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Glommed to Sam’s libido like a lovesick cephalopod, suctioning every globule of erstwhile better judgment, her deduced proximity lures and overpowers, pulls him up and down the length and breadth of Page Street in a search that nets him zilch...

... apart from mute derision as evinced by Jo herself, watching from a bay window, on the third floor of an apartment building, in a sprawling flat for rent, relieved of the landlord’s third-degree by a stream of would-be tenants, free to snap her zoom-lens shots of “Blumenthal” and organize a composite, juxtaposing Rockefeller’s portraits to his look-alike profiteer’s, reassured that the pair’s resemblance is more than uncanny, reaffirming her contention that their features, indeed, are interchangeable, two peas in a pod...

... apart from uncertainty (the car might not be hers), and a reinstated host of consternating questions:

  • Why pursue a woman who not only is betrothed, but is, as rumor has it, pregnant by her intended?

  • How has her alleged condition worked to overturn his ruling out a relationship, caused his major flip-flop, re-stoked his enthusiasm, re-ignited passions his ego dismissed and squelched, re-established lust as his primary impetus while rousing in the process a wellspring of compassion heretofore unmatched in his dealings with le femme?

  • What could she be thinking if in truth she tracked him down, parked her pink Mercedes in his neighborhood to confront him, to harass him, to serve him legal papers that accuse him of indecent behavior toward a bride-and-mother-to-be?

  • And where (most frustrating of all) is the woman herself?

Exculpated on one count, not yet guilty on another, while feeling vaguely avenged by the act of her surveillance, by capturing her 'abuser' on camera, by manipulating his image, by possessing him in effect without his awareness (let alone his permission), Joanna stows her Cyclops, takes a lease application (for show), moseys down three flights to exit the premises, then crosses to a nearby corner and proceeds downhill to a coffeehouse (effectively unobserved). Once seated therein, courage bolstered by a latté, she recapitulates information systematically gleaned:

Samuel Blumenthal is a real live person (not an autoerotic figment of her id's imagination) who lives in San Francisco, goes to graduate school in Berkeley, and plays, of all things, baseball, according to the UC website, is 22 years old, born in California (on August 6th to be exact), is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and volunteers as a coach for Special Olympics.

Ms Meerschaum reappraises her multi-tier agenda:

  • reconfirm similitude

  • analyze attraction

  • contemplate encounter

  • get revenge on Fell

  • probe the possibility of a bond beyond corporeal

Compatibility sexually, though a most propitious start...

... does not a match-made-in-Heaven guarantee; Sam, no less than Joanna, harbors reservations, widens his search by a block to the retail shops on Haight Street, darting in and out with a mind devoid of schemes, having no idea, should he find her, what he might do next, like a child who grabs at a firefly then is startled upon catching it, the creepy-crawly life inside his fist not what he expects—because he reacts more than expects, because his hot pursuit is an impulse, a reflex-guided urge, connected to its goal like a stretched-too-taut guitar string, Sam’s mad quest strumming scores of discordant doubts and off-key apprehensions...

... reverberating in Jo’s clamped-under-the-table knees—to stave off urination, waiting for the single unisex restroom to be vacated—as she nurses at her foam, sucks a sip of coffee through its frothy soymilk filter and blames it for her nerves, for causing raw emotion to run roughshod over reason, envisioning the moment when—Is that him? No—her speech will finally be delivered, the one that she rehearsed a dozen times on the drive from Palo Alto, a brilliant combination of indictment and seduction that is sure to get his goat while riling his satyr...

... no Jo; everywhere he looks he garners stares from clerks and proprietors suspicious of his trespasses, staying only long enough in any one establishment to case the joint then split, trusting in his memory to consolidate intimate parts into one familiar whole, about which he admittedly knows almost nothing, like judging a book by its ultra-sultry cover...

... Joanna, fully clothed, abruptly drops her short-shorts in the public privy’s privacy, squats, and pees, letting loose a torrent that besprinkles an unsanitary seat, she presumes,  buttocks held aloft avoiding contact with the fixture, if inhibiting what might pass for careful aim, wiping herself fastidiously...

... ill-timed entrance made, Sam scans the clientele—a carrot-top not among them; with caffeine headache pending, he suspends his hide and seek, orders a large house coffee (black, no nonsense) and settles down to savor it, back turned to whomever is leaving the café’s toilet, though he notes svelte hips pass by, absence of a panty-line arresting his attention, color of her hair, on glancing up, occasioning a blush as ruddy as her curls, loss of cool compounded by his more than likely imminent loss for words...

... back to her lookout spot and half-drunk lukewarm latté, Joanna is well-aware that customers have changed—some gone, a few new arrivals; she glances once, twice, thrice at a man who meets her gaze, who rises and walks with a slightly halting step that terminates at her table, who hesitates, hovers, hampered by indecision yet determined to have his say; who kneels (?)...

(He must be crazy; right here in the coffeehouse; with everybody watching!)

... who joins his hands in a gesture of genuine supplication...

(Stop! This is REALLY embarrassing!)

... who swallows, parts his lips...

(Like a penitent choirboy)

... and utters...

(Déjà vu)

... extempore...

(He must be kidding!)

... a proposal so sincere...

(Good God, he means it?)

... that Joanna, rescinding vengeance, hangs upon every word.

"Or if you won't consider marrying me, say at least you forgive me for appropriating a love I wish could be ours."

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