Margie was a woman replete with contradictions. As is their (and so, her) nature, even these contradictions had contradictions. What contradicts a contradiction? certain aspects and appearances of coherence/cohesiveness.

One such contradiction: despite at times being dominated by some of the most demanding compulsions one could conjure, Margie could be described today, in a way that was summary but still almost wholly accurate, as lazier than a sack of potatoes.

Yet, this, as most of these contradictions, could be explained: she was not always like this and would not always remain like this.

Margie was by most measures a homebody. However, Margie did not approve of sedentary lives, and so, sought what few fleeting hints of an itinerant lifestyle could be obtained while wearing a bathrobe. One such attempt: Margie thought that having an advanced enough understanding of the world around her to allow her to take various types of drugs, inspiring in her various types of derangement, while maintaining some semblance of the equilibrium with which she lived her life would mean that she really didn’t need to leave the house—sort of having the world (with the drugged visions/moods as proxy) come to you instead. However, her theory was rarely substantiated in her life by successful experimentation with any but the most invariably pleasant drugs. The failures included numerous instances of her licking her teeth for extended periods of time, chewing on her gums or concluding that civilization was no more than a euphemism for bladder control. And so it often was that Margie often fell short of the image she had of herself.

If these descriptions seem like they do not describe all that much there is, once again, an available explanation: so deep was her contradictory nature that it was not enough to house presently contradicting principles, but, rather, there were just as many conflicts which took place over a time line. That is, Margie’s life was marked by successive changes which to the casual observer could seem equally explicable by some sort of jarring revelation about the proper path of a life as by some realization of something fatally flawed or unbearably repulsive in herself: she zigged and zagged (and in so doing defied general description). And for a long time the shifts found their respective explanations from a new theory or from some visceral rejection of an old one in about equal share.

One instance decidedly closer to the latter saw Margie decide that whisky when mixed with coffee, bananas, B12 and something apparently prescribed to amnesiacs for a brief time in the 50s would have curative properties. Some hours later she was asked to leave the cab that she had been directing to various spots in town that she suddenly thought would be inexplicably lit in the frozen, moonless night (though this garbled supposition of hers was instead taken by the cabbie as a greeting from what he thought to be a country near his home that he just couldn’t place) after it became clear that she had no money in what looked to be an all-camouflage outfit donned for reasons unclear. Fits and starts.

After a few such ill-fated instances of following ill-conceived impulses with almost nationalistic allegiance—one led her into a midnight canoe ride with a broken ore, others saw her violating municipal ordinances and customary standards of propriety by variously breaking and entering, falling asleep in foreign places, crashing cotillions, engaging in petty larceny almost for sport, and playing sports criminally (by, for example, going to golf courses after they close; she didn’t really play, as such the numerous putters she was found with were largely unnecessary), and the like—she started to become more of the homebody that she has previously been described as. This shift did not take place at the expense of her impulses but rather represented a sort of unwitting compromise: a trick she felt she had to start playing on herself. Though the procession of impulses that paraded through her typically announced themselves in the monosyllabic language of sudden certainty, that was not always the case. This was a mistake…I need to lay down…but I’m not tired…I wonder if I could climb that silo…is that a silo?…I want ice cream…You need to sleep more…an infinite expectation of the dawn…who said that?...I’m pooped…maybe just a little walk, there’s no shame in modestly regretted mistakes...there are no words

It was in the throes of one such inner compromise that she met Tic. Inexplicably he seemed to her to be in exactly the same state.

Tic was given to similar cyclical shifts but what she glimpsed that first night was different: he seemed to be muttering something to himself about “sad ecstasy”. While he was capable of almost Olympian indifference, the unconcern she saw was an act of sorts. However, it led her to believe that he was caught up in himself in a similar way to what she was experiencing. To be sure it was an act that he would have performed for himself had she not been there (in his experience it might well have followed from the adage that all the world’s a stage that it was all those spotlights that caused him to sweat so even in the dead of winter), but an act just the same. The calmness that she saw in him comforted her, cold comfort, perhaps, befitting the cold night.

Let us now note that they slept in the same bed that very night. (Everything skipped will soon enough be clear or clearly irrelevant.) They slept on one pillow, their faces almost touching. Margie fell asleep first, her face inches away from his in a way that may have been taken as an invitation—and on some level may have been. Margie had a habit of sort of muttering and moving in her sleep—this night she seemed to be laughing. Tic closed the gap between their faces to about half its former size. Margie moved her head off the pillow and then let it fall back to an even lesser distance. This sequence repeated a few more times. They wound up sleeping through the night with their faces touching (Tic’s lips just below her cheek for most of the night). However, the puckering movement of the lips that is required by most definitions of kissing was never satisfied.

He could not have imagined that she would have objected had he reached over and tried to press his lips against hers—his lips, through some of the night, were already listlessly rested on the area where her chest flattened out before coming out collar, neck. But at the same time he was held back by something which was not entirely his own: something more than the fact that she seemed to be asleep. His heart beat out pounding rhythms like hooded death knocking at your door. He swore he was never closer to sleep than he was to heart attack through the night. What the hell was going on? He thought to himself. What kind of a girl just sleeps in a bed with a guy? Is she a little touched in the head? What are you a stuffy lady of affluence, why would you be questioning something like this? Blow it out your ass…

This scene played out in its entirety two more times. Both would have been happy to have enjoyed more traditional corporeal conquests with the other on any of those nights. However, both decided to not ruin what they took to be the designs of the other. The second night (weeks later) of this inexplicably replicated scheme of muted seduction he attempted to feel her through his thumping chest. Not in the sense that would have meant breaking the sensual silence of their fevered forbearance but in the way that he had come to think that women should be held in the mind of the sexual beholder. That it didn’t seem to work was not all that surprising to him since he had only recently resolved that thinking of other women during sex was just stupid and set out in search of the proper erotic ordering of a mind. But the effort ceased his other thoughts as well.

Margie would have not have been surprised to hear that those three nights of simply sleeping in Tic’s embrace without the exchange of so much as a kiss were the result of his uncertainty in her reception of anything more—they weren’t entirely. But it would have taken her a few moments of some measure of clarity—like that which followed the first trip to the bathroom in the morning (there was a reason that Margie was so open about such matters: pleasure superseded protocol; if it took a certain amount of fiber for existence and essence to line up it was worth it and no less meaningful for the efforts taken) —to realize she wasn’t surprised. Very likely she would have initially concluded that everything she had assumed of him as his chest pressed against hers through those nights was wrong. She maybe would have even resolved in haste to not see him again. But none of this came to pass as she was never given to understand that the thoughts that informed the other side of this complicity were anything different from her own but, perhaps, for the difference in the way that men and women framed their thoughts or how they read them to themselves. And whether they were or not: her thoughts were not exactly about him.

Margie slept—or at least feigned sleep—through those nights with a feeling that everything was going backwards, that she was at an end without ever noticing a beginning, that once she stopped knocking she looked up to find she was, and had always been, inside. She did not see any visions of her and Tic together 20 years hence. Instead she saw herself surrounded by something colorless stretching as far she could see and lit by something which was not in view. She rolled around and laughed to herself and felt as if she belonged there, alone. Because even though she was alone she felt as if she was surrounded by every feeling of home she had ever known. Not exactly the home that she had grown up in – though her parents did still live in the same place with the same picture of a plumed peacock in the entryway – but somewhere else. And even though all she saw nothing she felt that she was everywhere and entirely whole, completed by something which caused everything around her to move like small waves.

If it could be said about any woman, Margie never worried about what guys thought of her. True enough she had little reason to worry as most seemed hopelessly devoted to her. This led her to maintain friendships with only those men that she knew had the constitution to withstand her not liking them back. She just did not really care about men enough to entertain the compromised, pretextual logic that there is nothing (including relationships) more important than friendship, but there is no better basis for a relationship than a friendship. She did not like the way men (and, at times, women) would use this logic to cast you as a shrew if you didn’t want to be friends with someone knowing full well they were thinking (and plotting) along these distorted lines.

She saw men as essentially flawed and pitiable creatures. If—as they seemed to think—they lacked the liabilities that attended the faintest recognition of an emotional infrastructure then why shouldn’t they all live the Spartan lifestyles they sought? Their inability to recognize their true natures when presented with their inability to realize the lives that befitted the strength that they arrogated to themselves was just stupid to her mind. There is a difference between aspiration and delusion, she reasoned. That was enough but the constant declarative statements really meant to declare no more than the ability to make declarations was almost intolerable.

Still, she learned – relatively early – that for all their shortcomings men could be lots of fun, and more often than not were equipped with a capacity for abandon that would strip this “fun” of anything indicative of the past nor promissory for the future. These sorts of thoughts demonstrate that what Margie wanted from most men required something in the way of strategy but that shouldn’t be misread as any kind of deceit. She liked sex but disliked the many taboos and especially the many presumed meanings that attended it. Margie believed that there was nothing wrong with giving a stranger something that they did not even know they wanted. Ignorance was bliss, she reasoned. Try telling a beggar that a taste of sugar is worse than none at all. Margie gave them more than a taste; what she withheld she rarely felt any misgivings about. All this is to say she liked catching men off guard and then being off before they gathered themselves: like a sexual ghost.

Margie was afforded the opportunity for her sexual and sociological explorations, in some part, by the fact that she was exceptionally attractive. She had dark hair that she wore at a length just long enough for a ponytail but just short enough that these ponytails would often come apart moments after their construction. This gave her a vaguely flustered look which she would have resented had she realized; but she did not realize because she was usually flustered. The constellation made of her lips and eyebrows seemed to have a geometrical logic to it that you could not name, like a crop circle. Her eyebrows curved at precisely the same pitch throughout such that had they been joined they would seem at least 1/3 of a perfect, rueful circle. Her lips had an almost comic exaggeration about them; in fact, it might have been the fact that the center of her upper lip seemed to always smile that gave her a less threatening air than she deserved. Margie was relatively petite, though anyone who has ever known her could attest that that impression was put to rout in onlookers as soon as they spoke to her. She was cheeky almost without even knowing it. She never meant to be emasculating and she did not want to attract the sort of men who would be impervious to anything like that but still she caused in many men a feeling that they were the product of a society where gender roles were anything but clear—a feeling which many were only able to quiet by re-application of their favorite pomade or re-affirmation of their self-worth as enumerated from nose to toes with extra points coming from a look which suggested, without being, overly rugged. She did not do this by acting in a masculine way. She did it with a rhetorical style that caught almost everybody off guard. This style combined a sort of hangdog reservation and whimsy with alacrity and a rapier wit the contradiction of which usually clashed somewhere behind the recipient’s eyes. The result was something like the marriage of Archie Bunker and Diane Keaton.

Tic was not much of a lothario himself. In the back of his mind he had always suspected that there was an active conspiracy to make him think he was less attractive than he was. There was not: he was not a handsome man, not classically anyway. What success he did find with women was not because of his looks, nor, necessarily, in spite of them. He looked mysterious. This may have helped define the set of women with whom he was given occasion to convince of his worth as a lover. However, those that came to him did so first and foremost because he was an exceptional conversationalist if an abiding dilettante: at least once he had made the claim, aloud and even in company with presumptive behavior disorders, that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of early quantum physics proved that there was no God. And while he had sort of sworn to himself that he would not recycle jokes, he made no such promise about sexual overtures. Still, the line that he had repeated to the three women that he had met prior to Margie he meant in some way or another. If the wording changed some the sentiment did not: fate, as it’s been revealed in some part to me, demands that we be together. This was never said in a way that seemed too contrived, or worse, pathological. He said it as if embarrassed that he was as allegiant to the vision he’d had as he was. It was never an out and out lie. It was only after the last time that he realized that he’d meant it for reasons that were entirely superficial but no less profound. He thought, as everyone does from time to time, that he could tell something about people from their faces which exceeded shallowness; as if the magma of their interiors had finally cooled into the shape of their faces, as if everything was no more than a surface, as if (as he once heard someone say) everything was a “visible core”. Even coming from a starry-eyed sort, this ought to have strained credibility. Coming from someone who once wrote a paper that certain unspecific chords (he had no musical training) had divine resonance this ought to have been preposterous. And coming from someone who snapped at a friend for calling himself an existentialist nihilist but who himself had told people that he was nearing Nirvana it ought to have been responded to with disdain.

Tic was intelligent and his dabbling was not affectation. He had a genuine hunger for knowledge of the type that could be applied to life lived. But he never lost a winsome quality which sort of delighted in thinking thoughts like maybe he was actually a reluctant prophet or the like. Did I just break that light bulb with my mind? he had asked himself before. And it was this brand of thought which made him think that he was fated to be with certain women because of certain (arguably superficial) qualities. However, when he first met Margie he had no such thought. Instead he felt a profound sadness. Why? That he would never be with someone like her. That likely sounds like something which commonly precedes the thoughts of fate. To say something is fated is to have more than a little confidence in its potential. Certainty might creep behind this sadness like an echo but they do not tend to occupy the same space or time. He, for about 4 hours at the time, had been attempting to rid himself of any such certainty. But before any farfetched longing could mature in him, in spite of his mind, into burgeoning potential, she approached him.

Tic’s thought followed an aesthetics class discussing Greek tragedy. There, as in most classes, he heard bits and pieces: “sensual acceptance of, and rejoicing in, the terrors of reality…his eye must be ‘sunlike’ as befits his origin…it’s only others which temper the crushing awe...natural geniuses and satyrs.” The sense he made of it was this: learn to love the fact that life is suffering. This was at odds with most of his instincts to try to be happy. However, whether misunderstood or not, it had a novelty which appealed to his sort of middling intellectual appetite. And so he tried. He tried to decouple himself from the natural charm he saw in the world. He told himself that it was only shadows that lent enchantment to emptiness. He saw the self denial that he sort of liked as a guide. He tried to reach through the slabs of his residual innocence to see himself dying alone. [This – Tic’s attempt to embrace death, you might say – would not have been such a huge departure from the typical demands made by the newest additions to his intellectual prowess. The dilettante must carry himself lightly; having too firm a grip on anything thought to be invariably true could prove a hindrance. Tic knew this and swimming through his mind you’d find very little that had sunk to the bottom – very little, in fact, which was weighty enough to not float. However, if there was one thing which Tic had not always found himself free enough to think about, it was death.

And so when he saw her she seemed to be playing an illustrative part in the pictures of his certain sadness. So it was that he did not even really consider saying anything to her because she seemed no more than a chimera of his melancholy, an avatar of his gloom (or at least something from which he could practice extricating himself); what could he say? To inspire in someone what seemed at once on the order of dread of one’s own mortality and yet without reluctance hinted in so much as an eyelid was for Margie almost a dream come true.

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