Emotional Heights (Middle)


“I don’t know, Jan. Maybe you should rethink your attraction. This Mac is married, and I don’t care that he doesn’t talk about his wife to you. Solly’s single and, well, have you ever been with a small man?”

“No. I’ve always seen myself as large. I mean, look at these feet. And my hands match. Oh, I like my long fingers – don’t get me wrong – but I don’t want to be with a man whose hands are smaller than mine. And Sol’s: well, his fingers do look strong and blunt, but they’re shorter than my own.”

The waiter interrupts them with their entrees. Janet is annoyed to note the absence of her iced espresso. She waits through his presentation of her grilled salmon on basil-mashed potatoes with baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. She listens while he introduces Sherry to her housemade pasta with baby mussels. Then she begs, “Can I please have my iced espresso?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am. My mistake. I completely forgot. I’ll get it right now.”

Sherry can tell that Janet won’t continue her conversation until she has the coffee. She waits the two minutes it takes for the man to bring the drink. During that time, Janet tells her that Emotional Heights will provide a fifteen minute a day verbal ventilation period; from 3:00 to 3:15 p.m. residents will be able to say anything. Then Janet gets her coffee, and Sherry resumes. “Pardon me if this is TMI, but a small-framed man can do a good job in bed. I mean, it’s been my experience that there’s a kind a gymnastic quality involved. A very nice, all-over hug? And, how can I say this? maybe it’s just a perspective thing, but the organ of generation looks more impressive…”

Janet is blushing and having a bit of trouble chewing. She drinks half her coffee and pauses. “Right,” she says. “And with a tall one, you have to choose between kissing him and another activity. How are things with Tim anyway?”

“The sex is still pretty good. He is a little gymnast. But his obsession with the cartoon characters is getting hard to take. It may even break us up. We’ve been together for eight years, and I never knew this about him.”

Janet pushes a piece of salmon around in her greenish potatoes. “I visited his Web site last night. I think the giraffe is cute.”

“Oh, it is. So’s the monkey. It’s adorable the way the giraffe wraps her neck around the screen. The monkey moves like a cursor. They are excellent ideas. He got them from some childhood book about a giraffe, a pelican, and a monkey, who went into the window washing business together. He likes to think of his characters as window washers, too; they save people’s screens and help users see through the new Windows. I’ve got no problem with all of that. It’s the man’s obsessive attitude that’s getting to me. He thinks about the giraffe and the monkey all the time. He leaves drawings of them everywhere. His life is turning into a one-joke movie. It’s a good joke, but there has to be more. If there isn’t, I think I’m going to be out of there.

“Speaking of obsession,” Sherry continues, “is that gay woman still pursuing you?”


“Come on. Is that what you call her? Uh-oh.” Sherry notices the short man with the pitcher before Janet does. He has the glass container tipped and the iced tea is about to flow from it into the espresso when Janet comprehends and places her hand across the top of her glass. The man reacts to her sudden move, but shouldn’t have. A splash of iced tea has already left the pitcher; it becomes a splat against the back of Janet’s hand, marking her shirt cuff and the table around it. The man’s reaction increases the mess because he jerks the pitcher back, sending a gout of the tea toward himself, which he tries to avoid, which movement sends his rear end into the tall waitress whom Janet had nudged earlier. The waitress is hit on the back of her thighs and almost loses control of the tray she’s about to set down. She manages to hold onto the tray but two loaded plates and three full glasses hit the floor. Two men at a neighboring table acquire sauce spatters on their pant cuffs. Busboys sweep glass, mop food, and blot at the pant cuffs and at Janet’s shirt.

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