A woman, dressed, barely, talks with the driver of a Mercedes Benz. The license plate reads Hank Jr. They take off toward the church and the abandoned house at the end of the street.
A painter sketches the scene from the sidewalk. He includes the hooker, blurred, in the foreground. In the background, he sketches the church, well cared for, but unattended, and the abandoned house next to it, vibrant with life due to vines and other growths. A few feet from him, his four year-old son uses ice cream on his face like an abstract painter uses paint on canvas.
* * *
A businessman shares a table with a woman in business attire, just enough make-up, and subtly died hair dropping to her shoulders. She compliments him on his tie, not an uncommon one. He acknowledges the compliment, taking his time looking at her, and decides on the Scampi, she, a Caesar salad with extra anchovies.
Later he will call her to let her know she got the job. He will ask her out to dinner. She will hesitate … to change the power dynamic.
“Am I too forward?” he will ask, not unlike playing ping-pong, throwing her a spin.
“No,” she will say. Her return has no spin and is floating.
“You are a delightful woman! Would eight o’clock suit you?” throwing her an overhand.
“No … to both your offers,” she will correct with a backhand slice.
“I am afraid we have a misunderstanding,” he will say, off-guard, missing the ball.
“I guess we do,” she will say, leaving her paddle on the table. “Thank you for the call!” she will add and hang up. The phone will ring again. It will echo in her empty apartment. She will have already stepped out for a walk in the evening breeze.
* * *
They first met in astronomy class. During a break Elianne complimented Frederick on a question he’d asked the teacher. They enjoyed talking and went out for dinner. After, they walked each other home. First to her apartment; then to his, a couple of miles away. They ended up walking back to the university campus where they sat on a bench to watch the night fall.
“Have you ever fallen asleep looking at the stars?” he asked her.
“Once,” she said while another dialogue was taking place within her. Her heart was telling her mind how much she loved this man; his freedom, his nonchalant disrespect for common practices – no … not disrespect – just no compulsion to follow them. She admired that. Where did he come from?
“Where are you from?” she asked him.
“A planet in the Pleiades.”
She laughed. Ask a silly question, get a silly answer, she thought.
“Where do you come from?” he asked.
“My mother’s womb.”
“… and before that?”
“That’s where it all started.”
“Perhaps, yes,” he conceded. “What attracted you to astronomy?”
“How about you answer first?”
“I was born on Earth like you, from human parents. But I really come from the Pleiades. I am married there with two teenage boys. I was asked to take a vacation on Earth. Astronomy was a natural choice.”
“You are married and you left your wife and sons behind? Did you guys divorce?”
“No! Marriage here is a contractual affair and, once married, people try to control and change each other. People say my husband, my wife, or my children. At home, we don’t think that way. Being married means to align oneself in support of the other on his or her path. Giving birth to children means accepting the responsibility to support them on their path. It is not about guiding them, educating them, or raising them.”
“So you have a life there and you chose to live a parallel life here?”
“Seems odd, I know.”