Sonata for Unaccompanied Munchkin

Written by Luna

It's one of those nights where it's hard to fall asleep. Maybe it's because of the hum of the air conditioner, or caffeine, or maybe the fact that this is an unfamiliar bed.

She's got a weird kind of pattern on these pillowcases, but the regularity is hard to pin down. You wouldn't think they'd put such a weird design on pillowcases. It's not very relaxing. But you wouldn't think it would matter. You'd think, at the end of a long day and an -- let's say, an active night, you could just roll over and relax and go to sleep.

Yeah. Right. Whatever.

First of all, you realize that you don't know what her name is. And this starts to bother you, the more you think about it. You think it was something like Sandra. Or Sarah. Sheryl? You're sure she told you, even though you didn't do a lot of talking. Somewhere between Shoshana and Sylvie, you give up trying to remember. That's when you start to ask yourself why you're doing this.

Sure, it's simple; she's an attractive woman who let herself be talked into going to bed with you. And certainly, on some levels, you're still surprised that that actually works, considering that you've looked in the mirror and seen your own face. So you tell yourself that you enjoyed the evening, and there's nothing wrong with this kind of casual encounter, that as long as you're careful, no one gets hurt.

Of course, there are problems with that theory. For one thing, you didn't enjoy the evening. Oh, you enjoyed the sex, but what about the hour leading up to it? You cast a glance at the woman asleep next to you. Yes, she's pretty. But when she's awake and talking, God, she's vapid. She couldn't converse about anything beyond Julia Roberts movies and lipstick colors. She told you she has trouble setting her alarm clock because electronics are a "guy thing," for heaven's sake. You can't help but be a little bit disgusted, and that makes you disgusted with yourself.

Just think about what tomorrow morning will be like, making awkward, empty small talk over instant coffee, saying you'll call her. If you retain any fraction of self-respect, you won't. You hope you're not that pathetic, although obviously, that's debatable.

You knew you'd feel this way, even as you bought her a drink. So you wonder, why did you do it? If you knew you were going to regret it, if you knew it was just meaningless and empty, why did you waste your time? Why aren't you out trying to make a real relationship work, or at least looking for someone who doesn't have a copy of Soap Opera Digest on her night-stand?

You ask yourself these things. And from nowhere in particular, the answer comes. It's because you -- I don't know why I keep saying "you." I don't mean you, I mean me.

It's because I'm a coward.

Not on the streets, not at work; I can handle those things. Despite maintaining appearances to the contrary, I'm good at the job. I suppose someone must know that; they'd transfer me out of there like a shot if I wasn't holding my ground. Nothing out there in that world scares me, and by now I've seen most of what there is to see.

It's this stuff. Not this right now, but when it gets real, when it starts to mean something. The woman that looks at me and knows everything. The woman who makes my heart stop, not just made my blood flow south. I know who she is, and she scares the hell out of me.

I've only found a few of them -- or, rather, they've found me; I can't take that much credit. When it's like that, when it's real, I just fall headlong into it. Every time, I think I'll know better, and I never learn. I always think it's worth it. Then I screw up, or I get screwed over. And I'm it's more the former than the latter, though I never see it coming. You'd think I'd be an expert on these things by now. I'm a schoolboy. All I know is that love is like a shoot-out. When you're at a safe distance, it's easy to think about it and pretend you're being rational. When you're in it -- well, it's all you can see.

What's the sane alternative? Avoid that woman, or annoy her; push her away; keep her at arm's length, at all costs. God forbid she offers me anything; I know I can't say no. I'm hiding in the trenches, ducking down, trying to pretend the bullets aren't flying.

Just because it's sane doesn't mean it's not cowardice.

So what you have, if you're me, and you're staying out of trouble, is a night like this. A one-night stand with... let's say Svetlana, here, and her too-bright lipstick and her ugly pillowcases. Which, you know, is not the worst way to live. I'd rather have this than be lying alone -- or, worse, working alone.

What's wrong with me, really, that I'm complaining? Who cares if she's not an intellectual? Who cares if she's in love with Mel Gibson and has *Entertainment Weekly* badly confused with the Bible? What do you want in bed, Madeleine Albright? There is a reasonably nice, moderately pretty, definitely female person here. Some inexplicable impulse led her to invite you home and let you between her -- admittedly odd-looking sheets. Gratitude would be appropriate.

It's stupid that I'm lying here obsessing, like it's not all meaningless. Like I'm so perfect that I deserve to be picky. I'm an idiot. Not every woman has to be that pulse-pounding, adrenaline-surging woman. Not every lover has to be the love of your -- of my -- life.

And sometime tonight, I really need to get some sleep.