Cafe Sin Leche

I stole the wife of an ugly Zoroastrian.p-heart_big

No, that’s not fair on two accounts:

First, he wasn’t ugly.  I’m sure Aysha’s husband Farzeen is good looking to many women.   In fact, he had an olive complexion and stood tall with dark eyes. Add the fact that he was wealthy, successful, and respected in his field and he probably was quite the catch.

Second, we never “steal” another.  I’m sure that is what he would say about me, but deep down we all know that’s not what happens.  Here’s what happened:

We collided.  Aysha and I collided.

Really that’s it, nothing more.  Take it for what it’s worth.  People collide, something either mysterious happens or nothing happens, really nothing in between.  We fell into each other’s worlds as soon as our eyes met, that teasing energetic eye electricity just below the level of consciousness.

Is it possible to see someone crying when they’re not crying, laughing when they aren’t laughing, loving when they’re not loving, and understanding the world when they are just sipping their damn water or picking things off their pizza?

I thought she was from India, which shows you how much I know.  She was from Turkey.  Her husband was from Iran.  They had moved to San Francisco several years ago. That was just after what I now call Act One of what was then merely a drama blindly unfolding.

If were to write a screenplay: Act one: an Iranian man and Turkish woman collide in Istanbul, marry, and become successful.  Act 2: Iranian man and Turkish woman forget they collided, take one another for granted, and plot different courses without knowing it.  Act 3: American-Mexican man and Turkish woman collide, consequences ensue.

I didn’t intend to fall in love with a married woman.  I don’t choose who I love.  Yes, being a scientist, I know it is a by-product of our evolutionary need to propagate the species and chemicals in the brain and hormones are responsible for the way we feel–but what’s not?

That doesn’t explain why it was her with whom I collided.  It also doesn’t explain why I was shot in front of my classroom blackboard.

For whatever it’s worth, I didn’t mean for it to happen.

It was her eyes.  And goddamn it, I hated her husband for the simple reason that he didn’t worship her eyes! She felt the world and I could see that in her eyes.  Dark and wide and accepting.  But more than that she moved beyond the pain to understanding. I knew it as soon as she glanced at me and didn’t avert her eyes like so many dull girls I’ve encountered.  It wasn’t even like those over-confident women who know they are physically beautiful.  Aysha paused in my gaze and I knew that she could understand things with me.  How could this awful, putrid crawl-in-the-mud, broken and bloody world produce something so exquisitely perfect like these dark-café-sin-leche almond-shaped eyes?  They made me not want to give up on this world.

I also detested her husband Farzeen because he barely noticed the poetry of her movement, the way her neck swayed when she spoken with passion, the way her hips moved from behind.  Maybe if I would have gotten to know him, befriended him, it would have been impossible for my heart to yearn for her.  Who knows?

Even in those first few moments I knew there would be pain in this.  That’s not saying much is it?  What doesn’t have pain?  Yet at some level I knew I would pay for my love, and yet I pushed forward anyway.

Little did I know what form it would take.

Just for the record, I’m not a hedonist.  But I’m not a non-hedonist either.  Imagine a world with conquered desire.  No more stolen kisses, no more guilty sugar rushes, or elation and revelation induced by copious amounts of Spanish wine, no more splurging on fine meals that tease your tongue and that you pay for later, no more lazy Sunday mornings.

So please, before you judge, you must know the rest of the story.

We sat down to a very casual dinner among colleagues after a long-day of very non-casual conference sessions discussing everything from new laser medical procedures to prosthetic eyes.  Aysha’s husband Farzeen was one of the plenary speakers and had been a hit that afternoon

“Aysha, you remember Dr. Orozco?” Farzeen said, then excused himself to take a call in the lobby just as the food was served.

Aysha smiled, “Carlos, great to see you again.”

In fact, we had met several times before and had talked that very afternoon.

Aysha and I and the others proceeded to dig in.

I watched as Aysha picked the toppings off her medium pizza one-by-one and put them in individual piles in a broad circumference around her plate.  First the mushrooms.

“I see mushrooms aren’t your favorite.” I said.

She shot a wily smile with her dark eyes and continued with the ritual.  Now the onions.

“Can I have your onions?”  I said, simultaneously realizing that was a strange, forward request from someone you had just met.

“No, I love mushrooms and onions!” she said.

Now the black olives, picking each one and delicately placing it in its respective pile. Then licking her fingers and tasting her lips with her tongue; then continued until all but the jalapenos were off her pizza and in piles on her plate.

“There, ta-da!” she looked up and presented her mutilated cheese and jalapeno pizza as some kind of masterpiece.

“Why didn’t you just order jalapenos?”  I had to ask.

She gave me a look I would come to know well, like a switch, her left eyebrow raised quizzically (is there any other way to raise an eyebrow?) and twisted her mouth sardonically.

I looked at her, shook my head, let out a resigned laugh, and then did something I didn’t expect.

I fell in love with her.

This was all within the 8 minutes before her husband came back and started talking about some paper proposal he wrote got accepted by the American Medical Society.  And those 8 minutes changed the rest of my life.

And my death.


2 thoughts on “Cafe Sin Leche

    • Ahh, that part about being shot in front of blackboard while teaching comes later in the novel…not yet written. This is an beginning chapter. Not to give too much away, but he will go into a temporary coma, while she will visit him in the hospital and read to him. this will invoke for him a strange overlap between reality and fantasy.


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