About a Girl

Prologue: A Good-Smelling Woman is Hard to Resist

Girls complicate things. This is a well known cross-cultural phenomenon. Anthropologists all over the world have conducted field studies, and the one thing they agree on is, Women are crazy. This theory has been verified to such an extent as to become anthropological law, or, more precisely, a series of laws.

The Laws of Women:

  1. The First Law of Women states that all women, without exception, are nuts.
  2. The Second Law of Women states that, throughout man's history, because only the choicest women could afford to be the nuttiest, men became increasingly attracted to nuttier and nuttier women.
  3. The Third Law of Women states that all men are therefore nuts.
  4. [A fourth law was proposed but was eventually rejected for being, in the words of the committee, "too conjectural."] The (Proposed) Fourth Law of Women states that women smell good, and that this might have something to do with their reproductive success, even though it is a dirty trick and yet another reason why women can't be trusted.

The author, on a laudable impulse of full disclosure, would now like to confess that he and the author of the P.F.L.W. are one and the same. The author would like to add only that if he has made poor choices regarding women in the past he can hardly be blamed since everyone knows that a good-smelling woman is hard to resist. The author is not attempting to justify himself, since his actions require no justification, nor is he seeking absolution for his views on women's trustworthiness, or lack thereof. He is merely trying to impress upon his readers the very real dangers of submitting to a woman's odor, and of abandoning oneself to the caprices of the olfactory sense in general.

The author has just read over the previous sentence and is now fully aware of the regrettable figure that he is cutting, and of the fact that he has forfeited most if not all of his credibility, and maybe some of his integrity into the bargain. The author does not know what to say for himself, except that this story is not about how girls smell. It's about how they complicate things...

I. Strange Encounters of the Thai Kind

She came unannounced, like all good problems do. Stopped by one evening with her aunt while I was nose-deep in a book, doing my usual nerd thing. I can't remember what my first impression of her was; something like, Girl, around my age, pretty. The pretty girl's name, I found out, was Pa, and when I told her I was 23, you would've thought by her reaction a minor miracle had just occurred. Her face lit up with the fervor of divine revelation, and she responded joyously that she was 25, as if that established something conclusive whose significance could not be diminished or disputed. She then wanted to know my birthdate, including the day of the week and the exact time I was born, which I was unable to provide since I'm a guy and how am I supposed to know? Why would any normal person know that? Anyway, I pull the old switcharoo and ask when her birthday is. It's April 13th. As in two weeks April 13th? Yes. So you're turning...26? She is. (A couple days later she told me, to my bewilderment, that she's turning 27. I've never known a woman to age so quickly.)

What then ensued was a semi-private consultation between Pa and her aunt, who may or may not have debated the relative astrological merits of my candidacy as a husband. I felt like I was trapped in a Kafka story where I was auditioning for something unbeknownst to me, and then the rest of the story is spent unsuccessfully trying to figure out what it is. I did try, though. While they were potentially discussing my eligibility for marriage, I made squinty faces with my eyebrows, looked from one to the other with exaggerated head-swiveling motions like I was at a tennis match, nodded my head several times with an authoritative air, and then sat back stroking my chin while a knowing smile danced around my lips, suggesting many things that weren't true.

II. Things Change

Time does not behave itself over here. It plays tricks on me, makes me think I've known certain people for longer than I have, and when those people suddenly start coming over every night, flushing certain other people's establised routines down the drain, it makes me think that this is the way it's always been. Thai time does not in any way resemble anything flattering. It is not constant and fluid and quietly graceful like a river. Oh no. It is treacherous like a snake. It drags, slithering along in disgustingly tortuous configurations. It freezes, lies absolutely still, stares at you, hisses. And then it strikes, and before you know it it's too late.

This was my routine, and it was beautiful: after dinner each evening I would shuffle to my corner of the living room, read for 4-5 hours, then pass out. Some nights I would make the arduous trek to the adjoining corner and write in my journal for 4-5 hours, hunched over my notebook like a jealous Quasimodo, daring, no, double-dog daring someone to disturb me in my belltower. And of course someone did. It is, after all, universally acknowledged that Double-Dog Dares are damn near impossible to pass up.

The funny thing is I didn't mind. She asked if I had written about her yet, and I told her we'd just met; there was nothing to write about. Then she started reading my journal, which was okay since she couldn't understand it anyway. We talked about our families, how my sisters were married but didn't have kids, how her brothers had 5 kids between them, how she didn't want kids herself because she was afraid of giving birth, how I wasn't afraid of giving birth, how that hardly applied in my case, why not? because you're a boy! so? so boys can't get pregnant! you're not the boss of me! oof! How I'll be 25 by the time I leave, how she'll be 29, how she'll have 5 babies of her own by then, no I won't! And then - stroke of genius - I poke her, Pilsbury style, square in the belly, direct hit. I poke her because the time is ripe, because that is what I do, because it is my function, because it is written. This is the first of many pokes and, as such, occupies a special place in the Annals of Poking.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.