She's been waiting. Women get good at this kind of thing. I read a surrealist poem once about what women do while they wait. I watch a woman across the adjacent window of the U-shaped apartment building. She is plucked and polished and busies herself in preparation.
She studies dutifully, turning to French fashion magazines as course materials. She visits salons and spas so that her body feels official and ready, poised. She hums to herself, (I can see her humming), and folds underwear, makes the bed, slices vegetables, decants the wine, makes sure that the liquor cabinet is stocked.
She selects compact discs, putting different ones on the stereo in the living room, the bedroom. She wants him to know that she knows jazz, and has a punk-rock side, too, that appreciates atmospheric, no frills, avant-garde sound.
Then, she composes a letter to him in her head, and rehearses her day for the telling. Embellishes when necessary. She's spent a lot of time shopping lately, and knows that he disdains this.
She applies makeup: the natural look. Pale pink lipstick: matte. Obvious is for Oak Street women and 19 year-old art school girls. She likes to look rolled out of bed.
She looks out the window, checks the dial tone, then soaks her hands in hot soapy water, watching reruns on television while pushing back her cuticles. She doesn't want him to think of her as grubby, and nice hands are so important.
She gets bored and practices kissing mirrors and stuffed, white polar bears.
She's been learning recipes: the kind men like. Full-on meat dinners and perfect martinis.
There was a book he recommended to her a while back that she'd never read. She picks it up from the bookcase, now, and leafs through it. Its author is a contemporary who she's never heard of, and he's very wordy. To her, it sounds as though he is trying to cram everything that he has read and discerned into every paragraph.
She wanders around moving furniture and repositioning plants for optimal feng shui, attempting to create an "open, receptive" mood in her small apartment.
When it becomes apparent that the wait will be indefinite, and could take months, she realizes she can take her studies outside. She dresses and packs a camera in her bag for documentation, visits a museum, and writes him a report about the exhibit she admires.
She walks down the street smiling at dogs, and visits and Internet cafe, puts their birthdays into an astrological Web site, generates a "relationship report." When she becomes conscious of the man at the counter glancing at her, she is glad that her hair is long and thick. She swings it, and sits down at a computer, acting as though she doesn't notice the attention.
Gretchen Kalwinski devotes daylight hours to library advocacy and scavenging overheard conversations, and spends evenings word-boxing with the polluted swampland below the Indiana Skyway. Her work has been published in Paterson Literary Review, Bitch magazine, Northwest Indiana Times, and Venus Zine, and selected poems are online at podgehodge.com. She hates the cold but lives in Chicago, and would like a puppy, please.