I can’t sleep because of a word beginning with e or i. Enigmatic? Iridescent?
“You’re _____,” he said, reducing me to a single word and I, sleepless and dulled by wine, forget. Irresistible? I wish. Impossible.
“Let’s sit next to each other and heckle the MC.” His eyes are wicked; the innocent fundraiser our excuse to magnetize. Guiding me across the massive ballroom to Table Six, he compliments my dress. Predictable. “You know you’re one of my favorite people,” he says.
I feel like pressing him on this. Out of how many? Just what are my odds here? “I bet you say that to all your wife’s friends.” Touché. I expect the usual fare after years of flirting; gossip over juicy meat, voluptuous wine, passion fruit. His hand on mine, an innuendo; fantasies curtained behind dinner and a show for four.
He waves to a buddy, then turns back to me. “I learned something from being sick this year. Life is too short to stay unhappy.” Just what is he saying? “There were many times I didn’t feel like going to the theater. But we’d go, and I’d realize it’s not what you do, but who you’re with.”
“We’re completely opposite,” he continues. “I keep everything inside, but you…” he gains momentum with each word, “you have fun, you laugh, you bring out the best in me.”
“Thank you, that’s nice,” I say, meaning it.” He’s my friend. Guilt absolved.
“But there’s this tension…” He stops next to a table of gregarious men in tuxes and blonde, bejeweled ladies passing around a guidebook. It’s time to sit down for dinner, the live auction is starting. “You’re flamboyant,” he says.
“What?” My incredulous expression says it all. He searches for a better word.
“You’re E. Or I.” Who else but a frustrated writer in a perpetual midlife crisis would toss and turn over semantics? My inner actress embellishes the scene as mental reruns become sexier. We glide across the dance floor, a blur of blue satin, while other guests disappear. Where is his wife, my friend, in all this? Shaking her head at the pitiful spectacle, or indifferent like my husband? I’m too oblivious to care.
At the table he whispers, “You’re hot” or “So hot.” Something was hot, and I think it was me. So unlike him, a cool character who chooses words carefully. Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe he said, “It’s hot,” referring to the soup.
Something has changed since he beat cancer. The rules of the game are different and he is direct, forthcoming. I’m not sure he’s playing anymore. My God, it was Effervescent. “You’re Effervescent.” So I’m a cross between a flamenco dancer and an alka seltzer. A wild hangover.
We are simpatico; he, a once-powerful, cancer-surviving alpha male hell-bent on adventure and I, an attractive, wifely product of suburban monotony. Fission and fusion. Such spontaneous combustion could detonate even the deadliest carpool line.
I’m Effervescent. No wonder I can’t sleep.
Melanie Masters is a suburban mom who, between kids’ soccer games and piano lessons, escapes to nearby NYC. She loves theater, music, skiing, running and anything French. Melanie studies writing at NYU, Gotham Writer’s Workshop and is working on her first novel. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org