[Excerpt] by Paul Watkins
‘Heres the thing, about Valya and me,’ he said. ‘You know how it is when there are beautiful people all around, but their beauty does nothing to you.’
‘I guess,’ I said awkwardly.
‘You recognize that they are beautiful,’ continued Fleury, ‘and charming and intelligent, men and women both, but when you look at them you feel a certain emptiness. It doesn’t occur to you that you may never see them again, and if it did, you wouldn’t care. It’s as if we each have some kind of coding device inside us. Sometimes our codes partly match with the codes of other people. Mostly they don’t match at all.
‘But’ – he pinched the air – ‘in the rarest moments, the codes will match completely. There is even a feeling of a lock clicking shut. It isn’t love or lust. It’s something entirely different. It’s some unnamed recognition that makes you want to be near them, no matter what the circumstances. It makes you want to tell them secrets. You don’t care what kind of fool you make of yourself. The idea that you might not see this person again sends panic clattering through your head. That’s the way I am about Valya. And I tell you, there isn’t a damned thing I can do about it.’
‘Poor you,’ I said.
‘Poor me is right.’ His face took on a mixture of deviousness and hope. ‘But perhaps not as poor as all that.’ His eyes narrowed as the possibilities took shape in his head.
I felt even more sorry for him than before.