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The way he described her, she was a combination of Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, and Lee Krasner, all rolled into one short 40-something divorcee with a decent salary and access to Amagansett. I was nauseated. She had the same initials and same astrological sign—Libra— as the girlfriend of the guy who broke my heart, the first time. She drove the exact same car—a beaten up burgundy Volvo sedan—as the guy who broke my heart the third time. She had a similar name of the girlfriend of the guy who broke my heart the second time. She was Karma Personified. To this day, she doesn't understand why I ducked out of meeting her. But to me that would have been like walking onto the set of an Ingmar Bergman movie to do an impromptu scene, yet knowing that the end would feature either my death or institutionalization.

The last time he ever invited me over to his home, it was strictly business. The mutual adoration had been left aside. His girlfriend had sold the burgundy Volvo for a fancier, gunmetal gray one and the new owner of the crappy one tended to park it right in front of my apartment building. Karma.

He wanted to me to come over to look at some slides and letters for a grant. In the mix of papers on the kitchen table, where I used to love eating dinner with him, I caught a glimpse of a list of the title of his paintings. It was not written in his handwriting. It was a list written by his girlfriend. Surreal to see my name written out in her handwriting. I couldn't help but wonder how much she had resented that task, as I stared intently at the list, and then realized he was staring at me staring.

He had administered a handwriting test to me, early on. Kind of as a joke, and yet serious. He didn't go by any book, made up his own theories. My handwriting he interpreted as phallic, and he meant that as an insult. I took it as such: I won handwriting contests in grade school, boys fell in love with me for my handwriting in high school and college. This guy was trashing my penmanship because of his tiny penis, and the inadequacy complex that, in his case, went with it.

I noticed in her handwriting sample that she was guilty of my greatest pet peeve of all time, my life-long hatred of the capital E, written as if it were two C's on top of each other. Those E's! Like the McDonald's Golden Arches emblem tipped over on its side. This is the woman he loves, not me, a woman with those E's. I used to hate seeing them in other people's handwriting. It was somehow deeply wounding: she's older than me, she shorter than me, and she has those E's. I imagined her writing her rent checks with those E's—or signing loans, or whatever it is that she does with her stable income—and felt amazed that the bank actually accepted them. I was horrified, repugnant.

Imperceptibly, the switch happened: the horror gave way to the haunting, which induced the sell-out. Clearly, I would make a far more meat-marketable female if I had those E's, I told myself sternly, as I began to notice them in the signatures of top editors of glossy magazines, presidents of universities, successful artists. Everywhere I looked, I saw them. The E went from illustrating backwater strip mall mentality to a symbol of the New York elite, the beautiful people. I coveted the E and began practicing my own, so that it might look like I've been writing them all along, and wasn't trying to be somebody else.

I began to notice more and more burgundy Volvo sedans in the neighborhood. Every time I crossed a street, one of these vehicular instruments of karmic torture drove by. They laced every block on my walk home. In my growing madness, I began to think about buying a burgundy Volvo sedan with a car loan that I could sign with my special appropriated E.

Gradually I gave up on my project though, and resumed my normal handwriting. If I buy a car, it won't be a Volvo in any shape or form. She and I have still never met, even though we live a few blocks from each other. I sometimes regret that she and I didn't meet. Who knows, we might have hit it off, been great friends. It's happened before. Though she knows what I look like, the only time I've ever seen her is when she's in her gunmetal gray car. Of course I recognize it, since her boyfriend drove me home in it. The windows are up, and I don't have my glasses on. She's just a vague blur.


Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | January 2002 | Issue 22
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