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September 4, 2000   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Predicament of the Week
In which Breakup Girl addresses the situation that has, this week, brought her the most (a) amusement, (b) relief that it is happening to someone else, and/or (c) proof that she could not possibly be making this stuff up.

Dear Breakup Girl,

It's been three days and one hundred nights since I last wrote. I'm writing to tell you about Stella. That's the woman with a cat named Mayhem.

She got married last night.

When I last wrote, BG, I was about to go on a date with Stella. It got postponed a couple of times before we finally went out for dinner. By that time, I had spoken to roughly twelve florists about how to source and deliver a few hundred tiger lilies, and to a handful of diamond traders about the intricacies of the four Cs.

When we saw each other again, it was her that put me at ease. In a world of MTV and Paul Newman pasta sauce; in a world where adjectives are given no respect; good conversation is hard to come by. Stella was evidently much accomplished at storytelling. To get this woman to talk to me more, I cooked her dinner for the next seven nights.

From risotto with razor clams and matsutake mushroom to stingray freshly caught in the South China Seas stir-fried with ginger and spring onions, from cold soba noodles topped with chunky pomelo and sauteed tiger prawns to Beijing-style braised pork ribs, I wooed her. There was even a Ceylonese mutton curry dish, taught to me by a half-blind fisherman in Sri Lanka. My mama always told me that no man should consider himself civilized until he truly understands the virtues of making food with his own hands to feed a woman. Besides, this woman has the gnarliest curves that would make even Captain James T. Kirk sigh.

Anyway, we talked for a long time about our lives and travels, about Hemingway and James Brown, about basil and star anise. She too had been a wanderer, and we wondered which turn we had made such that we ended up where we were that night. She told me of the handsome Bedouin who offered a whole herd of cream-colored camels for her hand, and I told her of the knife fight in the back alley of District 1 in Saigon.

There is something covertly comforting about her voice that draws you in, if you're not careful. And I wasn't.

On the seventh night, the words had thinned out and we stood silently on the balcony. The night had warmed and seemed daring, so she made love to me. Afterward, she told me that she was getting married in a few weeks. I said that didn't seem like a problem; all she had to do was to marry me instead. I would even pay her fiance some alimony. The thought brought a smile to her eyes; eyes that you could take a voyage in. From her smile you could tell she adored me, it was that simple. Then, she spoke of how long it had taken her to find this man that she loves deeply, and that he is a good man. She said if there was a parallel but separate world, she would marry me too. If only that was possible. Come to think of it, what she did was rather audacious. By the strict moral standard of Chinese society, discovery of an affair with another man so near to her wedding would have rendered her unacceptable as a wife, probably for a quite a while.

Holding on to her, I told her we fit each other as inherently as a diphthong. If she broke us into two parts, the words would not taste the same anymore. Pausing for a long time and seemingly chewing over what she was about to say, she held me tight.

When she finally spoke, she said she was very sure that we were once lovers in another lifetime. She suspected that I was to appear briefly in her life only to remind her how much I once meant to her. She wished she could know more of me, see more of me, and love more of me. However, trying to rearrange things now, in this world, would be selfish. The irony was that many of her single girlfriends would have killed to have just one good man. This feeling had never happened to her before, indeed she said she didn't understand the indefinable force that had drawn her to spend a week with me. She didn't want to resist it. Or couldn't; like Haagen-Dazs on a warm night.

In the morning, a note on the empty bed said: "Sweet dreams, my funny valentine."

Last week, the wedding invitation arrived -- with a Labrador puppy. The card read: "You must come." This along with the suggestion that I should call the dog "Pothole." Holding the invitation in my hand and Pothole on my lap, I wondered if I could ever refuse this woman anything. There's a moment in every man's life when what he does defines, in one single stroke, what kind of a man he is. And my moment had come.

I put on my white dinner jacket last night, and went to the wedding. Even now, I can still taste her in my mouth, just like the saffron that I carry in my pocket. Arriving intentionally late, I stood at the back of the ballroom and watched them. Stella was lovelier than I ever realized. That didn't surprise me because, on this particularl night, she looked happy. After fifteen minutes, I decided to leave. As I turned, I heard someone call my name. Hiking up her satin dress, Stella ran over, cupped my face in her hands, and kissed me deeply. "I'm glad you decided to come, my funny little man," she said, smiling. I told her I just came to say goodbye, but she made me promise that I will think of her from time to time. I couldn't say anything; I touched her face for one last time.

Walking away, I heard her whisper my name.

I'm absolutely sure that I will run into her again sometime. The passion and desire we have for each other will be evident to a keen observer; most likely a certain newly-wedded husband. I can imagine BG gently waving her finger outlining the code of conduct. I do know the drill. Yes ma'am, I do, though I wish I could be as sanguine as Bogart on that misty airport runway. Funny thing is, I always took pride in being a man of honor, but I'm no longer sure I want to be. What do I do?

-- El Duderino

Dear Duderino,

My, my, my. You have outdone yourself. As Stella has undone you.

I know, Duderino, that you are a man of both great honor and perfect risotto. And I appeal to you to remain that way. Less out of "code of conduct," more out of concern.

First of all, I don't want you to get your ass kicked. Your heart's taking enough of a beating.

Which leads me to my second point. I understand that Stella is luscious as a thousand lilies, divine as a mine of diamonds. Also, she's a dog person. But... Duderino? She did a bad thing. To you. Willingly and knowingly. She led you over and up and out and on, on, on. And then flirted and toyed as if your feelings were just wisps of saffron she could blow right out of the palm of your hand. You don't have to be mad at her, I guess, but BG kind of is. With all due respect, only a mistress of the prosemaster himself could get away with saying, "I am very sure that we were once lovers, in another lifetime. I suspect that you were to appear briefly in my life only to remind me how much I once meant to you." I am very sure that I have now heard everything.

So what now? Well, I will still allow for the fact that this love, in this lifetime, could be true and real. And that marriage could be too confining for our untamable raven-haired heroine. So maybe she'll leave him one day and come calling for you and Pothole. I could see that.

And if you want to wait, well, that's your business, your balcony. But your moves are already made, your lilies ordered, your four Cs counted. No more. Not only because of concern #1, but also because she knows what your feelings are (your mom is right; she knew from the first razor clam), and because I don't quite trust her with them. You had your Guy at the End of the Bar Moment -- and it was an masterful one, I might add. I just wish you hadn't had to become Guy at the End of the Receiving Line.

If you really want my two Cs, though, I'd say Cry...and Carry on. Mourn, and motor forward. Bear and forbear. (Keep Pothole if having one sweet slobbery souvenir helps; find a better home if it doesn't.) The wait will be worth more than a herd of camels (though at first, it may seem as slow). But remember, someone replaced Golden Girl -- who though that could happen in this lifetime? Betcha the next one will -- finally -- last that long.

Breakup Girl

Can you date your ex's friend? How soon? Really soon?


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