Date: January 2016
Place: Băneasa Mall, the launch of the new collection of some stupid bracelet with charms.
It’s another ‘one of those Thursdays’ in the tackiest mall of Bucharest or nearby. Outside it’s freezing cold and people gather from their workplaces for a quick dinner or window shopping session. It’s only the almost poor or above average income who still hunt for the winter sales. I won’t be worrying about them because now I am focusing on those that seem to think of themselves as the belly button of this small universe. This is not LA, nor London, it’s just Bucharest! Don’t be fooled by the fresh air, it’s the sub-zero temperatures that keep you from noticing the exhaust fumes. A few huddled up workers of the Mall avidly inhale the average Romanian drug – a cigarette.
Walking through the galleries invaded by artificial lights and sparkling shops – fancy overpriced silver items allure women’ eyes and make men dream of late-night rewards. Small round bar tables are spread and the so-called networking seems to be flourishing in spite of the damn cold of the temperate climate.
I look around and notice her amidst a few men, laughing with her mouth open and head pushed back. Her luscious hair falls below her shoulders, while she tilts her head back. Seems a natural dark chestnut with honey reflexes. She is one of those little women that like to climb the 12 cm heels to feel important. Or maybe I am just mean, cause the short dress and cowboy boots become her, although one may think she could lose a few kilos. That was also mean! No jewelry, no hideous long necklace, just a small simple silver ring on the left hand (married?!) and a black wooden one on the middle right-hand finger. She keeps fidgeting that one under the table as an anxiousness sign. The laughter seems to be kind of a self-defense weapon, ‘cause she’s using it a lot, although men around her are busy making jokes. It’s hardly noticeable, for them I mean, to capture the eyes that swipe the room in search for a new audience or new spectacle. She is slightly bored and her mind is working fast for a polite escape excuse. Well, honey… you might be in luck tonight!
“I am so fucking bored!” is the look on this guy. Yeah, she saw him, he seems to be doomed. She gave him the old cliché with the clean/good shoes and he seems to have passed the test. He is above average tall, 40 or something, although the hair is dark black. Nothing special about him either, maybe he is one of those expats that hangs out late and crawls to his fancy apartment for a dreamless night. Or maybe the Pipera corporatist type, one that is happily married to his job as an analyst or something boring to do with numbers. He saw her and suddenly his posture changed. The conversation with the buddies that dragged him to this event, fade. Maybe he was never interested by the looks of the sudden change. But yah… something is wrong with a picture of the two put together, like him drawing a long shadow on the walls, strangely tall and her filling up a small gap in a wall, just like small girls like to hide beneath tables to play.
– Hey, he says, after a bold move toward her table and him leaning on his elbow to reach her height. A smart move in my opinion, as he sets a barrier between her and her companions. I know we met before, but I am such an ass that I forgot your name. Forgive me!
– I have the exact same feeling, she says, her eyes really grateful. Graciously she puts one tiny hand on this forearm to let him notice the appreciation. Her hand is nice, no long painted hideous nails, but pinkish ones that complete long fingers. He noticed the hands, she thinks! It’s Iunia with N, as in June.
– What, he says, I am sorry again… I didn’t catch that!
– My name is Iunia as the feminine for the month of June. I really appreciate you rescuing me.
– My pleasure, Iunia! The things I am willing to do for a damsel in distress like you…
– Was I really? I hate being in distress, but there’s nothing I hate more than being a damsel…
– My name is Ben, but my friends call me Jerry as I am a great fan of Seinfeld… stupid immature friends, I know.
– It’s pretty reassuring they don’t call you George so I’d start displaying my dancing skills for the crowd while shouting Stela, Stela…
Iunia laughs out loud, this time for real, as she is pleased with her joke. Ben&Jerry takes her little hand and keeps it in his for a few seconds. Hey fool, don’t kiss it, this isn’t the Middle Ages! For a second their eyes meet and he releases the hand saying: I am glad I rescued you!
LET ME NOT
… to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.” (Bill Shakespeare)
– Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, you seem kind of confident… says Iunia trying to concentrate real hard to find the character flaws as if they were displayed on his face. Someone told me recently that being over-polite is so last season!
– We’re not getting anywhere, don’t worry! I found it amusing and quite frankly I was bored with my friends.
– Okay, Benji! Can I call you Benji? Iunia’s disposition quickly recomposes and now she seems a different person. For the trained eye, ‘cause anyone else would’ve just missed the forced confidence boost.
– Yes, you can call me Benji, although it sounds like a pet name. Ben caught the sudden flicker in her eyes and decided to indulge her.
– Would like to be my pet? she asks and the corner of her mouth raises in a taunting smile.
– No, I am not one of those guys. Sorry to disappoint you… would you like something to drink?
– So are you one of those other guys?
– What kind is that? One that still has some manners? You, determined women of these times, are not acquainted with a man bringing you a drink?!
– Oooh, are we there yet? I haven’t even dreamt of hitting the soft spot so early in our conversation… again she seems pleased with herself and the tension raises a bit among the two…
– You seem to be engaging in some kind of fight, but I haven’t challenged you, baby! Ben notices.
– Don’t call me baby, it’s such a cliché!
They haven’t even noticed that people around them are starting to leave the party, is almost 9 o’clock and the mall closes at 10.
– You seemed in need for someone calling you baby…
– As I have already said, please don’t make assumptions. We’ve met like three seconds ago and you already know what I need! Wow, just wow!
– Even the fact that you clinging to one single word confirms what I have just said… And stop looking at your phone, you are not a child!
Iunia raises her eyes from the phone startled.
– Yes, you are right. That was kind of impolite. It’s my friends, we have this group chat, I apologize.
And there it is: for the fifth time this evening she totally changed personality, now she’s a shy girl scolded by her daddy.
– I would like a Coke, please!
Iunia starts rolling her wooden ring in a poor distraction attempt from her phone. When he goes to get her drink, immediately looks at the conversations she missed and a large smile decorates her face, as she writes back: I feel like I am a teenager… I might have met someone
– You couldn’t resist or what?
– I had to tell my friends about you, she admits sincerely. No big deal, right?! We are grown-ups!
– What did you tell them? Ben seems kind of reluctant concerning the course of this discussion.
– I told them I met an older man, what else? I tell the truth most of the time… don’t you? and laughs.
– If that was the truth you should’ve said: I met a wiser man of only 42! Tell them you met a man that makes you uncomfortable…
– I will! But what lead you to this conclusion?
– I am a grown man and kind of present in the moment, probably unlike all the men you met…
– Uhhh, the plot thickens… Iunia looks at him highly amused. Oh, Benji, we are going to get along just fine!
– Feels that way… how old are you, Iunia with N?
– 35 but I only declare 32 since as you have guessed just right, I only date younger men!
Ben weights the information for a brief moment.
– Would you say this is a date?
– No, definitely not! Would you like to ask me out?
– Actually no! I would like to take you home and teach you some manners, but as you are too old, seems pointless!
– Ok, a point made! My place or yours? Do you promise to put me in my place? ‘Cause I can’t even recall a time when a man taught me something, nonetheless putting me in the right place!
– I’d say you are scared shitless right now by this perspective… your move! Ben’s eyes are focused on hers.
– I never enjoyed chess, it’s a man’s game. This is just a battle of the sexes and out of goodwill, I will let you win!
Her cheeks turn pink in a matter of seconds giving away her flushed body. She knows it and the color deepens. Ben laughs pleased by this small victory.
– A gentleman would’ve never laughed! You are an ass!
Ben’s laughter dissipates the tension, followed shortly by a peace offering:
– Baby, I never said I was a gentleman! I will take you home anyway, by the looks of you I fear for an Uber driver.
– Fine! I accept, Benji, but just because it’s cold and I live really close, just around the corner.
– Thank you for not fighting anymore! You let me win in a way I feel I lost! What do you do for a living, Iunia? Whose mind are you fucking with during the day?
– Well, I thought you never ask: I am a trainer specialized in front office customer care for airlines.
– Really? And you teach people the politics of The client is always right? This is hilarious, you don’t strike me as a well-balanced, unbiased person! Were your employers drunk when they hired you or… let me guess: are you a freelancer?
– Let me correct what I said earlier: You are an ass-hole and no, I am not self-employed! Let’s go before I literally strike you!
As they walk through the halls, Iunia’s eyes flood with tears and she looks up to stop them. She inhales deeply hoping Ben didn’t catch this. Unfortunately, he did, and now he repents his behavior. Maybe he should’ve put less pressure on her, but at some point, he became cocky and missed the teasing limit.
– Don’t you have another jacket? You’ll be cold!
– Don’t worry, I will be ok! and adds in a smaller voice: I am always ok!
THE PLOT THICKENS
But actually not so much.
– Take my jacket, for fuck’s sake! Ben is irritated by Iunia’s attitude.
– I am fine, I said I am fine! God, why do people insist?! Although you seem confused, I really know what I need. Trust me, it’s not your jacket! Iunia’s tongue sticks out in an infantile reflex.
– You act like a spoiled child… oh, nevermind!
– Exactly, nevermind! The car turns toward the residential units near Băneasa Technology Park.
Iunia shows him where to make a right turn as if she can’t wait to get out of the car.
– Here, just leave me on the first block.
– Wait for me to stop, don’t jump, please! his voice all hoarse and tired.
The car stops and Iunia seems undecided… she takes a deep breath and says without looking at him:
– I am sorry, I don’t know what got into me, I want to say something that can explain why I charged you like that. Maybe it’s because I wanted to establish hierarchy, which sounds really stupid when said out loud. Maybe I am not used with… maybe you make me feel, no… not feel, but… oh, fuck it… just I apologize. That’s it! Good night!
She tries to escape, but Ben is quicker and catches her hand.
– I don’t even get to accept these lame excuses, huh? Why are you so scared? I see now that you are a runner and I don’t believe that you feel sorry, you just thought it was the right thing to do. I need more!
– What the hell are you saying? I am not even sure if complaisance advises saying: Nice to meet you! Iunia looks at him repulsed by the thought of him needing anything from her.
Ben lets a smirk widen on his face:
– I’d say that I was merely fucking with you, but you seem to have lost your sense of humor along with the self-worthiness you wear as a flag.
– Let go!
– I will if you promise to do the same! Ben laughs and releases her hand.
– Good night!
– Good night, sweet as a summer’s day June!
– Fuck off!
She rushes to her block entrance walking proudly in spite of the biting cold. She walks in her studio, happy to get rid of the boots and of “fucking Benji”. She puts some water to boil for tea while mumbling: who the fuck does he think he is?! I need to get him out of my mind…
Iunia dials the already familiar number of her sex buddy:
– Hey, Chris! Can you come over… please? suddenly she feels all mushy inside and warm tears invade her cheeks. She lets them fall to release the sting in the eyes.
– You have to work? No, I am fine, it’s ok! I understand. No, I haven’t been crying… I told you I am fine… yeah, call me tomorrow, sure. Good night!
She takes a big cup and pours water over her favorite blend of green tea and jasmine. Pulling up close her laptop, she hopes to find some comfort in a chat with her friends, bad-mouthing men. Men are the worst!
She already feels better, crying helped a bit to raise her spirits. Not for long, though. There it is, the friend request from Benjamin Rebac staring at her. She tries to look at his pictures, but the ass-hole concealed everything and now she has to confirm to allay her curiosity. She browses through the pictures and none is indecent or silly. He is always dressed very well and his profile doesn’t show more than what she already inferred: COO at a major transport corporation, one that never shares anything funny. Super boring!
She opens the group chat and writes: Girls, I got home! Forget what I said earlier. I should’ve stayed home, the man I met really destroyed my evening. Hope you are still awake!
Mermaid, the stylish friend and the only one that has kids: Consider it just another experience. Don’t waste your energy on him, baby!
B., eternal reconciler: Yeah, men are pigs, you knew that!
Mizzy, the group’s binder and also the vehement character: Did you tell him to go fuck himself?! I don’t know what happened, but I am on your side anyway.
TLC, the sweetest voice among them, literally: You still have us, baby!
Galadriel, the wise one, a pacifist by nature: We still love you! Muah!
Pinky is missing the midnight call, probably fast asleep.
And last but not least:
Kitty: God! You talk too much, I am trying to get some sleep. Tomorrow it’s a workday for some of us… we’ll talk tomorrow baby! I love you, you know that! 😛
Yeah, that feels so much better! She pulls away from the laptop, draws out her bra, cuddling on the couch and falls asleep.
YOU DON’T FOOL ME
It’s a new day, it’s a new world! Iunia thinks. She woke up and realized she slept on the couch fully dressed. It’s been a long time since she indulged herself like that. She knew that today is not a working day, she has to pack her bags for a training in Amsterdam. The training starts the next day and most likely will keep her hostage at the airport for two days. These pieces of training are held at the Alliance HQ and they always book a hotel nearby. Cheap bastards! She missed a call from Chris but doesn’t feel like calling back. What’s there to discuss?! He couldn’t come over, plain and simple!
Iunia’s mind is a little tormented by the fact that Ben triggered some emotions kept in a stable, safe environment deep inside her. He wasn’t even good looking, and yet she felt attracted by him in a strange way. Not one that raised sexual fantasies, but one that made her question this self-imposed lifestyle. He made her think about being taken care of, about letting a man in her life and yet she didn’t flatter herself that he felt the same. Also remember the last time she had the exact feeling: in eighth grade when her colleagues offered to beat someone for her as a birthday gift. She smiled at that memory and a warmth filled her body: affection for Cezar, Iulian, and Marius. If they would’ve still kept in touch, she could ask them to beat up Ben just because he wasn’t charmed by her personality.
You don’t fool me
With those pretty eyes,
You don’t fool me…
Iunia wished to have him fooled and wipe that superior grin off his face! Or maybe have him fall for her madly and then reject him.
Chris calls again:
– Yeah, hi!
– Are you upset? Why didn’t you call me back? I already said I am sorry…
– It’s not that, I really didn’t have time… I just woke up. Slept like a baby! Iunia rolls her eyes.
– What are doing today, can we grab a coffee?
Don’t go there, Chris! thinks Iunia.
– I am packing for Amsterdam, it’s the monthly training, I can’t!
– Can I drive you to the airport? Please, I need to see you!
– You need?! Chris, how can I put this mildly?! I don’t want to get involved, I appreciate what we have.
– Right! What do we have? Chris’s tone changes into something that feels like grudge.
– Ok, come to pick me up at 2 and hopefully we’ll solve this dilemma of yours.
– It’s not a dilemma, it’s just you being stubborn!
– Fine, stop the psychological whatnot, it doesn’t become you! I said I am willing to talk.
– Ok, I’ll be there!
Iunia throws the phone on the couch in a dramatic gesture, but clearly, she didn’t mean to damage it. Her phone is her everything: weapon of choice, shelter, book, and defense against countless hours of boredom.
She calls Mermaid as an attempt to find comfort somewhere. She knows that on the group there is always support, but she wants to linger some more in melancholy.
– Hey, hun! Iunia greets. Can you talk?
– Sure, I always have time for you! Mermaid’s voice is already comforting, unaltered by a judgment of any kind. Are you OK?
– I don’t know, that’s why I am calling. Do you ever feel sorry for getting involved in all that „married with kids” stuff?
– When I look at my boys I know it was all worth it. Why? Did you get the time is ticking alarm?
– God, I hope not! But yesterday I was affected by this man and I am scared about feeling anything. I thought my life is simple and now I don’t know for sure. What if I want all that? What if I wanted for someone to wait for me at home, someone other than a cat?!
– Please, be serious! You don’t want that, you’ll never respect a man that waits around! Maybe it’s just the fact that you cannot play with his mind… I know you.
– Yeah, maybe! I mean: it’s like that movie with Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga: how can I figure the difference between love and infatuation?! I’ll think about it on the plane and get back to a conclusion. If the conclusion is against my beliefs, don’t let me acknowledge it!
– I won’t! Iunia feels her friendly smile and hangs up feeling better.
In a few hours, Chris picks her up.
– Hi, he says with apologetic eyes. I brought you a „kiss and make-up” coffee. Please accept it. I went by the French patisserie and got that lemon tart you like.
Iunia kisses him to reassure everything is fine between them.
– Thanks! I appreciate! And I appreciate everything you do, although I am not showing it.
She’s a terrible liar, but he is too much into her that he doesn’t even notice.
– Please let me take care of you! Chris asks and he seems very sincere.
– You know I take care of myself and don’t carry this further!
– It’s about money? I earn enough…
– No, it’s not about money, it’s about you clinging on me like you do. Sorry, that came out wrong!
– No, you are right, I should treat you like shit and this would make me a real man! I should let you wait for my calls and then given proper respect! I’d rather be myself in this case, whatever this says about me.
– I always encouraged you to be yourself, it’s what I love about you. Everything you invest in me it’s flattering, trust me. Are you proposing something or are we as good as we are?
– We are good, but a man can hope!
He gives her a glance and gets back to his driving. Iunia has the commercial smile on, she fooled him once again. She can admit she needs him, but not out loud. She respects his persistence and the fact that he’s always there, he’s a great lover, but she always felt he needn’t have to be more.
Later that night, she’s checked into the hotel and now is watching her favorite show – Shameless, as a poor attempt to distract her from thinking of Ben. The lives of the show’s characters seem really fucked up and this draws her to watch. The familiar fb messenger rings and she quickly checks it: it’s him alright!
Ben: Hey, baby!
Iunia: don’t call me baby!
Ben: If I call you by name, will you come?
Ben: I want to make you come! :))
Iunia: Charming as ever!
Ben: You called me, I heard! Seriously, can I come over?
Iunia: Maybe it’s the wilderness calling… and I am not home
Ben: and you are…
Iunia: At a training in Amsterdam, I will get back in two days.
Ben: Fancy some sexting?
Iunia: No, but I’ll let you sing me a lullaby 🙂
Ben: Sleep tight! Sweet dreams!
NO MATTER WHAT I DO…
All I think about is you…
Iunia knows she can’t sing but is happy to pack her bags, so the singing part doesn’t bother her as much. Someone once told her she sounds awful and she can’t stand being imperfect, so she gave up singing a long time ago. Stupid, in my opinion, we should be free to act as we feel at least when we are alone! She is in a hurry to leave, although her flight is scheduled for noon. She was stuck in the airport, but the least she can do is treat herself with waffles for breakfast. The training was not so bad, Iunia already knows the colleagues and the formal dinner is always fun. If it hadn’t been for all the wine drinking she would’ve thought they are aliens or something. But the wine helped them loosen and eventually get rid of the ties and interact as normal people. They were always curious about life in Romania and crazy stories about life in communism. She was amazed at how the cultural barriers seemed to melt after leaving the formal environment…
The flight is on time and a certain excitement fills her whole body as the landing approaches. She never had that disappointment or sadness after getting back home. Romania is home and all the people she loves are home. While waiting to pick her bag, she takes a quick look at the duty-free offer, and not surprisingly chooses 2 boxes of Godiva chocolates. As the doors open she spots something disturbing: Chris with a bouquet in his hand and Ben in a casual outfit, no flowers of course. Iunia feels as wanting to exit on a backdoor although she knows well there isn’t such exit. Eager, impulsive Chris jumps over the separation fencing and picks her up! Iunia could not prevent this from happening and sends Ben a sorry smile obviously embarrassed by the whole situation. Ben stands still, one hand into the jeans pocket and stares shamelessly. He doesn’t even blink when Chris gives her the flowers and picks her bag, nor when he kisses her ostensive and drags her towards the parking spaces.
– Hei, what’s wrong? I thought you will be happy to see me.
– I am, Chris! I really am! I think there was something wrong with the food I ate on the plane…
– Who the hell eats that food?! Chris feels like scolding her, but when he sees her yellowish complexion he softens his words: You sometimes scare me with these cravings. Do you feel like eating a proper meal?
– Yeah, sure! What do you have in mind? Iunia really feels sick to her stomach and the onboard lunch is not the only one to blame. Just another Dilemma, she didn’t know Ben will be waiting, so it’s not her fault.
No matter what I do
All I think about is you
Even when I’m with my boo
Boy, you know I’m crazy over you
Chris is a little puzzled:
– What are you humming?
– I woke up with this song in my mind, you know how that is. I feel like eating pasta and something lemony! Iunia has adapted quickly to the new situation and prefers not to linger over the airport incident. She will sort it out later, she deserves a little pampering and Ben wasn’t the man for that.
– Italian it is, Principessa! Chris is happy to please her.
Later that evening they finally arrive at Iunia’s place and Chris knows he won’t get invited up.
– Please, let me sleep tonight, I hate sleeping at the hotel! Besides, I feel bad when I exploit you like this! She places one tiny pale hand on his cheek and looks into his eyes with deep gratitude. She’s a bitch sometimes and he is like a faithful companion. Now, for the first time in the last weeks, she lets her affection show and Chris receives the good night kiss comforted.
Iunia’s finally home and the first thing she does is turn on all the lights. She draws the dirty clothes and puts them in the washing machine, then with feet on the coffee table checks facebook. There is a single message from Ben and it says Wtf?!. She wants to discuss this with the girls, but first, a warm bath is in order. Unfortunately, she is not so lucky to enjoy the bath, the interphone is constantly ringing. She gets to it and answers rather edgy: Who is it? A familiar, yet annoying voice answers: Honey, I am home!. Fucking Benji!
She has time to put some sweatpants on and a sleeping t-shirt.
– What the fuck, Ben! she greets him.
– I thought that was my line! You didn’t answer, by the way!
– What are you doing here, I really didn’t call you this time. I didn’t even have the chance to have a proper bath.
– Wow, it’s hot in here, Ben passes by her and lets himself in while removing his jacket and shoes. He is already set comfy on the couch when Iunia finally has passed the initial shock. She stares at him waiting for some kind of explanation for this familiar behavior.
– Honey, get a towel, your hair is wet. I love this sexy look, but I don’t want you to get ill because of me! he confronts her with a look that means I am here to stay! I waited for the little fucker to leave and got a little bored.
– Please don’t talk like that about Chris, you don’t know him. He is a way better man than you!
– Really? What gave him away: the roses that are still on the kitchen counter?
– I didn’t have time to put them in a vase! Iunia is almost shouting. Why did you come?
– I came because I wanted to see you, I am not a stalker. I don’t care about this guy, I feel sorry for him. I am not going to fight him for you! I want to stay the night, that’s all!
– A lot of wants there, you are kind of demanding… do I get an opinion?
– Yes, you get to come beside me on your couch after you put the fucker’s flowers in water. Nothing shows on his face, no want, no need.
Iunia is not impressed and clearly, the lack of any emotions in his words is not very enticing. No, she doesn’t want this!
– I am sorry if I gave you the wrong impression. I really don’t feel attracted by the perspective of you staying over. I think you misjudged me. She is serious and feels a little humiliated for some reason. You don’t get to come here and make fun of my life, you were not invited!
Ben drops the acting and comes near her: I don’t want to sleep with you, not in the state you are right now. I want to hold you and maybe get a glimpse of the real person hiding behind all the characters you impersonate. He gently caresses her face and with pleading eyes places the most chaste kiss on her lips.
– You kissed the wrong boo-boo! Iunia notices with a girlish smile.
– All in good time, sweet Iunia! and the moment of intimacy passed. Do you have anything to eat in this feminist nest of yours?
– Chocolates and tea!
– That will do!
THE BUBBLE BURST
Iunia slept the best sleep in a very long time. She opens her eyes and finds Ben wrapped around her sound asleep. She pulls herself from his arms gently and goes to the bathroom. The reflection shows what she already knows, she looks rested and a pinkish blush highlights her cheeks. It’s still early and outside is dark. Iunia makes a small espresso for her and prepares something for a frugal breakfast: toast, butter, and jam. Her first impulse is to open the laptop to see what she missed on facebook and on the group chat, but something stops her. She just realized that it’s been like forever since she just stopped from any stimulants and think. Think for herself, no judgments, no presumptions, a good old-fashioned introspection. Why did she let Ben stay? Where were things going with Chris? The job is everything she wanted, she dreamt of? The job met a few of the minimum requirements of a job: it allowed her to improvise often and reformulate the same information, she could travel and she earned enough. She was always happy to come home and find a familiar universe, couldn’t really complain there was nobody waiting. But everything seems wrong with the picture of her life. The thought of a baby warmed her heart, but it was a big responsibility. Plus, she was approaching 40 and never involved in a serious relationship, no man ever stayed enough to think about making it official. There weren’t many, true, but those that stayed longer never warmed up to the idea of spending a lifetime near her. Iunia wanted to insist on this thought, but it was too disturbing, she started biting her lips in an effort to stop herself from crying. And there was Chris, almost 30 years old, adventurous and kind. She could always predict his next move and this comforted her a lot. It was never a question of who earned more, in spite of what he thought. It was a matter of being taken over, shaken to knock some sense into her head, loved beyond reason. Chris wasn’t in touch with anything, he barely scratched the surface. He never saw her for real! But who wants to be seen, I mean really seen?! Who would want to see and then comfort her?! Who can stand by her side when she felt like running away when she felt she isn’t worthy to be loved and cared for? Yes, she was a strong determined woman, always ready to deliver a funny quote or a movie quote, but never thought she deserved a love so consuming… she couldn’t find a term to compare it with (no wonder, ‘cause she never felt such love). The lyrics from her favorite band came into her mind:
I only call you when it’s half past five
The only time that I’ll be by your side
I only love it when you touch me, not feel me
When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me…
She took a deep breath… and turned her thoughts to Ben. Ben who really saw her, saw her speech inconsistency, probably saw fear and wasn’t scared. Saw a tormented woman, a woman that was never worshiped, nor loved or fucked properly. And he was still here, he even chose to stay against her will. This felt like her cue, she shrugged her shoulders in a poor attempt to become smaller and burst into tears. Her sobbing was so unexpected that it woke up Ben who found her cuddled in a fetal position.
– Baby, what’s wrong? Are you upset I didn’t hit on you last night? He tries the funny approach. I was really tired, I am sorry!
– Don’t call me baby! Please go, I don’t want you to see me like this, she says in between sobs. Give me some paper hankies, please, and go!
– I don’t want to go, I am sure it’s PMS! The man is unbearable, this is not funny!
– No, it’s not! It’s just you fucking up my life, I was fine until now… I could handle my emotions. What do you want from me?
– Why would I want anything? Can we just be here, at the moment and not wonder? Can you please try not to control it? You can’t be constantly putting yourself through this!
– Through what? What are you talking about? Iunia’s voice grows hysteric.
– You don’t have to think about it now. Relax for a minute, and carefully turns her on her back. I saw this in a movie: Hugging provides manual stimulation of the parasympathetic system. I am not gonna hug you, I will lay on top of you. You seem to need it badly and I hope it will calm you down.
Iunia looks at him perplexed and lets her arms on the side of her body. She is almost certain this will prevent her from breathing well, but she lets him do it.
I KNOW YOU, BABY
The workday seems a lot longer after the disturbing morning Iunia had with Ben. Strangely enough, his calming technique worked and after calming down they had a very pleasant breakfast. Iunia tries really hard to concentrate on her presentation and on the short break – while her students are concentrated on solving a case – she checks her phone.
Iunia: Girls, I am bored! Anyone?
Mizzy: Fuck, me too! It’s one of those days
Mermaid: I am free tonight, can we do something, anything?
Galadriel: Pinky and I can reach Băneasa at half past six.
Pinky: Only 4 hours left, not cool :(((
Kitty: Can anyone shoot me like right now? I need a chocolate i.v. or 15 espressos!
B.: C’mon Kitty! I promise to buy chocolate, we haven’t met for like ages…
TLC: How long do you plan to stay? I have a meeting in Aviației at 17.
Iunia: Don’t worry, I have a lot to share… we’ll stay as long as needed! 😉
Mizzy: I hope it’s something interesting, clearly your love life needs some spice! 😛
Iunia: I will pretend I didn’t see that! You are jealous! 😛
TLC: Uhhh, what do we have here? Iunia, please don’t take it personally or please share if it’s juicy
Iunia: Nothing juicy… at least not in the line you are thinking of…
Mizzy, what were your expectations?
Mizzy: I hope you meet someone who can fuck you properly… and don’t even get me started with Chris. If you do get me started… he is not the man for the job, he respects you too much, this is not normal! :)))
Iunia: B., feminists where you at?
B.: I apologize, but I have to agree. That Chris character is too sweet to be real.
Iunia: See you later, I have to go!
Iunia starts checking their answers and they discuss every solution. A smile lingers on the corner of her lips, the girls will be in for a surprise. As she waits for the elevator, she takes a look at the grey sky and puts her headphones on. Her favorite moment of the day, alone with her playlist. As the elevator doors open, in the mirror, she sees a familiar reflection: Fucking Benji trying hard not to make fun of her!
– Hello, cherie! We meet again!
– Fuck off! You are a lousy Jim Carrey impersonator, says Iunia and draws one headphone off.
They step into the elevator and Iunia tries to pause the music, though not quick enough.
– Let’s see what do we have here! and listens to the track for some time. What the fuck is that?! Something really mushy, please explain!
– I don’t need to explain anything, as usual, you mock everything I hold dear. FYI it’s the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack!
– Oh, I see! So it’s allowed to have poor taste in music if it’s 50 Shades! It wasn’t enough you have poor taste in authors! He laughs and adds in a very serious tone while touching his lower lip with his index: What shall I do with you, Miss Steele?
Iunia blushes and feels like slapping him: where was the gentleman from this morning, the man who comforted her in one of the most embarrassing moments of her life?!
– Ass hole!
– C’mon, I’ll take you home for a chance to mend your ego!
– I am taking a taxi, don’t worry. I have to meet my friends at the mall.
– I’ll take you to the mall then! But promise to Love me like you do, lo-lo-love me like you do!
In the parking lot, Iunia decides to end this right now, she can’t stand being humiliated by these reactions. She is looking down and playing with the wooden ring.
– Look, Ben, I can’t do this! You make me feel out of place, I am not used to this… maybe you should avoid me… that came out wrong. Not avoid, but maybe stop seeing me! I am flattered, I really am that you are interested in me.
– Really, you are flattered?! Why the fuck can’t you look me in the eyes when telling me this bullshit? Is it about this morning?
Iunia looks at him and can’t find an answer, any answer, so she just looks at him. She remembers a time when she’d rather get a bad grade than improvising and make a fool of herself. Yes, she is not prepared for this lesson either but tries a shift of focus.
– What about this morning? I am not used to losing control, and moreover, I am not used to having witnesses when I lose control. So yes, I am feeling a little exposed since I don’t really know why. You make me feel like I’m immature or something… and maybe I am. I am not ready to admit all that, I am used to hiding the flaws, the skeletons.
– Can I just say something without you reading anything into it?
– You are going to say it anyway!
– True! I was gonna say that you are pretty stupid for a smart girl and I picked my words carefully. I have bad news for you: I am not letting go! On the contrary!
He pulls her near and kisses her before she has time to acknowledge it. There is nothing chaste about this kiss and when he’s done, whispers in her ear: Sweet Iunia, I am here to stay, don’t fight me! He swiftly kisses her earlobe and adds: Go tell your girlfriends about the ass-hole, but please don’t run from me!
Iunia gets out of the car feeling a little lightheaded. She waits for the car to leave and then heads for the mall entrance. The song plays repeatedly in her mind:
“Don’t complicate it,
Don’t let the past dictate
I have been patient, but slowly I’m losing faith
So please, I know you baby
I know you baby”
INSIDE MY LOVE
Iunia waits a little to catch her breath and then heads to Starbucks where seven of the best girlfriends ever cheer her arrival.
– Baby, baby! Babydoll in the house!
– Girls, aww… I’ve missed you all so much! followed by a lot of XOXO.
– Who drove you here? Mizzy straight as ever.
– Yeah, Baby, let’s discuss that! says B.
– Did you order anything for me? Iunia tries to buy some time.
– Yesss, c’mon do tell! I had such a boring week, I need to know someone is having sex, Kitty begs.
– Fine! This was Ben, aka Benji the ass-hole. I think it has been only a week since he’s fucking up my life. I thought he didn’t even fancy me, he’s just so annoying…
– Uhhh, Baby has a crush… OMG, I had to see it to believe it!
– TLC, you are not helping… in fact, none of you are helping… because you know, it kind of feels right and then he mocks me and he stayed the night…
– So you slept with him! exclaims Kitty. What’s his full name, I will search for him right now?
– Nevermind… we just slept and it felt well, he didn’t try anything…
– What a waste of a perfectly good erection, Mizzy says disappointedly. We should not trust you with a man!
– Don’t say that! Anyway, he kissed me in the car and this morning I had like a crazy fit or something and then he held me…
When Iunia gets to this point, her eyes are already flooded and she starts crying helplessly. The girls gather around her comforting her in any way they can. The Starbucks barista comes closer and tries a gesture that might mean they are disturbing the other customers. He gets a very clear warning to stay away from Mizzy:
– Hey, don’t even think about it! This is my friend and she needs us right now. Bring us 7 chocolate cakes and a carrot cake for her. Thank you!
– I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me, I am like a fucking mounting spring!
– Hey, hey, easy with the swearing, please!
– B., please! This is a time for cursing if you ask me!
– Mizzy, I am not asking, I am just saying… this is a public place!
– True! adds Kitty. Can we get wasted? It’s Thursday and Shoteria opens in one hour!
– Downtown, Baby! The remedy of shattered love stories, concludes Mermaid.
They head for the Old Center to their favorite bar.
Later that night, Iunia gets home partially drunk. She opens her laptop ’cause the phone battery quit after the 20th selfie. She hopes she wasn’t tagged by now by one of the girls. They share more than two hundred friends and this will look very bad on her profile. She notices that no harm was done, and the messenger window surprises her. It’s Ben.
Ben: Where were you?! I called ten times!
Iunia: My battery died. Why?
Ben: You had me worried!
Iunia: I went downtown, I mean I had Downtown with the girls! :)))
Ben: What is that?
Iunia: Only the best shot at Shoteria in the Old Center… you are too old to know these things, no offense
Ben: Non-taken, you do realize you are not among the hip anymore! Are you drunk?
Iunia: Barely! And who even says hip?!
Ben: Go to sleep, sweet Iunia!
Iunia: I will in a minute! You can sleep on this, I felt the need to prove I have other staff in the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pf0r57cK2Zo
“Two people, just meeting, barely touching each other
Two spirits, greeting, tryna carry each further
You are one, and I am another”
Ben: I know the movie Quantum Love and that isn’t us if it crossed your mind! 😛 We don’t have eternity, we have right now. I prefer that for us!
Iunia: You don’t know everything! Good night!
I’M NOT IN LOVE
“Some love stories are simply not meant to be!” – thinks Iunia. But is it love or is it just solely the feeling of craving love. She just woke up and remembers the brief conversation she had with Ben. Truth be told she really wishes that he meant all he said and the sweet words he whispered when trying to calm her down. And the kiss… the kiss was close to perfection, made her remember her high-school sweetheart. She has to hold a class at noon, but the airline HQ is close to home, she can take a walk.
All dressed up she waits for the elevator.
– Hey, Iunia! the voice startles her. It’s that bitch, head of HR at the low cost she’s holding classes for.
– Hi, Georgie! How are you? Iunia tries the formal approach.
– Nothing much, it’s Friday, just waiting for the weekend. Hey, I saw you with Ben yesterday!
– Really?! (Of course you did, crazy bitch!) Yes, we met at some boring party at the Mall.
– You know he is married, right?! Cause he fooled women before, he’s not wearing the wedding ring! A large smile invades her ugly face. Anyway, it was nice to see you!
– Yes, me too! Thanks for the heads-up! I mean… men… pfff!
Iunia feels like punching something: The ass-hole! A classic fool! She hopes that Georgia didn’t catch any of this. She pulls out her phone and writes: I was right not to trust you… then deletes it… you really are an ass-hole… deletes again and thinks. Did he promise anything? Did she ask about marriage? She just assumed, so… he simply omitted. She would’ve cared if he told the truth? She never thought about being approached by married men, simply because things never got that far. She might have missed the signs, but also she knew herself to be nearly untamed. Always choosing carefully among the men that didn’t make her feel cornered. Until Ben! Ben that shared the same bed and allowed her to cuddle.
Iunia is angry with herself! She puts the phone back and decides to deal with him when he will contact her.
And she waits the entire day for a sign. At some point in the evening Mizzy calls:
– Why do you ignore us? I hope you dragged a man home, otherwise, I will punish you.
– I was really hoping to have fucking Benji here, but guess what… he’s married!
After settling down her laugh Mizzy says:
– Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Don’t tell me you are sad! Please don’t! What have I told you, over and over again?
– Men cheat!
– Exactly, no exceptions! Men are pigs, so I don’t care if he’s a cheater. I am not cheating on anyone, their conscience is at risk, presuming they have one. I hope you didn’t cry, sweetie! I hate it when you cry, it’s disturbing!
– No, I am just upset.
– Good! So you will come with us this weekend and be pampered. Tomorrow we have coffee and catch the first show of the corniest movie.
– Sounds good! Thanks… you know for… everything! Good night!
Iunia feels relieved nothing more happened between them. But the kiss… the kiss was great! A cheating liar should not kiss like that!
A week later she is at Shoteria with the girls. Ben didn’t message her, as if someone warned him. Iunia opened the chat window for a hundred times, he wasn’t even active, no posts, no nothing. The man seemed to have disappeared! Fuck him and his smooth lines! Iunia has the fourth shot and squeezes her eyes after it. Three is her limit. She texts Chris: Pick me up from Shoteria, please! I drank too much! His reply is almost instant: I am close, I’ll be there in ten!
Thank God for Chris! suddenly Iunia feels affection for the man that rarely asks something in return. She kisses the girls and goes outside to sober up a little. She looks up and down the street for familiar faces and spots a group of middle-aged men with younger girls. She feels sorry for the easy money the girls chose. As they come closer she notices there are four men and three girls and Ben is among them. She watches him while they pass in front of her, and Ben is looking at her. Chris is here and interrupts the strange moment, excited by Iunia’s call. She smiles and they leave holding hands. It’s better this way!
“I’m not in love
So don’t forget it
It’s just a silly phase I’m going through
… I’m not in love, no no”
MY FUNNY VALENTINE
Iunia wakes up and reaches for her phone. It’s a bad habit, she knows it. It’s the 13th of February and the last two weeks almost made her believe she can be the kind that celebrates Valentine’s Day. She can’t deny she had a very good time with Chris lately. All she felt for Ben was numbed, although she kept hoping for a sign. After seeing him that night she thought he’d be all over the messenger with apologies, but nothing happened and she was too proud to write first. That was that I will survive! Unfortunately, Chris had to leave the country for a project and she had to spend Valentine alone. Iunia was a 35-year-old woman who never gave a damn about imported holidays, but this year was different. She wanted to be pampered and hated needing anything that depended on someone. Opening facebook was a bad idea, ‘cause there it was: corny holiday and corny posts! Let’s check on the girls!
Happy fucking Valentine! ❤
I love you, girls!
Mizzy: Happy fuckin’ whatever! I celebrate myself and the fabulous woman I became!
Mermaid: I have a date tonight, guys! Feeling hopeful!
Iunia: C’mon! I am the only one without a date? !
Mizzy: Don’t go there! The only reason I am not teasing you it’s because you are mourning Ben!
Iunia: He’s not dead, don’t be morbid!
Mizzy: Shhh shhh! Don’t deny that you think of him!
Iunia: Point made!
Kitty: There is nothing that can’t be healed with chocolate and shots! Yeeey, I found a date!
Mizzy: Even Tinder has a poor offer these days. Romanian women still hope to find true love on the wrong app!
Iunia: Where are the others? Girls, wake up!
Mizzy: Leave out TLC and Galadriel, they are hooked up! I hope for all of us they are having Saturday morning sex!
B.: Ok! I’m up!
Mizzy: Oh, great! Can you make that famous soup of yours? Something to mend a hangover at two o’clock after Shoteria?
B.: No, no soup for you! 🙂 I don’t want to cook on Valentine’s!
Mizzy: Maybe I’ll get lucky somewhere else! Don’t mind me, I am waiting for my latest crush to wake up! The poor boy doesn’t stand a chance :)))
Iunia: I am having a shower and coffee later! Let’s see how depressed I get by going downtown.
The walk through the Old Center is clearly depressing for anyone on a normal day. It’s not that cold, but the wind pushes all the lovers to more cozy places. Iunia enjoys her coffee and then heads for a restaurant for early dinner. It’s still hours away until the bars will become crowded, she doesn’t feel like hangin’ alone. The girls are chatting about their day, but no one is single tonight. Fuck this, I am going to a movie! Iunia thinks.
At Cinema City she looks longer than usual at the shows as if nothing tempts her. She can’t even remember a day when she went to the movies alone. OMG, I will become a sad old lady!
– One ticket for Deadpool tonight, please!
– The next show, yes?
Iunia nods and takes a deep breath!
– Is this ok?
– No, not in the middle, row H, 17 is good!
– Ok, enjoy!
I am sure I won’t, but who the fuck cares!
She walks away without a shred of enthusiasm and misses the conversation of the next customer who asks for a seat next to her. As the lights fade she notices that a taller figure is climbing the stairs and stops next to her. She reluctantly moves her feet to let him through, but instead, she hears: Please don’t make a scene! Move your purse, I want to prevent you from running.
Iunia hates making a scene, so she just does as she is told.
– I missed you! I really wanted to see you, that’s why I came to this mall. Don’t say anything now, just… don’t hate me, please!
His warm breath in her ear makes her brain stop working. She opens her mouth a few times and closes it back.
He picks her hand and places a heart-shaped chocolate in her palm. Ben whispers again: Be my funny Valentine tonight!
WHERE YOU BELONG
Lucky for Iunia, the movie turns out to be a very funny one. She has eaten the chocolate and Ben is holding her hand for a while now. She is radiant and the darkness of the cinema hall is hiding it. Also feels anger, she might need some explanations, but for now tries to enjoy this complicity. At some point during the movie, he starts kissing her neck and then waits for her to respond. He doesn’t wait long because Iunia is more than willing to respond to the kiss. They kiss until the lights turn back on in the cinema.
– Can I take you to dinner?
– Only if you promise to explain, I am not exactly reassured. And I don’t want to think about this and see myself as the other woman, I want to willingly choose to be that woman. Ok?
Ben turned so soft and he has that contented look on his face, the grateful look some men have immediately after sex.
– Sure, anything it takes! None of his smart-ass jokes, nothing.
– I don’t think you’ll ever find a reservation tonight.
– Don’t worry, I booked something weeks ago hoping… you know… before things got ugly.
They reach a fancy restaurant in the Old Center and now they serve coffee and talk. Iunia was disturbingly calm throughout dinner. She now feels as dating is not among her skills, thinking about having parsley in her teeth.
– Ok, I am ready now! She exclaims all of a sudden.
– Are you sure?! Let’s go home then!
– Don’t be an ass! I need to talk! Iunia rolls her eyes exasperated.
– And I need to slip into something more comfortable… you. Don’t be a prude!
– But I am a prude, always have been. Tell me about your wife?
– There is nothing to tell, I have a wife in Tel-Aviv and two kids, teenagers. I spent most of the past ten years working in Romania. There is nothing left between us, we never got along, but I can’t and won’t get a divorce. This is all you need to know.
– Really? All I need to know?
– Oh, cmon, stop being a drama queen! What are you like… 13? We are grown-ups, you said it yourself!
– So what is this: an open relationship? Iunia feels this won’t do it for her.
– If you need to label it, yes! Ben’s voice rose a bit. This is my fucking life, I didn’t choose who to marry and don’t tell me these cultural differences are strange to you. You saw me with those men and the girls. This is the price I pay for a little peace of mind. The girls do what they do for a better, easier life and men are pleased with this arrangement. And they let me keep appearances!
– You said your wife is ok!
– No, I never said that! She won’t let me be free until the kids reach 18. She never forgave me for leaving her there to respect the customs and I am here enjoying myself. Ben’s voice grows weary and he looks much older.
– Are you?
– Am I what?
– Enjoying yourself!
– I did for a while… until I met you.
Iunia seems reluctant whether to take him seriously.
– Cut the bullshit! I was serious!
-I know! You are always serious and nostalgic and I really need you. I need you for what I said earlier and hope you appreciate my honesty.
– How do I know… can you offer me something more… something tangible? Iunia needs him too, but hopes for a guarantee.
– Baby, it will be tangible, you can be sure of it!
– You’re a dick, you know? Iunia discloses her more sincere smile gazing into his eyes.
– How did you know I was talking about my dick? Baby, you see right through me! Let’s go home until my energy is not wasted on talking.
In the car Iunia is anxious and a little tensed about the outcome of the night. She asks for a sign that everything will be alright. She turns on the radio and there it is:
“Can’t you see that I want you? (Put your feelings behind you)
I don’t have to remind you, oh ooh
Where you belong, where you belong, where you belong
Where you belong, where you belong, where you belong… ”
Enough, enough for now!
TURN ME ON
As they get into the apartment, Ben carefully closes the door and pins Iunia to the wall. She already reached for the light switch, but he caught her hand gently just in time. The light from the street gives them both a nice pinkish shade while they stare into each other’s eyes. He takes off this jacket and leaves it on the floor. With his palms, he enfolds her cheeks and continues to stare.
– You seem scared, baby! What’s wrong?
– Nothing! I am a little scared, just tryin’ to accommodate all these feelings.
– I was really anxious about this, but I can wait. I hope you know me now… he places a soft kiss on her forehead.
– Oh, c’mon now! What’s with the fatherly kiss? I need to adjust to the situation; you know I’ve been with just one person for a while, on my own terms…
– Don’t mention the little fucker, I might lose my enthusiasm! God, I had to ask!
– How can you be such a beast sometimes and then… so… so
– So? Say it, for fuck’s sake!
– Say you want me just as much! Stop being a hard ass, it won’t kill you!
Iunia pauses and reflects. She is still trapped between his arms and the wall.
– Ok, I do, I want you! I hate needing anyone, but I need to talk to you, I need your condescending smirk. I need the way you seem to take mental pictures of my lips, my eyes. I need the feeling of no escape, like now!
– So what’s stopping you? What’s stopping us?
– Nothing! Iunia grabs his neck and kisses him.
Morning finds her cuddled in his arms as if in a cocoon.
The phone starts pouring all the notifications that were muted until 8. With eyes almost closed Iunia picks her phone. She sees her reflection in the black screen and smiles satisfied.
Iunia: Good morning!
Mizzy: I am the door!
Iunia: No way! Really?
Mizzy: No, I was this close to leaving home! What the fuck happened?
Pinky: Yeah, Baby, spill it all!
Iunia: Pinky, not so fast! And what’s up with that language? 🙂
Mermaid: OMG! Baby got a late Valentine surprise! Yeah, spill it or we’ll come over for sure :)))
Iunia: I caught Cupid and dragged him home for a lesson on manners! That little bastard keeps poking people! ❤
Kitty: Yes, she got laid!
Iunia: What’s with all of you… ok, ok… Ben is still here pretending to sleep. We met at the movies, he said he lingered there hoping to see me
Mizzy: Men are full of shit, but you know what: God bless his soul if you’re not depressed anymore!
Iunia: You sound like a godmother! :)))
Mizzy: Please, you make it sound old! I am the love fairy!
B.: Can we call you Fairy godmother?
Galadriel: Yeah, then will have two magic creatures in the group!
Mizzy: Call me Fairy like the detergent, sounds like magic as dirty dishes!
Kitty: I call for a vote, we cannot change nicknames as we please! I want to be called Kitty cat, then!
Fairy: It’s settled, no democracy! But I have a new proposal: let’s take turns calling TLC, it will be fun
Iunia: Meeting at noon, at Starbucks?
Ben watches her amused and then takes the phone and puts it on the nightstand.
– Come here, baby!
– Nothing, just come here!
-What time do you have to leave? She’s all pouting and girlish.
Bend draws her beneath him and clears her face from all the messy hair.
– Who said I have to go? I have the stamina of a 15-year-old!
– Please, old man! I am gettin’ up to fix you a protein shake… strangely Iunia feels very comfortable with him.
– I seriously doubt you have any food in this house. Let’s just stay here. You simply cannot stay still, I am tired from all the resistance you put up last night!
– Not true! I gave in at some point! She laughs.
– Yeah, you gave in when you fell asleep. You look beautiful right now, so I must have done something right.
At this point, Ben looks at her as if taking snapshots of lips and eyes like she said. She lets him do it, even time stands still for a few seconds and she adds:
– Yes, you did! You turned me on!
“Like a lightbulb, in a dark room
I’m just sittin’ here waiting for you
To come on home and turn me on.”
ALONE IN THE CROWD
It’s been only a few days since Iunia let Ben in her bed for real. Chris’s return did not make any difference because Iunia said nothing and Chris didn’t pick any signals. Truth be told they only spoke once, their arrangement of friends with benefits worked very well. He brought her a stupid Valentine souvenir and that was it. Thursday night was the weekly gathering of her friends. It was supposed to be weekly but became monthly, it was really hard to have eight schedules meet. Iunia gets first to Mica Elveție and decides to wait in the nearby churchyard for a while. She seems to be the only one brave enough to sit outside. It is one of those days of dry cold, no sign of spring yet. She just sits on a bench until her hands feel rigid, she never found a real use of gloves. Ben came over every night since Valentine and she knew tonight he will let her sleep alone. All day she thought about canceling girls’ night out and yet here she was. If only she got a few minutes with one of them, probably Kitty will judge this in the most objective way. In her opinion, all that started as sex would take a lot of trials to become anything else. Men had to prove their skills before anything else.
– Hey, hon! What are you doing here? Mermaid interrupts her reflection.
– Hey! You know, thinking.
– A penny for your thoughts? Mermaid smiles warmly.
– I feel in love and don’t feel like sharing with the group or mocking about it.
– I understand, but you always say that it’s best to share, don’t turn this in a conflict, right?
– Right! My theories turned against me. Light up a cigarette in the meantime. I don’t even know to say this, I know I love him but I feel ridiculous. I love and hate him at the same time and wish to rest from all the turmoil inside. I need to pause and digest all these, but I don’t want a break from him. Am I making sense?
– Yap, totally. It’s love, alright. Let’s go!
They join the others and Iunia doesn’t have time to think. Fairy is in a great disposition and Iunia feels bad for wanting to cancel. They are enjoying dessert when Iunia sees a man staring in the window. Before she has any time to react Ben is in the restaurant, greeting the girls:
– Ladies… I am the infamous Ben! he makes a tacky reverence.
Fairy is of course, the first to speak:
– Yes, we were told about some of your character flaws, but Baby… ahh Iunia seems to indulge you so, I guess… nice to meet you.
– That went well, I presume you are… the spokesman… woman.
TLC gets up and shakes hands with him:
– Nice to meet you! Please make her happy, we really care for her.
– Okkk, so far! he meets everyone. Iunia, I would like a word with you.
He walks her out.
– I have to leave for my country for a while. I wanted to tell you in person.
Iunia pauses for a second and tears build up in her eyes.
– So… go! I will be fine! and adds Asshole!
– Baby, don’t be like that, I told you…
– Yes, you were honest… you are free to go, don’t worry! Bye!
She walks back in and sits in her chair looking really lost.
– He has to go for an indefinite time… I am such a fool.
The phone buzzes and shows a message from Ben.
Look outside, please!
He is in front of the window between the Valentine decorations and mimes for her: I love you! The girls cheer him and the whole restaurant looks at him, but the moment passes and Ben walks away.
The phone rings again:
“And a vision of you standing out in a crowd
Come, come, my lady
You’re my butterfly
I am for real, trust me! I love you!
BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY
Iunia’s reflection on her life leaves her more desperate and alone. She knows the man that told her that he loved her is a liar and a cheater and cannot be relied on. But she still feels like he is the only man left on Earth. It’s really strange how such a bond between two strangers became so strong. She can’t even remember when she dreamt of Chris coming over and cuddling in his arms felt reassuring. Ben was as sincere as he could, and Iunia figured it might have worked, that she wasn’t the one to fall head over heels. It was that awkward moment when adults still get surprised or more like caught with their pants down. Iunia picks the phone and dials the number of her ex-colleague and longtime friend:
– What’s up, Oano?
– Same all, same all, you know.
– Unfortunately, I do! Iunia needed to hear the soft, even voice of her friend, the voice of “takes one to know one”. Wanna have dinner at Don Vitto’s, sharing a pizza? I must tell you right now that the lava cake I won’t share.
– Yeah, I’ll be there. No worries about the lava cake, I always wonder how can you something that sweet.
They meet later on and after ordering and feeling comfortable enough Iunia tells her about the whole Benji business.
– Iunia sweetie, you know what I have discovered?! Men cannot hold on to a single word they say. For instance: my casual fuck never calls me, we only arrange meetings on yahoo mess. Can you even imagine that? Who the hell uses yahoo anymore? He’s more than emotionally challenged, he is handicapped emotionally.
– True, I know what you are saying, but we cannot live without men! I mean I don’t… I don’t…
– You know what else I have noticed? You and I are already set against the general optimistic trend. I have heard such bullshit that I am bringing down the energies… I mean, OMG! it’s a load of crap! What energies? Have we become that kind of people that are into yoga, what the fuck are we talking about… Oana is lost in her dissertation and when she stops, Iunia doesn’t even feel like sharing anymore.
– When did we become old and pragmatic?!
– I am so sorry, Iunia, sweetie, I didn’t mean to bring you down. It’s just that sometimes I feel that I have dealt with my disappointment all my life and other than this there was nothing. The moments of sheer happiness were so short I stopped thinking about them. Would you rather I’d lie?
– No, you know I really appreciate when we have time to talk like this. I don’t need the exaltation or the pet on the head. Still, I feel that life it’s complicated and unfair and this coping, the compromise of settling with whatever life give it’s… it’s… I don’t want to be that kind of a woman…
– And which kind is that? Oana smiles at her somehow condescending, but the smile is warm.
– I didn’t mean it like that, it’s just that… if I accept the fact that there are a few eligible men and those men are not that into you… it’s like lying down and dying.
– Don’t make it sound so dramatic ’cause it’s not. It’s not even about compromise because you don’t want to think about the alternative – being single with strong life precepts. I am not saying you should accept whatever comes to you, I am saying we made our choice a long time ago. I did it when I got divorced and you when deciding not to get married. It’s not that I am older and wiser, it’s about choosing myself and getting the best out of the life I have. And I have a lot to enjoy: the company of my friends, a good art history book, good music and always Florence. Let’s go there for a weekend!
– I would, but I can’t! What if he comes back and I am not here? What if he doesn’t even bother to look for me and moves on?
– You do realize that if he does look for you when he knows you’ll be there, maybe he is not in love… Are you sure you want this? He should want you at least as much as you want him. I am not the one to offer such advice, but I don’t want you to suffer.
Iunia looks down at her hands and thinks.
– I don’t care! I just want him here, I don’t even care if he has real feelings for me. I want to be lied to and I want to be pampered at the same time. Feeling something is better than any cold judgment, even if it hurts.
The lava cakes are served and the conversation moves on to more exciting topics.
“And I’m gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket
But I’ve got to get a move on with my life
It’s time to be a big girl now
And big girls don’t cry”
SAY YOU LOVE ME
Iunia keeps checking her phone, hoping to eventually find a message from him. She feels like complaining and acting like a spoiled child, but none of her friends is willing to tolerate her. Maybe is the fact that no one has ever seen her in love and it’s kind of strange. Even Iunia is stressed by her constant need for affection, she always enjoyed her solitude. She kind of wished to force herself into being her old self again. One that enjoyed the company of her girlfriends since tonight they arranged for a pajamas’ party at Pinky’s place. Pinky ordered a nice, totally not light meal for all of them and most likely it will involve a lot of prosecco.
Iunia has to pick up some dessert and lets her imagination run wild while she hums her favorite song from Jessie Ware:
“Say you love me to my face
I need it more than your embrace…
‘Cause I don’t wanna fall in love
If you don’t wanna try…”
Why the fuck does it have to be so complicated?! It’s like having a wild beast in your arms and struggling hard to tame it. “I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself.” Fucking poems keep coming to her mind along with all the songs that remind her of him. But that’s it! Starting with this very moment she will fall out of love as quickly as she fell in. The Uber driver stares at her in the mirror, she probably said something out loud. When she arrives at Pinky’s her mind is set. Not seeing him will probably work and by the time he gets back, she will play a lot cooler.
– Hey, girls! I brought the sugar to my honeys!
– Iunia, Iunia! Have a prosecco, sweetie! And tonight we don’t talk about men, I warn you! this is B. playing as host.
– Ok, ok! Where is our maiden of every ceremony? Fairy, come out wherever you are!
– I am here, don’t worry! And I correct B.: We do talk about men, good men, fuckers!
– We talk about the places they went missing or what?
– Pinky, sweetie, I sense a bit of bitterness there? Iunia is making fun of her friend.
– I honestly don’t know how can you sense anything through all the garlic I ate!
– Can we actually extract the vegetarian part from our steak and give it to Galadriel? Iunia mocks the kindest soul of them all.
– Nooo, no need for that! We have fries with… you guessed right, garlic!
Crazy laughter follows this innocent remark. It’s the laughter of women celebrating their femininity and freedom. Later that night, while TLC sings in a soft voice something from the 4 Non Blondes, they become serious and reflect on their lives. When the song ends, Iunia is the first to speak:
– Girls, I know I have been a pain in the ass, lately. I am sorry!
– Baby, don’t think that! We were all there and hope to be in love many times from now on! says Galadriel. Love makes us pretty!
– Actually, we don’t! I hate men and I hate men that stick around longer than needed! Kitty yawns bored.
– I really wanted him to love me, but who the fuck does that?! He said it and left!
– Awww, come here Baby! You need a collective hug to forget the ass-hole! Fairy shows her soft spot for a brief moment, just enough to lift her friend’s spirits.
Iunia had a very pleasant evening with the girls and wakes up somehow in a better mood. She checks Ben’s profile, but there is no recent activity and that feels reassuring. She had to check in spite of all the promises made the night before. She never enjoyed the prosecco but didn’t have the heart to tell the girls. Occasionally she’d have a cocktail or a shot, but just enough to get her tipsy. She is startled by a chat window – and now acknowledges something: a bad habit of Romanians is to presume you are friends with everyone. It’s John, a man she met at a photo shoot for the Company’s calendar. She remembers that making a calendar seemed the dumbest idea at the time. The management reckoned it will be good for business to pass them as Christmas gift for the clients. She has rather fresh memories with this photographer that insisted on getting her contacts for a private session. Seemed inappropriate then as it seems now to write to her. They have chatted before and always appeared too intrusive, even though she cannot exactly say what was wrong. He seemed quite shameless in the obvious manner he hit on her. He even insisted on calling himself John, although he was clearly Romanian.
John: wanna get some coffee later? 🙂
Iunia: I am not sure about my schedule today…
John: Really? Are you playing that card with me?
Iunia: And which card is that? 😛
John: I am playing this game longer than you, trust me… you can say that you simply don’t want to go out with me… it’s fine!
Iunia: Alright, I don’t!
John: Why? if I may ask…
Iunia: you are too straightforward, you make me blush…
John: so? why is that bad? I’d like to tame you a little, teach you some things…
Iunia: OMFG! teach me? like what?
John: see, already scared and I’m miles away from you 😉
Iunia: who said I am scared?!
John: show me that you aren’t, let’s have coffee. Please!
Iunia: Given the fact that you asked me nicely, I will.
John: So? Your call: time and place?
Iunia: Gloria Jean’s in Băneasa mall at 17,00?
John: 17 hundred, it is! Yes, ma’am! Can I have your phone no?
Iunia: not yet, I am that kind of girl!
John: I thought you were a woman, I am not dating girls… 🙂
Iunia: Please! Don’t waste your bullshit lines on me!
John: Clearly the bullshit lines work only once on you… See you, sweetie!
Iunia: Yeah, I guess so…
What the fuck am I thinking?! Iunia is a little puzzled by her ease. Maybe not ease, she wouldn’t want to go in that direction. Oh, well!
The hours seem to crawl today, not that Iunia is very excited about the supposed date. She gets to the mall early and has time to check a few shops. When checking her phone she sees a message from John. She opens it and stops: it’s a photo of her from that day, a photo of a different Iunia, one that catches her frowning and with thumb caught gently between her teeth. She hears the camera sound and looks around for him.
– Please, don’t!
– Why? You weren’t posing and your eyes were light up. Now you look scared.
– Please stop with the analysis! What’s with you men?
– I am not every man, trust me!
– Again a stereotype! Let’s have the coffee and get this over with!
– It’s the mercy date or something?
John came close to her, holding the camera in his hand and tries to show her the picture he took. They are side by side and Iunia already feels uncomfortable. She looks at the camera and discovers he stated the obvious. He whispers in her ear:”You are beautiful, honey!” and the next moment he bites her earlobe.
– What the fuck?
– Oh, don’t play sissy with me! This is what you came for! and without a shred of hesitation, he presses his lips against hers. Iunia abandons and hates to admit (again) that John is right.
“Baby, this is what you came for
Lightning strikes every time she moves
And everybody’s watching her
But she’s looking at you, oh, oh… ”
SCENT OF A MAN
Spring seems hesitant and cold. 1st of March came and passed and no signs of flowers others than the overpriced ones from the gypsy florists. Today was supposed to be a celebration of women everywhere, but Iunia still had to come to work, this time at the airport. It was kind of a surprise for her to receive a lot of flowers from her “students”, but also a confirmation that she still did a good job in training them. From the second floor of the airport, she looks down at the arrivals gate. She reminds the quote learned by heart from watching Love Actually for more than 10 times: “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy…” You are so right Hugh darling, but this is not U.K. and this is undoubtedly Henri Coandă airport.
She sits there for a while and discovers she is not ready to leave. She goes to the coffee shop on the first floor where she can watch people without feeling strange. This is the main reason I chose to do this, she thinks. Everyone associates airports with traveling, but it’s really about the atmosphere, about the people. Looking at them as they search for the flights, sometimes scared, sometimes hopeful. Looking at those that wait, some patiently, others lovingly. She secretly hopes to see someone dear, so this means that unconsciously she chose to stay. What happened with men, good men?! She read all of Deida’s books just to discover that the men he spoke of seemed to be extinct. No, not extinct, she sounded like a spinster. I am not one that judges all men, I love men! Even when they scare me, I still realize I need men. I wonder if they think the same about us… I guess they do! Like that movie when they gave a score for the tits, one for the face… Am I an eight? How the hell can you love someone if it’s not all you ever dreamed of… can you settle for a six? The men I know are a mix that is far from being perfect, but damn, I am not nearly close to perfection. Chris is the sweetheart, but I am afraid that he will bail out in case things get complicated. And I am thinking about the death of a family member or maybe dealing with a disease like cancer. I will probably chase him away, I don’t want to choose him over me or feel like hiding suffering just to keep him happy. I don’t know if that will be the case, that’s why I don’t see myself getting old with him. Chris has the scent of youth, with the complexion of a teenager and firm body. Ben… well, I love him, but he was never the man for me. He carried the scent of sweet wintry perfumes, those that make you dizzy. He had experience, he was smart and never let me feel sorry for myself. He was like the tree you need to hug to get your energy. Like an oaken smell of an aged whiskey. And now, this guy, John. I felt like every chat with him is a battle of the sexes. He sees in me some weakness he can exploit, he has that cocky scent of men that don’t chase after anything. I saw him sweat over a perfect picture, sweat of a passionate man… Look at me, thinking of men on the day dedicated to women!
Iunia decides to get up and leave until someone notices her and starts feeling sorry for the woman waiting for almost an hour for an imaginary passenger. She goes to the bus station planning to reach her friends for dinner at their favorite restaurant. She changes the song that was on repeat for the last hour and then waits for the next bus humming All I think about is… coming over, coming over… Suddenly someone picks her hand and she exclaims full of hope: Ben?
– No, it’s not Ben, whoever the ass may be!
-Hey, John! I am sorry, I thought, I was waiting…
– No, you didn’t, you were hoping… I saw you! Let’s go, I will give you a ride downtown, where to?
-It’s fine, I’ll take the bus… I don’t need to be judged by you!
-What’s with you? I am trying to tell you something, I am trying to let you see…
-See what, you are being insensitive…
-I am myself, I am telling you that you can have everything with me, anything you need I am willing to offer!
They get into the car and John says looking at her:
– You can have everything, but you have to scream my name!
-Why would I scream?
-Iunia, you are smarter than this, figure it out! and then he winks at her.
LET’S GO SLOW
Pinky: Mornin’, sweetie!
Galadriel: hello ❤
Kitty: God, it’s only 9! On a Saturday! Wtf?
Iunia: I totally agree with Kitty! What’s wrong with you?
Fairy: No news from the asshole?
Iunia: No, but I found someone else to obsess over
B.: Ok, you got my attention!
TLC: I’m up, I’m up! :)))
Iunia: Come on, it’s not like that… you know when I changed my profile picture on fb, it’s the guy credited for the photo…
Fairy: john smth?
Iunia: yes, him
Mermaid: so you slept with him?
Iunia: No, not yet, but I am weighing it…
B.: Come on, Baby… you got us interested and now this… 😦
Fairy: Yeah, I brought popcorn for the whole story
Iunia: I am sorry my life is not interesting enough 😛
Galadriel: Take your time, Baby!
TLC: but still… can we stalk him a little? :))
Iunia: Sure, feel free!
Fairy: I don’t like him, sorry!
Iunia: you weren’t supposed to, anyway! I am not even sure I do! He talks funny, I am almost certain he lowers his voice to sound sexier.
Fairy: Whatever works for you, Baby! I decided long ago not to judge your poor taste in men :)))
Iunia: Thanks, I guess! :)) I am going out, we talk later
Iunia lied, she has no place to go but felt like being alone. She quickly decides to call an Uber and go to Buftea, she can find some peace of mind in the garden of Știrbei Palace. As she reaches for the phone, messenger announces a new message. It’s from John! She hasn’t heard from him for the past three weeks, not that she’s been counting. But she actually did but resisted the temptation to explain what happened at the airport. And now she hesitates…
John: I want to talk
Iunia: I will call you
– Hey! I am sorry…
– No, I am sorry and I wanted to explain, but didn’t want you to feel as if I don’t appreciate you or worse, think that I don’t respect you!
– I didn’t feel any of that… just felt jealous. When I am jealous I turn into a real ass. I was trying to decide whether I can fight this other guy over you. Actually, it was more like deciding if you are worth fighting for…
– Fuck you!
– Yes, please! John laughs. Wait! I needed to settle this for myself… you as a woman deserve fighting over!
– Yeah! Flattery won’t get you anywhere! I want to go out! Care to sit next to me in the garden at Știrbei?
– Sure! I’ll pick you up! Share location on WhatsApp?
– Ok! See you!
That went well! Iunia smiles proudly of the courage to ask him out. She hums a long-forgotten song:
I’ll make love to you
Like you want me to
And I’ll hold you tight
Baby all through the night
As much as Iunia appreciates her space and cozy apartment of hers, she felt like inviting John over. She bought some groceries and thought about cooking something, although she hasn’t done this in a while. She can cook, but it’s such a waste of time and resources, that she hardly does this anymore. There was a time when cooking was an important part of her life, a time when she dreamt of becoming mother and wife. Time passed, her job took most of the time she spent thinking and now maybe she is too old for this shit. No, not shit, but inadequacy. Oh, nevermind! John will be here shortly and none of the dishes is ready. She puts the Basmati rice in salted water to soak a little. Then she marinates the chicken in a little olive oil, turmeric, and lemon juice, hesitates in using onion and garlic, but decides for both. It would be the lightest dinner: oven cooked chicken with quince, dried apricots, and saffron (she kept the saffron for special occasions), plain rice and salad. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to cook dessert so she bought some very sweet cakes from the Arabic patisserie. It’s almost eight when the interphone rings. The whole house smells like saffron and onions, but not in an unpleasant way. Iunia hurries to the door, putting on a comfy sweater on the way. She opens the door with a large smile:
– Hi, welcome! but the sight leaves her with the mouth opened in surprise.
– Honey, I am home! Ben smiles at her and wants to come in. If I knew you’d be waiting for me like this, I would’ve come sooner.
– Go fuck yourself! and tries to close the door.
– What’s wrong? I told you I needed to solve some things. What’s with you?
– There is nothing with me that can be any of your business. You didn’t send a message in more than 2 months. What’s wrong with you?!
While they talk, John stopped on the stairs and watches.
– John, I am sorry, please come in! Iunia addresses him. Ben was just leaving, he forgot to announce his visit. Bye, Ben!
– No, I didn’t forget! I told you I loved you, I said I am coming back. You little deceiving bitch, you simply couldn’t hang in there!
– Hey, buddy, I’d be careful with that tone! John feels like chipping in.
– Hey, asshole, I wasn’t talking to you! By the way, she hates wine! Are you fucking him?
– No, but I hope he will! But you have to leave!
– I will go, but this ain’t over, he flashes his hand in a gesture that covers the space between them.
– For me, it was over since you didn’t bother to call. BYE now!
The two men pass each other as if they are two boxers in opposite corners. To her surprise, Iunia feels no regrets whatsoever. She smiles at John as she invites him in.
– So that was Ben! Do you want me to go?
– No, I just need some time to rally. Let me get your jacket.
– These are for you, he says while handing a tulips bouquet.
– They are not my favorite flowers, but I really like them. Thank you!
– I guess it’s true what he said about the wine.
– Yes, she says smiling. But you can have some.
– I drove here, so… did you mean what you said?
– I always mean what I say! Stay the night!
– You suddenly seem more daring… or something more subtle I cannot quite assert.
Iunia invites him to sit and then lays on his knees. She puts one hand on his cheek and looks into his eyes to assure him of her decision. Finally, she kisses him, while his hands wander under her sweater.
– No bra! I like it! What’s for dinner?
DIVE WITH ME
– Are we supposed to smoke the after cigarette now? Iunia smiles and leans toward John, unveiling one leg from the covers.
– You know I don’t smoke, it’s a waste of money! John looks at the ceiling with hands beneath his head.
– I think that smoking makes men sexier!
– Did you find anything sexy at this Ben character?
– Oh! How did we get that far? Iunia is a little puzzled. Are you jealous?
John turns to her in a desperate attempt to seem cool about it. Or maybe he wants to catch the expression on her face.
– I can’t even ask or what?
– No, you can ask, but I need to know where is this going? Are we going exclusive or…
– What if it were exclusive? What do you need from him that I can’t offer? Why do Romanian women seem to think that a foreign man has what she needs?
Iunia fixes her pillow and gets a little comfier. For some strange reason, she feels like covering her breasts.
– Interesting question! Let me ask you this: Do you think it’s a matter of nationality?
– Certainly seems so! Unless it’s a matter of money… no, not in your case! Don’t look at me like that! he smiles and continues: I think that a man from your own country will try to understand his woman in the spirit of sharing the same background. I know that I seem insensitive, but I am a good man, I ask little and generally expect little. I don’t promise more than I can deliver and I am happy with what I get in return. Why would I promise love and marriage if I am not going after that?!
– What made you think that women still expect the love and marriage package? Tinder doesn’t work the same for women? I am amazed that you brought it up as if having careless sex is about roses and violets. I have heard stories about sexual performance checklists and yet you offer me this bullshit story. Imagine that not every woman thinks that the highlight of her life is a wedding. Not to mention you sound like a Neanderthal: my woman! Iunia makes a funny face mocking him.
– Then what is it? John looks at her compassionate.
– Maybe I want a career, visit the world, maybe fulfillment doesn’t mean playing pretend to be a princess in a stupid fluffy dress! She pouts and crosses her hands against her chest. End of communication.
– Ok, I agree. Up to a point! You are pouting like a princess right now! What does the princess need, ’cause she appeared to be satisfied a few minutes ago?
– Don’t be an ass! I was serious!
– Sure you were, I know! he leans over and kisses her. It’s my turn to be serious: What are you going to do about Ben?
– I guess I will talk to him.
– I need to be sure! I don’t want to imagine the worst and now that I met him… I think he’s competition!
– Really?! That’s nice! You turned soft or what?
– I’ll get hard, don’t worry! But I need to know…
– God… the world revolved around your cock! I don’t know what to tell you… I thought I loved him at some point. Why do you do this?
– Because I have fun with you, you are smart, fun to talk to…
– Bullshit! Again with the poor smart unfuckable girl!
– You know that’s not true! You seem to need constant reassuring! You know we ain’t getting younger/ We’ll sink or we’ll swim/ Baby are you with me?
– I am with you, just don’t ruin this song for me! Iunia finally relaxes and puts her head on his chest. She allows herself to reconsider this, so she smiles pleased by the thought!
I know just what you’re saying
So please stop explaining
Don’t tell me cause it hurts
Don’t speak… “
Iunia feels very sad. She just walked John out and the courage he spoke of seems to have vanished somehow. She feels as if someone died, but surely this is just the end of… of what? Of something she can’t really identify, but still… John was, he was almost perfect. She made her feel free, didn’t feel like hiding her body’s flaws. It was reassuring to have a photographer in her bed, one she assumed, saw a lot of half-naked women. With these thoughts in her mind, she gazes at her body in the bathroom mirror, before stepping into the shower.
As it always happens, she feels a lot better after the shower. So she decides to check facebook and try to settle things with Ben. Fucking Benji! The girls are chatting, as usual, she missed a lot of messages. Also, more than 20 messages from Ben await. As the judge usually gets a pause before setting the sentence, Iunia chooses to lift her mood with her friends’ small talk – clearly, they spoke about men. But she’s done in a few minutes…
Ben: Ok, I understand
Ben: Please… I need to see you
Iunia types: Are you there?
Ben: Yes, baby… I haven’t slept. I am hangover… 😦
Iunia: Aren’t we too old for such behavior?
Ben: You admit you slept with him to get over me?
Iunia: No, of course not! Take a shower and let’s talk this over. I hate loose ends!
Ben: Can I come over…
Iunia: No, let’s have lunch!
All I think about is… coming over, coming over… give away this, give away that…
Iunia doesn’t feel like a grown up right now, sitting at the table and waiting for Ben. His presence is announced by his wood-like scent and soon he places a kiss on her neck – a kiss that’s a little mind fucking. She’s already softened by the time he sits.
– You look old! Iunia smiles at him
– I missed you! I am old! You keep forgetting that I am old!
– I missed you too… I missed you until I decided I am stupid!
Ben reaches for her hand over the table and caresses her hand. She lets him do it.
– Baby, don’t be like that… you act stupid sometimes, I give you that. I am not even mad, now at least I have calmed down. I can’t say that I understand completely, but you make me feel more alive than I was in the past ten years. I won’t settle for whatever’s left, but I know you still have feelings for me. I love you! I miss your sweet flowery perfume, I miss the way your body fits into my arms, I love the way you laugh when you feel relaxed. Don’t deny me all that!
– Don’t say that! Iunia’s eyes are filled with tears. She puts the napkin on the table and gets up. You are an asshole and I mean it. Bye!
Iunia was always cautious about making a scene, she usually avoided carefully anything that looked like a conflict. This dialogue didn’t pick anyone’s attention. She leaves the restaurant dignified. But as she walks out, she suddenly feels lightheaded, puts a hand on the nearby wall and tries to pace her breathing. Her heart is pounding, she can recognize the symptoms of a panic attack. Ben picks her from under the arm and carries her to his car. Steadily he puts her in the back seat and climbs near her. Her body’s all tense as he pulls her in his arms. Ben gently fondles her hairs and repeats: I promise I won’t leave! I promise I won’t ever leave you!
Turn Your Lights Down Low
No time for reflections, no time for anything, maybe this calls for a break. Iunia feels guilty for being distracted by men all the time. She can acknowledge the fact that she enjoyed the attention so far, but now maybe it’s time to spend some quality time with herself. It’s Friday before Easter and this was always a special time for her. She can hardly remember the last time she chose to stay in the city for Easter, maybe have dinner with her family. Her mother probably prepares some appropriate dishes and eggs of course.
– Hey, sweetie! I was thinking about you.
– Hi, mommy!
– What’s with you? Your voice is strange.
– Can I come over tomorrow? I miss you and dad!
– Sure, we were planning to go to the country, you wanna come?
– Yes, sounds great! Can I bring dessert?
– I was planning on making a cheese pie, warm cheese pie, as you like it.
– No, I don’t need to be spoiled! Are you bringing anyone?
– No, some of the girls left for Greece, I didn’t feel like going along.
– Good! So, we’ll see you tomorrow.
– Yeah! Bye!
Iunia hangs up and feels even sadder. Maybe a walk in the center of the city is will lift her spirits. She gets a cab to the nearest Paul patisserie and makes an order for the next day, something with chocolate mousse. Her mom never appreciated these sweets, but it’s not like Iunia is going to cook. She starts walking towards Unirii square, considering having a coffee in the Old Center. Turns the volume upper on the headphones and enjoys the spring afternoon. She never got the chance to set things straight with John because she can’t decide. She feels like a cheater and she never experienced such feeling. She’s seriously considering letting the universe or a greater force decide. The first man that gives her a sign is the one. None of them is either willing or able to commit. Music stops and her heart beats faster: it’s Andra – she is relieved.
– Hey, honey!
– We postponed that coffee for like 3 months! Andra laughs and adds: Can you come downtown?
– I am at Universitate right now!
– Great! I am getting to our favorite spot in 20 minutes. See you there?
– Yeah, sure!
Iunia searches for a special song to set her mood and while doing it she gets a message. Ben, thank God!
Baby, are you thinking of me?
All the time, but you’re still an asshole…
because I am lonely all the time
That moment a pair of hands enfolds her ears over the headphones. She is startled at first, but it’s Ben who leans over and kisses her in broad daylight. Iunia has to lift on her tiptoes to reach him. Sometimes the universe has better judgment than hers!
„Saying ooh, it’s been a long, long time
I got this message for you girl
But it seems I was never on time
Did I wanna get through to you girl?”