When i worked as an intern at Record Kingdom the big man named Train once gave a little speech about pheromones. Because, you know, before he was a DJ he was a biology major.
“Pheromones,” he opined, “are in the air between us humans. You’re naive if you think they don’t exist, and if you don’t think certain things might trigger them. They change as you change, and as things change you.”
His statement was in response to my stating that it felt as though more girls were hitting on me now that my dating Elise had become a permanent fixture of my life. His prevailing thought was that my having someone to make out with was triggering my pheromones to be released into the air, attracting all the women i could never have before.
After that i think he headed off to the record room to smoke a joint.
It was early in the day today that i decided that i must be putting off pheromones. I’m not sure exactly when it occurred to me. It was after the first girl, in the subway. She was plain, not anyone i’d be caught flirting with. But, she had Anastasia’s jeans.
Not her exact pair, maybe. But, the same sort of jeans. Jeans you’d expect to be riding low on the punk hips of a dirty rocker boy, but instead were showing tantalizing not-too-flat ovals of flesh of a girl without being hip-hugging in the least.
I don’t know. I guess it find those jeans sexy in the same way i always think girls who wear Happy are attractive. Anastasia is the first person i hung out with for that amount of time prior to college – she was bound to have an impact on me. This isn’t a story about her, though.
Mostly not, anyhow.
I remember thinking as i started relentlessly at the belly- and crotch-area of this poor unsuspecting girl that she couldn’t be too happy about a stranger gawking at her girly areas, boyishly hot jeans or not. She didn’t seem to mind, though, even though I was sure she had spotted me at least twice.
When the Orange finally arrived we wound up in the same car, but i made sure to sit facing backwards while she walked a lazy switch to the front of the car. No more staring for me.
Not at that girl, anyhow. You see, at the next stop entered a young woman – who i’ve seen before – in possession of exactly the crushingly fragile quality of one Ms. Kirsten Dunst.
(Now, it has been said that best friend Lindsay also resembles Ms. Dunst, so much so that when said starlet pranced in her underwear in a particular film we all averted our eyes from the screen in embarrassment because Lindsay was sitting there in the same theatre. Creepy. Yet, Lindsay’s way of resembling Kirsten is different; she possesses more of that daffy smile, and those charming eyes. I’d hardly describe her as fragile.)
I immediately averted my gaze from the Dunst-a-like, cursing under my breath that i probably should have left the house early like Elise asked me to so i wouldn’t feel like i was running the gauntlet of girly temptation for the entirety of my commute. What would be the point, anyhow? It’s not as if i would walk up to the girl, saying in my coolest jive, “Has anyone told you that you have the eminently breakable look of Ms. Kirsten Dunst?”
It was moot, that point, as the young lady chose (quite improbably, based on other available seats, which supports pheromones theory) to sit directly next to me, pinning me between a sideways-facing seat and the window with her porcelain Dunstness. She was fiddling with her Nano, unable to drag it out of the silken purse that was acting as its case.
Don’t look at her song. Don’t look at her song. Don’t look. Just don’t. It was either bound to be some favorite of mine (older Rilo Kiley, i decided), or something off of the Elizabethtown soundtrack. I would have to start a conversation. And, honestly, even when i’m trying to start a purely geek-to-geek conversation with a pretty young woman i feel weird – as if i’ve finally perfecting the whole notion of picking someone up when i really only want to talk about record collections.
I was sure she had to be getting off at Market because, really, who doesn’t, but when i made that half-hearted “I’m standing up now” motion she just looked over at me and gave me a haphazard sort of smile that could contextually either mean “oh, sorry, just squeeze past me,” or maybe, “yes, it is sort of creepy how Kirsten dates Jake Gyllenhaal when she could body-double for his sister,” but probably the first, because i had to squeeze past her to get off at Market Street.
I spent my walk to the Green smiling about my encounter, and how ridiculous i am. Of course i could have spoken to her; it’s not as though i lack for the power of speech. And it wouldn’t have had to be creepy. I could just say, “I see you a lot when i’m RIDING WITH MY GIRLFRIEND OF FOUR-AND-A-HALF YEARS hi how are you?”
That thought carried me as far as a seat on the Green, which i ride just for one stop, and i looked up from it to find…
No, please, guess.
If i found the Dunst-a-like somewhat attractive, if just in her impersonation and not for any individually-possessed reason, i was now encountering the REAL DEAL(TM) – someone an order-of-magnitude or three beyond in her actual attractiveness. This woman… her name, for sure, is Elizabeth G-something or O-something, and she works in our Marketing department, and she is possessed of a surreal otherworldly beauty of Alison Headley playing a Rivendell Elf in anamorphic widescreen.
Of course, i don’t have any sort of unrequited desire for Alison Headley (that i’m aware of), so this woman is much more intimidating – as she is in possession of her own allure. For all other intents and purposes she’s just some Marketing chick from South Philly, but i have such a ridiculously huge elevator crush on her and the thing is i have every reason to talk to her because i make friends on the elevator all the time.
We exit, and i slip past her on the stairs up to our building. Enough with the women. I was late for work, anyhow. Into the lobby, into the elevator, up up and away. I fairly flung the revolving door behind me, perhaps hoping to trip up the next commuter so as to delay elf-Alison from catching up to me.
Into the elevator, turn, and there she was again, smiling in recognition at me after our Green ride (and countless prior silent elevator rides, because god forbid i open my mouth and learn something about her to make her less incredibly frightening). And, as i was pinned into my seat in the Orange, here i was pinned into the back corner of the elevator as she chatted merrily about some unintelligible work topic with someone else who had entered the elevator.
I had never been so happy to get into my cubicle.
It might sound silly, but after those twin encounters i felt somehow set-upon – as if i was being dared to find someone more attractive than Elise, or have some sort of unfaithful thought. And, of course, i would do neither, but a pretty girl is still a pretty girl, made somehow more threatening by the fact that i am now socially empowered to say hello without any fear of actually being a repulsive moron.
No, just the fear that i might be mistaken for trying to get a number, and mistakenly get a number thinking i had made a new friend, and then going out for a drink sometime only to have her lean in unexpectedly for a kiss and why did she do that?
Better off in my cube. No women in there. And, honestly, it made the day go by. I kept chuckling at myself, at how i unintentionally wound up sitting next two of the more attractive elements of my commute. What a day, i thought.
Somewhere towards the middle of said day i was charged with bringing a letter up to Legal, and not returning until it was approved. Typical fare, and a nice Friday duty because at least i was comfortable in a pair of jeans and not jousting with lawyers in power-suits. In any event, i was going up to see my second-favorite lawyer. A fun task. I phone-tagged with her assistant to make sure i was an expected guest.
I left the letter with the lawyer and waited politely outside her office by her assistant’s vacant desk while she read.
“Oh, excuse me.”
Around my hip slipped the most attractive Legal assistant of the Legal Department, to sit at second-favorite-lawyer’s-assistant’s desk. Except, she wasn’t s-f-l’s assistant. Of this, i was as sure as i was that her reading glasses only enhanced her librarian hotness. My Director teases me every time she drops something off to our department, probably because i blush the shade of cranberry each time she taps me on the shoulder.
“You’re not s-f-l’s assistant,” i said, blush now fully engaged.
She giggled, “Yes i am.”
“No, you’re some-other-lawyer’s assistant. You never sit at this desk.”
“I must have been filling in. I’ve been s-f-l’s assistant all year.”
At least this time the attractive woman was where she was supposed to be, and not just sidling up to me unexpectedly on public transit. Having stepping firmly in a pile of awkward with my opening volley, i let her take charge of the conversation.
“Busy down there even before a holiday, huh?”
“Even busier, i think. There’re always communications to be reviewed, but there’s less of us here to move them around.”
“Well, you seem to be holding up very well.”
S-f-l’s door opened, mercifully.
(I should mention, here, that S-F-L is a rather strikingly attractive woman who has about decade on me. Thankfully, slightly older women just don’t take the sense out of me like every other woman does.)
“Peter, your shoes match your shirt perfectly.”
“So you’re done signing off on the i’m sorry what did you say?”
“Your shoes,” my secound-favorite-lawyer said, and, of course her assistant had now come out of her cube to stare at my shoes along with s-f-l. “They are the exact shades of brown and blue as your shirt.”
I was wearing shoes that i had picked while Bonnaroo-shopping with Mary. She picked a pair of shoes that i liked, so i bought them too. Yes, girl’s shoes. Size 11 girl’s shoes.
Assistant: “Did you do that intentionally?”
Me: “What?” Buy girl’s shoes?
Assistant: “When you were getting dressed?”
Me: Um… Don’t you dare think of me naked.
S-F-L: Or, did you buy them just for that shirt?
Assistant: Or, the shirt just for those shoes?
S-F-L: Oo, or that?
Me: They’re girl’s shoes! I’m wearing girls shoes. Thanksforsigningoffontheletter, everybodydrivesafelyfortheholiday, thankyou, goodbye.
To spare you several thousand more words of elaboration, suffice it to say that the intense female-attention weirdness continued, unabated, through the end of the work day and into my private life. After work my shampoo woman of several years hugged me goodbye. Oddness.
New haircut on head, i decided to walk off the end of my obvious pheromone-attack with a tangerine water-ice and an extra two blocks before catching the dreaded orange-line that began it all. Now i was suspicious – and how could i not be – of every woman passing me on the street. I projected thoughts towards them as loudly as i could.
Sorry, i’m taken. My girlfriend is way hotter, actually. No, i’ve never even been inside an Abercrombie.
My internal monologue carried me down to the Orange at Lombard, platform newly emptied by a Northbound train. I finished the last spoon of oranged-ice and tossed my paper cup into the garbage. Not too much longer for a train.
Through the backs of the stairs to the platform i saw a pair of feet carrying a definitely female body down the flight. One more challenge before i get home, i thought with a chuckle. As if she would sit next to me on a completely empty subway platform. Yes, that would prove that i was truly strong with the pheromonage for the day.
The female shape rounded the side of the stairs and headed towards my half of the platform. Just half. 50/50 chance. Not a threat.
I looked intently at my girl-shoes. They were cute.
I heard the rustle of her dress as she approached, spying peripherally that she was wearing blue/green leotards under her dress. Must be heading to a bench farther than mine.
Then i felt the rustle of her dress.
I looked up from my slimly lined shoes.
It was Anastasia.
Stop for a moment to marvel at the symmetry. Had the day i had been fated to me, starting with the Anastasia-jeaned girl and ending with me inexplicably waiting for the reverse of the same train with Anastasia herself? Or, could i have averted it all by leaving the house with Elise, or even by not buying the water ice? Why does life turn out the way that it does?
I won’t record Anastasia’s chapter of my pheromone-soaked day, because it really had nothing to do with it. Just two formerly close friends catching up for the first time as adults. I was stymied after a day of being beset by women who look great and mean nothing to be met by one who means an awful lot. An awful lot of memories and songs and hung-low jeans and perfumes that invoke her to this day.
Off the subway we kept talking until we came to Reed, up the street eleven blocks from the house where i lived that year we were friends. We exchanged no numbers, but some digital information, and briefly hugged goodbye. And, i could feel my pheromone day come to a close as it collided with her perfume.
She was no longer drenched in Happy – something sweeter and folksier – i thought, and it hung at the edge of my collar long after our hug had ended and i had crossed Broad. Whatever my animal allure of the day had been, the spell had been broken there in that friendly hug. No attraction to silly jeans, or imitation Dunstness, or elven allure, or a sharp pair of reading glasses. Just a hug.
Maybe it was my imagination all along.