Flirt


She’s buying watermelons, and I’m trying not to think about crass pickup lines
–No matter how funny they would be.
So, I’m looking at the asparagus and thinking simultaneously about how I want to cook those ribeyes I bought, and whether asparagus is the side I want to go with them;
Meanwhile, the other aspects of my masculinity chime in, suggesting that I really should go over and talk to this girl.

She has brown, almost hazel eyes, and I like the quirky upturn at the corners of her mouth, which could indicate:
One, that she has a clever, wry sense of humor; or
Two, that she’s too stupid or crazy to know that it isn’t always appropriate to smile.
I try to talk myself out of approaching her, out of some sense of assumed pickiness;
But really, it’s because I’m just feeling insecure.

She has a pimple on the right side of her forehead that looks like it’s been there for a while.
Her hair is loose, like she doesn’t know how to use a hair-tie, but tried to, anyway.
Her basket is full of “organic” produce, which proves that she doesn’t actually know anything about what constitutes “organic” produce. She must be ignorant.
Maybe malnourishment is what’s causing her skin condition.

Then, she goes over to the Red Box, while I’m still stupidly pondering over which bunch of rubber-banded asparagus to buy, or whether to give up on it and buy broccoli, instead, or whether to get the asparagus and some lemon to go with it…that would be good with the Himalayan salt I bought from a different store…
And she’s looking at Arrival.

My heart leaps, because that might mean that she has some grasp of the sociological expositions displayed in the film, regarding innate xenophobia in a nation full of immigrants.
Perhaps she also likes science fiction that’s about philosophy, instead of special effects. Yes! I’ve met my bride-to-be!

Then, out of the corner of my lemon-filled field of view, I see the colors on the screen shift from silver to red and blue. Must be that new Marvel movie.
I like Marvel movies, because they involve some really neat special effects (forget what I said, above), and plenty of blowing stuff up.
And how cerebral they are…obviously.
OK, that could work.

Maybe I’m just horny.
Well, yeah, but it would be nice to meet someone with assets above the shoulders, too.
I guess her below-the-shoulders assets aren’t that bad.

So, I’ve picked out my asparagus and lemons, and I’m really sure I’m ready to talk to her, at which point I realize that I also need to get some red wine to compete the meal.
I mean, if I’m going to have a nice dinner with a pretty and intelligent woman (pretty despite the zit and bad hair day…I mean, I’m not that shallow, right?), I should at least have a nice bottle of wine to share with her.
Besides, she’s not done paying for her movie, and probably also wants to buy something other than organic produce and the chic flick she finally picked out.

So, I go over and pick out a $10 bottle of wine, because I’m classy like that. Yep, no Rex Goliath, this time, even though it’s actually pretty good.

I walk over to the checkout stand, and as it’s time to insert my awkward new chip-card, she’s entering the back of the line at the next stand over. She really is pretty, now that I’m not focusing on the overpriced vegetables.

I absent-mindedly tell the clerk to have a nice day, and then realize that it would be awkward to stand around for two minutes waiting for her to be done checking out.

Well, there’s always next time, and at least I have a nice dinner.

 

Dane Mutters, 2017

The Safe-Cracker’s Puzzle


By Dane Mutters
2016

She is locked in a wooden safe, with the handle on the inside.
The dial on the outside spins
To the
Click
Click
Tick
Of a safe-cracker’s twitch.

His wrist is stoically poised,
The back of his hand just outside of his vision;
His fingers twist one way, as his thumb tilts to the other.
The safe clicks and ticks, but doesn’t open.

This safe is a custom build that nobody has been able to crack.
Though wooden on the outside, it is petrified to the hardness of steel.
The woman inside has a demur smile as she quickly opens the door to other pursuant safe-crackers,
Allowing them a timid peek at who lounges within,
Before slamming the door shut, again.

They are left with dreams of twinkling eyes and a sunrise behind swaying brown vines.

But for this safe-cracker, she leaves the door wide open until he approaches near.
As he smiles, she smiles and closes the door an inch.
As his footsteps echo upon the marble floor, she closes it another two.
Before he can offer his hand, the door is closed, so he walks away.
This safe-cracker is no fool.

…But after years of dreaming, he can’t resist the call of the safe that has never been cracked.
More than a Browning safe, with its floral design near its base, and proud name at its top;
Or a stoically red Amethyst safe with a single, tantalizing, golden handle;
This safe sings his praise, and promises secret riches of beating rubies, dripping pearls, and adorning diamonds.

For a long time, he stood far away, remembering the click of the closing door.
He cracked other safes in hope that they would satisfy his craving.
He walked to other cities and conquered strongboxes, stores, and banks by the power of his keen senses;
And their strongholds did nothing but adore him, swinging their hinges apart to give their treasures.
But their diamonds he dropped on the ground,
And he walked away shaking his head.
He can’t return to those places.

Why?” he thought, as the safe quietly went, “tock.”
He froze for a moment, and reached for the handle that wasn’t there.
He heard a footstep from the other side.
He pulled his hand away from the door and held his breath.
The door went “clunk”, but didn’t open.

From the other side, he heard someone slowly spinning a dial, as if listening for the right combination.

When It’s “Worth It”: The Ratio of Human Interaction


There’s an inherent calculation of human interaction that goes something like this:
 
(How much they improve your life) : (How much trouble a person causes you)
 
Put another way, it’s a ratio of Benefit:Cost or Happiness:Trouble.
 
Most people phrase this in an emotional context, but the meaning is ultimately the same. Personally, I find a simple mathematical ratio easier to convey than the amount of prevarication it would take to express such a thing emotionally.
 
When that ratio is consistently greater than 1:1, that’s a person who is worth “keeping”. If it’s only greater than 1:1 in some situations, then those are the only situations when it’s worth interacting with that person. When that ratio is consistently less than 1:1, it’s time to let that person go, and avoid him/her as necessary.
 
Naturally, foresight and personal preference comes into play, here. If a person is mostly troublesome, right now, but you foresee him/her being beneficial in the long term, then it might be worth keeping them around. If you’re OK with 1:1, even if it’s never greater than that, then that’s your threshold for deciding whether it’s “worth it”. Most people require a ratio much greater than 1:1 to consider it “worth it”. People with large circles of close friends that they consistently have problems with are less picky (requiring a lower ratio to be satisfied); whereas those who only really want to hang out with a few people who are particularly valuable to them are more picky (requiring a higher ratio to be satisfied). I’ve noticed that this level of “pickiness” directly corresponds with the amount of energy a person has for social interaction. Those who are more concerned with other things tend not to have any interest in those with less than, say, a 2:1 ratio of benefit:cost or happiness:trouble.
 
If you’re not providing at least a 1:1 ratio for someone, you’re doing it wrong. If you really want someone in your life, you need to provide them a higher ratio, and be sure that they’re doing the same for you, before committing to anything long-term.
 
Charity is an exception to this rule. (I’m using “charity” to refer to selfless love, rather than “giving money”, which, as an exclusive term, is a perversion of the original concept.) Charity is when someone offers you less than you would otherwise accept as a ratio of happiness:trouble, but you give that person your time, energy, and resources, anyway. You self-sacrifice for that person out of kindness. We can only do this to the extent that we have personal resources (time, energy, patience, emotional stability, money, etc.) to spare, and when we run low on this excess, we can no longer afford to give without receiving; otherwise, our own lives will suffer quite substantially. One only allows that for those we love most, such as family members. We give what we can, when we can, because we choose to; “obligation” is anemic to true charity, unless it’s someone we’re truly responsible for taking care of (such as an aging parent, a sibling in distress, or a child). Nevertheless, charity is what makes society worth having. We care for people who can’t give back as much as we give them, and, in turn, people do the same for us when we’re in need. Sadly, our society isn’t quite at the point when we can do this for each other very effectively (due to economics, and anger, mainly); but as we improve our way government and interpersonal interaction, this will slowly change–as it has been since the dawn of civilization.

Prose Poem: A Smile And A Promise


Sometimes, when someone touches me, I flinch before realizing that I want to be touched.  Then, I think about it for a second, and convince myself that it’s OK, but by that time, the lovely person has already assumed that I had rejected her. I don’t know why it’s like this; it didn’t used to be this way, but somehow, across a distance of a few decades, a part of me has grown to expect things to turn out badly, even when the evidence before my eyes suggests otherwise.

Sometimes, I’m so terrified that one more thing will go wrong, that when I want to reach out and take a chance on an amazing person, I convince myself that there’s no point in trying, but don’t realize that it’s just my insecurities talking until the opportunity has already passed.

Somewhere between being hit by family members and foolishly marrying a woman who started abusing me within days of saying “I do”, I forgot how to accept the idea that, sometimes, when a person reaches out with her hand, it’s because she loves me, and not because she wants to hurt me until she feels better about herself.

I wonder why, despite the anecdotal evidence we see around us, we automatically assume that if someone is being hurt by a person of the opposite gender, it’s a man hurting a woman. I wonder why we assume that the only wounds that hurt are physical ones, and that the only real violence is the kind that leaves a mark.

I’ve read that nearly half of all domestic violence is perpetrated by women, but overwhelmingly, only men get punished for it. I think that this is because women are better at talking about their emotions and admitting to being hurt, whereas men are more likely to be silent when they’re in pain.

A friend once told me that he had been repeatedly raped by his ex-girlfriend. He was beside himself with shame because he had let her convince him that he deserved it, and still couldn’t quite shake the belief that she was right. He was a large man with a delicate heart, who couldn’t bring himself to hurt a woman, no matter what she did to him. He couldn’t believe that if he called a rape hotline, the person on the other end would even listen to his story without condemning him as a faker. So, I called for him, and screened out two hotlines who clearly believed that only women could be raped, or didn’t care if the opposite had, in fact, just happened, because this hotline was “just for women”. There were no hotlines for men. When I finally found someone who would listen compassionately and take what I was saying seriously, I gave him the number, but he never called, because he was too ashamed.

Still, I choose to love women rather than hate them—not because they’re inherently more pure or decent than men, but because if I didn’t make this choice, I might become bitter and angry like the people who have hurt me, who believed that they had the right to hurt me because, at some point, someone had hurt them. Sometimes, I wonder how many violent offenders have been created by people who thought they had a right to hurt one gender or another, in retribution for crimes long past. Ted Bundy hated women because at least one woman hurt him when he was a child; and how many men have been hurt by bitter women and over-zealous law enforcement officers because of the pain that abusive men have caused to women? Will the cycle ever end, or will we continue to say that our hurts are, somehow, more important, and act like our own rights are all that really matter, unconcerned with what that means for other people?

I would like to see people raising awareness for men’s issues in the same way that we see people raising awareness for women’s issues.

I wish that feminism were always really about gender equality, and not so commonly an outlet for women who are simply angry at the other half of their species. I wish that we would do away with terms like “feminism” and “masculism” as references to causes worth supporting or condemning, depending on which gender one identifies with. I wish people would organize “equalism” rallies and shout down people who show up with the obvious intent to support only one gender.

I see beauty in the ocean of yin and the fire of yang, and I believe that neither one should try to “convert” the other with the dogmas of academics or politicians. I see men taught to be silent and timid because they can’t communicate emotions as well as women. I see women being taught to be silent and timid because they lack the logistical talent that men tend to be born with. Whether we call it “NonViolent Communication” or “Management Training”, if it teaches someone to be afraid to speak up and be honest, then it’s broken and abominable.

I’m hoping to find someone who will understand that I’m afraid of what women might to do me, but am willing to offer my heart anyway—even if I flinch, at first. I’m looking for a woman who chooses to see me as a unique individual, and not a surrogate upon which to lash away the pain of past wrongs.

I’m hoping that, somewhere, the word, “partner”, really refers to equality in all things—regardless of who has which talents, or who makes more money. I would like to see a world where it’s considered normal to be a “stay-at-home dad”, where people consider such a position to be just as honorable as working at a technology firm. I want to see a world where men and women both have the freedom to take on stereotypical gender roles because that’s what makes them happy, or to do something entirely different for the same reason.

I would like to hear it called “manly” to give a woman a foot massage.

I would like to hear someone say, “I am woman, hear me roar”, in a quiet voice, before kissing a baby.

In a perfect world, we would hear laughter at this poem, because all of the above is a ridiculous re-hashing of the past, but for now, let’s just share a smile and a promise.

Love Is


Love is wanting to take her out to eat, but knowing you can’t afford it, and offering to cook, instead.
Love is opening your heart instead of your wallet when it would be easier just to spend money.

Love is when you know that you could get into bed with her just by being shallow, and insisting on getting to know her first—even if that means losing the opportunity, forever.

Love is seeking a “yes”, rather than avoiding a “no”, and being happy with whichever you get.
Love is knowing when to say yes, and being patient until then.

Love is seeing that the lawn hasn’t been mowed, but thanking him for doing the laundry, instead of complaining about the yard.

Love is when you say a kind word when an insult might be more appropriate.
Love is swallowing your pride and saying you’re sorry.

Love is writing something sweet on a post-it every morning before work, even when you’re mad at each other.

Love is giving your partner the last piece of chocolate.

Love is giving someone a massage when your own back hurts.

Love is cooking food that you can’t or won’t eat, because you know he likes it.
Love is eating “burnt offerings” with a smile, and then asking for seconds.

Love is abandoning a closely-held belief because it hurts someone you care about.
Love is choosing to support your partner’s eccentric ideology, even if it doesn’t entirely make sense.

Love is being unafraid to discuss religion, politics, or anything else—and always being willing to change your mind when a good point is made.
Love is choosing dialectic over of debate.

Love is when you give without caring whether you will receive.
Love is when you work a job you hate, so you’ll both have a place to come home to.

Love is dancing badly to terrible music, and enjoying it anyway, because it was your partner’s turn to choose the night’s activity.
Love is observing “date night” no matter how busy you both are.

Love is sitting through an embarrassing class or lecture so that you’ll know how to please her.
Love is learning to be satisfied, whether he figures it out or not.

Love is knowing when to hold her close, knowing when to give her space, and realizing that you need to ask, because you don’t have a clue.
Love is answering him patiently even if you think he should know better; and sometimes, love is admitting that you don’t have a clue what you want, either, and deciding to be OK with not getting it.

Love is accepting the love that is given, even when you don’t speak the other person’s language.
Love is learning the language of your partner, and giving him what he wants, rather than what you want.

Love is realizing that whatever love is, it’s definitely not what’s in movies and popular novels.
Love is reading those novels with her, anyway, no matter how silly you think they are.

Love is sitting through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, even though neither of you can keep up with the subtitles, and she keeps pausing it every few seconds so you can read them.
Love is making it worth his while to keep watching.

Love is setting reasonable but firm boundaries and sticking to them.
Love is respecting each other’s boundaries.

Love is accepting the sovereignty of another person, while also accepting the sovereignty of yourself.

Love is offering olive branches until the whole orchard dies.

Love is forgiveness.

Love is wishing she would quit smoking because you want to be with her a little longer,
But still watching the sunset through a cloud of burning ash, because that’s how you can be here with her, now.

Love is the act of changing the bed pan of someone who doesn’t look like the person you married, and realizing that the good times are still happening.

Love is almost dying of a broken heart after the funeral service,
But deciding to keep going because you know that she would want you too.

Love is the blue sky, and the trees, and the fresh flowers over your new bed.

Love is smiling at a stranger as you plant some fresh flowers on the grave of your ancestor.

March 2nd, 2014

Simply Be Beautiful


In the sweetness of hope does the new person hold my gaze. She’s pleasant to the eye, but that’s incidental to the fact that, like few others, her mind is sharp enough to elicit my attention.

Brown eyes, more tantalizing than any perfume, and a lavender heart more potent than a field of mauve; the gold spark of genius is a thing to behold, and a rare pairing with a heart that pumps red sanguine. Like any true marvel, this creature is an ethereal beauty that blossoms from beyond the veil and only shows a few budded petals in this azure reality.

With the gusts of wind, it loses them to the fickle fancies of diverse interest. In every corner of the world, there is a garden that yearns for the grace of such a rare phenom, but with all things so prized, each plot is left wanting for its deus ex phronēsis to save its gardener from his doleful and ongoing affair with mediocrity.

A prodigious flower is the coveted plaything of many greedy masters, pollinating the world with her acumen, while sitting in an empty plot.

One wishing to engage such a person will sometimes find that the closer one gets, the more blighted the soil becomes; because a being of such wit may have, at some point, concluded that the only way to keep from being overwhelmed by weedsome intruders is to make the entire plot barren, but for barely enough room at the center.

But that’s OK. When one is ready for more, one becomes available to accept more. For now, maybe it’s enough to simply be beautiful.

Sept. 14th, 2014

I Want You


I only want you if I can make love with your mind;
I want the sweet liquid that’s born between your eyes.

Wreathed in gorgeous hair, with a delicate, sloping nose,
And perfect lips that reveal petals of tender pathos,
I want to sip your soft persuasion
And hear you vociferate felicity.

I only want you if I can kiss your soul and feel the Goddess hold me close;
I want you to invite me into the sanctum of your heart.

Concentric circles, and mountains, and valleys
Dip to the hot, red core that lies within.
I want to hold our dales together,
And create a paradise for two lovers.

I only want you if you can face your fears;
I want to kiss your hand and shed a tear together.

Though the world may shake,
And the earth may crumble beneath us,
I want you to hold my gaze,
As we boldly speak our truth.

I only want you because we’re equals;
I want to cross our sabers and salute one another with pride.

Sharp, flexible, and shining,
The blade is swift because a swift hand wields it.
I want to feel your steel upon my skin,
As unwavering and gentle a calligrapher’s brush.

I want you to know the ocean within me;
I want your moon to overflow my shores.

Spires, cliffs, and jagged boulders,
Salty spray above heaping kelp;
I want you to burst my levees
And surround my lonely island.

I want you because I love you;
Because your eyes are deep, like galaxies.

I want you because I sense you;
I feel like I’ve met you, before.

I want you because you push me;
I flex in your mirror image.

But I only want you if you want me;
Because freedom is the most beautiful thing of all.