The Third Susan-Part 1 (Image: Mary Jane #6)

I feel like I’m in a lame sitcom. The guy (me) shows up on time and sits waiting for the girl to do—whatever—before they can go out on a date. “Be here at eight,” she says—it’s now almost 8:30. A half hour ago the roommate let me in, showed me to a chair and tells me Laurie has, “just stepped out for a minute and will be right back.” She vanishes into the kitchen leaving me sitting here with the cat listening to street noises drifting through an open window.

Susan—the roommate—is a seriously cute Brit.—a graduate transfer student in the writing program at the university. The accent is Cambridge  I think. She has great legs, eyes you could get lost in and everything in between is top shelf. In fact I find myself obsessing about her body even more than I usually do when meeting a pretty girl. Wonder if she’s going with anybody. The door to the kitchen opens.

“Sorry,” Susan says with that sexy British accent, “I don’t know what’s keeping Laurie. She’s usually more punctual than this. Can I offer you something?”

“What’d you have in mind sweetheart?” I say, trying to come off like Groucho Marx waggling his eyebrows and brandishing his cigar. I immediately realize that was a stupid response.

She glares at me with amused contempt—probably thinking something like—“Oh shit—another pathetic American horndog.”

“Well,” she responds with hands on hips, “aren’t we the cheeky devil?”

“Cheeky devil?” I laugh, “are you serious—isn’t that a bit clichéd’ or stereotypical—like Monty Python or Benny Hill dialog. You’re a writer and can’t do any better than that?”

“You’re quite right,” she replies briskly, “’asshole’ is much more appropriate.”

Her point. One to zero.

I’m at a loss for a come-back. I chuckle uneasily and dial it back a bit. She’s in charge of the conversation—not good for me.

“Laurie said you were a photographer,” she says in a slightly smug tone, “and you teach? What kind of photography—do you do that awful commercial portrait stuff—Sears, Penny’s, Olan Mills?”

“I teach a couple of intro digital classes at the university,” I say trying not to sound like I’d just been taken down a peg. ”As for what kind of photography—maybe you’re seen my latest exhibit in the student union—the one on middle-eastern dancing girls.”

“Oh my God,” she responds, ”is that your work?” She seems momentarily stunned. Her whole expression abruptly changes to one almost of deference. Suddenly I’m worth sharing the room with.

“That’s beautiful work,” she murmurs with a bit of excitement. “I’ve gone back twice to look at that exhibit, You can really see the love for what you do. I love those images—they’re haunting. The art just jumps out at you—and I feel I know that art. It carries echoes of eternity with it—from previous lives.”

I’m a little taken aback by her comments. I’ve gotten good reviews before but no one ever called my stuff, “echoes of eternity.” She hesitates, her eyes are shining, she is now rethinking me—looking at me as though I were almost a force of nature.

“You really are an artist,” she says in slightly dejected tone, “in the deepest sense of the term. Damn how I envy and hate you,” she says with longing and resentment. “How I wish I could do that—or at least be part of that—making visual art on that level. My photographs suck—and forget about drawing or painting.”

I study her now helpless, searching expression. I am struck with the sense that something mystical is going on here—classic déjà vu—like I’ve dreamt about her or known her in a previous life. There is more here than just my hitting on a pretty girl.

“Perhaps you can my dear,” I say in more personal tone. “Do you know the work of Edward Weston?”

“Of course,” she replies. “He’s a giant in photography. His nudes and landscapes are exquisite—monumental. Why do you ask?”

“And do you know the name Charis Wilson?” I continue with a bit of whimsically.

“His model,” she responds, “incredibly beautiful woman—ethereal.”

“Physically she was an ordinary woman,” I explain, “he—made her what she became—what we see on paper. More importantly—she was his muse—now that’s the ethereal part.”

“His muse?” she asks now looking at me in a cautious manner.

“I was reading an old interview with Edward Weston a few weeks ago,” I explain. “He said he couldn’t produce the kind of work he really felt good about unless he loved his models.”

“Of course,” she returns, soberly and uncertain.

“I don’t believe in coincidence,” I say. “I think extraordinary events, uncommon moments are—at some cosmic level—deliberate. They’re not random collisions—they’re mystical convergences. Our part is to recognize and avail ourselves of them. They’re there for our growth and evolution—perhaps even transcendence. They typically involve struggle and anxiety only because they’re unexpected and people resist them.” I pause, take a breath and continue, “at this hour, in this room, I believe we have arrived at such a moment.”

She listens intently—watching my face.

“You said your name was Susan?” She nods.

“That name has unfortunate significance for me.”

“How troubling,” she says with a kind of detached concern, “how so my dear?”

“We were speaking of love—and art. If I may be so bold. When I was ten I was in love with a girl the same age named Susan. She lived across the street—Susan did.”

She sits down on the couch—crosses her legs and leans forward with her hands clasped on her knee—looking directly at me.

“And I take it your passion was unrequited?” she responds, not sure if I’m serious or not. Again—there’s something uncanny going on—its like I’m reciting lines from a play. I don’t know if I’m serious or not.

I sigh deeply, look with affected yearning through the window open to the urban night. Something weird is going on—I’m trying to hustle this girl yet—at the same time—I’m being pulled into a deep connection. It’s like I’m pretending to be swept away with mystical adoration and in fact I am. I continue in the same tone.

“Not to be too tangential, but I remember very clearly sitting or lying for hours in complete silence with her in my tree house—just listening to the wind. There was a connection—a being with her—that was outside of any other experience I’ve ever had. She said she loved me—forever—without condition—and I swore my undying love for her. But then her family moved. One day she vanished—it was like waking up one morning and finding an arm gone.” I find myself tearing up—and feeling foolish.

“How terrible for you,” she returns—nodding her head from side to side sadly. Again—I detect that sense that of uncertainty as to whether I’m serious or not and again—it seems like I’m just throwing her a line and yet I’m completely sincere.

“And there was a Susan in 8th grade,” I continue, I had noticed her in one of my classes—I was hypnotized with her perfect presence in the world, her perfect beauty and agonizingly feminine composure. She caught me staring at her one day and returned my gaze unflinchingly—like she knew it was coming and was just waiting for it. In that busy classroom we stared into each other’s eyes for a few seconds that seemed like a lifetime—it was like two mirrors simultaneously reflecting each other into eternity. That afternoon I found a note from her in my locker asking me to meet her behind the bleachers after school but she never showed up. Maybe someone saw us staring at each other and was playing a joke—or maybe she just chickened out. In any event I was humiliated and utterly crushed—it felt like I’d been drowning and I found a life preserver only to have it snatched away.”

“I think perhaps you fall in love too easily,” she opines.

End part one.

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