"What the hell are you staring at?" Bella asked me from across the coffee shop table.
"It's your mascara," I said. "It's perfect. Like you did every little eyelash individually. No little clumps or anything. And don't go telling me it's your new brand -- this isn't a makeup commercial."
"It's not that hard," she answered. "I probably have a lot more experience at putting mascara on than you do."
Bella could never take credit for anything. I had long ago given up on her actually hearing me whenever I had something to say about how beautiful her eyes were. In a similar manner, she had dismissed anything complimentary I had to say about her appearance or personality. There was always some other reason why I was as enamored as I was, or so it seemed.
Lunch arrived -- my usual sandwich and her usual... whatever the Soup Of The Day was. I observed (again) that the Virgos I had known all seem to have a particular fondness for soup.
"Maybe because it's resourceful." Bella said. "It would be a shame to waste yesterday's special just because no one appreciated it yesterday."
"It's a shame when things of great value are neglected." I agreed.
"Stop that," she answered. "I'm not changing my mind about things."
Bella and I spent every Tuesday evening from 7 until 9 PM sitting at the same table (it had the best view) at the same restaurant/coffee joint (it was the most conveniently located) discussing the mysteries of life. Or rather... attempting to discuss them. There were always distractions. Like, for example, she was beautiful and yet refused to recognize or admit it. Ever. I sometimes wonder if the frustration wasn't as much a part of the magic between us as the attraction was.
"I think Virgos are too picky." I offered one day. "Look around: the Universe is a grotesquely improbable and messy place. Trying to find perfection in it is just neurotic."
"No it isn't!" she disagreed emphatically. "People need to have meaning in their lives."
"Yeah... and they also need to have that meaning built on something real. You can't just pick what you want to be true and insist on it until The Universe plays along."
Bella sighed, frustrated. Even her frustration was beautiful. I had come to enjoy her private language of quiet sighs and subtle frowns and little head shakes. "It's not like that, and you know it."
I countered with the same response I had used so many times before with her. "Then why are you here now?"
I had asked her that question over the preceding months often enough that she didn't even bother answering, knowing I could never believe whatever answer she came up with.
This went on for months, both of us too fascinated to turn away, and yet with her unwilling to take things further. There was too much between us to address -- too much that simply didn't fit in with her carefully-defined cosmos. And, as it turned out... with mine too.
Eventually, I had to move because of work, and I knew that it was unlikely I would ever see her again. Nonetheless, Thursday coffee proceeded more or less as usual.
Afterwards, I sat in her car before she left. I had one last request for her, and graciously, she agreed.
Slowly and carefully, I ran my fingers over her entire face: the ears she always said were too big, the lips that she complained were too thin, and the nose she always said didn't match the rest of her face. It was the most intimate physical contact we ever had, as I memorized her face with my hands like a blind sculptor preparing to make a portrait. She was perfect; more perfect than she knew. Too perfect, in fact, to engage in a tawdry affair behind her husband's back... no matter how determined he was to ignore her needs. And to actually admit that out loud and to act on it was simply too unthinkable. Perfection is demanding to maintain, and even the self-imposed delusion of a perfect life can come with a price. So I took all of her that I was allowed, and she took all of me she would allow herself. And then I left.
...And she's still there in my memory, still perfect, like a star no traveler will ever visit.
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