Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Linda Is In Love With A Bullfighter. Linda Is In Love With A Race Car Driver. Day!

Linda sits in the bath, her cigarette hand dangling dry over the edge, trying not to ash into the glass of wine standing on the tile floor. On the surface of her bath there floats a carpet of flower petals. Daisies.

"I must choose," she says aloud to the faucet.

Linda is in her bathtub in her apartment in New York City, washing away her 700th day as a marketing firm's accounts payable administrator.

Her love, Javier, is in Madrid, and this afternoon he murdered four bulls in her honor, according to his answering machine message. One of the bulls was beheaded, as he said, "with only three thin swords and the strength of my love for you, my Linda."

And her love, Beaumont, is in South Carolina, and this afternoon he won a sponsorship from Penzoil, according to his answering machine message. He'll be paid $46,000 in one lump sum, which he will use, as he said, "To slide a big rock up that pretty little finger of yours."

The wine was intended to wash the confusion from her mind. But by her fourth glass and the seventh answering machine message, she was as bewildered as she was drunk. Linda lifts the glass from the tile, her sixth, and slowly pours it into the water, parting the petals to let the red wine billow out into the bath like a specter born from her body. She enjoys watching the wine cloud through all that clarity.

How did she end up in such a mess? In the same year, without leaving New York, she gave her heart to two men on different parts of the globe. Both with a passion for danger.

Beaumont showed up at her office when Nascar wanted his face run by some focus groups before they signed an endorsement deal. Linda showed him to the elevator, and he showed her to a late night-drink and an offer to be the lady wringing her hands at the race-track, hoping he'll cross the line without a scratch.

As soon as Beaumont left town with a promise to return, Javier arrived with a promise of forever. He was the conversation piece at her boss' Christmas party, brought by a friend of her boss' wife and introduced over and over again with the words, "And this is the bullfighter I was telling you about." But it was late in the evening when Javier introduced himself and invited Linda to join him on the balcony. "At home," he said, "I am only comfortable on verandas." They kissed there in front of the city and for the next four days she gave to him her every waking moment.

Linda picks up another daisy from Beaumont's bouquet splayed out in the sink. She rips the petals off one by one, dropping them into the bath.

"I love the bullfighter," she says.

"I love the race car driver," she says.

I love the bullfighter.

I love the race car driver.

She had no choice but to fall in love with Javier. He is a bullfighter. He uses cunning and stealth to slay wild beasts while wearing magical outfits. Additionally he has a Spanish accent.

But the romance of Javier has a formidable opponent in Beaumont's crude charm. Boisterous and vulgar, he barged into her life like it was the home he'd mortgaged three times over. She could refuse him no more than she could refuse her own father.

I love the bullfighter.

I love the race car driver.

Had only one of them stayed in town long enough to force her to say no to the other. She would be set free of the dueling bouquets and long-distance serenades. Now she can only listen to the answering machine and feel the storm of confusion stir inside her. She can only wait until it is finally demanded of her that she say yes. And that she say no.

I love the bullfighter.

I love the race car driver.

I love the bullfighter.

The final petal is ripped from another daisy and floats to the surface of her bathwater. Linda says, "I love the race car driver."

She stares at the naked stem. The phone rings again. Javier says into her answering machine that he is calling her from his veranda, one last time before he goes to bed, to tell her that tomorrow, she will be there with him in the ring. His belief in Linda will protect him from the bulls.

Linda tosses the stem to the tile and sinks her head through the blanket of petals into the cloudy red water below.

Happy Linda Is In Love With A Bullfighter. Linda Is In Love With A Race Car Driver. Day!