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The Eclectic Pen - Marcello's first-hand account of a love affair gone missing

By: Boris T.   + 13 more  
Date Submitted: 6/22/2009
Genre: Literature & Fiction » Short Stories & Anthologies
Words: 2,678

2007 By Marcello Rubini

I searched all over the whole Barnes & Noble.

But Margaret had disappeared from the store.

Again, I searched all over the whole Barnes & Noble.

I walked out of the bookstore hoping that she had just sneaked outside for a cig.

But it was useless.

Margaret was missing.

I tried her mobile phone. Three times. All I got was a recorded voice. “We’re sorry. But your call cannot be completed at this time. Please try again later.”

I did try again. But to no avail.

Then I walked up and down the aisles of the bookstore one more time. All of them.

I stood by the ladies restroom. Maybe she had been struck by the urge of nature. Five women came out at different intervals, each one giving me a strange look.

Margaret was gone.

My heart was thudding as I left the building.

It was late July, the Atlanta sun bestowing its mercilessness on me, my favorite Hugo Boss purple shirt sticking wet to my back and my shoulders and my chest. Friggingkrist.

I looked around for her car in the parking lot. Then I remembered that Margaret had arrived in a taxi for our last rendezvous.

Our last rendezvous.

Next to my car, an overweight black woman in mule sneakers was having a cigarette, protecting her expanded humanity from the piercing sun in a dogwood tree’s shade.

I asked her, “Did you happen to see a woman with the likes of a young Debra Winger?”

The woman in mule sneakers said that she hadn’t seen any other woman, and that she didn’t know who Debra Winger was.

Hope starting to abandon me inevitably, I told her that she’s an actress.

"The woman you looking for?"

"I mean, Debra Winger." I said breathing heavily. "I don't know where she went. We were together just a moment ago."

"You tried her cell?"

"Yes. A dozen times."

"Well, seems to me she doesn’t wanna be with ya... If I was ya I'd try to reach her at her land line, leave a message if she doesn't wanna pick up."

Right. That I'd have done if Margaret hadn't been married.

“Needless to say,” Margaret once mentioned, “You are never supposed to contact me at my home phone.”

It was so understandable, so sensible, so Margaret. A married woman doesn't need to clarify that affaires of this ilk have rules of engagement and codes and a territory that you can’t ever get into.

On that sweltering afternoon, I was left without my emotional compass. And I had the hunch that I’d never see Margaret again.

A sense of loss inundating, smothering me, I tried to think of something else. What in the world could I think of? Alas, other women. Women I once loved, too. But all I could think of was Margaret.

Margaret’s quirks.

Margaret would only smoke her cigarette down to the last half an inch. She explained that this habit came from the decade that she smoked Dunhill Blues. Because the cigarette paper was imprinted with a message about the Queen, Margaret thought it was disrespectful to burn that word. Therefore, she always snubbed it out on the preceding line of text.

Margaret would only wear matching sets of lingerie, a quirk that she had grown in her early teens.

Margaret would always try to have perfectly manicured feet. She used to say that this was so because she’s a Pisces and that made her a foot person, anyway.

Yes. Margaret had angel’s feet. You couldn’t appreciate her body without appreciating her feet. If Caravaggio had been painting women nowadays, he’d have used Margaret’s feet in all of his works.

Margaret maintained that she wanted to be an artist. She loved painting. But having been born into a family that was part of Atlanta’s social elite was an impediment towards that dream of hers.

That’s what she had told me once.

Margaret’s father, a prominent social science scholar, used to work with Talcott Parsons himself. Margaret’s mother, an aristocratic Southern Belle, believed that if her daughter had artistic inclinations she’d fare better by helping struggling artists than becoming one of them. You can be helpful by marrying a man who’s financially secure plus able to multiply his income.

That’s what Margaret once told me about her mother.

That’s how Margaret chose to follow in her father’s steps and became a social science scholar herself. And married Robert, a successful commercial estate lawyer who’s a senior partner in a successful law firm in Atlanta.

I first met Margaret at a lecture that she gave at Emory University to a packed auditorium. I attended the event because I was indeed interested in the subject –American Politics in the Age of Postmodernism.

Margaret’s lecture was outright stunning. She maintained that America’s postmodern age had ushered in a hyper-ideological although quasi-moronic discourse, and that the mainstream media was validating premises that were plain false, irrational and banal. This vision, Margaret argued, oversimplified diagnoses and formulae, such as the rationale that was used to invade Iraq.

Most of the attendees to Margaret’s lecture exploded in applause. The few right-wingers present were so upset that they had to leave the auditorium.

By the end of her speech I had already been seduced by this woman and her intellect and her power of articulation and her slim figure and her long elegant legs. Let me be clear on this –Kierkegaard’s right. The ultimate seduction is that of the intellectual kind.

And so I told her as soon as I approached her during the after-lecture drinks.

I said, “I am very impressed. You’re living proof that what I once learned is right.”

“What’s that?”

“The massive knowledge a woman can master is a turn on.”

“You’re pretty straightforward,” Margaret said, her eyes beaming. “I’ve never been complimented like that after I am done with a lecture.”

I thought to myself, I must have this woman. Period. Then I said, “That’s good. I want to be the first man ever complimenting you this way.”

Margaret took a few minutes to exchange comments with fellow professors and students and then came back to me. That’s when I found out that she was in for the adventure.

“I can tell by your accent that you’re Italian,” she said.

I nodded.

“I am married to a man who’s quite prominent in his chosen field,” she said in perfect Italian.

“I don’t mind who you are married with,” I replied in Italian, “for as long as I have your exclusive attention when you make time for me.”

“Fair enough.”

And so secretly began our discreet, brilliant affaire. It unfolded just as naturally as two kindred spirits recognizing each other after a long, sometimes unconscious search for total-quality connection. Two kindred spirits feeding on each other’s desire for more emotional expansion. Two kindred spirits looking at the encounter of our bodies as a supreme, slow-paced work of art.

Oh Margaret.

Margaret. Two months ago, on one cool Saturday afternoon, as I was cooking chicken Tetrazzini in my kitchen, she revealed to me that she was in pursuit of elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, and wealthy rather than rich.

“That line somehow sounds familiar,” I said.

“It comes from an inspiring piece of writing, Symphony, by William Henry Channing,”

I wasn’t familiar with that author though. What I had meant to say at that time was that I myself could very well relate to Margaret’s lofty pursuits.

“You must be aware that this is my first clandestine love adventure,” said Margaret to me on the phone on a windy morning one month ago.

I didn’t know what to respond to that confession. Was I supposed to feel flattered for being her first illicit man? Or should I pay more attention to the second part of the predicate adjective of her choice –love?

It was downright strange. All this time into our furtive relationship, the word love never was mentioned. I didn’t even call her amore mio, as I did with other women. Come to think of it, Margaret belonged to a different league --the married, forbidden women.

A forbidden woman, as per the long-established mores of our civilized society. There lies the thrill of this kind of relationship. Not only are you breaking the unwritten rules of matrimony. Also, you have to come up with ways to hide this banned partnership away from the rest of the world. And in so doing, you just can’t make conventional dating plans when you want to meet with the obscure object of your desire. You have to improvise, ad-lib, play along, always out of sight. A rendezvous is produced at a moment’s notice, usually preceded by a text message that reads “now.”

Oh Margaret.

“What makes you a master lover?” I once asked her. “You claim that you’re not experienced, or practiced on this art. I find it hard to believe. When we make love, I can see the face of God.”

Yes. I did have feelings for Margaret. But, I assumed that I didn’t have the right to discuss them with her. Our short-lived moments together were so fun, so intellectually and sexually intense that I didn’t want to eventually spoil them by bringing up the subject of my feelings. No. It definitely wasn’t germane to this stage of our adventure.

“I don’t think monogamy is natural,” Margaret said to me in the aftermath of our first lovemaking experience. She then went on a sober explanation of the historical origins of monogamy, with references to Friedrich Engels

“Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State”

to prove her point. I enjoyed how well she was intellectualizing her affair.

“Many times I’ve fantasized about leaving this life of mine behind and starting over elsewhere,” Margaret said to me the last time we were together in my bed. “I’d love to live on an island in the Caribbean, devote myself full time to painting. I so much desire to begin a new life.”

“That’d be cool,” I said.

Yes. Margaret’s long-time dream was to live as an unmarried artist. She’d speak about how exciting it must be reinventing herself, being an authentic person.

An authentic person.

“You should go for it. You know, life is short,” I said.

And after I uttered those words Margaret surprised me by going on top of me. She made love to me this time, so eagerly, so generously, so Margaret.
And I somehow knew this was going to be our last time as lovers.

You must become who you are. Or else, you’ll be no one.

You must be authentic.

Oh Margaret.

“Someday I will begin a new life. I will disappear and go to an island,” Margaret concluded.

I suspect that this is what she just did. She disappeared from my life.

One month later. A blue envelope in my mailbox. My name and address in Margaret’s handwriting. She writes from the Virgin Islands.

My Marcello,
I remember that evening you asked me, ‘what makes you a master lover?’ I still wonder about that. Perhaps it has to do with the special connection that we share. With you I’ve learned to open up myself. Yes. Can’t you see that it was all about you? Can’t you see that you were responsible for it, for feeling it from me? There was no one else in your bedroom, only you. Only you and your mouth on my skin, your lips taking me in, your body drinking from me, feeding me. There’s only you opening me. And when you unwrapped me, and began to pull me out, and I saw that you weren’t laughing at me, you weren’t going to shove me back… I could see that you wanted to open me more, pull out more, continue to want me. Making it possible for me to be free to express myself honestly. I don’t know if this is masterful. I have nothing to compare with. I don’t really care to. I only want to express myself openly. I moved into you like I now move into my artwork, not allowing any memory to hold me back. At least, this is what you have shown me to do. This is what you write to yourself in your notes, ‘Show! Don’t tell!” For me, it is, “Live! Feel! Don’t be closed!” There’s a place I can reach… That place that I’ve never known because you allowed me to go there, because you led me there. And so I go. And I am so happy in it. I don’t know if it makes me a good lover. I think when I go there, while I do my art, I think it makes me a good artist. It’s the honesty to my self. The authenticity. The being open to spirit, as you like to say. That seems to be when my art is good. Maybe it was the same when I made love with you. You brought me there in our sex. My life history brings me there in my artwork. These are the inspirations. Yet I don’t feel like a master of lovemaking at all. I feel that you simply opened me, and you enjoyed opening me. I feel so good in that. I don’t know how you did it, but I know you opened me by telling me with your touch that I was worth opening. It was new having someone treat me with respect, curiosity, love. And none of the guys could do this to me, let alone my soon-to-be former husband. You can because you are an artist with some dark windows, and you know this place. You know the importance of darkness, of tragedy, and how dark defines colors, brings poignancy to the celebrations of life. I know that you know, as an artist, how necessary darkness can be. I know you know the pain and agony from there. I know that you go further in your pleasure and joy because you have those dark windows. And so you won’t crash through mine, you appreciate mine. You make me feel safe opening with you. I simply trust you. I don’t know if I am a spectacular lover. I do know that I felt like one when you were next to me, touching me, loving me, wanting me, filling me, with your soul and your sperm, and your art of making love to me… Is it enough to say that I am free from my prison now, that I found the key, and that you offered me a bouquet of bright scented flowers to inhale and absorb and look upon with happiness? Is it enough to watch me place one flower behind my ear, and to see me get yellow on my nose from the pollen?”

Margaret’s letter also informed me that she is very happy in her rental beachfront house in St. Thomas. She paints full time and teaches social sciences part time at the University of the Virgin Islands. She apologized for disappearing that afternoon. She said that if I was told what she intended to do I might have tried to talk her out of her plans to put such a big distance between us, and that she had to act upon her desire for total emancipation, including from my love.

On top of that, she wrote, the whole story of our relationship, the way it ended, could serve me as a great basis for a story.

Margaret suggested that the title be, “A Love Affair gone missing.”

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Boris T.

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Comments 1 to 2 of 2
Claudia (BrokenWing) - 6/22/2009 11:36 AM ET
Ah we finally hear from Marcello again. I loved this. Thanks for sharing.
Marta J. (booksnob) - 6/23/2009 9:00 AM ET
Marcello has met his match!
Comments 1 to 2 of 2