Idolatry – Pt. 3
Bombarded by twin fronts of fertilizer and foliage, I move like the tranquil eye of a storm towards the greenhouse at the rear of the store.
I push a hand truck through aisles of displaced flora until the downy blue clusters of an Adriatic Ageratum beckon a closer look. Satisfied, I place two of the bushes onto the cart and turn to make my way back to the registers.
That’s when I got my first look at him.
Resting on a shelf of gardening implements at eye-level, a leonine chimera, sleek and stoic like the iconic statuary adorning Notre Dame Cathedral, he elicited a silent gasp that I can’t explain as I ran a finger across his stony features. It was as though the proprietors knew that to place him alongside the adorably ugly and squat little trolls out front would debase his aura of mischievous yet debonair calm so they hid him back here among the flowering plants where a more discerning eye would be likely to find him.
My heart quickened as I waited for my receipt. I felt like I was pulling a heist and the cashier’s nonchalant manner was starting to piss me off. When she finally handed me the curled slip of register tape, I immediately scratched out the cost of the statue in a symbolic gesture. If Dolores wants to reimburse me for the plants, that’s cool, but this seductive little fellow is mine all mine.
I loaded up the hatchback for a smooth getaway.
From the curb I can see Dan left a note on the front door. If I don’t read it, I can’t be accused of ignoring whatever entreaties for my attention it may contain, so in one fluid motion I rip it down, crumple it in my fist and chuck it over my shoulder into the hydrangea hedge at the end of the driveway.
I leave the plants in the car and walk inside with the gargoyle, passing through the house to the back door where I perform a cursory scan of the fenced-in landscape. Just there – one eye positioned to gaze peripherally inside through the patio doors, the other trained on the lush green sea of grass beyond the tiny courtyard. I situate its base a half inch into the small dirt patch bordering the concrete, take a step back and smile at the subtly magical transformation my new friend has wrought upon this previously uninspiring chunk of South Jersey real estate. I remember the Ageratum in the car and trudge back out to finish the chore.
My hangover is finally starting to lift so I make myself a guacachito and wolf it down on the sofa, plate balanced precariously across my knees while admiring the exquisite curvature of his arched and winged torso through the door. I try not to overthink the sudden outbreak of goose flesh on my arms, tiny blonde hairs standing at attention as electricity races up my spine and my face goes flush.
The unmistakable physiology of a woman in love.
I wonder if this odd rush of feelings is anticipatory. After all, the only thing that would inspire me to discard of a reliable fuck buddy like Dan with such uncharacteristic insouciance is a waxing desire to fall in love – to jump headlong into all-encompassing crazy brain-scrambling soul-fucking infatuation.
It had been a long time and I’d hardened myself considerably in the interim. I sometimes worry that I’ve become too transparent to bewitch a beautiful unsuspecting boy with my stale array of coarse charms. Before dialing Melinda to confirm that we were still on to meet at the Stone Pony for tonight’s Southside Johnny show, I glanced outside and thought I saw a subtle smile of approval play across his ceramic countenance. It was like he knew – my unspoken desires, my secret vulnerabilities and maybe even my fate.
It all seemed so innocent then. Even so, I blamed it on the residual effects of last night’s pharmacological feast and resolved to kick Molly to the curb along with Dan – cold turkey for two guilty pleasures whose times had long passed.