Flip Side: After the Holidays

Gil imagines the romantic seduction scene he planned, during which his charm and wit are irresistible.

By RUTHIE BLUM LEIBOWITZ
October 3, 2007 13:19
ruthie blum 88

ruthie blum 88. (photo credit: )

 
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She told him she would be in touch after the holidays, but she wasn't more specific than that. Gil is annoyed with himself for not having ironed out the details before Rosh Hashana. Doing so would have made him less anxious about the whole thing as the New Year turned into Yom Kippur, then moved on to Succot, and finally reached Simhat Torah. But he had been trying to play it cool. Not let on how dazzled he was by this woman he met - just his luck - on the eve of her departure on a month-long trip abroad. Or at least not let her have the upper hand. Which maybe wasn't such a smart move, in retrospect. Since now he has been counting the days till her return - poring over the Hebrew calendar as though it were the stock pages - and wondering whether he is supposed to wait for her call "after the holidays," or take the initiative. The former, he fears, will only serve to lengthen the already endless waiting period; the latter will make his attempt at appearing lackadaisical about her laughable. But what if she doesn't phone right away? How long should he give it before caving in? What if she lost his phone number? Unlike Gil, who'd stored hers in his cell memory, she had jotted his down on a scrap of paper she'd found in her purse. And it's not likely she'd have kept such careful track of it during her travels. On the other hand, if she'd really been keen on keeping in touch, she would have made a point of putting it in a safe place. Which means that she might not have been that interested. In fact, she could have been blowing him off altogether. GIL PACES the apartment he shares with his tenant, a student from the Hebrew University, whose rent money pays most of the mortgage on the small flat he had purchased when real estate was on the downslope and his mood was on the up, as one of his bonds reached maturity. Not like this current one, he broods, which hasn't even gotten off the ground. He makes himself a cup of instant coffee, killing time before the bathroom becomes available so he can shower and shave. Stirring in two spoonfuls of sugar, he allows his mind to wander - yet again - to her. Not that he really asks himself for permission to indulge in this particular obsession. In fact, he has been hard pressed to prevent his thoughts from making their way there, in spite of his conscious attempts to stop them. Like a tongue searching for an aching tooth and landing on it, compounding the pain. Gil imagines the romantic seduction scene he has planned, during which his charm and wit are irresistible. He pictures her revealing that she had been unable to enjoy her vacation, due to fantasies of their reunion. He envisions smiling when she says that something inexplicable had happened to her the moment she saw him that day at the computer shop - where she was picking up her repaired laptop, and he was retrieving files with stock-market graphs he had prepared and promptly lost. (Without these, he'd quipped while they waited to be served, he might be forced to get an actual job - one that pays a lot less, and takes up a lot more of his time, than this hobby he has honed into a self-employment skill.) He sees himself telling her he's not sure he believes in love at first sight. If she appears disappointed, maybe he'll grudgingly agree that he, too, had felt an odd attraction. After all, he toys with admitting, normally he wouldn't wait around for someone he barely knows to contact him. No, that's not the way to play it, he reconsiders. He certainly can't let on that he's been waiting for her. On the other hand, he can't be too stand-offish either. He wouldn't want her to mistake his even keel for a lack of interest. Boy, he thinks, it is so damned tricky trying to show you want something really badly and at the same time that you don't care all that much. Gil sighs and grabs his head, the way he does when he's in a dilemma about whether to sell one of his stocks that's on the rise, or hold out a little longer for it to split and then buy more of it. HEARING HIS roommate whistling while vacating the bathroom, Gil tries to visualize living here alone. He realizes how difficult it will be for him to make his musings about her materialize, with the kid underfoot. A student, no less, whose presence is as unpredictable as his absences. How Gil suddenly craves his privacy. Until, as always, he remembers the reason for the set-up. It occurs to him that he has no idea what the woman of his dreams does for a living. Or where she lives, for that matter. Or with whom. Maybe she, too, longs for space, but can't afford it. That's it. He can suggest she move in with him. Surely, whatever she's paying now would at least match the amount Gil is getting from the kid. Gil feels a sense of exhilaration as he adjusts the temperature of the water, before stepping into the tub. Again he does a calendar calculation. Not much longer till "after the holidays" begins. Just a couple of days before fantasy becomes reality. But what if she doesn't call? What if she doesn't even want him to call her? Drying himself off with a towel, Gil sulks. Why hadn't he asked for her e-mail address? Why hadn't she asked for his? After all, she'd mentioned she was taking her laptop with her, which was why she needed it fixed - and fast. GIL PUTS on sweat pants and a T-shirt, then sits down at his computer. It is 3 p.m., which gives him a good hour to surf the Web before the New York Stock Exchange opens. An ad reading, "After-the-Holiday special sale" pops up on the screen. Gil flips open his cell phone. Scrolling down disgustedly, he stops at the letter "X" and deletes it from his address book. It occurs to him that he never got her name. ruthie@jpost.com

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