Friday, November 14, 2014

Cuento de Mi Id

“Love Among the Runes”

“But I love you,” Kenneth said, tugging at her coat.

“But I don’t love you,” said Katherine. “That’s just the point.” She pulled her coat out of Kenneth’s grasp and continued on her way.

“Why?” asked Kenneth. “Why don’t you love me?”

“I don’t know ‘why’ I don’t love you,” said Katherine. “I just don’t. It’s not something you can make happen just like that.” She snapped her fingers for effect.

Kenneth just shook his head. “I don’t get it. I love you. Why don’t you love me?”

Because true love is not like exchanging gifts at the office Christmas party, she wanted to say. But she didn’t say it. Somehow she couldn’t bear to hurt him by being that harsh with him, even though he deserved it. Perhaps she really did love him, after all.

Don’t be ridiculous, she thought. Just because I don’t want to hurt his feelings doesn’t mean I love him, and even if it did, I certainly don’t love him in the sense that he means. In any event, love isn’t something you receive upon demand. How did that song go? “Lose your love when you say the word ‘mine’”? Or was that “you can’t hurry love”? It didn’t matter. The fact still remained that you can’t force someone to love you. Yet Kenneth was determined to violate that basic law of nature.

He clutched at her coat one more time. “Won’t you please reconsider?”

Katherine forcibly pulled the coat fabric out of his hands. “I have reconsidered,” she said. “And the answer’s still no.”

Kenneth started to step toward her again, then reconsidered and stepped back. Good, thought Katherine. He’s learning.

Kenneth’s mouth opened as if he was starting to say something but he apparently thought better of that, too, and closed it. “I hope you never fall in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, Katherine,” he finally said.

“I’m sure I won’t,” she replied.

Kenneth couldn’t resist trying one last time. “I really do love you, you know.”

“Oh, please,” Katherine muttered under her breath. She turned on her heel and stalked off toward the parking lot. If Kenneth wanted to play the role of the tragic lover, that was his business. But Katherine had no interest in sticking around to play the cold-hearted love interest. She had her own life to lead.

Halfway to her way, a cold November breeze induced her to put her hands in her pockets. As she did so, she discovered a small piece of paper in her left coat pocket. Kenneth’s handiwork, obviously. He must have slipped it into her pocket while she was taking to him. No wonder he had been tugging at her coat so much.

She pulled out the piece of paper and unfolded it. She might as well have left it in her pocket for all the good it did her; the note itself was obviously written in a foreign tongue, in letters so strange Katherine could not even recognize what language it was written in. Nice going, Kenneth, she thought. You go to all this trouble to slip your favorite lady a love letter, and you don’t even bother to write it in English. Very impressive.

She crumbled up the note and tossed it away. Within seconds, the wind had caught it, and the note was blown halfway across the parking lot. Perfect ending to a perfect day, she thought. Then she reached into her purse for her car keys…

By the time she got home, there was a blinking red light on her answering machine. No way I’m answering that, she thought. You don’t have to be the Amazing Kreskin to guess who that was.

She hurriedly undressed and took a quick shower. While she was in the shower, she heard the phone ring yet again, but she ignored it. The phone rang yet a third time after she got out of the shower.

She let the machine get it again.

“Katherine,” said the voice on the machine. ”You must call me back as soon as possible. My number’s 972-435-9075. It’s a matter of great importance. Please call me back.”

Katherine sighed. Everything was a matter of great importance to Kenneth. Didn’t he have a life of his own? He probably did, she realized upon reflection. The problem was that at least half of it revolved around dreams of her. As if she was supposed to be flattered that Kenneth picked her to be his dream girl. Face it, Kenneth. You’re no Brad Pitt. And anyway, I don’t want a man who loves only me. I’m not sure what I want, but it’s definitely not you.

She thought about the party she would be attending tomorrow night. The odds were that the men she met there would be no improvement over Kenneth, but there was always a chance. And besides, where is it written that you had to “settle” for second-best? Katherine was always having to “settle” for things. Well, no more. This time she would take control of her life.

The phone rang again. This time she picked it up.

It was Kenneth. “Thank God you’re home. They’ve been watching us, you see, and they must have slipped something in your coat pocket--”

“What’s with this ‘they’, Kenneth?” she interrupted. “Is this another scheme of yours to get me to go out with you? Because if it is--”

“No, it isn’t,” Kenneth replied. “I swear. It’s just that they’ve been following me for the last two days, and just tonight, I noticed that they’re starting to follow you, and--”

“Who’s ‘they,’ Kenneth? Some schoolboy chum of yours?”

“No, they’re this -- Well, you won’t believe me when I tell you this, but I used to belong to this group, see, and they were really into mythology, see--”

“Is this going to take long?” Katherine asked.

“No, it’s not. You see, they’re after you now because they’ve seen us together, and they must think we’re boyfriend and girlfriend. Anyway, I saw one of them hanging around the coatroom today and --”

“And then you conveniently remembered that in time to give you an excuse to come over to my house,” said Katherine. “Thanks, Kenneth, but no thanks. I’m not going out with you no matter what silly story you conjure up. And stop flattering yourself. Your friends must be the least observant people on Earth if they think we’re boyfriend and girlfriend because at no time did I ever give you or any third party any reason to think that we were. Now leave me alone before I call the police.”

“But what about the not--?” Katherine hung up on him.

Great, she thought. Now Kenneth was inventing conspiracy theories to get close to her. If this kept up, she might have to seriously consider changing jobs. Surely her current paycheck wasn’t worth this hassle.

The doorbell rang. Katherine checked the peephole. No one on the front porch. Probably high school kids pulling another prank. If she ever got her hands on that Kenneth…

The phone rang again. It was Kenneth, of course, mumbling something about a note in her pocket. If he was so sure someone else had slipped a note into her pocket, why didn’t he tell her about it earlier? He must have seen her throw it away. That’s why he was so upset. Well, he should start getting used to rejection, thought Katherine. She certainly had.

She turned the TV on and sorted her mail by the light of a Cheers rerun. Just bills and junk mail again. She sighed.

At least the sound of canned laughter drowned out Kenneth’s voice. Maybe she’ll get lucky, and he’ll run out of quarters.

The doorbell rang again. Those darn kids again. Or maybe it was Kenneth. Maybe she should get her mace... No, she could handle him.

She peered out the peephole again. The porch was empty. It was kids, she thought. Or was it? Maybe she should start taking Kenneth’s bizarre story seriously. No, that’s exactly what he was expecting her to do. Perhaps he had set this whole thing up as part of some sadistic prank. You never could tell. Sure, Kenneth looked like a nice guy on the surface, but underneath? Who could tell? Remember Jodie Foster? Forget it. If Kenneth thought sadistic pranks were going to drive her into his arms, he had a long wait coming. If he kept it up, she‘d just call the cops on him. She wasn‘t born yesterday, you know.

The phone rang again. She turned the sound up on the TV. There. That showed him.

Then the doorbell rang again. Katherine got her mace. Next time it rings, she thought, I‘ll be ready.

She glanced out the front window. She thought she saw a white-faced figure dressed in black, but it turned out to be a piece of paper stuck on a bush. Then the wind blew, and the paper vanished.

The phone rang. This time she picked it up.

“If you don‘t stop harassing me--” she started.

“Katherine,” Kenneth interrupted, “you must get out of that house. They know where you live.”

“I‘m warning you, Kenneth--”

“No, I‘m warning you. There‘s still a chance if you still have that note. Just give it to me and I can--”

“I threw it away.”

“What?”” Kenneth sounded stunned.

“I threw it away. And I must say that I‘m getting sick and tired of all these pranks you keep pulling, Kenneth. I know you feel rejected, but I thought that you would be a better man than that.”

“But I‘m not -- Oh, I see. They‘re doing it.”

“Who‘s ‘they,’ Kenneth?”

”The guys I told you about. The ones who are into black mag--”

Katherine hung up on him.

The doorbell rang again. This time Katherine strode right up to the door and pulled it open in time to catch a miniature figure kneeling on the doormat.

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

The kid looked up. “That man down the street told me to do this.” The kid pointed down the block.

Katherine walked out onto the porch and caught a glimpse of a solitary figure standing beneath a distant streetlamp. Kenneth, no doubt.

“Go away,” she said to the kid.

She locked the door behind her and ran to the phone. That was it for Kenneth, she thought. Now she was going to sic the police on him.

The doorbell rang.

She ignored it.

Someone tapped on her window. She ignored that, too.

An operator answered and put her on hold. Just like a Tonight Show joke, she thought.

The tapping grew louder.

She turned and saw Kenneth at the front window.

The operator came back on the line.

“Come quick,” she said. “There’s a man outside and he’s trying to break into the house.”

She hurriedly gave the operator her name and address and then hung up. Kenneth was gone from the front window. But he could still be outside, she thought.

The doorbell rang again.

“Go away!” she shouted.

Something thin and white emerged from beneath the front door. It was a note. “Get out of the house,” it said.

She crumbled it up and threw it away.

Then the phone rang. She ignored it. She thought about the back door. She rushed back to check on it.

When she got back to the living room, the doorbell was ringing again. She peered through the peephole. There was a cop on the front porch, peering into the bushes.

“Thank God,” she muttered.

She hurriedly unlocked the door. “You wouldn’t believe what has been going on here tonig--” she started to say.

Then the cop turned toward her. The first thing she saw was a face that looked like a crumbled sheet of paper.

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