The Over-Inflated R

by Steve Callihan

I admit that from the beginning she had fascinated me. Sitting at the back table of the cafe, the sun's rays slanting through an open door, I couldn't resist falling into a reverie, casting back in my memory to times I had seen her before, short vignettes that appeared in my mind like ripe plums. At a reading she had run her fingers sultrily through the hair of a poet that I knew, entwining herself around him like an octopus encircling a clam, and then, as though his shell was too hard to crack, she had jetted out into the night, stranding him in a pool of ink, in the darkness of a discarded dream. He was with me there in the cafe, as we both sat waiting for her to arrive. He had arranged a meeting between us, between the disparate flora of the sea.

I had seen her walking down the street on a hot summer day. Beneath a white t-shirt the movement of her nipples pressed tightly against the fabric, taut tits like glass floats bobbing in the waves of an incoming tide. Her body moved like the wind- driven lap of a wave upon a beach. She had taken no notice of me. Ensconced within her dream, she had passed me by, an image of graceful haughtiness, sweet disdain.

There had been another time when the light cloth of her green shift had swirled along the contours of her body, like sea-drift. As she walked, her hurried movement seemed to draw circles in the air which twisted and turned behind her like eddies in a stream. The filmy green fabric pressed closely against her long naked thighs, and the golden strands of her hair flowed behind her. There was a whimsical turn to her mouth, a dream-look in her eye. Perhaps she was thinking about something--a lover, the comic aspect of the penis in search of the female, a poem offered to her by a second-rate poet, like a dildo wrapped in ribbons? No, it was no use to try to look within the circle of her inscription or read the lithesome accentuation of her movement. The mystery simply remained intact, self-absorbed, and absorbing me as well. It is no wonder that the self-enjoyment of the in-turned eye seems at times to mock us, but laughter soon returns us to delight.

My eye caught her as she entered through the door of the cafe, and as she paused, not seeing us, I noted her hand tightly gripping the strap of a large grey and black striped bag. I remembered her fist, tightly clenched, when I had seen her walking down the street. Falling from her up-turned breasts, leaving her shoulders bare and white, was the same thin green fabric barely masking the nakedness of her skin, forming a coalescence, between past and present, reality and dream. There was a self-conscious flourish to her stance, a need, when alone, for the embellished detail. Later, when idly picking up a book on handwriting, I was to remember her signature with its over- inflated R, the enlargement of the first initial at the expense of the last, denoting a denial of family, a turning away from the past.

Sitting down to join us, I noticed she possessed, among men, a loose familiarity, a comfort, which she attached to her words, her gestures, causing any dispute to be sprightly, but gentle. It wasn't that she lacked the common currencies of the day's feminine mind, but rather, not wanting to interfere with an overall aesthetic effect, she was quite content to display them only in the sidelight, like jewels. The literary circle meant more to her than politics, and we, the three of us, within that orbit formed a shared community, a village of words.

My friend had warned me earlier, it is true, of an inconstant, virtually faithless, strain within her personality, seeming to belong to all men, but really belonging to none. He had made remark of her peculiar feminine sentimentality, her unfounded whims. In time, I too developed a hesitation toward her, a questioning glance to my eye, and a disinclination to too readily accept an invitation so clear and definite, and yet whose entrance way was so difficult to find. But, after all, it is the remembrance of a moment and not its possession that brings joy. In the meantime we had become friends, touching each other, upon occasion, like water-bugs skimming across a lake, but never staying, never wanting to stay.

© Copyright 1996 Steven E. Callihan
Last Updated: December 31, 1996