, if he knew what they'd done, the reading and the listening to words, and had it been as thrilling for him as it had been for her? She hoped. She hoped. And then he said, "This is the character that interests me. This one who has lines around her eyes. This one that's aging. She needs to be explored." And though he said nothing wrong she realized she had given the poet the worst piece to read after all.
Later, when she was with her friends, she told them how he had put his arm around her and walked her to the door. And they laughed and they said, "Way to go." And she laughed. And she kept the rest to herself.

      That night she dreamed she and the poet stood with a small group, his arm draped around her shoulder, their bodies touching, and then he was gone. In the dream someone told her he had called her and they gave her his number. And she walked, her cell phone to her ear, past a pregnant woman and a fountain, but she wasn't calling him, she was calling her best friend from high school for advice. If she called him right away would he think her too eager? And if she waited until tomorrow would it be too late?
In the morning when she told a friend about the dream her friend said it wasn't about the poet, not literally. She said, "Love is calling you. You should return love's call."

      After that last reading at the conference her friends whispered, and pointed, and dared her to go up to the poet to say goodbye, and she did. And when she walked up to him where he sat on the edge of the stage, he stood and he hugged her. He said, "If you see me walking down a street in your town grab me." And she said she would, and she believed she would, and she smiled, and he hugged her again.

:: Next ::

Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
© 2012 Naropa University