The air smells like incense. Maybe patchouli. Maybe something more narcotic, sinister, it could be poison and Steve wouldn’t care. He sits and watches the most beautiful woman he has ever seen in his life dance alone in the middle of a bare stage. She glides as if every muscle in her body were made for this one thing. She spins and her long black hair, pulled back in a loose braid, swings like shimmering silk. Her long graceful neck is taut cords of muscle and blue veins and her bright green eyes land on him every time she faces the audience. Her look feels like lava. She stirs something deep inside himself. Not a hunger, yet when she turns away, he feels like he has never eaten a day in his life.

The audience claps when she stops and bows. Steve does nothing but stare. He does not even hear the audience as they shoot to their feet and applaud loudly, screaming for more.

No, Steve just sits there.

It is him and her and they are alone and he knows soon she will come to him and they will be together, forever.

The musky scent is so overwhelming it could be billowing like a cloud of smoke, but the room is clear, clear as the thoughts in Steve’s head.

Steve knows he will have to make his entire life available for her, the one, the person he did know he needed.

He will have to sell his home and his car and kill his dog and his wife and his children. He will have to make room for her. She will need to be pampered and cared for like a hothouse orchid, a beautiful temperamental thing, a thing of joy and perfection.

Heaven and paradise, death and life, infinite eternity is her love.

And he could never touch her. She would stop being if he did. She would crumble into something horrible. He would wake from the dream of her if he ever did something so stupid. No, he will never touch her. Not with his hands, his body, his mouth, his anything. She is untouchable. A work of living art to be worshipped, but only from a distance.

She bows to the crowd, folding neatly at the waist so her elbows touch the smooth varnished stage floor and from out of the dark, a man appears. He is dressed in a white starched shirt and black jacket with long tails that drape around his knees like a cape. In his hands, he carries a length of shining fabric that could be made of rubies and diamonds.

The perfect woman unfolds herself from the bow and stands back up.

She smiles.

The smile is like the sun. It is blinding. It is painful. Steve sobs. Tears seep from his eyes. He has never been moved so strongly by anything in his life.

The man in the tux spins his glinting sheet and a throne appears.

His lady love sits on the throne. She sits so lightly she might as well be floating in air.

The illusionist twirls his shimmering cloth again and the woman disappears and Steve is left to ponder, for the rest of his life, a want he will never understand.





by Freydoon Rassouli

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