Fiction — Valentine’s Day

sylvia

Sylvia looked at the moon, a smudged coin disappearing in a cloudy sky.  It would rain soon, probably before morning.  That didn’t matter: she planned to be safe in bed by then.  Tomorrow night, she was going north, but tonight – tonight was hers.  Tonight was an ice-cubed whiskey in a heavy glass.  The fish?  No, the beef — with scallops to start and a wine so red it turned black on her tongue.  Then coffee and honey-wet pastry, sticky and sweet, and a hotel bedroom key.  It was a night of boat neck shoulders, cuff length sleeves and a tight walk hemline.  It was a night of long jewelry earrings that touched her throat, a dancing emerald ring and tall heels.  It was a night that men and their women noticed her when she walked in, watched her sit down and wondered who she was there for.  It was a night of little tongue candles that made licking shadows.  A night of dim shaded faces and intimate reflections.  It was a night of eyelashes and lipstick and deep silver fingernails.  It was a night breathing with seduction.

Once, a few years ago, when she was much younger, she’d brought a man to a night like this.  He was a handsome European with diplomatic immunity and a coming career.  He spent the evening trying to recruit her into his bed, like a qualified negotiator.  The evening faded and finished, and Sylvia walked away.  Unfortunately, a couple of days later when Sylvia didn’t call, he came looking for her and ended up meeting Mirac in an underground carpark.  Since then, Sylvia kept these nights to herself.

On the other side of the moon, Karga was reading a bedtime story to his two sons, Mustafa and Taavi.  It was a tale of a reluctant thief and a clever slave girl, Morgiana, who made him rich.  He read parts in English so his boys would get to know the words.  And when he was done, he went downstairs, drank tea with his wife and waited for the rain.

Sylvia raised her glass to where the moon should have been.  And all alone in a crowded restaurant, she touched her lips to the cold glass, drank, and waited for the warmth of the whiskey.

Keeping Your Resolutions

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Here we are, basking in the holy glow of our New Year’s Resolutions.  We haven’t eaten anything but lettuce since the December debauch, we’ve taken the books and jackets off the treadmill (that’s a twofer!) and haven’t whipped out the credit cards for two-and-a-half whole days.  This is going to be easy, right?  WRONG!  Statistically, New Year’s Resolutions have a 99% failure rate, and chances are good by the time it’s bathing suit season, most of us won’t be able to cram ourselves into the damn thing — even if we could afford to buy it.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The problem is most of us approach New Year’s Resolutions as if we’re contemplating psychological suicide.  Here’s the deal, folks!  You can’t change your personality by flipping a page on the calendar.  In fact, despite what every self-help shyster on the planet tells you, after about age 25, you can’t change your personality at all.  Which means, if you’re like me and love chocolate, wine and promiscuous procrastination, you’re kinda stuck with it.  So rather than attempting a midnight psychiatric makeover, stop the madness and work with what ya got.  Here’s how to bully your subconscious into doing what it’s told.

Get real – Pull your head out of the clouds (or some other place.)  If you owe enough cash to fund a Monaco casino, getting completely out of debt in 2020 is not a reasonable resolution.  Aim low.  25 percent?  10 percent?  5 bucks a month?  Make sure it works before you start shooting your mouth off in some airy-fairy internal monologue.

Quit being so vague – Thinking, “I wanna lose some weight” is crap.  You know exactly how many kilos are too many: you’ve seen yourself naked.  Say it out loud.  Write it down.  Glue it to the fridge.  Now, remember your momma didn’t raise any saints, so pastry is never going to be off the menu.  Check item #1, and precede with caution.

Nothing happens without a deadline – You’ve known this since grade school and, yeah, you might be feeling all adult these days, but that’s not a Hogwarts’ incantation to self-discipline.  Create a date and put in on every calendar you can get your mitts on – including a telephone countdown.  Without a crash-and-burn deadline, our minds tend to wander.  They need to be slapped into focus.

What’s in it for me – This is where most people screw up because you can’t reward a successful diet with birthday cake or a loan payment with a spending spree.  So, if you’re going to show your inner donkey a carrot, make sure it isn’t the very thing you’ve been trying to get the donkey to avoid in the first place.

All it takes is a little psychological warfare, and next November you could be rockin’ a black Look-At-Me/Look-At-Me Speedo at an exclusively expensive tropical resort of your choice.  That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for — aren’t they?

The 2010s: A Look Back

new-years

Good luck trying to explain the 2010s!  So many things went on in the last 10 years it’s going to take us another 50 to actually figure out what just happened.  Think about it!  Nobody on this planet is the same person they were a decade ago.  Ten years ago we didn’t have iPads, Uber, Instagram or Kindle.  Drones were a sci-fi nightmare and Donald Trump was a loudmouth businessman.  The scariest guy east of the Vistula was Osama Bin Laden, and only nerds had heard of Game of Thrones.  History takes time to digest, though, so right now it’s impossible to say what kind of impact the 2010s will have on the Great Scheme of Things.  However, even a quick glance over our shoulder tells us that our world has been a little crazy lately.  Here are just a few remembrances of things past. You decide how far we’ve travelled into the realm of Cloud-Cuckoo-Land.

In 2010, the world was introduced to the vuvuzela, the most irritating piece of plastic in human history.  It was so annoying that governments, social organizations and sporting events around the world banned it, and there was even a fatwa issued against its use.  (You’ve forgotten about it, haven’t you?)

In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street Movement decided to fight corporate greed — and told us all about it on their 500 dollar iPhones.

In 2012, a tubby little Korean named Psy had the world dancing to Gangnam style, while the more serious among us were worried the world was going to end because – uh — a half-dead, ancient civilization in Mexico carved their calendar into a stone tablet.

In 2013, the Pope resigned, Will and Kate were married and Miley Cyrus added twerking to the dictionary.  Meanwhile, Edward Snowden boldly informed us that a bunch of government agencies were spying on us.  He was only 30 years late.

In 2014, there was an Ebola epidemic in Africa, the beginning of the ISIS war in Syria, Russia invaded the Ukraine and Kim Kardashian showed us her bum.  Take a wild guess which one “broke” the Internet!

In 2015, the Mom Porn phenom, 50 Shades of Gray, a hilarious retelling of The Story of O (1954) was made into a film.  According to sales figures from the novel and ticket sales from the totally terrible movie, women feel a lot less sexually exploited if you dress it up in a 3-piece Armani suit.

2016 was just a totally bad year.  Trump got elected President of the US and everybody died – John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Richard Adams, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Tom Hayden, Edward Albee, Arnold Palmer, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, Prince, George Martin, Patty Duke, Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Janet Reno, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Florence Henderson and Fidel Castro.  Coincidence?  I think not.

In 2017, President Trump called Kim Jong-un “the Rocket Man,” it turned out Harvey Weinstein was a bigger pig than everyone originally thought, and there was a solar eclipse.  However, unlike every other solar eclipse since the world began, this one travelled across America. Therefore, they owned it.

In 2018, in a weird reversal of Edward Snowden’s dire warning of 2013, Mark Zuckerberg said he was “sorry” for letting Cambridge Analytica steal your personal Facebook information.  Apparently, that made everything alright.

In 2019, we discovered the oceans were filling up with plastic.  So that’s where all those stupid vuvuzelas went!

And some other stuff happened as well:

We spent a whole bunch of time acting like 12 year old schoolboys, testing the limits of our testosterone.  First, we’d do something stupid and then dare other people to do it, too.  This brought us the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Cinnamon Challenge and the Tide Pod Challenge.  “Hey, c’mon everybody!  Let’s eat soap!”

Duck Face, Fidget Spinners and Hipsters all came and went — with nobody mourning their passing.

Gluten became the scariest health risk since the Bubonic Plague.

The government of China banned time travel.  That’s correct – time travel!  But they weren’t done there.  They also made reincarnation illegal — unless you get written permission.  The scariest thing about this is these folks also have access to nuclear weapons.

Game of Thrones was born, lived and died.  And never in the history of television have so many cool characters been killed off so a useless little twat like Bran could end up running the show – but I’m not bitter.

Instagram beat the crap out of Facebook for social media supremacy — which proves people prefer photographs of somebody’s lunch to cute cat videos.

Media whore became a legitimate employment opportunity, we used YOLO to cover up a lot of pretty poor decision-making and the selfie stick became the weapon of choice for tourists all over the world.

And speaking of tourists – relentless middleclass vacations turned Mount Everest into Standing Room Only and Europe into an overcrowded theme park on the nose of Asia.

Plus:

The unholy rule of the Millennials continued, unabated.

And

Twitter unleashed a global lynch mob that made the Spanish Inquisition look like an argument at a church picnic.  And careful folks: that Reign of Terror doesn’t look like it’s going to go away anytime soon.

Happy New Year, everybody!