Waiting for Amanda
[ fiction - august 12 ]
Amanda whirred to herself, and she was in a strange mood because of the break-up; yes, it was just her on-again, off-again relationship with Luc. But with her you never really knew, though she could “give it back” to us, she boasted. She made a wry face as she swallowed her Molson X beer. “It can’t be,” she said. “Can’t be what?” hummed Rob, whirling away to another customer at the bar, our usual hangout. Amanda’s eyes lingered on Rob’s narrow waist, and she smiled, didn’t she? Then she looked at me, and laughed.
I laughed back with her.
Oh, all of us did.
Her full mouth set in a broad, attractive face I studied; and she’d been trying to lose weight; and what would she look like when she reached fifty? Really... what? She glared at me, as I instinctively stretched out my tongue, like a salivating dog, didn’t I?
She grinned again. Then she asked me to really imagine her then... when she would indeed reach fifty; and see, it also had something to do with her not eating pasta, despite her Italian genes and all (as Luc had often berated her about). “I’m not French like you,” she would hurl back at Luc, which started another of their fights; and they would scream at each other. Murder each other, really.
I concentrated on Amanda’s thick black hair, and attractive as she was. Now she made it a point to be with us at Garbo’s, calling us ‘my group’, the four or five of us (guys and gals) who would hang out together. Now twenty-three going on to twenty-nine, Amanda kept aimlessly roving over Rob’s backside as he whirled to the cash register with a smug expression. Yes, Rob knew he was handsome, and someone had simply called him... what? “RoboCop?”
Christ, he cast a disdainful look at us. Race, wasn’t it?
Yes, Amanda being Italian and all, and we were who we were, no?
Yeah, beer-guzzlers, like our one last night together, our last one-night stand, nothing less. RoboCop grinned again, then pumped his arms in the air near the cash register. Amanda burst out laughing. Now who’s really macho? Not Luc anymore? But Amanda was coy, indeed. And Rob had charm, charming the ladies - his speciality. Did they call him Blackey? “RoboCop, come here,” another customer called out, as he sauntered along to a petite blonde with a wide-gummed smile.
“Now what?” he commanded, face close to hers, as he seemed about to start nibbling her ear. Vanessa’s lips were absolutely pink. A come-on? Steve, my buddy, at our table nudged me. Amanda felt an immediate whirring again, it wasn’t hard to tell. Vanessa, a wisp of a girl really, looked more determinedly at Rob.
Women’s ways, you bet. RoboCop turned to another customer, as Vanessa hooted, “Hey, you gonna sing for us?” Thick hair thrown back, she was ready to release her pent-up energy. Not at us? I shifted my gaze to Amanda, trying to figure out the real reason for her rage at Luc. She squirmed: “Oh, he could sing for us too, if he wanted.” Rob, who else? “Not just for you, Amanda?” I chided. Not Luc any longer, Amanda really wanted us to know. I sighed. “I’ve had a really bad day,” she hissed at me.
“Because of Luc?” Hamid asked, sitting across from her, black hair twirling across his forehead. His moony-looking eyes dimmed. Amanda had said Asian guys always have moony eyes. Now eyes directed at her? Someone cried out, “Haven’t we all had bad days?”
“I’ve broken up with Luc,” Amanda moaned, wanting sympathy.
“Luc wants me to be like the French girls he dates. But I am Italian!” She was still concerned about her weight, she couldn’t hide it. Then about Luc once more: “The French-Canadian girls are special, he often says. Yeah, so I handed him back his ring.” She grinned. “I didn’t want to be engaged to a guy talkin’ like that anymore!” Her eyes became embers.
Hamid was riveted to her. All the while Rob kept flirting with Vanessa, as he also floated from table to table, indeed being RoboCop.
“Thanks, you guys,” Amanda said ironically, then swallowed another mouthful. Thanks for what? “You sure you’re alright?” I asked her. “What’s with you, Brian?” she slapped my wrist. “It’s not Luc only I care about, you know. Christ, I’m not depressed either.”
“Your engagement..?” I tried.
Amanda didn’t want my sympathy, not tonight. Her eyes kept roving over the bar, everywhere. She watched RoboCop smile as he served a brunette. Did he really come from the Bronx in New York City? But Amanda kept thinking about Luc, she was still in the “doldrums”: she actually used that word. And did Luc really pump iron each night before going to bed, his way of keeping up his testosterone level? He would next pose before the mirror, for half an hour, showboating, Amanda said. “Thinks he’s Mr Body Beautiful,” she rasped. “He’s always on the beach too, even in winter, can you believe it? Arnold Schwarzenegger, yeah,” Amanda laughed.
My arm reached out under the table, like my one furtive act.
“What a guy,” Hamid let out. Luc... or Rob?
“Yes, what a guy?” Amanda snapped back, squeezing my fingers. “Luc flexes his muscles in the mirror, but not with me.” She twisted her sensuous lips. I was beginning to have eyes for her; but she was still in love with Luc. Hamid also had eyes for her; but Amanda didn’t really care for Hamid; but maybe toyed with him, her way.
“Why... not?” I asked her why Luc was losing interest in her.
“Oh?” Then, “Hamid’s really nice,” I tried being a match-maker.
Not for myself? Hamid urged me to it, you bet.
“Hamid’s nice, that’s all,” she countered.
“Is it because, well, he’s...”
“Paki?” She arched her eyebrows.
She hollered something else into my ears because of the noise in the bar. Then came laughter. And Hamid often talked about the fun he used to have back in Karachi; he wished it was the same here in Canada.
“Why not go back there then?” Amanda railed at him.
“Yes, why not?” he glared at her.
RoboCop kept floating around as more customers entered the bar this Friday night, Garbo’s being like the best place in town in the Byward Market. Suddenly it wasn’t just our hangout only.
“Why not have fun here too, eh?” insisted Joey, another regular in our group. Hamid merely muttered about going to a mosque in Karachi to pray. That’s fun? “You can never understand us, my people, I mean,” Hamid said with a grimace.
Joey sneered back. At who really?
Steve also sneered, mocking. Then Amanda took his hand, Hamid’s, squeezing it. Hamid let out a short squeal. I tried to imagine him in a mosque in Lahore or Karachi bending down to pray. No, Amanda wouldn’t go out with him: he was nerdy, she’d said, a far cry from macho Luc. And was I nerdy too?
RoboCop sauntered by again; he had eyes for Amanda. Stud! Not for Vanessa anymore? “Why should I try to please him?”Amanda asked.
She meant Luc? RoboCop grinned from ear to ear. As Amanda swallowed another mouthful of Molson, still thinking of Luc’s bulging biceps, maybe. Real testosterone, see. Not RoboCop’s biceps?
Oh, I began liking Amanda more and more, my own psychological state after breaking up with Rosalee. I’d told Amanda about her, and she once called Rosalee a “Hong Konger.” Chink?
Amanda again hummed something about her Italian heritage, and her place, or everyone’s place, in the world, what she was really coming to grips with. Then she rasped that she wasn’t really Italian.
“But... what?” drilled Joey and Hamid together in unison.
Casually my right hand again reached out, our legs, mine and Amanda’s, almost hitched together under the table. Yes, my affection for Rosalee, I thought again. “You do like big women, do you?” Joey teased me. Not tease Hamid? Because Amanda was large-boned, if not just large-breasted... against one like Rosalee who was thin. What was I thinking? Shithead, philosopher!
Rob again waved: to who now? And did Hamid tell his mother back in Karachi that he would get married before the year’s out: to a Canadian girl? Oh, his mother kept pulling her hair out, about a suitable bride for her son. Family tradition was at stake; not just family honour, Hamid told us. “Why not marry one like us?” the Karachi women drilled, I imagined.
“What does it matter, Ma?” Hamid rebuked, on a long-distance phone-line.
“She has to be of our faith, son.”
“Christ, she will be covered...” Then, “We’re not Talibans.”
Imagine Amanda in a mosque in Afghanistan or somewhere like it, and one woman, suitably covered... a silken scarf on her head, and in an elegant shalwar. Suitable?
Joey hummed that he wasn’t a believer, but was now a devoted Catholic. But someone else muttered something about the Inquisition, which hadn’t been good for the Catholic image. And why did the Pope keep flogging his conservative views by releasing one encyclical after another? “Gosh, no pope should ever do that,” Amanda murmured. She was a Catholic, see.
Faith still in the offing? Hamid made a face, as someone else talked about the Crusades and war between the Christians and Moslems still ongoing. I simply kept bringing up Rosalee in my mind; as I glanced around again, noting RoboCop’s increasing swagger.
“He must,” Joey snapped. Must... meaning the Pope?
Then Joey added that he was dead-set against abortion. “It’s murder!”
Hamid seemed surprised at the language now used. Amanda too.
“What’s... murder?” she drilled.
“Killing babies,” Joey growled.
“I once had an abortion,” Amanda let it slip out.
“Did you?” Aghast Hamid was.
Rosalee still with me, the once stormy affair we had, or kept having. Maybe she’d become pregnant, but never let me know. Now RoboCop once more swung towards us, brandishing his body weight. As maybe we became instant believers, converts.
Really? Amanda looked at me, fingers tightening in mine, our knees knocking together. Where was Luc now? Voices on the phone, if indeed Luc’s. Or just Hamid’s mother once more asking about when her son would get married. See, it had to be the right girl!
Rosalee, where was she now, if not gone back to Hong Kong, or to Beijing... because she had family there; and I could have been there with her? Amanda turned once more... to me. Not to Rob, hip muscles and all. I kept wanting to be a believer; and did I fear what the Pope’s next encyclical might be?
RoboCop laughed, as he passed by us again.
Amanda snorted loudly: ah, strangely.
Joey looked crossly at Amanda for the first time, and maybe she wasn’t his type, not any more: all in our wayward flirting. And RoboCop was really after blond Vanessa; and see, he could easily have been a basketball player; definitely not like an Asian... like Yao Ming, see.
But I imagined Rob scoring basket after basket, then came another slam dunk. Yes, Vanessa cheered. Amanda too cheered. Next I saw Rob with the Harlem GlobeTrotters because of his fanciful or stylish way. Yes, we ordered more beer, now like our first and last drink.
Hamid wiped his mouth roughly. No more liquor, his being a devout Muslim, wasn’t he? Joey simply stared at Amanda. “Was the father... Luc?” Joey asked with an awkward grin. The abortion didn’t actually take place, asshole. Amanda said she’d really broken up with Luc because he never wanted to have children. What else was Amanda thinking, her eyes moving around; and maybe she expected Luc to barge in at any moment into the bar, didn’t she? Such dread was in her eyes, I observed.
I gripped her fingers. She gripped mine.
Vanessa moved towards the counter, to where RoboCop was standing with a bemused expression on his face. Amanda guzzled her beer, studying Vanessa now... and Rob too, from behind her beer mug, her eyes binoculars. RoboCop, with shades in between, black and white or brown. As Hamid wondered which one of the women - the regulars - he must propose to before the year’s out. Muslims don’t drink alcohol! Imagine him writing to his mother - the middle-class Pakistan family he came from... to tell her about his serious intention to get married. But Hamid wanted to be different; he wasn’t just a computer whiz-kid, a nerd for nothing. Why not send his mother a photograph of big-busted Amanda to see if she would approve, eh?
“She’s Italian, Ma.”
She must be a girl from Karachi, son.
Again I imagined Amanda in a mosque... women always being separate from men to allow for exert maximum concentration on Allah by men when worshipping. And maybe Amanda would try wearing a niqab, no? See, it had nothing to do with patriarchy or male chauvinism. Whose testosterone level kept rising?
Rosalee, where are you now really?
Hamid grinned, thinking of honouring - not humouring - his parents’ wishes because family tradition was still all. His eyelids quivered.
Mine did, too.
Amanda said she would never go out with a French-Canadian guy again. “Why not?” I asked inanely.
She let out a dull moan.
RoboCop came around once more, with a determined expression, asking if we wanted another drink, it was the last call. Amanda gave him her full attention. “Last call,” Rob edged closer. “Sure, last call, Lady.” He actually called her that.
She grinned. My legs hitched to hers almost under the table.
RoboCop drifted back to the cash-register. He was aware of his attraction to the “ladies”. Not the last gal who came in fifteen minutes ago - another brunette wearing short sleeves... in the heart of winter?
Vanessa casually patted RoboCop’s forearm... now nearing midnight. But Rob no sooner hurled himself back to our table. Are we sure we didn’t want another drink? Last call, remember? Night’s darkness. Amanda made a moony face. Hamid looked at her, grinning sheepishly. “It’s really the last call,” Rob grated.
“We just got here,” Amanda rasped with a wink.
“It’s closing time,” Rob laughed, crazy-like.
Something else now, maybe about Luc... as Amanda wanted Rob to keep on talking. Vanessa turned round to eye us with her Dolly Parton-like looks. The brunette, Stella - her name - smiled, her eyes next straying across the tables to two longhaired dudes absorbed in themselves. Rock musicians?
RoboCop simply cooed, “Last call, you all!”
“Sure,” sang Amanda, and ordered another beer.
I wondered if Rob was really from Atlanta or Jersey City, not New York. He attended to the two long-haired macho-males. Gays? One asked Rob if he liked rap music, lips working up a strange sound.
What sound? Who was Rob’s favorite rap artist anyway?
Rob smiled a response.
Then, “Gosh, don’t tell me he’s gay,” growled Amanda.
“What d’you mean?” Hamid asked with chuffed laughter. Not thinking about gays in Pakistan also? The two long-haired dudes quaffed their beer. Vanessa looked at them, oddly. This time Rob swallowed something in a glass one of the long-haired guys handed him.
What for? Vanessa made a sourpuss face.
Immediately Amanda rubbed her eyes. Freaks! Her soft shriek, as she impulsively got up and started walking over to the far-end table. Fuck him, she said. Now she would accost the two long-haired ones.
Watch out! I heckled, “Where are you going?”
“To see Blackey in a corner... there,” Amanda grinned, more attractive-looking. Then, “I wish I could see his naked chest in my room tonight.” Oh?
Joey turned snarly. “Not Luc’s chest?”
Amanda’s next move? She indeed had eyes for Rob. Then she came back to get her beer. Last call, remember? Vanessa merely turned around. I figured new psychological states were now between the women, or it was just the way things were. Yeah, because of Rosalee that I was still obsessed with, I imagined. Not my thinking about Amanda anymore?
Hamid lowered his head. Paradise after being married, eh?
Not a martyr’s life for him, you bet. Yes, Amanda returned to her seat with a sigh. A religious sigh.
Now I didn’t want Luc to come near her, not ever to come looking for her. Not stalking her! Amanda was now nervous-looking as RoboCop passed by us again. She wanted to slap his backside, where his pants hung low. How really low?
The long night outside... awaiting us. Hamid was going to his apartment alone, maybe to make another long-distance overseas call to his mother. A prospective Karachi bride still in the offing? Or he would wait for the brunette in shirt sleeves to come again to the bar, before he attempted his first real move, taking his cue from one like RoboCop.
Joey yet focussed on Vanessa, a staunch Catholic as he was, still dead-set against abortion. Amanda smiled. I unconsciously flexed my muscles, but not like RoboCop’s for sure. Right then I figured Amanda regretted breaking up with Luc; she was deeply in love with him... never with me or Hamid.
A special night it seemed. And Rosalee in Beijing, I again thought, images whirling up. I suddenly wanted her close by.
Amanda looked at me. Ah, America, not Karachi, with Hamid making a face. RoboCop being yet with the Harlem GlobeTrotters?
Luc, where are you?
Imagine Rob doing hoops in a drive-way, the two long-haired dudes in the bar now playing pick-up basketball with him. Rap music, everywhere. Bodies gyrating, arms pumping. One long night... Amanda with Rob? Someone suddenly called out in the dark alleyway, outside. Calling me a chink? Yes, Luc was indeed stalking Amanda, as she kept being Italian once again and wanted to lose weight - and to look good, really good, for whom?
Musicians... in New York or somewhere else, if in New York or Chicago only. Jazz, indeed, in New Orleans. Not just playing in Ottawa or Toronto in Canada! Yes, for Rob to get some “bangers” for the two long-haired dudes, right? Yes, I kept shooting a ball into the basket - my own special three pointer it seemed, contriving my own arc of space too, my own ideals with Rosalee. Not Amanda anymore because Luc was indeed nearby. The ball floating in the air, then dropping into the basket. Dunk!
Applause. Vanessa and Stella kept cheering. Groupies all.
Amanda’s special rhythm I also considered, which maybe Luc didn’t want to come to grips with. Why not? Sex appeal being everything these days, even if it was only looking at myself in the mirror and thinking about Rosalee, not Amanda. All testosterone-driven instincts, or my own authentic style, as I wanted to tell Hamid and Joey.
Beijing or Hong Kong far away, and I was heading there next because of my sense of loyalty to place, which everyone else figured, as Amanda asked me if it was the Year of... What? As Luc appeared out of the blue, swaggering in like an Arnold Schwarzenegger. He wanted everyone to know who he was, including RoboCop! The two brutes eyeing each other, like what I never saw before at Garbo’s. Amanda merely made a face, if with a Muslim veil on, maybe.
I also grinned.
Joey had spark in his eyes.
Yes, an abortion, dammit!
RoboCop laughed hard. Romance somewhere in the night, if for me only, as I also laughed.