Copyright© 2003 by Carlos Malenkov
Can anyone be more lonely than a shy linguist?
Josiah Finn loved language more than life. To him the spoken and written word was a feast of complex intellectual delights. Studying linguistics gave his existence direction and purpose. It shielded him from the messiness of relationships with his fellow humans. It filled his hours and his days and provided him with everything he needed. Almost everything.
He was lonely.
He craved human touch. He needed the touch of a woman as a thirsty man needs water. He was slowly withering away in his abstract wonderland of intellectual delights.
Then he discovered Sassanid Dynasty love poetry.
The translations couldn't do it justice. Learning the old Persian dialects had posed no great difficulties for an accomplished language afficionado. The poetry, in its primordial, untranslated version, rang as clearly as a bell in the empty cathedral of his heart.
His previous attempts to approach women had invariably ended in disaster. They either laughed or totally ignored him. In the shark-infested waters of the dating market, a balding middle-aged professor is dead meat.
But the poetry, ah, those magic syllables, that hypnotic rhythm.
Some crazy impulse made him walk into a dance club. The Snakepit was a maelstrom of drifting blue cigarette smoke, mirrors, flashing multicolored lights, and loud heavy metal music that made meaningful conversation superfluous. He sat down at a battered wooden table two vacant chairs distant from a woman. She was a young dishwater blonde, still in her twenties perhaps, and she gave no sign that she noticed his presence. Or would have particularly cared if she had.
This guy plops his fat butt down at my table. Dressed in a suit and tie, Coke-bottle glasses, missing half his hair. Older. Old enough to be my father. Geez, must be one of those prof types from the college. Ultra-nerd. Freaky. What's he doing here? Must have got lost.
He felt totally out of place. He was out of place. What was he doing here anyhow? Sweating and feeling uncomfortable, that was what he was doing here. Get up and leave? Not yet, damn it.
The poetry. Remember the poetry. Why? Maybe it'll take your mind off this damn nervousness. He began tapping the rhythm on the tabletop. The singsong syllables struggled to emerge from his larynx, then he set them free and chanted. First under his breath, then with growing confidence as the power took hold of him. The woman had turned around and was staring at him. Her eyes were... immense pools of darkness.
He starts jabbering some kind of nonsense. Can't understand a word of it. Must be foreign talk. He has bad breath. Never mind. What's happening to me? I'm drifting off somewhere. Must have had too much to drink. I'm in a fog. The fog. The Female Fog, my ex used to call it. When my mind would sort of curl up and go to sleep and the Woman Beast in me would take over. That guy's starting to look pretty good. I could --
Her fingernails were digging painfully into his arm as she snarled at him, "Get me away from this friggin' place. Now. Take me home, damn you!"
She was a natural blonde. Unless had she dyed her pubic hair too. But he had no attention to spare for inane speculation because he had to maintain discipline. To keep chanting the poetry. Every time he stopped, she seemed to get distracted, to lose interest. Right now she was kneeling astride him, and the sight of his organ disappearing into the darkness of her, then emerging... made it hard to remember... the cadence... the syllables... but he had to keep chanting... or she'd lose interest... and leave him.
What am I doing humping this guy? Don't even know his name. Can't stop. He has bad breath. His armpits stink. Never mind. It feels so good having him inside me.
They fell asleep in each other's arms, and when he awoke she was gone. The note read, "It was nice being with you, I guess. Best wishes." He knew he'd never see her again. Somehow it didn't matter.
Josiah had been having problems with his department head at the school. She was a dried-up old prune in her late 50s who seemed to have nothing better to do than to harass him in a variety of petty ways and turn down his grant requests.
"Pro-fes-sor Finn. Certainly you are familiar with the old adage that scholars either publish or perish. Based on that criterion, you are perilously... perilously close to perishing, I'm afraid. If your research fails to yield at least three published articles in the coming academic year, then you might well consider taking up something you are better suited for. Selling used vehicles comes to mind."
.... There is more of this story ...