I am convinced that Monifa is The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. There is no doubting my conviction in this. Granted, I haven’t met every single woman in the world, but compared to the supermodels and movie stars I see in magazines, Monifa beats them all by a mile.
A very LONG mile.
Monifa and I have been sitting at D’Angelo’s Café for nearly twenty minutes, chatting over lattes and grilled hummus sandwiches (which, I might add, are incredibly delicious!). Thankfully, Sam is nowhere to be found. It’s just the two of us, a couple of businessmen in the back, an elderly woman sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, Cathy and her assistant, Micah. Micah is a college student who’s studying art. And yes, he looks and acts like a stereotypical hipster. Whatever.
“I have to know, Ryan. If you could pursue your dream job, what would it be?” Monifa asks me.
“Hm. I would say I would love to be a professional biographer. I love reading biographies and think I would do a good job at writing one.” I’m not lying when I say this. Obviously, slaving away over smelly gym towels isn’t what I’d like to be doing for the next twenty years.
“Biographies? That’s so interesting. Is there anybody in particular you would like to write about?”
“Oh, no one really. I’m mostly fascinated with ordinary, average people who do extraordinary things with their lives.” I stirred a half package of sugar into my latte. I hope my waistline doesn’t object to this!
“So you have no interest in celebrities?”
“Or politicians, for that matter. I think they’re over-exposed as it is.”
I see Cathy eyeing us from her corner in the café. She’s fixing a sandwich at the moment, of which variety I cannot tell. She must be thinking how unusual it is for me to come in here with a beautiful black woman. The two of us do make an odd couple.
“I love adventure stories. You should write one of those.” Monifa’s posture is upright and proper. I don’t think she ever slouches in real life.
“What kind of adventure stories? I’m not really interested in writing any of those kinds of books, but I suppose I shouldn’t knock it unless I’ve tried it.”
Monifa smiles. Her face is so beautiful I want to take a picture of her and frame it on my wall. Her beauty transcends any feelings of lust or sexual attraction. Her beauty is like staring at a divinely perfect piece of art. If Cindi’s body is art, Monifa’s face is also art (but don’t get me wrong; her body is also VERY fine. But it’s obviously not as muscular or unusual as Miss North’s epic physique). I wonder how she can still be single. How can any heterosexual man resist this incredible woman?
“I like adventure stories involving most anything. The high seas, deadly volcanoes, mysterious islands, intergalactic planets, tropical excursions, pirate ships, anything. I guess this is what happens when your real life is so boring.”
“Boring? How could your life be boring? You’re a conceptual artist. Aren’t they the most inventive and wackiest of all people?”
Monifa lets out a quiet laugh. “I told you, conceptual art is my hobby. By day I’m a software tester. I wish I had more time to pursue art, but that’s what happens when you work too many hours in a cubicle.”
“Nonsense. I don’t consider what you do for a living to be your life. I think what you love to do to should define your life. Just look at me, for example. I work at a dead-end job cleaning mirrors, windows, dirty towels and locker room floors. That’s not even close to what I consider to be my life. It’s just what pays the bills.”
“I guess you’re right. I should find more time for my art.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what type of conceptual art do you do? I have little to no knowledge about this sort of thing.”
“Essentially, I like to fuse all sorts of art into a cohesive whole to tell a larger story. In Ethiopia, I briefly worked as an actress when I was a young girl. Then I started to do modeling. Then I got into photography. When I moved to America I took classes in filmmaking and drawing. Everything fascinates me. I feel like I’m great at taking big ideas and making them simple to understand.”
“Taking big ideas and making them simple to understand? That’s almost what a historian does. Except they work in recording human activity, not creating art.”
“They can almost be considered the same thing,” Monifa says.
Wow. That’s…kind of deep. Monifa takes a last sip of her coffee and places the cup on the table. Does she want a refill? Or does she want something else to eat? I told her when we first got here that I’d pay because she’s new and I wanted to welcome her to the neighborhood. I also pointed out to her that I’ll probably be the only neighbor that she’ll know in our building. The people who live there aren’t terribly open to meeting those who live no more than twenty feet away from them.
Almost on cue, Cathy walks over to our table.
“Hello you two. Can I get you anything else?” Cathy takes a long look at Monifa. I think she would agree with me that her beauty is almost beyond compare.
“No thank you,” Monifa says sweetly. I nod my head in agreement.
“Alright. Holler if you need anything. You know where I am.” With that, Cathy walks away and winks at me when she’s out of Monifa’s line of sight. Does she think we’re on a date? Who goes on a date on a Monday afternoon?
There is a long pause. Oh great. What should I say next?
“If you had unlimited resources and unlimited time, what type of…art project would you want to create?” Ah ha! I just asked an art question that allows her to express herself. When it comes to attracting intelligent women, I hope I’m on to something.
Monifa pauses to think and finally speaks: “I would love to create a series of tableaus. Do you know what that is?”
“Uh, sort of. It has something to do with pictures, right?”
“Yes, it has a lot to do with photography, but the type of tableaus I’m interested in created involve real people in real situations. I’d love, for example, to create a series of still images of people, all types of people, young and old, every body type, every shape, color and ethnicity, relating to each other in the real world.”
This is my chance to shine. I’ve read about artists doing these sorts of projects. If I can impress her with this, who knows how far I can go with her?
“You’re referring to a ‘tableau vivant.’” I smile as these words leave my mouth.
“Yes! A “tableau vivant!” You’ve heard the term before.” Monifa looks impressed with my knowledge of art. Score for me!
“I have heard the term before. They’re living pictures. So, you’d like to create living pictures of all sorts of people doing what they do in real life.”
“Not just real life; but in a surreal, enhanced version of life. Picture this: A large group of skinny, beautiful women surrounding a larger, overweight woman in a circle and pointing fingers at her, while the woman in the middle crouches over and weeps. Or a group of racially-homogeneous schoolchildren turning their backs to a mixed-race child–”
“Or an interracial couple,” I blurt out. I hope my interruption doesn’t bother her.
“Yes, that would also be powerful, especially if the schoolchildren were in their teens.”
“What’s stopping you from pursuing this sort of project? I realize you said time is always a factor, but isn’t that just an excuse we use? I tend to think we use the “time” excuse because we’re afraid of what actually doing this project could lead to.”
“What do you mean?” Monifa finishes her sandwich and turns her attention completely upon me. Her dazzling black eyes pierce through me like an Olympic archer’s arrow.
“Well, I think we’re afraid of pursuing our dreams because we’re afraid we might fail, which wouldn’t just shatter you accomplishing our dreams, but your desire to dream of anything again. If our dreams remain fantasy, we can always take comfort in knowing that we’ll never fail.”
“But how do you know you’ll fail if you never try it? If you keep on wishing for things, they’ll never happen unless you take action.”
This is where I can definitely go in for the intellectual kill.
“Maybe this is why you should pursue your dreams instead of just talking about it.”
Silence. DEAD SILENCE. DEAD, DEAFENING SILENCE.
Just what I thought would happen. Dead, deafening silence. Monifa’s gorgeous face wrinkles as she thinks hard about what I just said. I genuinely hope she gets out of her artistic funk and pursues her photography, or whatever art she likes to do. It’s a damn shame when young people talk about wanting to do something but never even try to do it. Rationalizing your behavior can be the ultimate form of suicide.
Gee, I should write a book about this.
“You know what, Ryan? You’re right. You’re absolutely right, one hundred percent right. I should pursue my art. Of course, in small chunks. I can’t do everything overnight, you would agree?” I see that Cathy has returned to the back kitchen. I think she’s conceded that we’re not going to order anything else today.
“Of course, I completely agree. Start out small. Right now, you’re doing nothing. So doing something would definitely be an improvement. Start with something modest. How about creating two or three person tableaus? I’m sure we can totally find volunteers who’d be willing to pose for a few shots. Seattle is full of artsy-types who would do anything do get into the “art scene.’”
Monifa grins. “I’ll think about this. I’m confident I can get something off the ground. But I just moved here, so I–”
“Ah, ah, ah! There’s that thing about making excuses. Do you have a camera?”
“Great. Is it unpacked?”
“No, but it’s not hard to find.”
“Great. Think about some ideas, and feel free to knock on my door any time to run them by me. My ear is always open to new ideas.” Holy shit, did I just give her an open invitation to come over to my apartment whenever she likes? I’m really getting bold.
“I would like that. I like you, Ryan. I’m glad we’re neighbors.”
“I’m glad, too.”
There is another period of silence, but this time it’s way more awkward. I think it is time for us to depart from here and go our separate ways.
“Pablo should be done with your unit by now.”
“Yes, he should be. I’ll pay for us.”
“No, no, no! Your money is no good here, at least not today. I’ll cover this, my treat.”
“Thanks! You’re very sweet.” Monifa leans over and kisses me on the cheek. I feel my entire body melt at the sensation of her soft lips covering my face. Is it possible to get a heart attack just by being kissed by a beautiful woman?
We get up, push our chairs in and I walk over to the counter. Cathy has since returned, reading a trashy fashion magazine.
“I’m paying for the both of us.”
“Who’s the girl, Ryan? She’s quite a looker,” Cathy whispers to me as I hand her my debit card. She swipes it and returns it to me. I put it back in my wallet.
“New neighbor. Next door. Sweet thing. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.”
“Holy fucking shit. She’s gorgeous, honey. You better act fast or else someone else will, trust me.” Cathy’s advice is always straight and to-the-point. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
“I trust you, Cathy. I trust you. I’ll see you later.”
“Bye,” Cathy says to me. “Bye!” she yells to Monifa as we head out the door.
“Good bye, Cathy. It was nice to meet you. You have a lovely establishment. I’ll be returning here often,” Monifa declares as we leave.
We stroll back to the apartment building across the street. Sure enough, Pablo is finished with his work. Monifa and I shake hands as we retreat to our respected units, separated by nothing but a thin, sound-proof wall. I close the door and collapse onto the couch.
“Wow, what a day. What a way to spend my Monday,” I tell myself.
Imagine this: I’m now next-door neighbors with The Most Beautiful Woman in the World and this Saturday I’ll be losing my virginity to The Most Muscular Woman in the World.
Not bad, Ryan Takahashi, not bad at all. Looks like I’m finally starting to move up in the world.
It’s about time!