Brenda had straight blonde hair that fell just past her shoulders. She had a round face and a thin nose that suggested her parents had family in the Scandanavian tundra and knew how to harness a team of reindeer. She wore a stretch-fit black top cut low enough to give her cleavage a fighting chance at our imaginations. Her thin black-rimmed rectangular glasses gave her a bookish bad-girl look that said she could recite entire chapters of Emily Bronte before, after, and during the type of human sex that results in the birth of great leaders. Her hips defined perfect geometric catenaries. Architects designed bridges imagining her.

She wanted my beer order.

She asked, "What do you want?" in a voice that came straight from the stain of a wet dream I'd had when I was sixteen and years of psychoanalysis, booze, and prozac couldn't purge.

"What do I want?" I repeated. Brenda, I want to make love to you on the fantail of a brilliantly white twin-screw Greek yacht piloted by a captain named Inugo across the Adriatic to an island last inhabited by Plato where stands a stone hut built by Philip the Great in which you will dress in thin cotton gauze that barely hides the curve of your breasts and peer across the ocean, considering the loss of the innocence you once had. Brenda, I want to sit in our hut and read the New York Times Book Review call something I've written a brilliant first novel. I want the book critic from the Village Voice to offer me sex in a trendy nightclub on the lower east side while you work the crowd in a skirt short enough to be illegal in the bible belt. I want to walk down the aisle of an oversold jumbo jet flying to Rome and hear college students quoting passages from my work while you sit in first class eating caviar off dulled gold plated knives. I want to win the Monaco Grand Prix in an underpowered Minardi and drink the magnum of champagne in one long glorious swallow while you stand next to me absorbing thousands of camera flashes in your torturously reflective French-designed sunglasses. I want to play drums in a heavy metal band and trash our hotel room at the Paris Intercontinental and wake up the next morning to our pictures plastered across the pages of Der Spiegel and The Daily Mail. Brenda, I want to stand next to you in Westminster and watch the King knight our son for defusing a thermonuclear device planted by terrorists in a public school. I want to write stories that make strong women fall in love with me word by word and earn me the friendship of gallant men. I want to ride in limos. I want secret service protection. I want Francis Ford Coppola to ask me to do a movie with him. I want Candice Bergen to try to seduce me. I want to get drunk with Margaret Thatcher's husband and learn the lurid details of their sex lives we can giggle at in conjoined sleeping bags perched on a ridge on the north slope of Denali. I want to hijack a zeppelin and fly it to this restaurant tomorrow morning and rescue you from hot kitchens, spilled sour beers, and bad tippers with foul breath. I want to set foot on the dark side of the moon and inscribe your name in moondust previously touched only by God. I want to go to Cypress and have Nicole Kidman teach me the Lambada at a seaside resort where I will run lines with her from an upcoming movie I've written about life and death and outer space and return to you a more imaginative, enlightened man. I want to squeeze a lime into the rounded tip of a bottle of Corona lager that bears the traces of spittle you left last time you sipped and gave me that look I want to be my final earthly memory at the moment of my death.

"Rogue Dead Guy Ale," I say.

She writes it down. Says, "good choice."

My universe comes to an end.

When she comes back, another will begin.

This is my curse.

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