Cold cuts . . .

Stilettos in the Snow
by Gustavo Bondoni ©2018

Do you remember, chalk hearts melting on a playground wall?

Do you remember, dawn escapes from moonwashed college halls?

"Turn that off, will you?"

The guy with the boom box smiled at her. The backward-facing baseball cap he had on made it look as though his forehead went on forever. "What, finally got tired of the power ballads?" But his smile was indulgent. He was under her spell, leather jacket and all, and he popped in a tape of something with a lot of beat, and the people milling around chatting came a little closer together, converging on the smooth tiles of the inner-city playground. There was dancing to be done.

It was only a matter of moments before the dancers were gyrating wildly, some standing on their hands, others spinning on their backs, but I had eyes for her, and for her only. It was obvious that she didn't, and would never, belong there. Sure, the blond hair had fashionable volume, and she'd tried to dress the part, but there was something in her eyes that spoke about Scottish moors in deep autumn - they were made to focus across the endless emptiness, searching for eternal truths and should never have had to witness anything as completely banal as break dancing in inner city Detroit.

"Kayleigh?" I'd known it was her as soon as I arrived. Her accent - alien, completely out of place - was only confirmation. And her reaction to the song was a dead giveaway.

"You don't want me," she replied, lowering her eyes and turning away. "You want a housewife in Cornwall and a school teacher in Zurich, and God only knows how many other women."

"No. I've tracked you this far. You have to be the one."

"Oh, I'm the one you were looking for, all right. I'm just not the one you want."

"Is that so? Aren't you the girl the song talks about? Didn't you inspire it?"

As she pondered the question, I looked back at the kids with the boom box. They seemed to have forgotten about her completely, as completely as they'd been in her power just minutes before. They were in their world, we were in ours.

"I am, but I refuse to be." She thought some more. "And I most certainly didn't inspire it."

When she said that, I almost believed her, almost thought I could see the wall behind her, almost realized she wasn't there. But I pulled myself together. How could she not be there? She was perfect, the way I'd always thought she would be. I chuckled. "Then I'm surprised they chose a girl who looks just like you for the music video." It was true - this girl could have been the model's younger, prettier sister.

She snorted. "Maybe that's because all of you are too obsessed to believe anything other than your preconceived notions of what should be. Why did you even come all this way to find me?"

"I fell in love with you the first time I heard the song. We all did."

"You did, did you? And do you even know what I am?"

"You're the girl who thought the cherry blossoms were confetti in her hair. You're the impossible ideal - mysterious, fun-loving, mischievous, smiling. Perfect."

Kayliegh rolled her eyes. "I'm not the woman who inspired that song. I'm the spirit created by that song. I'm only as real as you want me to be."

She was right. I could definitely see through her now. The brickwork, the dancers behind her, clear as day, and solid in a way she'd never be. I could even see tendrils of white mist, some kind of astral substance, rising from her head, into infinity.

She was wrong. I'd known it as soon as I heard the song for the first time. I'd always known that somewhere out there was the perfect woman, the one we all dream of. Smart and funny and always smiling. The fact that she was standing right in front of me seemed incredible after the long months of searching, phoning the singer's old school, talking to family members and friends - even tracking down a member of the band. Each had given me tidbits, tidbits that slowly came together to form the woman in front of me.

Others had been searching, of course. I'd run into one from time to time, but they seemed to have been put off by the fact that the trail headed to America. Perhaps they hadn't suffered the way I had, with one depressing, boring girlfriend after another.

Perhaps they didn't need perfection quite as badly.

"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"

"You haven't heard a word I said, have you?" she said. She was smiling now. I liked that. I could imagine her in a moonwashed college hall. "Has it gotten past your thick skull that I'm only here because thousands of desperate guys thought some singer had found the perfect woman? And thousands of equally desperate girls wanted me to exist because they thought that men actually care about fun and spirit? I have no idea what energy all that longing twisted into shape, but whatever it was made me."

"I think you're wonderful." This wasn't something I just said. I did think she was wonderful, and her eyes sparkled in a way you could only dream of.

"I didn't ask to be here, you know. People know there's something wrong when they talk to me, but they all seem to ignore it and act like it doesn't matter in the least."

Now I knew she was wrong. I'd seen how the gang treated her. They let her listen to whatever she wanted to, all standing aside peacefully even though they really didn't look like the kind of people who stood aside and let a stranger dictate to them. They looked tough, and looked like they ruled their graffiti-saturated neck of the woods.

The girl certainly was something special. "So, how about that coffee?"

She started to say something, and then seemed to catch herself. She shrugged. "Well, since you've come all this way. Lead on."

"You won't regret this." I was delighted. There was always the possibility that she would have taken one look at me and run away.

"Probably not, but you might. Do you remember how story in the song ends?"

"What, that bit about you breaking my heart? They just put that in there to make the singer look good and make the song sad enough. It'll be all right."

"Well, if you say so."

We walked towards the bank district as evening fell. Every once in a while, a car's headlights would shine through her even though she was completely real. A special girl.

x x x

Like William Fischer, mio paisano Gustavo Bondoni is a new contributor to anotherealm. Of course, I'm assuming Gustavo is, like me, of Italiano extraction. I could be wrong, but stories like this one make me hope he's mio paisano, anyway. Buono sera, Gustavo. Welcome to anotherealm. - GM

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