Morning finds me staring into Noor's sleeping face; once again comparing her features to the one I love. Her mouth is nearly right. She has the perfect pout but, lacks the secret smile in each corner. The shape of her face is round and small like that of my love. But the eyes are most important and I know Noor's eyes are not the same. While her hazel eyes are beautiful they are not the brown eyes of my love. I stare at her for a long while, wondering why I can’t simply forget my heartache and fall in love with a woman like this. Noor has several qualities worthy of adoration. She has a long and beautiful neck. A pretty collarbone perfect for catching kisses. Mounds of silky, black hair to get lost in and a beauty mark in the corner of her mouth that would never be neglected by me. But I know that even if I try, my heart won't let me feel the way I should for her. My heart tells me that there is only one woman for me. That there will only ever be one woman for me.
Noor wakes slowly, barely opening her eyes. She rolls onto her back, stretching out her body, long and lean and looks at me. I caress her satiny skin beneath the sheets.
“You want to go, don't you?" she asks finally.
I close my eyes knowing they are what gave me away. She runs her fingers through my hair and I rest my head in the sweet-scented, valley of her breasts.
"I don't want to go, but I think that I should."
She sighs a deep sigh of frustration. "Won't you stay for breakfast?"
"I shouldn't stay a moment longer." I sit up in bed and look around the room. Sure enough, my clothes have been washed and pressed and now hang over the armchair. I get up and start getting dressed.
"That's twice now that you've refused me," she says sarcastically with just a hint of honest indignation bleeding through.
"You don't make it easy,” I answer with a smile as I pull my shirt over my head.
"Well…" She lets the sheet fall away and stands to walk over to me. She is just as tempting as she was last night. She looks fresh as a flower, beautifully tousled from sleep. "Maybe if I keep asking I'll eventually wear you down."
She kisses me and again I feel that aching in the center of my chest. "What is that?" I whisper on her lips.
"I don't know...you're doing something to me."
She smiles on my mouth and kisses me again. The feeling returns traveling over the surface of my skin.
“There it is again."
"Is it good or bad?" she asks, drawing her hand up the back of my arm. I surprise myself by trembling.
"I don't know yet." I frown.
She backs away from me with extreme reluctance so that I can finish getting dressed. I struggle with my jeans to find a comfortable position for my newly aroused manhood. She watches all of this like some teenage girl that has just been introduced to the male body and its machinations.
"You are easily the most beautiful man I've ever seen," she blurts out suddenly, as if she couldn’t hold the thought in a moment longer.
It’s not like I haven’t heard it before but, for some reason hearing it from her makes me blush. It sounds so honest. I kiss her again, softly and gently on each cheek. "Thank you." I whisper and then turn to leave.
"Will I see you again, Joaquin?" she asks as I near the door.
I laugh, remembering the strange series of events that brought us together last night. "I'm sure you'll get another random phone call from me one of these nights."
"I'd like to see you before then."
I shrug. "You could always call me."
"Will you answer?"
My heart sinks knowing she would not have asked this question if she hadn’t called before. "I'm sorry."
She doesn't need any further explanation and tells me so with her eyes.
"I promise—if I am myself—I will answer your call." I’m giving her the most honest answer I can muster. She nods and I say goodbye with another kiss and leave her in her gilded cage.
: : : :
The day outside is surprisingly warm. It is one of those days in between spring and winter when you almost get your hopes up thinking that we have seen the last snowfall and felt the last of the biting northeast wind. Noor's apartment is only two blocks away from the park so instead of heading toward home I go there. It seems that all of New York is in the park on this sunny morning. Everyone is standing in the thin late March sunlight, turning their pale faces up to suck up as much warmth as they can.
I find a park bench on a small hill and sit to people-watch--though, it is hard to keep my mind on that. My mind keeps wandering back to Noor and the way she looked climbing out of the bath last night. The soap slipping slowly off of her body, making its way over her smooth curves and hidden pleasures. The more I think of Noor the more appealing she seems to me. She is really sort of perfect with her sharp wit and her laugh that is like music. I pull out my journal and a pen and start setting her features to poetry.
I’m writing the third one when I remember the poem that Noor mentioned during our first meeting. I flip back through the pages and find an entry written some months ago. At the top I had labeled the entry: A bar in Chelsea, November 30, 2007...
So I had been to that bar before. I read the poem:
She has skin the color of cognac.
Probably just as intoxicating to the taste.
With addictive tendencies like mine,
I cautiously shy away.
Knowing that one taste of her lips
will make me slip and fall
right off the wagon
and into love again.
I don't really remember writing it, but it’s clearly about Noor. I immediately begin wondering how many other times I have written of Noor. As I flip through the pages and find references to other women. I find at least two that are clearly about Dana.
The most interesting part of you
dribbles out of your mouth
onto the shiny bar surface
to be mopped up later
with beer sour rags.
And that would concern me
if I were here for conversation...
When she climaxes,
her entire body blushes.
The color of a pink rose.
And in that moment,
she is truly beautiful.
I find one that puts me in the mind of Dominica:
There is something dark
in her unwavering stare.
Yet it draws me in.
I remember that last night I was slightly afraid of Dominica. Maybe there is some reason for that. I close my eyes trying to remember the events that inspired these writings, however brief and insubstantial they may seem. I can’t come up with anything but I know there is more to know. I can feel it. Like the edges of a dream that I can’t seem to grasp. Then it occurs to me that I have bookshelves, boxes and crates of these journals at home. Maybe they can give me some clue as to when all of this began. Maybe they can help me understand what triggered these strange black-outs.
I stand and walk back toward Fifth Avenue to hail a cab. I’m feeling both anxious and terrified to get home. Anxious because I think I will finally get some answers. Terrified of what those answers might be. What if this has been going on for years and I am only just now beginning to realize it? How many times in this last year did a woman come up to me claiming to know me and I brushed it off as confusion on her part? I can remember at least a handful. And then there was Mariella. A little over a year ago, I was seeing a girl often enough to consider her my girlfriend. We broke up because she said that she saw me kissing a girl on the corner of Avenue A and 2nd St. I never cheated on the girl, as far as I knew, but what if I had? What if it was this other Joaquin? The one that only seems to surface when I've been drinking? I stand on the curb and whistle for a cab. One pulls up and just as I grasp door handle I hear something that makes my heart stop.
It’s her laugh.
That sound that is somewhere in between a sigh and a giggle.
My mind tells me that it is an impossibility. It’s the wrong city. And even if she is in New York, what are the chances that we would cross paths this way? I shake it off, but when I open the door the sound of her laugh comes to me again.
"Are you getting in or what, pal?" the cabbie snaps.
I want to fight it, but instead I see myself closing the door and turning in the direction I'd heard her laugh come from. About halfway up the block I see woman who maybe, possibly could be her. Her hair seems right. It is curly and unruly like a mass of soft lamb’s wool. She turns to her friend and laughs again. I see a hint of her high cheekbones, the dark chocolate skin and then her mouth, with that smile that curls up at the corners in that unbearably cute way.
"Oh, my God," I breathe. “It is her!”
I start running. My feet feel heavy. I look down and see that I am wearing boots. I will my legs to pump faster. I call out her name as she crosses the street but the din of traffic swallows my voice. We get separated at the light. Traffic whizzes between us, stretching the distance even more. When the light finally changes and I can cross the street, I call out her name again. I don't see her. I look in all four directions, spinning in a tight circle. She can't have gotten far. I jog a four-block square looking for her before I will accept that she is gone. I jog an eight-block square before I realize that I might not have seen her at all—just someone who looked like her from a distance. Someone who sounds the same, but isn't the same woman. Finally, when I collapse on the curb, my chest feeling like it has a ragged tear ripped in it, I realize that she probably was never there at all. Seven years have passed since the last time I saw her, yet she appears to me this day exactly as she was then. This is another episode to drive home the point that I need help. I really think that I am losing my mind.