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Für Elise - continuation

by Tad Smith

Somebody once told me that Aristotle said there could be no true friendship except between men. In an age of liberated enlightenment, it would be pretty hard to embrace such a notion. In my own case, I'd have to argue the evidence is against it. For my own part, the only friends I've ever had were female, especially some of my ex-wives. And Elise had about as tight a friend as I'd ever seen between two people, Betty.

Sometimes I thought Elise would rather be with Betty than with me. I even went so far as to suggest they had something going on between them, sort of a facetious response to Elise' jealousy about me having lunch with the girls from the office. She thought I was serious and got right into my face about that one. She didn't see the connection between my jealousy, feigned as it was, and her own, real as it was.

By then I was looking for a way out, and I thought I saw one. It came during a vacation.

Elise's idea of a vacation was a weekend at the beach with her portable personal computer, her husband, and her best friend in tow. A good clue as to the obsessive nature of her personality was the number of vacation days she had accrued and her refusal to ever use them.

It was late Saturday afternoon. The sun was setting. One of the neat things about the place we stayed at the beach was the way the land jutted out into the ocean so the sun rose over the ocean and set over the ocean. Elise was out on the deck with her p.c. attached to the house by a long umbilical extension cord, immersed in work and ignoring the sunset. Betty had just stepped into the shower.

I saw my chance and I grabbed it.

I snuck into the bathroom, reached my hand into the shower, and cupped one of Betty's breasts. There was a little break in the action, as though time were, for a moment, standing still; but time never really stands still.

There's something truly exciting about feeling a woman's breast in your hand. It could be the remnants of infantile longing forever lodged in the subconscious, but I suspect it's more sexual than that.

I noticed the lag time between my reaching into the shower and Betty's response, but I wasn't exactly sure what it meant. Maybe Betty thought it was Elise, making an overture she had long awaited. Whatever, Betty eventually turned and slapped the tar out of me.

It worked. When we got back home, Elise, who had regarded me cooly the remainder of the weekend, thus giving me a clue that Betty had told her about my advance, Elise packed my bags for me and told me to get the hell out. "I've never been so humiliated in my life," she said, crying. It was the only time I ever saw her cry.

I found myself a cheap little deficiency apartment, with the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom all crammed into one room, and determined to cool out for a year until my next divorce was final.

I was taking a shower one night when I thought I heard something. Since I don't have anything worth stealing, I wasn't particularly worried, so I didn't think any more about it. I started singing my version of the last movement to the immortal ninth, the version where the tune is right but the words come out, over and over, "Freudenmadchen, freudenmadchen," which is German for, literally, "joy girl," or, translated, "prostitute." Now there would be something to be joyful about.

Suddenly, this hand came reaching into the shower and grabs me.

It was Betty. "I didn't realize you were interested in me," Betty said later.

I didn't, either, but now it looks as though I'm stuck again.

Do you remember how we left Beethoven on the train? Well, I'm obsessed with this vision of Beethoven in the little German town, standing on the railroad tracks, his back to the train. The train is ready to pull out of the station, but Beethoven is in its way. The engineer sounds the train's whistle.

You can imagine that if a train was right behind you blowing its horn, even if you were deaf, you would be able to feel it. Ludwig van could feel that horn blowing, and he probably could hear it. But he just stood there ignoring it, feeling contempt for the world, until his buddy Maelzel scurried over and gently urged him off the tracks.

The difference between me and Beethoven, other than the fact that I've got tin ears where he had none at all, is that Beethoven didn't get off the tracks because he was being a pain in the ass, while I simply lack the sense.

The End