It was quite amazing. I really didn’t think it was possible anymore. After age thirty-five, a somewhat worldly person has witnessed too much human nature to ever fall in love with it again. (I think that’s Mencken’s line, but I’m too lazy too look it up just now. Besides, I haven’t finished my cigarette).
But sure enough, it happened.
I was in this depressing big-box outlet where you can buy cardboard flats of things like Stag Chili or cases of frozen corn dogs at wholesale rates (except they don’t call them corn dogs. They call them Deep-Fried Honey-Battered Frankfurters on a Stick! Whatever. A turd by any other name still stinks like shit). Occasionally you get lucky and find frozen hamburger patties or cans of dog food stamped “For Institutional Use Only. Not For Retail Sale.”
So I’m walking around this God-forsaken hellhole of American Consumerism Gone Bad looking for cheap toilet paper and deodorant soap when I stumble upon a vision of surpassing loveliness: a beautiful girl!
I don’t just mean beautiful girl. I mean a stunningly gorgeous young woman, totally out of place among the luckless and misbegotten clientele of this dismal purgatory of frozen food and type II diabetes.
It was like a miracle. What was she doing there? Was I imagining it? Have I inherited my dear grandmother’s schizophrenia, which landed her in the nut house? Couldn’t be. This girl was real. No hallucination could produce such palpable flurries of lust and hope, could it?
She was a naturally graceful being who reminded me of Shelley’s Ode to a Skylark:
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert -
That from Heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.…
Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know;
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.
Then a little jingle went off in her coat. She whipped out a cell phone, stuck it to her face, and said in a loud, obnoxious voice that sounded like a cross between Jennifer Lopez and a goose being throttled by a wild dog: “Whaddup?”
And my thirty seconds were over.