The Business of Love

It is unfortunate that the exquisite Belgian mirror – the only thing European enough in my house – contains nothing more than a forty year old man, with the insides of his cheeks nearly touching – making it difficult for me to ever order over the counter something with more than one vowel or too many “s” or “f” in them – not bad eyes, blue, azure, as I once wrote to the lady on the other side of the Pacific before the letter from her heir informed me of her death due to asphyxiation, a coffee brown suit with thin camel coloured lines like those left behind by a sepia ghost scratching her way down my body and out of my life, a single bed in the far end of the room under a fluttering curtain – glad there is something to freshen it up – a tired night lamp gloomy in spite of the lemon yellow and red shade which I bought at the flea-market, and an erect tail moving along the bottom curve of the mirror as if cautioning me not to spend too much time on myself. Skatty. I raised myself on my toes and spotted the white monocled eye look back at me, the same way she had when Becky handed her over to me and said, “It’s catty.”
“What dear? Her name?”
“It’s catty”, she had said and ran off to the waiting Lincoln, Boston-bound.

“Skatty? Like my suit?”
Skatty walked carefully over to the shoe-rack which also doubled as a scratching post – each one to their comfort – I turned to give myself a final look and puffed healthy air into my far from healthy cheeks.
“A poem, darling? For your Valentine? What better than a gift of words?”
I licked my lips and bit them to give them the colour of the season.
“Come Skatty. Let there be lovers pouring my way, and low-fat milk your way. What say? Let’s make money off those silly fellas!”
Skatty jumped into my arms and cheered in her most nasal voice. She snaked her tail into my jacket.
The walk down to Artist’s Hollow is striped with roads of offices, the high fashion avenue, a skaters’ stretch with darker lines on the asphalt chasing the speediest skater but still falling behind him, a post office, a canal of the city’s waste with wide mouthed fishes dead and floating like morons in a carnival, a few streets coloured with graffiti and ruined by the patches of neglected beige painted walls – and sometimes that is graffiti too by some loser with an existential angst crawling up his sphincter.
“Artist’s Hollow” was never recognised by the postal department but no self-respecting denizen expected letters delivered here. Artist’s Hollow was nine hundred square metres arranged in a circle of dying bricks, rusting lamp-posts and cussing senior citizens, diurnally hanging out of their windows wiping their saliva dripping mouths on yellowing towels fluttering in disgust from under their bellies.
Diana, the mime artist, was early and rolling her head – a white powdered promise of smiles, astonishment and dismay, telling a story which this generation of Jay Leno never understood – over her lean black clothed body. She had as much breasts as Mr. Clarster but jiggled less than his when he polished his saxophone. Sometimes they would jam together and make things even more incomprehensible. But today was different. The incorrigible love-ridden mind dips every scene – even dead mice with cheese freezing their legs together, perhaps the mouse was fetching the finest cheese for its loved one!? How romantic and tragic! So much like Romeo and Juliet in the rodent kingdom – every single scene, in honey and hope that everything in this monotonously spinning world was conniving to make things more beautiful for the hands-in-gloves to hold each other in unfeeling gestures of love, and the world was lovelier for the sole reason that they were in love.
And they arrived bumping into each other, eliciting pointless giggles and manly smiles while they tried to hug the whole of the other and still manage the awesome feat of walking in a straight line. Mark was there too and he promised every couple a wonderful portrait to preserve for eternity like their love. I spat on the ground and let Skatty jump her sexiest curvilinear trajectory to the cold bricks below. I kicked the wooden box and released several targets for Skatty.
“Go Gladiator!”
I sat on the wooden box and cleared my throat.
“Watcha gonna cook up today, reed-face?”
I looked up at Gena whose flagging triceps clapped against each other as she snapped her tablecloth – dirty the world while the tablecloth stays spotless. I was going to comment about how she should often slap her head against the wall to rid it of all the dust, when I spotted the prey. I grew a smile large enough to glare into the myopic Gena before cooing a saccharin-coated, “Such a wonderful day, Ms. Oafter, isn’t it? Such a pleasant sight to see you in all your loveliness”, and gave a smirk quick enough to pass unnoticed. She slammed her windows shut lest the worst of Devils – the ones who come clinging to you in sweet words of hope, promise and, in dire needs, love – clasp her tablecloth and make her home, His.
“Well, what a beautiful way to start my day! The prettiest love this town has to offer comes walking up on four legs and one heart.”
They stopped and smiled at me.
“Darlings, what would I not give to be so blissfully happy such as yourselves. Happy Valentine’s Day”, I said and kept carefully puffing my cheeks to rid this syrupy scene of bones and hollowness. They kissed each other as if on cue. I took out my pen and paper with equal readiness.
“If you lend me your hand, young man, I can translate your pulse into a love poem for your beautiful angel. No, not your right hand, lover boy. My poem is not about your appetite, and I am sure you wouldn’t want me to put that down on paper”, I winked. He extended his left hand. I removed my gloves and rubbed my hands together. This always works. I placed my fingers lightly on the bracelets of his wrist. I shut my eyes – I had to recall the lines – but this was also part of the game. I started swaying and smiled – ok, so was it “In the light of your …” damn! I always forget that one. Maybe I should try the other one.
“My! You really love her, don’t you? Ok, here goes” I said and cracked my knuckles.
“No, don’t worry. Your love is still on my fingers. The cold does get difficult on a body living off one meal a day. So, don’t worry, your love is still there.”
I ran large invisible curvaceous strokes on the paper with the tips of my fingers before I picked up the pen.

What should I call joyous-this?

“Your lady’s name?”
“Jennifer. Jenny if that is more poetic.”
I wanted to burst out laughing. Poetic, indeed.
“Jenny would be lovely. Did you know that Walter De La Mare’s greatest love was also named Jennifer?”
The girl pulled up her shoulders in the tickling knowledge of being mistress to a man who meant nothing to her, and pushed her little head deeper into his jacket. Where was Skatty?

What should I call joyous-this?
That grips me through nights many.
Strange is it, my heart amiss
Or that I call it my Jenny?

Oooops!“Oh! This is so lovely. Please, read it Ralphie. Read it to me on your knees” the girle shrieked and tugged at Ralphie’s cuff. I wanted to slam it on their face and tell them to be patient.
“But you have hardly heard all that he has to tell you, lovely lady. If this thrills you, guess what’s coming up?” and I gave her a coy smile. Ralphie was more than pleased to have escaped the ordeal of pressing his knee to the bricks.
“Yeah, let him finish. Go on, man. You’re good.”
A certificate from a jerk is all that I needed and worse from one in love.
“Ok, I need both of you to be silent and focus on your love, ok? That way I will be able to write more honest. Ok?”
Ralphie looked worried now.
“Hey, man! How much did you say for this story?”
“Poem. $15 for 4 stanzas.”
“What?” he shouted and quickly turned to his poetic Jenny and swallowed whatever he wanted to fling my way. Of course, his stomach was a better place for all that than my face. I remembered to puff my cheeks lest it become the sole reason for refusing the services.
“Come on Ralphie. Just this once. Please. Please. Puhleeaase.”
He seemed to run a quick checklist of the various notes and coins he had and whether they summed to fifteen. You lost the beer, Ralphie, but what’s a beer for a sheet of paper which she might tear up the first thing when she catches you with some hot chick. Puff, puff, puff.

“Ok, go on man, but nice stuff, ok? Maybe you should try better than these four lines.”
“Stanza. I’ll do my best” I said and smiled at both of them.

What should I call joyous-this?
That grips me through nights many.
Strange is it, my heart amiss
Or that I call it my Jenny?

Come closer, let me kiss you.
Allow your sweet wine-lips
Reveal that warm love so true
That does my life eclipse.

“Wine-lips is neat, man. Exactly my words. Keep going.”

In the black of the night
Our love beacons the gold path
Leading to a union, right
Made more so in passion’s bath.

What should I call joyous-this?
That grips me through nights many.
Strange is it, my heart amiss
Or that I call it my Jenny?

“Hey, man. That is the same as the first one.”
“Of course, it has to come one full circle, else it wouldn’t be holistic love. You do know that, don’t you?” I asked and looked at the girl hoping her romanticism to come to my rescue. She sighed and kept looking at the paper.
“You really feel like that, Ralphie?”
“Yeah, but that last bunch is the same.”
“Stanza. See, here comes a kitty. Kitty, come here, come here.” I picked Skatty and stroked her black head, so much like the hearts in Artist’s Hollow.
“Let’s see what a pure animal, with the Divine love flowing through its body, has to say about this poem. Here kitty, this is Ralphie’s love poem for the love of his life, Jenny. You like it?”
Skatty purred and rubbed herself on the paper and back again. She started licking her paw in well practiced strokes.
“See, a cat wouldn’t react like that unless it was heartfelt. After all I wrote what your heart said.”
“Go on, Raplhie. I love it. I love you”, she said and kissed him deep on his mouth. I watched him hold her waist – wait, isn’t that his thumb on the upward curve in front. Sheesh! What’s come on this generation!
“Ok, man. You win.” He handed me the $15.
“No, young man. You win”, I said and pointed to Jenny.
She held the poem in her hand and jumped a couple of times around and finally on Ralphie. And she should kiss him now! There, she kissed him. Again!
I spat on the side and barely missed Skatty.
“Oh! Sorry, lovely. Happens. Nice show, by the way. Now let me memorise that one I forgot.”
While I fished out the parody of Wordsworth, Wyatt and Dickenson which I had forgotten, I whistled an old tune.
“Say, lover, why don’t you send them my way, once you are done?”
I looked at the chalky face held atop a black pole. I squinted at her and slowly slipped my hands back into the gloves.
“Why Diane? So that they can sue me for it?”
“Hell with you, you hack. You could be nicer and let us all make money.”
“Yeah right! All you can make is funny faces and scare people away. Go scare Mr. Clarster there. See, Skatty is going to puke!”
Diane swore hard and walked over to her piece of Artist’s Hollow. I turned to look at Ralphie walk with a bouncing green lover called Jenny.
“Some good milk for you today! Now go and rub against those lovers walking there and bring them here. Give me five minutes to memorise this. Go Gladiator! Happy Valentine’s Day!”

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One thought on “The Business of Love

  1. Cynical. And hence real and mature, I suppose :-).Your understanding of human beings of different strata of society is uncanny. Rings true. And the images you weave out, of the people and their work are tangibly real. Of the cat too – you are observant obviously.

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