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(Copyright © 1998, David A. Scheffler)

I'd lost him.

Somewhere around the Lancaster County meats, Korean

fish and mass-produced African artifacts.

Yet even through the

congealed scents of food, herbs, oils, and too damn many people I
could still smell him.

Every bum in the universe oozed that

fundamentally democratic, paradoxically exclusive fragrance.


visualized tiny designer bottles of it, crystal glass cut into
impossible geometric shapes, on latrine shelves in all the
shelters of the world.

Before departing for a challenging day of

scam and sleaze, all vent folk pause for a splash, working the
nectar into their pores with the fervor of a zealot at a holy
water font.

For a second or two their stench could be almost

attractive, more so if a breeze brought it to you in the park on a
sweet day, but too close, say on a hot rush-hour subway, less than
a minute of its cloy was sickening.

Nothing of it now.

I checked

the men's room just in case.
Lost the scent.

If he had to go he was probably watering a wall

somewhere, maybe just outside, laughing at me to heighten his

I dragged over to the Mexican booth and ordered a few

bean burritos sans sour cream.

What did he want?

That same

fucker had been in my dreams for days, always popping up shortly
before I woke, taunting me in vivid hypnogogia.

Waves, beckons, urges me to follow.

Same scenario,

I'd pegged him as a

fragment of unresolved complex, or, ala Scrooge, a bit of
undigested cheese.

But I don't eat cheese.

Except for the whiff

in a burrito or the smear on the occasional pizza.

Point is, if

he's in my dreams, he's me, psychologically speaking, at least
that's what my Freudian friends would say.

I can handle that.

*** Saturday. let them run from the icy. Got to get a grip.. Somewhere out there. for playing gumshoe the other day. and he didn't have much of a lead. takes off. he lost me in Now I sit and eat tepid refried beans enhanced by an alleged hot sauce and too much cheese. Still. Hit the edge of the Square and paused. really. people gaping at me but staying out of my way. Chase some old drunk through the vegetables like a bad TV show. I froze. Outside. Walking alone when it's too late. going to lunch. it's the same guy. Angry at myself. I hate. the buildings and sky huge and close yet alight and clear. this crowded Square in summer. I began to warm to the day. fade into your bench before the news van gets here . Didn't sleep well. too cold for most people. presumably in better shape. Heat's taken another yuppie.. too.. Woke late with a soft headache and a bad attitude. bright high-rises through the silhouetted trees to the unconditionally loving stars. But today. What the hell. I hate No fucking I take off like a shot. dammit. Susan's Probably married again. though .That's him! fantasy. out of my life for good. Too stinking hot. maybe kids..bums in my head. the guts of the Terminal Market. More damn dreams. Stared hard We lock eyes and he smiles. Not my fault. Probably think I'm a failure. nods and Took me a few seconds to snap out it. there he is in the flesh and across the street! enough to make him turn. and a few more to get across the street but I'm younger.What did Whitman say? I'm large enough to contain multitudes and contradictions or whatever. Probably paranoid. I'm sure I'll be seeing him again. maybe I should see somebody.but not today. imagining winter. It’s wonderful to stand near the fountain and release my eyes. This other stuff.

I. but. Out the Old bum is faster All out now. You all Damn. No.. Sure. papers and a woman. "Harry?" "Unnnh." She laughs and stands.. "Uh. tunnel-visioned on him as he burns down Locust. Sure. than he should be. Harry?" "Yeah. I. nothing. I’ll grab him and make him "Uunngh!" Stomach implodes. voice." "Harry! You all right?" "Uuhh.and you're part of the Big Story at 6. "Thanks.Damn! . but I'll get him today. "You ok. He's seen me. groping for an explanation. I'm sorry. ah. Or I'm slower.. I'm sorry... just a bad day. probing. pumping like Carl Lewis. Linda? "You ok? Jeez. "Sure. head explodes. You?" "I'm fine.. I'm fine. Very pretty. Linda. You ok?" Those aria eyes wiping over me. Here. Linda Lancaster. I don't know.. I'm sorry.." What's wrong?" I mean . right? God." She nods like a claims investigator taking a deposition. I look up at her. almost to 17th. The deer is off but the wolf is closing. he's going into Locust." she's smiling. gentle but I need a good lie. "Take a . reaches out and pulls me up like a linebacker who's just sacked me. gate and down 18th. Great mezzo Had a fantasy whirlwind with her when I was in the chorus but still married." Picking up her music. you were really running. the bulk of me splays on the pavement blanketed by books. Nice running into you. "that's not what I mean.

Working." "Yeah." "Sorry. What's wrong?" I force myself to look at her and feel my eyes spinning. I mean. she takes a latte. strung out on the Internet all night. One day you were at rehearsal for Traviata. feel like standing in a chorus." . Sucked into the computer all day. huh?" We laugh. I do apologize for dropping out. sins of omission. Idiot. in a way. it's ok if you don't. You just disappeared. Harry. "Ok. Lighten up the murky truth with creamy lies. I'm sorry. Actually told me to leave. "I don't know. then gone. "I mean. before I realize.. I've got time between classes.. "You need to talk?" I take too big a slug. but I didn't want to face you. Didn't much Particularly Traviata. Let's get some coffee and sit in the park." Tiny Is it safe? "Shit. Susan left. Plenty of empty benches since the crazies blew through. Didn't want to be married anymore she said. See. Whew! Then. well. How you been?" You know. I follow.break with me. just if you do. I." "Ummm.I think you know what I mean. Ok?" I order a brew from a Third World mountainside with a hint of half & half. Can't talk with my mouth burning full." "Both of us now. Sorry." "You don't have to keep saying that. I guess I've been Working a lot. She leads. I called several times but couldn't get you. Back to the Square. Well. Harry. "and." "Left us a little short on baritones. having a tough time dealing with it. What the hell.

" Halfway off the bench and her hand lands on my forearm like a firefly. "Harry. It was Sorry for the collision. Devil made me do it. talented and funny. Goddess of Love I could name."Why?" "Cause I dug you. Nowhere to hide. How about dinner?" *** Sometimes life lets you finally find a steel cup that fits after years of nailing you with staccato kicks to an unprotected groin. I dunno." Time to run. was beautiful." "Ok." "Yeah?" "I dug you. We ate salmon at her condo overlooking the Delaware.'The trees are drawing me near'? nice to see you." "And it's real! Wait'll winter. brilliant. I could hear Linda in the kitchen making coffee." Coffee's gone. I kick a leaf. Sweet on the chorus master. the works. Had a crush. "Harry?" "Yeah?" "Why were you running like that?" "Oh. Discovered we had more in common than a love of opera. I leaned into the glove leather sofa." The bug finds the breeze and I angle down the walk. Nice fireplace. pointed my legs and stretched. "Oh. music. Teenage flashback. Lights. "Almost ready. too. "How's that song go . Time to run." She I thanked every .

my gaze slid onto the final frame and I sucked wind so hard I nearly bit off my tongue. stinking king of my nightmares. radiant and hugging the elusive. disappeared. but I'd seen that face too many times. without the grizzle and grime.. A bit bored. yes. I scanned them slowly like a nitpicking general reviewing a line of infuriatingly flawless troops.. It's been years. No one knows. What's wrong?" "No. One day he just Hey . Professor of Comparative Religion at Penn. My father?" "Father?" "Yes.. sodden. No! Look again.. Snaps of Linda in productions.sort of like you. Damn! Younger. huh? Harry?" . Thick slate mantel phalanxed with pictures. younger but not much. Headshots of Linda. Linda. Ah." "Yeah?" Crossing the room.. I can smell the coffee. "Linda!" "Just a minute. Just looking at your pictures.I got up to check. This one... He was quite a guy." "Oh. teachers and colleagues. He and my mother Didn't see much of him after that. "Uh. divorced. at recitals. The usual lot. really. Brilliant. Can't let her see me.