|A man sleeps while his female companion shops.|
He calls them The Girls but N's in her 30s, M is 43. He does this because it reminds of the way men of his father's era spoke, and still do, those living, though the women they speak of are in their 70s and 80s.
On President's Day the Complete and Total Loser has met with the two for several years running. They shop first in places they like, then join him for lunch. He has known M since the mid 1990s and N only a little less. The women get along well though they are very different. M is type A—competitive, successful in the business world, sophisticated, witty and won't eat vegetables. N is artistic, a painter, and eats no animal products, believes in reincarnation, drinks no caffeinated beverages, does yoga regularly and is a teetotaler.
They gave the Loser a bar of soap and a disposable thong women wear while trying on bathing suits or lingerie, late Valentine's Day gifts. Before going to an upscale Chinese restaurant the three went to a beauty supply store. The store carried nothing the Loser had seen before in his trips to chain pharmacies, which he sometimes ventures into searching for something to smooth his 50-year-old skin, occasions that leave him melancholy nearly to the point of tears. He is a never-married middle-aged crippled man alone in a store reading labels on bottles and tubes.
The girls bought cleansing pads and hair conditioner.
During the meal they talked about politics, movies, work, M's mother's new foundation, which M finds too orange. M handles the finances of an insurance licensing company and is good at explaining the world of business to the Loser, who knows nothing of it. Today she talked about tests given to prospective employees, tests the Loser would like to take and have analyzed. M and the Loser had similar chicken dishes and a glass of wine. N had chrysanthemum tea and a plate of steamed vegetables.
Afterward, they went to a women's clothing and accessories store. The Loser likes such stores in small doses. There are soft colors, pretty women and pleasant smells. In twenty minutes he's bored. Today he looked at a book the store carried, 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die. The list seemed to be in no discernible order. Not alphabetical by title or author, not chronological or by genre. He imagines it's meant to be picked up and browsed through. Perhaps, he thought, if you read the books in the order they're presented your mind will be programmed in new and wonderful ways, its wiring made phenomenally efficient. Every day would be a magical new thing filled with insights and ideas few have ever had.
He took the photo at the top of this entry.
After they were done shopping they hugged in the parking lot. The Loser is not a casual hugger—physical contact is rare and intimacy nonexistent for him so he avoids what he sees as the tease of hugging hello and goodbye. This has earned him a reputation for disliking being touched, which is fine with him. With The Girls, who he's known for so long, it's different. So they have long hugs punctuated with laughs whenever they meet. He must admit that it's nice.