July 5, 2010

Chance Meeting



I ran into her on a streetcorner near a lake in Stockholm. We simultaneously said, "What a surprise!" She said hello, I said hello. She asked what was I doing in Sweden.

On impulse, having some sudden cash, I had flown there for a mere two days, because it was all I could afford, and still make Amsterdam.

"I'm passing through on my way to Amsterdam."

"Why are you going to Amsterdam?" she asked in that perfectly melodic voice I remembered so well.

"I'm going there to smoke some marijuana and hashish and get high and maybe get laid," I replied.

She frowned. She didn't like that at all. I remembered her walking into another room when I had smoked with some friends.

"But you must know that ultimately those drugs are damaging to your body and mind," she said with the perfect assurance that she couldn't be wrong, not about that, because she is a doctor.

I laughed.

"Is that what they are saying? Still saying? Well tell them I said to go duck their heads in a vat of acid and call it hairspray. I'm going to get so stoned I wake up on another planet."

"But this is a very nice planet. We have many nice things. Beautiful women, for example, and strong, handsome men. You won't"...she laughed..."find them on another planet, but on this one. And you don't need to be stoned."

"Ummm. I haven't seen any beautiful women lately, and hunky men don't do much for me."

Of course it was a lie, a deliberate lie, because a beautiful woman was standing in front of me. I meant to wound just a little, because, like me, she is getting older. Of course she is a marvel to look at still, but I would be damned if I would give her any advantage.

"Why did you come to Stockholm?"

"I heard it was very clean."

"Oh yes, it is very clean."

"It is almost perfect."

"Ah hah," she breathed that small laugh that I remembered. "Well, certainly not perfect."

"Hmmm. I thought it was. Everything is so clean and orderly, and the people look happy and energetic. It looks almost perfect to me. No homeless people, no cops with guns. Perfect. But not cheap."

"No." She seemed distracted for a moment.

"But how did you happen to be here?"

"Do you think I was following you? Do you suspect me of stalking you? Do you think I arranged this? Is that why you keep asking that? No, neither of those. I just happened to be walking around, and there you were."

"How remarkable."

"Yes, nearly as remarkable as our meeting in Managua."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Nothing."

"But you must have meant something."

"No, I didn't mean anything. What could I mean?"

"You said our meeting in Managua. You implied it was not, ah, accidental."

"Coincidental. Well, I think the Sandinistas wanted to identify their friends and enemies. And you and they were rather close. And a lovely woman knows who she is showing her ass to."

"Showing my ass?"

"You came out the door across the street right after I came out of mine. You crossed the street to walk in front of me. I caught up. You knew I would. Maybe you needed to investigate me. Maybe with an eye to using me for something in the future."

"For what?"

"I have no idea. We never had a future."

"I didn't intentionally meet you. You approached me. Of course, a woman is always prepared to be approached by a man. I liked you."

"Hmmm. I wonder if that's true."

"Of course it's true. Why would I say something that wasn't true? You know I did."

"You might be a pathological liar for all I know."

"You know I am not."

"Yes, I know you are not pathological."

"Only a liar?"

"Ha, ha. I didn't say that."

"But, you implied it."

"You speak English so well."

"Most Swedish people do speak English," she lilted.

"Yes, I know. You told me. You told me a lot of things."

"But why wouldn't you think it was a coincidence?"

"I'm just naturally suspicious of communists."

"Well, thank you very much!" She said with a little indignation. "Why?"

"They're very secretive, you know. You never know what they are up to, what they are really thinking."

"I was open and honest with you."

"And I with you."

"You became very angry over nothing, really."

"And my anger frightened you?"

"Well yes, it alarmed me."

"You walk around with no protection in free-fire zones, and a little anger alarmed you?"

"You had no reason to be angry."

"Oh well."

"So. You are in Sweden. And you are going to Amsterdam. When are you going there?"

"The sooner the better, heh? Well, tonight I am going. No more chance meetings."

"I hope it was chance."

"I hope so too. But I'm afraid it's another trick of Fate."

"Fate?"

"You know, the gods."

"The gods?"

"Is there an echo here?"

She was imperturbable.

"You don't believe in the gods, do you? But that is so, so..."

"Banal?"

"Well, yes, it is banal. But it is so bourgeois, so childish."

"Yes, I know. Well, I'm just a child at heart."

"You are."

"Yes."

"You really are."

"Yes, I really am. I'm a case of arrested emotional development, in fact."

"You told me that you were paranoid-schizophrenic."

"I just said that to punish myself."

"You mean that you are not one? Why would you punish yourself by saying that?"

"I don't know. Because I fouled everything up again. It was the worst thing I could think to say about myself. But I'm neither paranoid or schizophrenic."

"How do you know?"

"My psychiartrist told me."

"You have a psychiartrist?"

"I've had many psychiartrists. Haven't you ever had one?"

"No, I haven't."

"Yes, well. Some people are near-perfect."

"I didn't think you were paranoid. But perhaps schizophrenic."

"Believe me, I'm obsessive-compulsive, narcissistic, anti-social, histrionic, and majorally-depressed, but not paranoid-schizophrenic. I made that up just to make myself look worse than I am. I don't know why. It was perverse. Well yes, to punish myself, I suppose. They say that for want of a god who will throw us into hellfire, we put ourselves there."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"So am I. But, oh well."

"So, you suspect me of being duplicitous?"

"That's a good word."

"There were things I could never tell you."

"Well, I guess."

"Things that don't concern you at all. Things that have nothing to do with you."

"I'm sure of that."

"I had more reason to be suspicious of you."

"I know. You wondered if I was CIA." I laughed. "I wondered the same about you. But the CIA would not give me a job. I know, I applied."

"You applied to the CIA?"

"Yes, I did." I laughed out loud.

"But why did you?"

"Just for a laugh. I have to laugh sometimes."

"They gave you an interview?"

"I applied online. I didn't get very far. As soon as I listed my education level...ninth grade dropout and an auto-didact, the screen went black."

She laughed at that. God she had a beautiful laugh.

"What would you have done for them?"

"If I had gotten further in the application I would have asked to be an assassin."

"An assassin?"

"A hit man. You know, to kill people."

She must have seen the joke and thought it unfunny. She fell quiet, and deliberated for a few moments and looked out at the water with me. Then she stepped back a foot. A wind lifted her blonde locks then let them down.

"It was sad, what happened to us, Mike."

"Yes, it was sad. I cried the whole year long."

"But you shouldn't suspect me of things, of doing things to manipulate you, you know. I didn't."

"Am I suspecting you of anything you didn't do? By the way, when you flew to Moscow, did you stop at any offices? File any reports? Ask for anything? Did you make a report to the Interior Ministry in Nicaragua? And wasn't that a coincidence, getting a ride from Commandante Cabezas, when we were hitchhiking to San Juan del Sur?"

She let that pass. It had been such a put-up job that I hadn't even mentioned it. We were hitchhiking to San Juan del Sur on her insistence. She waved the first ride off, and then we just happened to catch a ride with the official who was in charge of keeping track of all the Americans in Nicaragua. And she just happened to be a communist official from Sweden.

I looked away at the water again. It was gray and choppy. It reminded me of Lake Managua, which had always looked dreary to me.

"I admired you in Nicaragua for awhile."

Her beautiful voice was getting to me. I had known it would.

"Amazing. Well I'm just an old angry white cab driver in New York again."

"What are you angry about?"

"The same things you're angry about. We just have different roles to play."

She looked at me tolerantly. Her blue eyes looked bluer, and there were wrinkles around them that had not been there before. She had gained very little weight, and still was sexy as hell, and, I swear, wearing that same diaphanous, violet dress.

"You were so disorganized. You didn't even have a driver's license, and I had expected you to drive us around in a rented car."

"Yes, I am disorganized," I admitted. "I probably have some brain damage from being hit on the head so much."

She didn't pursue that.

"I see you still have that dress."

"Yes. It is my favorite one."

"Mine too."

"Mike."

"Ah," I said. It made me tired. I almost invited her for coffee. I didn't know if she would accept and didn't want to risk it. Suddenly I didn't think I could talk to her anymore. I wanted to repair the relationship so badly I couldn't stand it, but knew I never could. What difference would it make?

"I've got to go. My ferry leaves early tomorrow, and I have a long trip. Good luck to you." I shook her hand. "Goodbye."

I heard her say goodbye as I turned to leave. Politeness wears me out sometimes. I walked off and didn't look back. I imagine she did too. It didn't matter to me. I had gotten what I had come for, amazed at how easily I had found her. I hadn't really expected to. Now let her wonder.

I could say more, but it's a very long, complicated story.

I got so stoned in Amsterdam. But I didn't get laid. I didn't even want to.

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