STREETS OF FLOWERS
"That's an intriguing theory," she says, folding her hands over his poem. The flattery in her voice assigns him power to solve her problems, a trick some women had that he would have thought Lynn - valedictorian of her class at Bayside High School, straight A honor student at Queens - would not need.
"Do you know what to me is the most manly gesture possible? Guess."
"I'm afraid to ask," he says.
"It's when a guy clenches his jaw very tight, like he's holding back some tremendous emotion. Especially anger."
"So anger's a symbol of manliness," Stephen says, happy to have a concrete idea to work with. Every word carries a subtext of questions; her body, alert in his wicker chair, begs answers.
"Not anger," she says. "Repressed anger."
"I have trouble expressing anger."
"Which is why you wrote this," she says, locking her knees under his poem. "And everything you're planning to write but got too freaked out by that stupid class to do."
He has never been with a woman whose insights excite him more than her body.
"That class devastated me," he says. "Even though I know ninety percent of what's said in a writers' workshop is idiotic."
"Yes," Lynn says. "But doesn't it feel better when they praise your work for idiotic reasons than when they rip it apart for idiotic reasons?"
He wants to scoop her from the chair and kiss her, for being so wise, for not having a father, for keeping the mimeograph of his poem in her lap as they laugh.
"So, you haven't read Portrait," she says. "Of The Artist?"
"No," Stephen says. "Not yet."