Something Beautiful

Nathan asked Catherine what she wanted for her birthday, and she smiled.  It was this toothy Cheshire smile, one he'd watched spread across her face as she crawled on top of him, placing both hands now flat across his chest, legs wrapped around him tight, tossing her head back, all prior to responding with 'tell me something beautiful, that's what I want, or better yet, show me.'   And before Nathan could say another word, she kissed him, asking if he'd steal her away to somewhere gone, far away from here, but first if he'd just bring her another glass of cognac, that last alone, for now, would be enough.  

As he uncoiled her, lifting Catherine up and off himself, Nathan asked her with one eyebrow raised, now to be serious.   This of course was his professor's face, the same he'd perfected for students who evaded his questions, and so now he used it since this was an answer he wanted to be sure he got right.  While retrieving another glass, she explained from the bedroom that in fact she was serious, completely so, and that she wanted something beautiful, something of his choosing.  He figured she'd missed the meaning of his first glance, so he tried again from the kitchen with words. Nathan asked her to give him an example, really now, something concrete for him to work with.    

Nathan, always so logical, she thought as she continued by telling him she wanted something similar, something like the mix of himself and Cognac, as she always loved the smell of it on his breath.  Really though she was curious now to see what he'd come up with, as this was part of the test. She wondered whether he'd listened enough not only tonight, but over the past few months, enough anyway to not only hear what she said, but to understand what she meant.  While there was a jump to be made between the two, she figured if Nathan knew her well enough, there wouldn't be much of a distance for him to cross.   

Catherine thought about it, and had decided she'd made it clear to him what she wanted just then, as well as through stories of friends, and by other comments that passed between the two over the last few weeks.  Just yesterday she'd stated how great she thought it was that Brian had flown Carol to Hong Kong for her birthday, and wasn't that a wonderful idea?  She'd followed it by mentioning how much vacation time she'd accrued, having used none from the previous year either.  So then, like most big things Catherine desired, she'd been prepping him ahead of time; she'd been dropping hints like these through affirmations of others' actions, as well as by presenting interesting ideas picked out of books or articles, as well as through a series of references. It just wouldn't be the same if she had to demand it.  Plus, it was more fun to let him think he'd come up with the idea on his own. 

If Nathan hadn't figured it out yet, all of these were tricks many girls used to convey what they wanted.  Aside from stating whatever it might be directly, they instead used stories and references, as well as pointed comments and critiques of others, all to push the envelope; all of these remaining various techniques, or rather different ways of her telling Nathan without having to state what she wanted explicitly.  And so this was how women communicated.  It took work, forethought, and time, which together added a new weight to the outcome of his response to her answer.  

This much Nathan seemed to understand; while he wasn't sure exactly what was behind her request now, he'd learned quickly to discern these vague statements, those Catherine made that were really proclamations disguised in passing by her seeming indifference.  Usually what she cared most about, you never knew, because of course she'd never tell you.  But this, these statements, an occasional flash of a wish or desire for something, probably not to be mentioned again, these were what he'd learned from past mistakes to pay attention too.  He'd never quite figured out why the things she wanted the most, she only asked for once.  Once he'd guessed was enough, but he always feared the request might be so vague, or himself so dense, there'd be the possibility that he'd miss it, Catherine vanishing along with the loss of her desire. 

Nathan resented modern media.  It created nothing but a series of images, these ideas of romance, which remained empty, impossible to execute.  Because when acted out in real life, they always remained empty, too constructed, rigid and fake; however, rather than finding fault with the re-enactment, instead people just seemed to find fault with each other, something wrong with him or something wrong with her, something wrong with them together, all of this only to justify their performance's failing.  And yet, that's what these things were, these constructed ideals, the picnic in the park, or the trip to Paris, the first intimate encounter.  All always so built up and conceived within one's mind beforehand, that poor reality could never help but disappoint, reality of course being only human.  And so then, this is what Nathan feared, the possibility that perhaps Catherine had formulated an idea, a script rather, one he'd never be privy to before the opening act.  


Catherine was annoyed now that Nathan seemed to be working himself up, and over something she'd thought might be fun.  So rather than continue the discussion, as it seemed to be turning into an argument, she decided to change the subject.  She took the tiny cup, finished its remains, and smiled.  Catherine noticed Nathan was slipping away, only half there now, mind someplace else; she'd found that Nathan could maintain entire conversations without really ever hearing what was said.  When this happened she'd found the only way to pull him back to her was to jolt him into real time, some sort of physical shock, before he disappeared completely into thought.  So before she could loose him completely, in response to his ramblings and his barrage of questions Catherine took off her shirt and shot it across the room at Nathan.  He caught it, seemingly confused, though not at all upset.  After that, there was really nothing left to say.