Well, this is hardly a novel, (not yet) but rather an experiment to coax some characters to speak “oddly,” somewhat poetically, strangely. It’s forced and awkward but perhaps worth going after one day.
Maybe you can imagine a man pushing a shopping cart up the aisle of a grocery store and there is a woman leaned against the milk cooler – she’s blocking his way to 1%. She is wearing a camel-coloured overcoat that plays at her ankles. It’s hanging open and this allows him to see she is wearing shorts with black meshed stockings and simple low boots. It seems she is wearing just a white bra for a top. No shirt, or blouse, or anything else. Just the bra.
The man will clear his throat, hoping this woman, who has her eyes closed, will figure out she is in his way and move along.
“A man clears his throat and expects something to happen – some action, or eloquence, or balanced illusion. Some magic trick of bone and flesh and need. Maybe this man thinks there is a hidden code of polite regret inside his throaty interruption. Adjust! Adjust expectation. Cozy up to disappointment.”
And all he can think about is the white bra. He does not care about the 1% milk his wife insisted on. He does not care about the rest of his list. “Somewhere in the ether,” he says. “In the vast chaos of information that is not knowledge, there is an article about the sexiest colour of all the colours of lingerie, and it is white. It is white.” He sighs. He tries hard to look at the milk behind her, not her bra. Not the thought of flesh beneath that lacy fabric. Not the way she perfectly fills the perfect cup of that bra.
She opens her eyes. Blue-grey and intense. “So the man in the aisle finds a woman in a Safeway, sexy.”
“No, no, no, yes, no, maybe.”
“So many contrary options of meaning in such a small space. This imprecise nuance hardly counts as communication.”
“This man, who is almost at the end of his list, and just needs milk and cheese, and coffee – if it’s on sale, is thinking only of the colour. Not the breast beneath. Not the possibility beneath. Not the woman, who is a stranger, an unknown, a meditative curiosity who so effectively blocks the door to milk. This man is curious about that article’s assumption. About its proposal that it’s white, not red, not black, not burgundy, not silver-grey. But white.”
“And still, no meaning to this babel. An insignificant question, hardly posed, but reflected off glass and cold, and tiled flooring – made sharp and exposed by too-bright lighting. Some men are vague and uninteresting and without clarity.”
“A quest, then, this path to 1% milk. A hero’s journey thwarted by a white bra and the dream of the woman who made that choice. Because that woman is not standing here. The woman who chose white is elsewhere. She is perhaps of Persian heritage and devout to her kindness, her need, and her immeasurable talent in the art of passive seduction. Her intention will be veiled, always. There will be no directness to her. She seduces by denying the idea of seduction. Which sounds insane.”
The milk-blocking woman’s voice is quiet, but intense. “Words, words, words. A man must subvert his desire. Bury it deep. Pretend it never existed. Then he will be of interest.”
“Because that sort of commitment to restraint is seditious. And there are women who would find it fascinating.”
“A wise woman would know that desire is hard wired into human beings. We reproduce not because we want to but because we must.”
“This is not about must, it is about want. Perhaps the man in the aisle wants milk?”
It could have been a different conversation in front of that cooler. It could have been that you are the man pushing a loaded cart, and your wife is off in another corner of the store buying flowers because you’re going for dinner and as much as she hates getting flowers for a hostess gift, this is seemed the simplest solution for a hostess gift. You wife will come back with gerberas because that’s her favourite flower. She will not try to imagine what Rebecca’s favourite flower is.
There is a woman in front of the cooler, in front of the milk, blocking your access to the 1%. She is leaned back against the glass and her eyes are shut.