I almost always wanted to be a writer, but I never wanted to work at it. It’s a damn hard thing to do for one thing. It’s much harder than accounting or finance. I say this as an accountant who can discuss in-substance defeasance as it relates to advance refunding bond issues—not that anyone should care, but I think, from the way people’s eyes glass over when I utter that phrase, that it helps put things into perspective.
Just using English properly (or any language for that matter) is a thing that seems beyond most people’s ken. Going beyond mere correct usage, however, and forging language into a meaningful and compelling narrative is a superhuman undertaking that borders on the miraculous. This near miraculous facility with language is why guys like Salmon Rushdie can occasionally marry women like Padma Lakshmi. It’s easier to be good-looking of course, but, if you are not, it’s good to know that you can overcome a weak chin or pasty complexion with a resonant phrase.
Still I would rather be handsome than charming in the same way that I would rather be lucky than smart. I’m not just speculating. I know this—rather by accident, but I know it just the same. I had a neighbor once who was a spectacularly good-looking fellow. He was tall and lean and muscular. He had classic chiseled features, curly blonde hair, and stunning azure eyes. He was studying to become a golf pro. By studying, I mean he played golf every day with a teaching pro, and his aim was to get a PGA license and get onto the pro tour. He was also married to a very attractive young woman, whose function in life had been to support him in his quest to become a golf champion. Somehow she had either failed or grown weary in this role, and when I knew them they were in the process of divorcing.
One day this fellow asked me if I would accompany him to a pool party at an apartment complex across town. I doubt that he needed a wing man, but for whatever reason, he didn’t want to go alone. I agreed and happily. I was in my twenties, single, and almost adventurous…for an accountant. It may have occurred to me that being in tow to someone attractive could not fail but to get me some residual attention. Boy was I wrong. What followed was a revelation to me.
We came into the party on the back side of the complex. We grabbed a couple of beers and made our way around the pool to the club house at the front end. Along the way we passed maybe 100 young women, any one of whom I would have been glad to get to know. Not one of them seemed to know that I existed. Not one of them acknowledged my presence in any way whatsoever. They didn’t even glance at me to make sure their initial assessments had been correct, and that I was indeed beneath their notice or attention. They were all too busy swooning at the sight of my friend, Adonis.
I’m not making this up. I am not even embellishing. I had not realized up until that moment that girls could swoon over regular citizens. I knew they swooned. I had seen it on TV. Every time the Beatles got off a plane or out of a limo somewhere, there were plenty of hysterical chippies on hand to greet them, and they all had a particular look in their eyes like they had just seen their complete bliss and they had to get their fill of it before it was snatched away. I thought it was a little silly and laid it off to the music, the fame, and the glamour.
Now I was witness to the same kind of swooning, although without the screaming and hysteria, that I had seen on TV. This time, however, there was no music or fame or glamour. There was only handsomeness, but it was sufficient to make all these young women go weak in the knees.
It was a palpable thing, and, walking as close as I was to my good-looking friend, I could observe it as if it were happening to me, although clearly it was not. I watched the girls’ eyes get wide as early rising moons. They would blink once or twice, and stare unabashed. Their jaws would slacken and drop. They would forget how to walk. Most of them just stopped in their tracks, probably to avoid tripping over their own feet, which had been rendered useless by flooding hormones and misfiring synapses.
This happened time after time and without exception. I knew in a few minutes that it was possible to slay women with a glance, to induce in them a visceral longing without saying a word, without sweet nothings, without courting, without permission. I have never since coveted a power so much.
It has never been mine to have, of course. It’s not the kind of thing you can develop. It is only a thing you can be born with, and, having been born with it, I don’t think it is a thing of which you are aware. At least you shouldn’t be. It just wouldn’t be fair. My friend certainly wasn’t—not on a purposeful level anyway. He couldn’t have cared less. In fact it was probably his indifference that allowed these women to swoon in the first place. Had he been aware of their reactions to his passing, had he been looking at them, they wouldn’t have been able to stare at him and swoon. Conversely, had they been less preoccupied with him, and thus able to look at me, I wouldn’t have been able to watch them swoon.
I might have been better off if it had worked otherwise. I mean I think it would be better for me not to know that this power is loose in the universe. It is a troublesome thing for me to have experienced. Having witnessed the power of gut attraction, my place in the cosmic pecking order of sexual magnetism will be ever precarious. Everyone else, however, is probably better off that it worked as it did. The women were happily unaware that I knew their weakness, and they were protected from their own folly in that my friend remained unaware of the power he had over them. This much is all as it should be, I think, but knowing it is a burden of which I am grown weary.