The temperature reached almost 100 degrees outside. It was dry. The wind was hot. Even if the windows were closed, the heat tried to slip inside as though it was trying to seek relief from its own sorry self. I kept the windows closed. All of it. The doors I kept fully shut. What little cool we had in the room I wanted to protect.
“Abe, can you get me a glass of water?” She fanned herself with a piece of cardboard she tore from the bottom of the yellow pad she liked to scribble her notes on. A proposal for water restoration was due tomorrow. She worked for the city and was recently placed on the drought committee. She suggested they launch an even bigger campaign to save water.
I handed her the water. This was the third glass she requested. Her eyes focused on the screen when she lifted her right hand and took the frosty glass. “Thanks,” she said without looking at me.
“Does this inspire you?”
She didn’t respond. “Does this inspire you?” I repeated.
“What?” she turned briefly, then returned quickly back to the screen.
“Never mind. I know you’re busy.”
“I said thanks, didn’t I?” she said, with a hint of annoyance.
“Of course, of course.” I grabbed my phone and took a picture of her by the computer. I thought her silhouette, even under this dim light was handsome. Her long, wavy hair swept up and the slight bones protruding from her white tank seemed like tiny knobs on a window I wanted to open and let the cool air in. The shape of her body resembled a tiny violin I wanted to play over and over again. I had never so much as dreamed of playing a stringed instrument, but such a yearning arose every time I saw her back just like this. What kind of sound could I derive from her if I was to run my fingers down the long, shallow reservoir along her spine… what chord would I strike… what note would I discover if I touched her. I took another picture, but she turned and disrupted the photo altogether.
“I did say thank you!” she repeated.
“Then why do you sound like that…” mocking me, “of course, of course.”
“I didn’t want to bother you. I know you have a deadline.”
“I thought you understood.”
“Then why are you trying…?”
“I wasn’t trying to.”
“But you did… so what is this all about?”
“Nothing,” I emphasized.
“I said thanks.”
“I didn’t even ask for that.”
“Fine!” Both of us retreated to our corners. She by her desk and I by the side of the bed where I glanced at my phone. It was only 7 o’clock at night.
“I have a deadline.”
“And I’m hot!”
“So am I.”
“I don’t want to argue.”
“That’s not what I’m doing.”
“You said something… I didn’t hear.”
“I asked if what you’re doing inspires you?”
“That’s what you asked?”
I rose and walked over to her. I pointed at her notes. “Yes, does this inspire you?”
“This is about inspiration? You think water conservation in the state of California is inspiring?”
“Well, does it? Does it inspire you, your work?”
A low, almost inaudible sarcastic laugh escaped from her. “This is what you’re trying to distract me from? Whether the proposal I’m writing will be useful even if I see my boss let the water run from the faucet every time I bump into her in the restroom. Every time I see sprinklers go off for hours on end outside the apartment complex or hearing how man-made lake is constantly being replenished to beautify the city… you think it inspires me to work on this goddamn proposal?”
“What does inspire you?” I asked again.
“What Inspires Me” ©mrg 9/28/16
She laughed at the absurdity of the question, the insincerity of my follow-up to her frustration. It was a question I thought too early to ask. She took her coffee with just cream, she liked turkey on wheat and her favorite boots were these black, worn pair she wore everywhere all the time. She preferred rock over hip-hop. She chose dark chocolate over milk chocolate. I figured this much about her, but she had no idea how much I extracted from her details to set up a drawing, figure out the colors of my paintings. But the derivative of her thoughts, what moved her in this world, I was almost afraid to ask, but she flung me in the middle of this pseudo-argument and I wanted to win somehow.
“I don’t know Abraham. It’s hot. I just want to finish this.”
“It was wrong for me to stay. I’ll leave.” I picked up my bag and the one notebook I always took with me wherever I go. She drank her water as she turned back to her screen. I shuffled towards the door. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”
I was about to pull the door closed when she turned and asked, “What inspires you, Abraham?”
“You.” I didn’t need to think about it. “You inspire me.” I pulled the door closed behind me. I wondered, though, whether I ought to come back at all.