As he started out from Philosophy Hall towards the subway entrance at 116th and Broadway, he was tired - of arguing, certainly, but also of the rules of argumentation. He heaved heavy eyes towards a logic-free heaven, then let them sink back down to earth - finding nothing of Quine's quiddities there to help, but suddenly seeing her as she exited from Lewisohn. He carried a well-thumbed Schopenhauer. She, he saw, carried only herself and a sheaf of papers - though both exceedingly well.
He continued walking towards the subway - watching, then sensing, that her footsteps might now be nudging the continents towards some sublime, quixotic shift. As the two of them emerged from under the arches, he saw a limo standing in a No Standing zone. Her driver also stood - holding open, with a servant's hand and salute, the back door.
She ducked down to enter and caught her mink on the handle; a few papers went flying. He came up quickly behind her; picked one up; recognized the comely shape of verse; read the header and the first two lines:
They Know I Did It
In turns, we're heir to nightmares;
and so, debauched of dreams.
He paused as he considered what he might've just stumbled upon: another Sappho-in-the-making; a masked poetess.
Masked, in-the-making, and in mink - hence, a minx, he thought as he gave the piece back with a single word of acknowledgment - "Provocative" - and accidentally touched her glove in the hand-off. She thanked him soundlessly with only a flicker of her lips, though eyes aided and abetted - and not just a little.
Nice mouth - she thought.
The quad lay behind him; the MTA in front. A turnstile to any torch show in Manhattan was his for the pushing - until, that is, he caught the scent of something like perfume; heard a sound on concrete no sneaker could make; glanced back and understood, in an instant, how easily even heathens could hallelujah when an angel heaved up on a pair of spike heels.
He pretended to fumble with his transit card - which, at his age, was first blush, second nature. Pretending? He still lacked the catechism for it. She, meanwhile, stood at the kiosk attempting to purchase a subway token. An opportunity, he thought - as purchasing subway tokens was clearly not her kind of shopping. But then it suddenly fell upon him like spring rain: perhaps she was no better at pretending than he was, even if one thing was now perfectly clear: fumbling was not her forte.
"Fuck it," he pretended to say as he turned away from the turnstile and started out towards the stairway on the opposite side of Broadway.
"Fandens også!" was the collision of consonants and odd vowels he heard her whisper as he saw a hand slip back through mink and drop the two bills - though he would've known nothing of the syllables, much less of the sexy little accent. Lights on this scene in any case went to dark as he hit the exit.
When he came back up and turned the corner, it was to a set of sun's rays retiring over Riverside. She came up after him and immediately claimed her turf with a single stiletto heel while perusing the panorama - real lighthouse-like. Sending a beacon out in search of lost sailors, however, was not a couch this Siren could get cozy on, as she was more accustomed to being the shoal on which they crashed. And the clean-up? Somebody else's problem.
She finally saw him walking much too cavalierly down 116th in the direction of the park; studied his walk; then mimicked it - staying a frivolous fifty paces behind. He leaned up against the wall of a building, fumbled with a cigarette. She leaned up against her own piece of wall, took out her own cigarette. He flicked at something frantically. She slipped out a Dunhill 18-carat gold-enameled; pressed down gently on the lever; let the electrons do the heavy lifting.
She inhaled, then let the smoke flow back out. Charming as a bounty of church bells chiming 'Glory Borealis' he thought as he caught her exhalation out of the corner of his eye.
He, she noticed, was still flicking. She advanced and extended the Dunhill. He looked briefly into a pair of cool emerald greens, then back at the lighter; cupped his hands 'round while letting one thumb rest an instant upon her glove; took the fire and inhaled.
"Thanks," he said.
"Pas de quoi," she answered.
He lost the momentum of the exchange - though only for an instant. "Vous êtes-?"
"Just teasing," she sniffed as she put the cigarette between her lips and inhaled, then let the smoke stream back out through flared nostrils. Gentle as a riptide, he thought, his brain now just a commotion of molecules. Beautiful and Baudelairian - he also thought, but couldn't say, as he was now just a bashful mass of feet and no mouth.
She, in the meantime, grew bored - and glanced down at his carry-on luggage: The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
Perhaps - she thought - I could throw him a starter kit. "How many squares would a square root wreck if a square root wrecked for a reason?"
Not only beautiful, he thought as he looked up, but -.
They both exhaled simultaneously. Perfect timing, she thought. Much better than sufficient reason.
For the next minute, they exchanged only smoke and stares. He then dropped his cigarette and stamped it out. She dropped hers, kicked it in his direction. He looked down; got a fix on its location; looked back up as he squashed it. Lids dropped like a last curtain call on a pair of prominent cheekbones, Danish-cut. The time for dallying, he thought, is done.
"Wanna chuck wood?"
"Sure," she said. "Let's chuck."
He grabbed her hand and moved. The sun, now a mere palimpsest over the Palisades, drew them in the direction of Jersey, just across the Hudson - and about a million miles away.
At Riverside, he sought a shady spot. Moonbeams can be murder on a mink, he thought. He found a maple, looked for moths - spotted a pair and told 'em to scram - then probed for rough spots before leaning her back against the bark. The curtsy of her coat suggested that rough spots - like moths - were now on the run. Her own sigh confirmed it.
"Te-tell me-" he stuttered.
"Show me," she countered. The stop, he thought, was drop-dead glottal.
He reached under her coat, then let his hand rise slow as sizzle on a hotplate along the inside of her thigh as she rotated. Like a pirate on a picnic, he felt a tremor, paused, waited till it had subsided; then eased his hand on up until it met with an impasse of pure silk.
He was now Marco Polo, but also Kepler, Copernicus and Galileo. He'd found the road to China - but was about to blow it off for a date with the Milky Way.
Like a lonely reverend, he pulled the silk aside, unzipped and slipped in. He'd surely fry - but he had the rest of his life and then some to contemplate how hot the coals. Now, however, he bowed his head to the nape of her neck, inhaled, found tiny hairs with his lips, and touched the salt of her skin with the tip of his tongue.
The sight, feel, smell and taste of her sent his synapses into overdrive, while his cortex collapsed in a smooth smolder. She'd burned her way in - and the memory would forever after stick to him like a brand.