1. Him again! How proudly does he walk, this African-American. Self-important. I would greet him, from politeness, except he would misconstrue. Where to hide? He comes this way. Avert my face.
2. Alas, he passes.
3. Am I sad he failed to notice me; he so comely, I so plain? Or am I angry at myself for giving this importance? Men are vain. They strut and preen and gloat and posture. How I loathe the way they view the world as theirs, and all things in it, as if women are of worth as chattel only, or as spoils.
4. And yet I envy men their physical strength, their purpose and their prowess. Would that I had not disgraced my sex by acting less like males who do not veer when set a course by Allah's fierce commandment.
Touched from behind on her shoulder, Z deflects an encroaching grip, forearm counteracting forearm, fist upraised to strike.
Self-conscious of her reflex, Z dissembles, drops her guard, pretends, by circumspect degrees, to recognize him who grins; she parries with a frown.
Intent on taking full advantage of this second-chance-encounter, Franchone intercepts the flight path Z has plotted.
Wary of his overeager interest in her pardon, although flattered on a level she reluctantly concedes, Z inclines her head with a noncommittal nod.
He extends his hand.
Franchone pulls a face as if to say 'You got to be kidding.' (Scripture, quoted by Reverend Pinkney, was tough enough to take.) Determined, though, to reestablish affable relations, he converts his 'dubious faith' into 'fictive approbation.'
Redirecting his jaunty stride, Franchone falls into step with Z's unhurried pace, as she accepts his company (and tacitly his apology).
He checks their whereabouts: Market and Van Ness Streets.
Walking curbside, shielding Z from traffic to their right, he lifts his arm, inviting her to take his shirt-sleeved elbow. Z declines, although the gesture's quaint formality strums a pleasant chord.
5. It is unreasonable; my attraction. It defies all explanation. What I value most in people is their core not their facade. This man has caused too many hearts to throb, for mine to be of consequence. Foolish is a woman who cannot rule her pulse.
The couple pauses at a public sculpture prominently displayed on a large rectangular dais in front of Symphony Hall. Z is first to express aesthetic appreciation.
Franchone does a double-take at the outsize abstract bronze, unconvinced its forms are recognizably human, let alone feminine. He stoops to read the placard.
He reexamines the shapes in search of likely evidence.
He runs his hand the length of what appears to be a thigh, pausing (inadvertently) at the sculpture's disjoined crotch, his focus suddenly shifting to a man across the street whose gaze seems fixed on Z like a heat-seeking missile.
Z, aware of Franchone's hand at its indiscreet location, is slow to follow his eyes—which detour back to hers, steering her glance to someone... blocked by a passing truck... to no one; the man he saw has disappeared.
With an upturned palm Franchone suggests that they continue, allowing Z to take a modest lead. Pivoting, once she moves ahead, to ward off would-be followers (none seem in pursuit), dawdling to appreciate Z from behind.
Girl does have good points, anatomically speaking. Flesh is well-distributed, if veiled by those funky threads. Clothes are a trifle roomy, not to mention odd. Like maybe they're secondhand (?); neither size nor style quite fits. Appear to be more like a costume than an I-Me-Mine ensemble. That's it! Z's in disguise—the plot of my novel thickens. Five feet four, a hundred and thirty pounds, waist dramatically tapered making her hips look full, her shoulders broad (strong support for a bust whose dimensions I've yet to ascertain). Ears devoid of holes; might be significant; she balks at perforations? Muslims likewise look askance at tattoos—none anywhere in sight. And didn't I read that women from the Middle East practice depilation? The method used traditionally that of plucking? Hm; I'm picturing armpits, moreover pubes, naked as navy beans. Speculation, on my part. Okay; 'wishful thinking.' Never liked going-down on a lap overgrown with hair—catches in the gap of my two front teeth.
6. Pathetic is this man with his pornographic subtext.
7. Yes, I sense his ogling and the motive it betrays. That I have let him, twice now, undertake the role of haughty escort, casts a purple pall upon my virtue. "Lo! Ye are a froward folk who know the righteous path and take it not." Mine, indeed, shall be an awful doom.
Once again she feels a hand make contact with her person (Franchone, come abreast, has deftly linked their arms)—her flinch no less pronounced but lacking self-defensiveness.
Franchone arches both his brows.
Less put-off than held-in-thrall by Z's emphatic phraseology, Franchone turns her girded bicep loose.
Pausing on the sidewalk, Z assumes a pensive air—eyes obliquely shut, their lashes subtly fluttering—and recites a definition, as if reading it from the inside of her lids.
With eyes still shut, Z hesitates... then performs.
Z has said enough—too much. Both she and Franchone walk, their thoughts (in opposite corners) kept to themselves.
8. "Lo! none despaireth of the Spirit of Allah save disbelieving folk." Why confide in anyone lost to Allah's Counsel, much less bother holding discourse with a hormone-driven male?
Woman's got a chip the size of a redwood on her shoulder. Wonder how it got there?
9. Wasted are the words addressed to those who recognize women as toys, pets or livestock.
Finding out is likely to be trouble. More than it's worth?
10. Machismo, how I hate its swaggering double-standard! And how I love the proof we gave to our comrades' sexist lie; the two of us, Homa and I, sole women at camp.
Research. Shirk the work, face another A-B-D; All But Dedication to my fledgling work of fiction. Better a thorny protagonist to pursue than an easy lay.
11. Fierce and smart and committed, were Homa and I, no less so than our brethren. And yet our gender damned us. Disapproved of and despised, we were forced to earn esteem through trials designed to humiliate.
So, she tenses up when touched; meaning sour on men?
12. "Pawns," is what she called us. Homa felt our training was a pretext for the fact that we were deemed to be expendable. "Means to others' ends," is how she saw our role. Whereas I would argue pawns are queens, if 'perspicaciously' played, for all who serve in Allah's army rise in rank commensurate with the selflessness that signals genuine submission.
Sour or predisposed to same-sex shenanigans. Not sure I'm inclined to explore that deviation. Dykes give me the creeps, like bigots wearing hoods—lynch you with a look from their prejudicial eyes.
13. "Sacrifices," Homa countered, one-time-use subordinates, destined for distinction only through extinction. For her, half true. A faulty car bomb blasted Homa into blood-besotted bits... the designated target left unscathed.
Stretch a little. This is San Francisco, after all, "Babylon by the Bay," aka "Gay Mecca." Where's the thrill in research if conclusions always rubberstamp the norm?
14. At least, when charged to implement, Homa proved no coward.
I think I've been dismissed. Nothing like enthusiasm to fuel an author's efforts. Hell, who needs this snooty babe? I'll find another subject. Why waste Friday night on a woman who's... downright plain? Especially next to Naja or Denise—though Eartha's no looker: Mother Eartha, globe-like as in globular, fertile as a furrow of overturned soil. Z, if that's her name, has the temperament of a mine field.
Waylaid by a homeless man, Franchone frisks his pockets.
Franchone palms him a bill.
He addresses Z.
They edge on by.
Franchone glances back and sees the vagrant with his hand out toward Z's misnamed "admirer."
Z's panic-stricken look confirms they do. She hails a cab. One stop immediately.
Franchone clambers in. The cab pulls away. The stalker, stranded in a crosswalk, fulminates internally.