A distinction between a woman’s soul and body is impossible, are her looks and smiles physical or spiritual? No one can say. – Lin Yutang describing a woman’s allure.
Testing the limits of attraction is a delicate matter. Patricia wears gloves in the office and has a schoolgirl fringe on a maternal face. I put the question, would you bang her? He pauses and smiles abashedly, “If you ask me, I won’t say no.”
Huixuan is not immediately appealing, she is pleasant. Her black-grey dresses, less a celebration of the female form than practical adornment. Would I bang her? I gaze at her back as she walks past my desk back to her cubicle. In my moments of boredom, I sit on my desk and survey the surrounding people. Maybe from my eyes she can tell that I want to put aside her chineseness and barrelness. In the elevator, as we’re leaving for home, I whisper in her ear, check out this guy in the lift, what a stupid haircut. I manage to insult her as well, enough for her to scuttle over to punch me before she goes the other way with a bemused Ik Tken.
I have a picture of my mother at work at her desk, typewriter sitting solidly atop as she smiles at the camera. This is 30 years ago, so I understand why Dad married her. He grumbles and jokes ironically about marriage, but he would have drunk her youth, her hips, her carefully blow dried hair. Looking at the picture, I confess to myself, time travel paradoxes notwithstanding, Westermarck be damned.
A spiritual layer lies above the layer of daily existence we inhabit, and the two meet where a woman’s smile begins. Ordinary time ends, a different space begins. – Robert Bly teaching.
I’m at Jason’s in City Hall, impatiently waiting in line. Here I feel that certain boring quality inherent to life. It should not make any difference how much time I am wasting when I already spend lethargic weekends watching George Clooney, Woody Allen, someone to teach me about mature masculinity, and running through the same male lifestyle websites, as if I can buy masculinity as well. No, avoiding queues is not the Pareto solution to what ails me. I eye a smartly dressed woman in high heels, and feeling my eyes on her, she swivels her neck and brazenly looks back. I turn away to see network girl queuing up just behind me. She laughs. I feel it now – replayed many times in the history of humanity – Man meets a woman, conquers his self-doubt, makes his move and asks her out. In a second I cross the 2 or 3 people between us.
It is a weekday after work, lining up in the queue, she’s dressed in jeans and a t shirt, carrying a bottle of milk in hand. Maybe her friends like to smuggle fresh milk into the movies.
“What are you doing here?”, glad I manage to say something.
“I’m going home”
I’m confused, “Do you stay around here?”
“Yes”, she smiles like she’s hiding something.
“Really?” Oh god, she stays here around City hall! But she doesn’t look rich. Just chinese. (and I know she’s Malaysian, already has a boyfriend and supposedly checks me out all the time)
“Noo, Queenstown.” she giggles.
Now I fumble for words and smile stupidly at her. She smiles as well but we have nothing to say to each other. George Clooney wouldn’t look away. His silence, reframed, is not uncomfortable, instead it hints at the possible, is atmospheric.
I look around to avoid her eyes. The queue cannot go fast enough. Thankfully, the cashier calls out for the next customer, so I walk up, then wonder how to excuse myself or how to talk to her again but make it appear natural. I do none of these things, self-consciously paying but not daring to look until I have to look. She is still paying and I walk past her, wondering whether to tap her on the shoulder to say goodbye.
Retold, the story sounds flat – I met network girl yesterday. She was in the queue, I asked her where she lived. Damn, I should have asked her out for coffee. But I left instead.
I see her walk past with the girls she always hangs with in the canteen downstairs. Reynold tells me he knows network girl, talks to her all the time. Apparently she hasn’t a thing to do with networks but the name feels apt to me anyway. He offers to introduce her but I feel danger again. It is tiring to curb the insistent animal appeal of network girl’s impossibly small waist, her swaying hips. When we walk towards each other down the corridor and I see her coming towards me, the tension builds, like how when I walk past her desk, her head is down but she surely knows I’m there. She looks up momentarily, and we catch each other in a standoff which lasts a second, maybe two.
I imagine this is like free falling. Risk, reward, not like balance sheets or portfolios. It is that moment when you jump on faith that it will turn out all right except I never feel her thrilling closeness. As liquid soap oozes out of coin operated plastic dispensers, she’ll say wait and walk up close, closer, except now I no longer have to see how thin she is because I can feel her thinness pressed into me, unpeeling my shirt, easing it off as I grip her arms so tightly I’m afraid I might break them. As she drags on her cigarette, I inhale deeply wondering how smoke never tasted so erotic before. She reaches for the clasp on my belt, but i hardly notice, I only marvel that the line of her jaw reminds me of my mother’s 30 years ago. But a woman cannot be confused with a mythological being. She must still eat, fart discreetly in the elevator, suppress the inner turmoil beneath the radiance of her face and golden hair. It is hard for me to see past this radiance, captured in the unassuming facebook photo of a second degree friend, replayed when I close my eyes and search for a comforting image.
Karen comes up to me and pauses. She exhales before beginning. “I have a friend who wants to meet you. Are you interested?” “She’s a girl.” I know who it is immediately. 2 weeks later, she comes up to me again, “I found out you’re being extended.” “Yes, why?” She walks away, I can almost see her running calculations in her head.