It was quite a remarkable accoutrement, the hat that Andrew wore. It was of that eccentric, French fashion that only a select few can seem to pull off; and if anyone were so aptly placed among those choice and fortunate few as to be rightly labeled the paragon of that class, it was none other than this most formidably sophisticated fellow—that is to say, Andrew—on the head of whom, when placed, that hat seemed to transform the otherwise average gentleman into a nobleman of noblemen, venerated of the venerable. Upon wearing it, he looked like Frank Sinatra, the Jolly Green Giant, or someone of that remarkably handsome sort—perhaps Peter Pan. And all around him the sun shone bright and the autumn winds danced with a new-found vivacity, sprinkled with the ambrosial aroma of florid fields.
For this reason, it is not in the least a bewilderment that Larena Lee should have fallen head-over-heals in love with him when first she laid her hazy hazel eyes on the youthful lad. Indeed, she should have done exactly that. But unfortunately, as is not strange to any of us who hold our heads just below the clouds, things do not always workout so romantically and perfectly in real life, but the true nature of reality is full of such deformities and decrepities as are not otherwise found in books or fairy tales. No, instead, Larena Lee fell quite heals-over-head, only slightly bruising her pretty little ankle on the fourth stone step.
“Are you okay?” Andrew, being of the errant and quixotic sort of nobility that he was, hesitated not a moment to aid the damsel in distress. Helping her to her feet (and not failing to notice her irresistibly petite and pallid ankle—fair, even bruised as it was) he offered her his name and a pleasantry, a reasonable courtesy to be expected in such a situation, “That was quite a spill—I’m Andrew by the way.”
“Larena Lee,” she offered him her hand (so that he might shake it, as people often do), “O dear, you’re rather right, it was quite a spill indeed; I scarcely noticed it.” Whereupon the immense lake of tea that she had inadvertently flung across the entire room became conspicuous to her. But enraptured, she soon disregarded the tea again, and it became just as inconspicuous as it was from the start—and would be for all the rest of eternity, inconspicuously filling the room with an inconspicuous aroma (as aromas generally are inconspicuous, evading the eyes in their pellucidly pungent manner) that could be anything but equated to the aforementioned florid ambrosia, finding a congeniality much more fitting in the highly uncongenial odorous force of a fungus-suffused felt, or carpet. She shifted her focus back to whom she was certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt (and doubts tend to have rather long shadows these days), would hereafter be the love of her life—assuming he kept his hat on. “I like your hat.” she smiled at him.
“O thank you; I put it on my head myself.” Andrew was clearly an exceptionally quick-witted fellow, remarkable in his charm, grace, and choice of wardrobe. The couple stood there in an awkward silence for a while, lost in each others eyes (which is a difficult state to accomplish, considering how small an eye is, how large a person, and how much larger still a sense of direction). Then finally Andrew spoke: “Larena Lee?”
“Yes, Androstenedione—I mean, Andrew—yes, Andrew?”
“I couldn’t help but notice you staring at me…”
“Yes, androgenic Andrew.”
“And well … I was wondering …” This was it. They both knew he was about to ask her out on a date (of course, he would have, himself, been too grammatically pedantic to use the phrase ‘ask her out’, but too eloquent to say ‘ask her outward’); they could tell what was about to happen by means of the prickly, augurial butterflies flapping wildly through their stomachs (once again presenting a feasibility issue much like the optical disorientation mentioned earlier). “Well … here it goes …” he swallowed hard, wiped away the perspiration, and closed his eyes tight (I suppose, trapping Larena inside—depending on your own, personal convictions about what’s going on in the story right now) “How would you like to have a romantic kettle of Sanskrit-Breakfast Tea with me?”
Larena Lee was eager to accept the invitation, but found herself restrained by but one thing: the grammatical construction. It took her a while to think about his use of an adverbial interrogative and the appropriate response. Of course it might seem too forward if she were to reply adjectivally, too compendious—and also grammatically fallacious—if she were to offer a mere affirmation, and too philosophically irritating if she reciprocated interrogatively. So she settled on an adverbial response, which she thought would create a nice parallel construction in the dialogue—romantic, without being overly candid: “Well.”
There was another awkward silence—though not quite as awkward as the last (for it is not strange that awkwardness grows week with wear). Andrew replied, less mindful of where things stood grammatically (though he is, indeed, like really grammatical and stuff): “Well? Well what?” Enamoured, his ardent arteries yet undulate with an amorous ardor.
“Well. Precisely well. I would well like to have a romantic kettle of English-Breakfast Tea with you.” Alas, as we often see in everyday discourse, a keen observance of grammar had completely compromised her consciousness of the content of conversation.
“No, not English-breakfast, Sanskrit-Breakfast. It’s just like English, only its Sanskrit.”
Larena Lee, somewhat embarrassed that she had not taken better note of the language, and thinking herself a foolish, uncultured girl, blushed apologetically; “I’m quite sorry,” she said, “I um … I thought … I thought that by ‘Sanskrit’, you meant ‘English’.”
“Oh. I see. No, I did not.”
“Well in that case, a warm cup of Sanskrit-Breakfast Tea sounds delightful.” In this she spoke most truly; Sanskrit is indeed a charmingly euphonic tongue.
“Very well; then let us be off.”
And they retired to more private quarters for their tea, leaving behind a gentleman in the corner who has been left unmentioned hitherto. His name was Don Ulysses Darius Epsilon (though he went by Themistocles, or Phillip, because he was a law-abiding man who was particularly fond of horses). He sat in silence, pondering what a great difficulty that singular encounter had made of itself.
In a small, dusty kitchen, with a creaky wooden floor, Andrew set up a brew, while Larena Lee admired his remarkable hat. It was made of a soft, but distinguished, grey fabric on top, which hung casually over whatever was beneath it, sewn with a sturdy seam to the oblong brim. All in all it was a perfectly charming piece of cloth—rugged, yet tender, tough, but sensitive. And she couldn’t take her eyes off it (that is, of course, because her eyes were in their sockets—though this matter may have been confused to some degree previously—and therefore, they were not touching the hat, which meant they could not either be removed from it).
With the kettle boiling away, Andrew turned to Larena Lee, who was sitting at the table, expectantly, and he walked over to sit with her. They sat, facing each other, at the table, in another awkward silence (which is, of course, where novel daters often tend to sit), and he thought of points of conversation. He went through a number of possible lines in his head—for he was, indeed, quite fond of geometry—and mentally, he tried each one on for size: “so I was calculating the hypotenuse last night and … ” No, that one was too simple; he wanted to impress her. “I was considering the projection of a seven-dimensional cloth into four-dimensional space for an integration problem …” No, that was too fascinating; he didn’t want her to think him unbearably engrossing. “I was reading Catullus …” No, that was too gross. Finally, she interrupted his thoughts:
“So, do you often drink in Sanskrit?” He looked at her, not quite finished calculating. Then he realised she had said something, and he played it back in his mind, whereupon he quickly fashioned a response so as not to seem rudely irresponsive:
“भवतु” He said, or at least tried to say—the only problem was that he didn’t know any Sanskrit, so he couldn’t read his response aloud. But on the bright side, he thought of something to say to her: “I wrote you a sonnet.”
“In my head.”
“Would you like to hear it?”
“Okay,” he thought quickly, “here it is:
Let me get the tea first.” He got up, walked over to the stove, picked up the tea kettle, put the kettle back down, walked over to a cabinet, opened the cabinet, found nothing inside, closed the cabinet, walked over to another cabinet, opened that cabinet, found nothing more or less than exactly two tea cups within, took out the tea cups, put them down on the counter, closed the cabinet, picked the tea cups back up, walked over to the table, set the tea cups down on the table, walked back over to the stove, picked up the teapot, walked back to the table, poured tea in Larena’s cup first (for he was a courteous gentleman), and then, trying to pour tea in his own, he missed, spilling it all over the table. “O dear!” Larena found this very romantic, but perhaps it was a bit improper of him to be calling her by such an intimate appellation so soon. “It seems I’ve spilled. Let me go get a towel.” What happened next needn’t be described.
He sat back down, and the two of them sipped their tea together. Larena spoke, “I feel ashamed to admit it, but in a spirit of utter transparency, I must tell you I’ve never had Sanskrit-Breakfast Tea before. What’s in it?”
The tea is made of whatever herbs Andrew might happen to find lying around on any given day. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you that; it’s an ancient secret.”
At this, there was nothing more to say. They sipped their teas.
Then Andrew started again: “So I was formulating an infinite geometric sequence that equivocates to a sinusoidal—” His voice broke off. What was he doing! One can’t bring up such a controversial topic on a first date; it’s abominably uncouth! He thought quickly, “—I mean, what I meant to say was…I’m delighted that I finally asked you outward.” He stuffed his foot in his mouth—much to Larena’s amazement, and slight disgust—in the great haste of recovering from one misspeaking, he had fallen into another much worse. What had become of his former eloquence? Something was depriving him of it.
Larena blushed, “So, do you mean…this is like…a date?”
Andrew thought for a moment, while Larena Lee looked at his luxurious hat. “Hm,” he says, “That’s quite an interesting metaphor.” They both thought about how the metaphor could be extended. “I suppose, it’s a bit drier than a grape, but certainly more juicy than a raisin.” They were both tickled by the literary implications. And the Homeric metaphor began to grow.
“It’s sweet.” Larena added, and they were both thrilled with amusement of double entendre.
“But its dangerous.” Andrew cautioned her abruptly. The smile absconded from her face. “You must be extremely cautious to avoid the pit!” Whereupon, they both started laughing wildly, though unsure of exactly what was so funny. It is at times like these that one must recall the adage of a great sage of old: ‘I’m so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word I’m saying’ —Oscar Wild.
The laughter settled down soon enough, and they both sipped their teas. Andrew started thinking of something else to say, but as fate would have it, Larena was the next to speak, which she did, only momentarily sneaking another glance at his hat: “Well I am glad to have been asked outward, but you will have to pardon me, I don’t mean to pry; however, I couldn’t help but notice a peculiar qualifier buried in your wording.”
“What qualifier was that?” Andrew began to grow anxious.
“Finally.” They were both silent for a moment, but moments as these had long since given up the arduous task of being awkward in nature. So they sat in a strangely unawkward silence; one, in fact, that was so peculiarly unawkward as to verge on being awkward in its unawkwardality.
“Now isn’t that an interesting adverb?” Andrew thought quickly, but no ideas seemed to come to him. “It has such a sense of—” As he thought, Larena admired his hat, “—of … a sense of finality.” His eloquence had left him a fool of itself, but it was no matter, for Larena Lee hardly noticed the lexical gap, finding herself utterly enraptured in an androcracy; that is, a dreamy universe ruled almost entirely by the charms and apparel of Andrew.
“Indeed, it does.” She sipped her tea, “you are quite right.”
It is at this point fitting that something be said as to the appearance of these two. Indeed, it has been highly indecorous of the author to leave out such a detail thus far, and so, he humbly and apologetically offers this consolation, first speaking in regards to Larena: she was unspeakably pretty. And as for Andrew, his charm has already been sufficiently spoken—remember, tall, dark, handsome, and green…dark green.
“Were you not intent on reciting a sonnet?” Larena spoke again.
“Ah, yes;” Andrew cleared his throat, “I most certainly was. Ornatus usurpandus est.”
“O, it’s in the romance language of Italian; how romantic.”
“Um actually,” this moment was nonetheless awkward in spite of the couple having already conquered so much awkwardness in the past. “Actually, that was the vulgar language of Latin. It means that I must, in a spirit of total cordiality and decorousness, regrettably and temporarily excuse myself, as I am really—though not uncomfortably so—quite due, in a professional and formal sense of the word—that is, the word, ‘due’—yes, quite due for an appointment with the necessary.” At this it was certain to both of them that Latin is indeed an extremely concise language. There was a silence; the reader is left to determine the awkwardness of it for himself.
“Oh, of course, by all means; go right ahead-I mean—I don’t mean go ahead, but I mean…well, let yourself go—no…” she couldn’t think of a euphemistic way to say it, “have a pleasant temporary absence.” They both felt a bit ashamed of their wording, but they knew deep down–all the more to their shameful bliss–that it would in truth be a very pleasant ‘temporary absence’, especially because it would allow them each time to recover from that traumatic experience, having very nearly brought both the English and Latin languages to utter waste.
Larena sat back in her chair and looked down at her thumbs, which she twiddled around one another. Andrew got up and left, and what followed needn’t be described.
Upon his return, tragedy ensued. Larena looked up and saw—miserable to behold—his head lay open, naked. He had, unbeknownst to her, removed his hat and set it on the table before leaving for the loo—though the author failed to describe this pivotal moment.
“What are you doing?” She pressed urgently. “Your hat! Your glorious hat! What has become of it?”
“Its okay, Larena.” He tried to comfort her, but words wouldn’t come. “I-um … I’ll say the sonnet now.” This helped mildly mitigate the situation, for Larena was always excessively pleased to hear romantic poetry, though she had never before had any addressed explicitly to her—unless you count an anthology that she ordered to be sent by mail. He began directly:
“I shall tell you candidly, as a gentleman of crossed intents
That I find it difficult to suppose there be a thing more lovely,
Or indeed, a wretched horror altogether more intense,
A good or ill that’s so more fully,
A passion’s fire of greater vivacity or effervescence,
Than as dreams expiring, or antithetical the hour,
That graceful, glorious, ineffable—though of such evanesc-
But no, the word ‘s too long.
I’m appalled by long words. Life is so insufferably abridged and abbreviated and short as it is, we oughtn’t waste our time pronouncing such long words to express that matter. Let me start over.”
“Indeed, further, the meter was not all that becoming of a sonnet, and I can’t say I was particularly fond of the rhyme scheme.”
“Right you are; it was an utter failure, and I’m glad it’s over. Allow me to begin again.
If eternity were present in an instant
And perpetuities were quintessential moments,
If fleeting dreams sufficed as permanent,
Etherial realities inconstant,
Then actuality and certitude
Were but a dream and love were but a fact,
Eternity were Love’s beatitude
To adorn with what its beauties never lacked.
So let us dream, my love, that dreams were true
Your essence, substanceless, were real as Eve,
A sunset never setting, forever new,
And the charming gloaming at dusk would not bereave.
If but that love were painless, ever-present,
But love were not itself ‘less evanescent.”
“Hm.” Larena pondered. “It’s pretty good. But—”
“—I know, I know, I said the word again.” He almost put his foot back in his mouth, but Larena stopped him, gently.
“No, it wasn’t that…”
“—What was it? What is it—the rhyme scheme again?”
She thought. “No.” She looked him directly in the eyes, and stood there, much the way she had when she first lay eyes on him. “No—the problem was—that I didn’t understand it.” They were both quiet, in a silence much resembling the one that DUDE had observed earlier.
“Oh.” Andrew was lost for words.
“Say an easier one.”
A brief hesitation (perhaps in the manner of that aforementioned word), and he began: “Okay.
What is this thing, for which—or one, for whom—
I haven’t left a word—or thought’s medallion—
To ornament the beauty—I have not room—
No remnant wit—in Sanskrit or Italian—
This is she—she of the fairest ankle—
With whom e’en cruel Achilles cannot compete—
I must confess—I haven’t a rhyme for ankle—
To end the line—I made the word repeat—
Larena, this is terrible—I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t stop; keep going—I like it.”
“I don’t know. It’s simple.” She tried to think of a better way to describe it. The main liking she took to it so far was, of course, the flattery it offered concerning her ankle—about which she had been mildly self-conscious since the fall, but now she was even verging on considering allowing the cuff of her jeans to rise a little once more, which she had pulled down just before leaving the other place (the name of which place, the author failed to mention, on account of a want for creativity or fear of exposure). “It’s honest. It’s clear. It’s a stilnovismo. It has the modern voice of candidness. It’s transparent.” She now realised she was running on at the mouth, wasting time. “Say more about my ankle.”
“Well.” Andrew was somewhat reluctant, but he conceded, with a concessive clause. “Although I don’t find it so beautiful as you just described—I mean the poem—your ankle is utterly beautiful—I’ll finish it for your sake:
O fairest of the fair—ankle of ankles—
Noble, small, white—what else can I say?
I still don’t have a word to rhyme with ankles—
So I guess I’ll end the line again that way—
My knees grow week in the presence of that ankle—
Because, for medical reasons, they’re weaker than my ankle.
Oh dear. That last line had too many syllables.”
“I know, dear. It’s better that way. You look nice without your hat.”