A Matter of Definitions

There are monsters in this world, and they walk in the skins of men.

When I say monsters, of course, I do not mean the green-skinned, puss-oozing, onyx-black eyed variety. If there are those kinds of monsters abroad, I have yet to meet them.

I stifled my chuckle as I flicked my cigarette away with practiced carelessness.

Her eyes followed the movement of my hand as it raised the glass of whisky, and the movement of my throat as it swallowed. I understand it is gauche to judge one's own performance, but I have heard it said many times that though I am handsome, I am also…what did that luscious little blond call me? Captivating.

Well, I'll take what I can get.

This girl has not the look of the seasoned bar hopper. Her clothes are not right, her makeup is not heavy, and her tolerance is obviously low. One cocktail, (Sex on the Beach, how juvenile) and her movements are already uncoordinated.

Still, this girl would not give me her body, and if she offered I would not take it. Her face was good, though her eyes were too small and her mouth was too wide, but her body, short legs paired with a disproportionately long torso, was skinny and underdeveloped.

Though Cosmo insists we want women comprised entirely of toothpicks, I assure you that the average male desires something more.

As I say, this girl would not give me her body. She's worn her bloody rosary to the bar, after all, even though it is twisted around her wrist. This is probably one of those moments of subconscious rebellion.

But untutored girls of this nature…she might be tempted to let me have something else. And, as I have previously mentioned, I will take what I can get.

As I approached the bar, seeming to need another drink, she let her eyes wander to mine for a brief moment's contact. Ah, yes. Wonderful. Nothing better than the closet romantic. Her gaze was a mixture of hostility, curiosity, and hope.

I slid into the seat next to her, and she turned to face her drink, shoulders hunched, a clear defensive posture, but her eyes kept twitching, stealing glances at me. I ordered another drink, and, when it was set in front of me, turned to face her.

"Awfully noisy, isn't it?" I adopted the conspirator's grin as I jerked my thumb over my shoulder. Yes, darling, it's just you and me, one island of calm and reason against the big, bad world.

Her smile was brief, and her eyes were still cold. She nodded shortly and poked her straw around in her drink, digging for the last sip of vodka among the ice cubes. I smiled and drank some more whiskey.

"You go to NYU?"

She looked at me, obviously startled. "Yeah. How'd you know?"

I pointed to her student ID, half slipping out of her purse. She smiled, embarrassed and relieved, and shoved it back in.

"So what's your major?"

"English Literature and European History." Against her will, she was being drawn in to our conversation. Feigning interest in a sincere way is a great skill, but I flatter myself that I have mastered it. "I want to be a professor."

Generally, they say you should compliment a plain girl on her looks, and a pretty girl on her brains. This is an effective strategy, but only if the girl isn't smart enough to see through it. This girl was. So I eschewed the obvious "your students will never have a more attractive professor," and went instead with:

"Spend the year teaching and then head to Europe for a summer of research?" I said, sitting back in my stool. "Sounds like a great career. Where do you want to teach?"

She smiled rather shyly at me then, glad to have found someone like me, (or the person I was presenting, at the moment) even though she had come out looking for me to begin with. As she opened her mouth to reply, a gust of laughter from a nearby table forced her mouth shut again, and she shook her head, grinning ruefully.

"Wanna get out of here?"

"Yeah," she said, and I moved slowly but gracefully to hold out her coat for her. She smiled again at my gentlemanly behavior, and together we moved out into the chilly evening.

She avoided my eyes again, once we were outside the club, and I gave her a moment to gather herself while she buttoned up her jacket. When she was done, I smiled at her and repeated my question.

"Oh," she seemed pleased that I was still interested, "I like NYU, but I'd really like a college in Britain. I was thinking Oxford, but obviously that wouldn't come until a lot later."

"I've always wanted to go to Britain," this time I didn't have to fake interest, "Have you ever been?"

"Once, last year. I studied abroad at Cambridge." She chafed her hands for warmth and shoved them in her pockets.

"Wanna go get something to drink? There's a great little coffee-cum-bookstore a few blocks from here."

Her smile was actually quite pretty. "I'd love to."

Were I a physical monster, I feel I would tend towards the reptilian. Though I dislike drawing obvious parallels, a chameleon would be perfectly apt.

To the vain princess, I am another admirer upon bended knee, except I withhold my homage until she pays me in coin she did not intend to give.

To the wild girl, I am a partner perfectly willing to exploit her rash decisions. I do not believe in refusing anything offered, after all.

Sex-fiends are useful for situations where I do not feel like exercising patience, but they are not particularly gratifying. I desire being remembered, after all, either as a mistake, or a moment picked in gold, or an infected wound that refuses to be healed.

Most women I meet, though, have already been wounded so often that they have lost count. I can only slash scar tissue, or puncture hardened scabs. This is a certain challenge, and I enjoy it often. The resulting wounds, however, are merely more nails in the coffin, and though not forgotten, they are lost among many.

But to have the opportunity to make the first cut, to taste the first blood…it is a delicacy not to be missed, an opportunity to tempt any connoisseur.

So with this one, I smiled and chatted, bringing forth my not inconsiderable knowledge of literature and history. I was the perfect gentleman, paying for the coffee and presenting her with an annotated edition of my favorite book, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Don't overanalyze that one. It's just a fun way of saying, "don't pretend I didn't warn you." She did not heed the warning; in fact, she thought it was the nicest thing in the world.

I took her phone number, and left her with mine, after escorting her back to the subway. One digit was wrong, of course, but it always is.

More than eight million people live in New York City. Poor thing, it's highly unlikely that she'll ever find me again. I smiled as she waved to me from the train's window, and walked back into the night.

She'll always wonder what went wrong. Did she get the wrong number? Had I lost hers? After these basic questions, the poison will enter and bite deep.

Why hasn't he called?

Was it because I was so forward?

Did he have a girlfriend?

Didn't it mean something?

Didn't I mean something?

And she will never know.

There are monsters in this world, and they walk in the skins of men.

But once you get all those high-flown expressions out of your system, such terms as 'monstrous' really become just a matter of definitions.