Swooning over the messenger

She can't decide what makes the man: Brawn, brains or big brothers.

Published September 13, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Sept. 13, 1999

Friday evening, August 13

Have I underestimated Randy? Or am I having an identity crisis? A working girl has no business falling for a personal trainer -- that's for rich, bored married ladies. But, as Randy and I walked back to my building, his protective aura caught me off-guard.

This big dumb "teenager" -- as I've always called him -- was genuinely concerned about my safety. As ever, he remained unaware of my disdain for him -- but now I was glad.

"Randy," I asked, "haven't you ever heard that you should never be the bearer of bad news?"

"Nope," he said with a shrug. After a cynical smirk, he added: "Sounds like something straight out of 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.'"

As we walked along First Avenue, Randy looked around, hoping to catch sight of the stalker -- but the mystery creep was nowhere in sight. Randy made no effort to hide his curiosity. He wouldn't survive in a corporate environment for more than one day, I thought -- but why compare this simple hunk of physical virtue to, uh, Matt? It's not that Matt's uncute. When I go out with Matt, I see the looks that he gets from other women. But Randy arouses more basic feelings.

"Feel better?" he asked, touching my arm for a split second. "That guy really shook you up."

"Do you have a sister?" I suddenly asked. I could still feel the shadow of his touch.

"Two," he answered, "They're at home with my mom. How about you?"

"I'm the oldest," I offered, "I never had ..." My voice trailed off.

"A big brother?" he said, "I can tell. You're very -- "

"Yes?" I prompted him, losing my cool. "Very what?"

I was getting shrill for some reason, which amused him.

"You're used to having things your way," he said, after a moment. "When you get on the treadmill, you have a bossy walk."

"Well, I have two little brothers," I admitted. "And I bossed them around -- until they just refused to listen to me."

When we got to my building, he touched my arm again and looked at me for a moment. "If that guy bothers you, I want to be the first to know."

"You do?"

My heart was pounding and I felt my face blushing. Why can't I be attracted to guys like Randy, I thought. Excuse me? I am attracted to ... a guy like -- to Randy. Unlike Allison, I've never gone for the dumb handsome type -- but now, to my shame, I realize what Allie sees in this guy, why she can't help flirting with him.

When I got upstairs, I did a quick reality check. How much money does Randy make? What exactly would I do with Randy? Fuck him twice a week when I'm not busy seeing my regulars? Encourage him to fall in love with me? For what? For the animal satisfaction of being loved by a noble trainer? I can't afford to fall for a guy like Randy. But I can't help thinking about Randy's young body, those well-constructed arms and his confident expression when he was telling me about his stalker theories. Before he kissed me goodbye, on the cheek, he told me: "If Matt's too busy to be your big brother, call me."

Why was it so easy to talk to Randy about all that stuff? Because he doesn't matter, that's why.

Saturday morning, August 14

My morning has begun on a conciliatory note.

"I'm buying three cases of that Italian white. Why don't we split them?" Jasmine's efforts to make up for our furious discussion on Thursday are comforting -- and as always practical. "If we get four cases, Harlan will give us another 10 percent off." Our local wine merchant has the unrequited hots for Jasmine and she's pretty ruthless about exploiting said hots. (If only he knew she was available by the hour! I'm sure he could afford it.)

"Sure," I said, "Why don't we have breakfast before we see Harlan?"

I hung up, relieved that we both sound like friends again. God, Thursday was awful.

Saturday afternoon

At breakfast, Jasmine was being especially pleasant -- so I felt guilty about forcing the issue:

"Look," I told her, "I was upset about what happened the other day."

"That shouldn't have happened," she said quickly.

"I'm not asking you to apologize. You were afraid I would go to the police."

Jasmine was focusing on her eggs benedict.

"April hasn't called Allison all week," I told her, "and Allison can't find her. What do you think happened?"

"I'm sure Milt had nothing to do with it," Jasmine said. "So stop worrying."

"I'm trying to tell you that I understand why it was crazy to talk about the police," I said, rather deliberately. Her comments about making April "disappear" from New York have been replaying in my head for days -- along with her cryptic questions about April's intentions.

Puzzled, Jasmine looked up from her plate.

"You were disoriented," she said. "Now you're not. It's OK."

"Jasmine, if you did something you shouldn't have done, I don't care anymore. I don't expect you to tell me, and I'll never discuss it with a soul."

"Shouldn't have done?" Jasmine echoed back at me. There was a cold pause. "You know, I may have done some things in my time that you couldn't handle but that doesn't give you the right to sit there judging me. I've never made a decision that I couldn't live with."

Then the angry sneer vanished and her expression became unreadable.

By Tracy Quan

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