The woman in the next seat knows that she is beautiful. All men stare at her, and sometimes she resents their leers, and sometimes she takes delight from their delight, but it is utterly impossible for men to know which mood their stares will kindle. Merely they gaze, and hope. The woman, who may be blonde or brunette, tall or short, understands that every man desires her, and that it is her destiny to be an object of desire before she is a woman with a name, a personality, a life, before she is a woman with desires of her own. This troubles her, but she is accustomed to it, and finally the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and anyway it matters not a jot, provided she retains control. So the men around her fix their gaze, and she absorbs them. So the men around her yearn, and she is free to choose whether and on whom to bestow her favours.
The men, she knows from harsh experience, come in a multitude of guises, but behind the masks they are all the same one. They seek her body. Some wish to know her body, briefly, passionately, in order to be quickened by her beauty, as a light bulb is quickened by a wave of electricity, only to die out when the current is switched off. Some wish to inhabit her body in order to destroy it, because they cannot bear to witness their own ugliness; for ugliness is relative, yet ugliness increases in the instant of destroying. Some wish to sleep beside her body, because it is warm, and cradling, and less solitary than making love alone; but she knows that they would still be making love alone. Some wish just to use her body for their own gratification, to notch another number on the blackboard of their conquests, to embrace her like a trophy. Some wish to be ornamented by her body, to wear her as they would a sapphire or a gold watch or a designer suit. Some wish to make her body the subject of their dreams, the untouchable enigma whom they have encountered once, and longed for through eternity. Some wish to make her body the object of their fantasies, engraving her upon their memories so they can take her home with them, to use her like an air-doll in the solitary desolation of the night. Some wish to possess her body, as they do their Persian cat, their Porsche, their season ticket.
All these men are different, yet all these men are the same. All in their own ways have imagined entering her body, and if they have bothered to ask her name it was only out of politeness, or as an aid to memory, or as a tactic in the great game of seduction. Her name, her personality, her life, are incidental. To each one she is just her body, and what excites them is her body’s impact on their own body, her capacity to stimulate their desire. To each one, were she to get up and move to another seat, were she to be replaced by another creature of equal looks, it would be as if nothing had altered.
So she sits, and ponders. She too has desires, and perhaps, perhaps, one man among all these will treat her as herself, will desire her for her and not for him. This man? Could it be this man, the one who has opened his notebook and is writing down these very lines? Could it, perhaps, be him? Do these lines that he is writing signify that he is the one who understands, he whom destiny has appointed for her – or is the act of writing simply his seduction technique, his point of relativity to her body?
She sits, ponders, hopes, doubts. He who has written will not speak. It is for her to speak. But experience makes her so wary, so unsure. And the silence holds hands with the silence. But the man and the woman do not touch.
And now the man has put away his notebook, resigned himself to leaving without speaking to her, given up all hope. And the woman in the next seat knows that she has missed her chance.
From "The Captive Bride" (The Argaman Press, 2013)
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The Argaman Press
The Argaman Press