Dom never understood the importance of being humble. With a tall frame, a calm demeanor, and a devil-may-care attitude; Dom came to the conclusion that he had conquered every trial in his life with the sanctimonious will of an emperor.
Fame quickly corrupted the last representation of innocence left in the man’s soul. But it wasn’t the money, or the women, or the drugs that did away of Dom’s ambition, instead the catalyst was the absolute meaninglessness of his existence. Largely left ignorant from the world outside of his bubble, Dom lived in the very bliss that he manufactured- and thus embraced illusion of a life without worry and easy earnings.
Every morning told a new story of a previous night, every other afternoon could easily turn into a late morning, and every dawn of a new day could be the middle of his late afternoon. This was the life of a man who never started living, a man without a goal, but a man who understood his simplistic existence.
After following a typical routine of party hopping on a hazy Friday night, Dom finally went to his favorite bar at the corner of a busy downtown intersection. ‘Lady Chatterley’s’ was a cacophony of drunkenness, sorrow, and bad behavior, but Dom had a profound connection to the place. Though if someone were to ask him why, he could not pin point a specific answer; he just liked the place.
As usual he sat at the bar and ordered a standard glass of whiskey. The bitter taste of alcohol and the noise calmed his senses whilst he slowly subjected himself in a wondrous thought; a small, warm island, with scolding sand, and the ocean’s whooshing waves. A loud laugh snapped Dom back to reality. Out of curiosity he searched for the point of origin, but in the middle of his fruitless search he saw her, across the bar, to the left, in a seductive red dress.
She was alone, but her isolation generated an insurmountable sexual heft. She held her glass with delicate dexterity and sipped her drink with a gracefully calculated precision. Her hair was a delicate shade of red, her skin, naturally tanned, and her eyes, somewhat tired, but not of exhaustion, those gentle green eyes wanted more.
There was more to her, there had to be, she was much too good looking to be there by herself and much too intelligent for every other guy who hit on her. Dom could not pin point what it was that had him so enthralled with the girl- sure he wanted her, badly- but for the first time in his adult life he did not know what to say.
As he thought of a way to approach her, the girl with the red dress looked up at her dumbfounded admirer. Her almond shaped eyes squinted in recognition and her lips curled a faint smile. Dom, accustomed to this sort of attention, saw that very moment as a good opening to smoothly transition himself to her side of the bar.
“I know you,” said the girl in the red dress as Dom sat down.
“I get that a lot,” he responded, coolly and almost instinctively.
The girl, now bored with the transaction, finished her drink and prepared herself to go.
“Hey, can I buy you a drink?"
"I have to go.”
“Just got here, yes. And I have to go. Anyways you’re Dom Karoak, you can find something fun to do.”
“What if I ran out of ideas?”
“Then you’re shit out of luck.”
Dom laughed and locked his eyesight with her green eyes, he had to have her, he wanted her, he could not go home without her, it would not be normal.
“C'mon, one drink, it's not gonna kill you.”
“I’m not worried about myself.”
Dom looked at her quizzically, was she toying with him? As she was leaving, he began to hate her. Why was she being so damn difficult? Maybe she was right to leave, it's not like he couldn’t get any woman he wanted. As the door closed Dom just sat in furious humiliation.
But, deep down, Dom’s better inhibition kept on calling him to pursue. There’s something about her, keep going, don’t let her go.
Dom hurried outside to the cold and searched for the girl with the red dress. He looked down the block, and across the street, but he could only find locals and bystanders, she seemingly disappeared.
Dom turned around and saw her smoking a cigarette half amused at the sight of his stupor.
“Um hi, can I bum a cigarette?”
The girl opened her purse and took out her pack. She handed Dom two cigarettes
“The other one is to trade, I can see your pack sticking out of your shirt pocket."
Dom idiotically looked down and felt- for the first time in his life- truly embarrassed. He took out his pack, then handed her one his cigarettes in a chore-like manner.
"I like these, the pharmacy didn’t have them so I got a pack of Silvers."
"I try to buy mine in European airports by bulk, it's so hard to find them here."
"Yea, the city is pretty rough for smokers.”
Dom smoked his cigarette quietly and kept on looking at her. The girl was anticipating him to say something.
“You’re not very good at conversations."
Silence, the girl light her traded cigarette and began to giggle.
“Are you usually this difficult?” asked Dom.
“Actually people say I’m pretty light, don’t blame me because you can’t carry a conversation."
"I think you’re just difficult.”
“Does that make you angry?”
“I think you could be a little less difficult.”
“How am I being difficult?”
“I’m asking a question.”
“But it's how you ask it that’s really difficult.”
The girl started to laugh- and noticing the complete stupidity of the situation- so did Dom.
“I’m sorry, I’m just not used to conversing.”
“Is it an actor’s thing? Are you just used to sweeping girls straight from danky downtown bars to your bed?”
“You know, it's kind of both.”
“Well, that's sad, but hey look at it in the bright side you get around and you keep your image alive.”
The girl started to walk and Dom followed.
“So where are you staying?” Dom asked.
“Midtown, I was thinking in hailing a cab but it’s nice out.”
“Can I walk uptown with you?”
“I don’t see why not.”
For two blocks they made small talk. The girl complained about public transportation around the world, and praised the few systems that had 24-hour service. She then when on a long tangent on how food somehow tasted better in places run by families in small towns, or in stuffy french eateries. Dom just listened and found himself shocked by how much he seemed to not know. Sure, he’s traveled to most of the places where she had been, and he had stayed in the best areas of the places she was talking about, but he had never observed or appreciated those places like she did.
Their trek led them to a small park with an even smaller pond in the middle of the Gotham. The girl looked at the cityscape and the lights reflecting on the water, and the outlines the wind made in the absence of the sun. The night’s tenure was waning in its last hours and through the marvel that is human memory, the girl remembered a little piece of happiness.
“Have you been to the Pera Müzesi in Istanbul?”
“No, the last time I went there was for the film festival.”
“You’re missing out.”
“What is it?”
“It's a museum. The city and the water reminds me of a Rembrandt piece that was in display.
'The Mill,’ it's a solitary little mill on top of a tiny body of water. There was this one guy in a boat, rowing. And a lush little forest in the background.
And the more people kept on telling me about the painting, the more enthralled I was. How much doubt it created, you know people didn’t believe Rembrandt had any part in the process of painting it, they thought it was understudy, or maybe a lover. One of the curators just hated the piece because it was a pain to move it from D.C to Istanbul.
One little painting of a mill, a simple little object that shouldn’t create any debate. Had so much criticism and vitriol. But I found great peace in that painting.”
The girl sat on the bench and took out another cigarette, Dom sat down as well and stared at the water.
“You know I never caught your name,” stated Dom.
“I didn’t give you my name."
"Can I ask you what your name is?"
“What’s your name?”
“You’re going to have to find out."
"Oh come on."
Dom, now frustrated, grabbed the girl’s purse and searched for her wallet. Expecting a playful fight Dom tilted his shoulder, but instead noticed that she was just smiling and almost seemed welcoming to the idea of him searching her wallet. But there was nothing, only a few dollars and a blue card from 'Lady Chatterley’s.’
“Why don’t you carry I.D?”
“I often never do, force of habit.”
“That’s kind of a dumb 'force of habit.’”
“So is grabbing some one’s private property.”
There was silence, only the distant sounds of moving traffic filled the void of hurt feelings and defiance. The girl shivered and began to walk north again, Dom followed.
“Here,” Dom gave the girl his jacket.
She wrapped herself and gave Dom a warm smile.
“You are a good guy, kind of in the the dumb, predictable side. But you’re a really nice guy."
"Usually I don’t like being called dumb or predictable, but I like you, you’re really different from most of the girls I hang out with."
"Well, I think I’m probably smarter than most of the girls you hang out with.”
“Hey, some of them are smart.”
“I don’t know, didn’t whats-her-face say that Nambia was in South America in 'Extra’?”
“Well isn’t it?"
The girl succumbed to a quiet spell as they headed uptown. For once Dom actually began to talk about himself and some of his worldly experiences. Every so often she would giggle at a comical observation, or self-centered tangent. But there was a clear distraction, a profound disconnect between the two.
The girl asked if they could stop by a pharmacy before going home. Dom did not question the logic behind the sudden deviation, of course any trip to a pharmacy at that time of the night could be insinuated to only one thing.
Dom and the girl stepped inside the bright commercial sanctuary that was a 24-hour pharmacy.
Each aisle, perfectly aligned with products of necessity, medical need, or the arbitrary whims of societal over-gratification. The girl buzzed to stationeries and picked a plain manila holiday card.
"Happy Valentine's Day.”
“I hate this stupid holiday,” announced the girl, while looking at the empty card.
“Yea, even someone like me can see why this holiday can come off as pretentious.”
“I have my reasons though.”
“Bad break up?”
“It's complicated, I’m guessing you’ll find out over time.”
Dom became excited over her response. Like a child finally gaining attention, he began to flood his mind with hypothetical situations, dates, moments he could share with this enigmatic figure. Was he falling in love?
He stopped. Was he falling in love with someone he just met? He knew she was special, he felt that feeling of going down a proverbial rabbit hole so deep, so abstract, so esoteric, there was no conceivable exit.
The movie star fell in love with a girl on Valentine's Day.
The girl looked at him with curiosity. She had already paid, written a note, and sealed the card shut whilst Dom came to the wondrous conclusion of his fate. But seeing him in that daze brought a relieved laughter, which snapped Dom out of his haze.
“Ok, chop-chop, I’m going home.”
As they left the pharmacy the girl took out her pack of Silvers, sighed, and smoked her last cigarette. Dom looked at her, eye-to-eye, trying to deduce the next plan of action.
“I live right across the street.”
“I thought you were staying at a hotel.”
“No, I’m kind of in between places, anyways, Dom..”
Dom could no longer help himself, as the girl began to phrase a new sentence he gently kissed her. A hesitant peck at first, a shy show of interest, not a kiss worthy of a movie star, instead of a young man not truly believing in his direct plan. The girl, though surprised, relaxed herself and let Dom place his hand on the back of her neck. He could finally progress to the smell of her perfume, the hint of nicotine on her breath, her soft skin on his lower jaw. Two bodies, meeting with one thought, aligned with the heartbeat of a cosmic union. A kiss that isolated the outside world and focused on two bodies meeting as one.
“I want to see you again.”
“Dom I need you to do me a favor.”
“Please, I don’t know if I ever met anyone like you..”
“Dom, you’re a great guy, but you need to do me a favor, before we do anything else.”
“Anything, I’ll buy condoms..”
“No, ugh, you’re…Anyway…really.. seriously?”
“I’m sorry, there’s a lot going on here.”
“You are such a guy.”
“But you like me.”
“Hahaha..Look, yes I do, but it's complicated. Please listen to me, I need you to give this card to the lady that lives in this apartment tomorrow at noon.”
Dom looked at the envelope, 17G.
“Promise me you’re not going to open it, please Dom.”
“I’m not trying to get rid of you. I like you and I’ll see you tomorrow, I promise.”
Dom was silent, he felt like a scorned 4 year old, was this heartbreak?
“Oh please trust me Dom, I’m asking you to do this because I like you, this will mean so much for me.”
Dom should have asked more, he felt entrapped, and his suspicion was unfaltering. But he was on an overwhelming spell, deep down a sort of madness took control and eased him.
“Ok,” Dom agreed to the unknown and accepted the card.
The girl hugged Dom tightly, and the same way that she had left the bar earlier in the night, she left Dom in the corner, holding a card to the unheralded.
Dom could not sleep. He had to kill time until midday, but sleep did not seem to be a realistic endeavor. Instead he sat in his living-room, staring a the card he was supposed to give to the inhabitant of 17G. Dom acknowledged his madness as he paced through his apartment, he mumbled to himself and then asked why he was talking to himself out loud. He 'googled imaged’ Rembrandt’s Mill, saw that an exhibition was coming to the city soon. Was it perhaps too early to set up a date? Dom did not know, but he knew that the clock would move faster to 11 am if he busied himself or slept.
By 8:30 Dom had accomplished to read a script that was sent to him for a future role in a superhero project. He readied himself, shaved, showered, cooked a simple breakfast, and brushed his teeth.
By 11:30 he had parked on the opposite corner of the apartment building where the girl resided in. He suddenly realized that the girl never gave him back his jacket the night before. He spent a few minutes trying to come up with a witty remark regarding that incident. Satisfied he stepped out of the car, checked if the letter was in his pocket-unopened, of course- and walked to the lobby of the large working class building.
The doorman looked at Dom in complete shock.
“Dom Keroak?” asked the service man in stupor.
“Karoak, actually,” responded Dom, half laughing.
“Oh my God, my wife will never believe me.”
“I’ll sign you an autograph, I’m actually looking for an apartment, um, 17 G, could you point me to the right direction?”
The doorman’s affable attitude cooled.
“May I ask why?”
Dom awkwardly tried to come up with a reason. He was at a disadvantage since he did not know the name of the girl, or even the resident of 17 G.
“Look it's a fan base thing, I’m just dropping by some fan mail, it’s not urgent if you don’t..”
“Yea you probably shouldn’t,” replied the doorman, cutting Dom off.
“Look, ok, I just met the girl from '17 G,’ she wanted me to give this letter to the lady who lives there.”
On the distance an elevator door opened and an old lady stepped out with a bouquet of red roses. As she walked up to the doorman-who began to raise his voice at Dom- the old lady stopped and studied Dom, as I she had seen a ghost. The doorman turned around called the radio for security, and quickly shielded her from Dom.
“Margaret, please go home right now, trust me, this is not worth your while,” begged the doorman.
“Charlie, I know that man…”
The security guard began to push a very confused Dom out of the lobby. He began to protest, but ultimately surrendered and complied to the forcefulness of the situation.
“I just wanted to drop off a fucking letter to 17G, Jesus fucking Christ.”
The doorman dismissed Dom’s tantrum and continued to persuade Margaret to go home.
“Margaret, please you can go later, he’s a crazy Hollywood type playing a sick joke..”
“Charlie please let me go and talk to him, I know who he is,” replied Margaret forcefully.
Once outside Dom grew angry. How could he have been so coy? So damn naive? It wasn’t as if the doorman didn’t over-react? That fucking doorman!!
“Are you Dom?"
Dom turned around and saw the old lady from the lobby looking up at him. Dom disregarded her and kept on walking towards his car, the old lady followed him. Dom began to become irritated by her presence.
"Look lady, I’m not in the mood of signing autographs or taking pictures, or whatever bullshit you want me to do, ok? I’m sorry.”
“I live in 17 G.”
“No shit and I’m Mary Poppins.”
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to show some cordiality, I’m too old and too busy to be talked down upon in this fashion. Now, I know that whatever you are doing here involves someone we care deeply about and I would like to know what letter you have for me.”
Dom grew silent, took a deep breath, and handed her the letter. Margaret did not hesitate to open it and read its contents. Margaret’s eyes began to tear, though she restrained herself from crying, and placed the letter in her large bag. Dom, meanwhile, exacerbated in frustration whispered a statement of disbelief.
“Oh, will you shut up. How do you think I feel? I’m her mother.”
Dom simply stared at Margaret, his emotions began to complicate his thought process.
“You just met my deceased daughter.”
Dom grew pale.
“Ok, I’m getting out of here, this is fucking insane.”
“Can you please stop cursing so much.”
“Lady, are you kidding me?”
His breathing became less paced and more frenetic, quickly he opened his car’s door and started the engine. He wanted to drive away as quickly as possible, but he paused. It was the disbelief, that organic madness that took hold of him during the night, that compelled him to not drive off.
The old lady tapped the window of the passenger side of the vehicle. Dom unlocked the door and the lady stepped in. A ghastly silence fell on the confines of the reduced space.
“Please, can you drive me to Saint. Luke’s cemetery,” pleaded Margaret with a heartbroken tone in her voice.
“I don’t know where it is,” replied Dom, shyly.
“I’ll point you to the right direction, just, drive. I have to change her flowers before it gets too late.”
An abundant silence befell between the driver and his passenger. The motion of the automobile hummed past the fortified quietude. Margaret would highlight a direction or two, but she could not help herself from wondering off in her thoughts. The highway was surprisingly complaisant during the commute. Driving past the silver lined metropolis to the outside world felt like crossing the fabrics of a dimensional plane. Large buildings being replaced with tall pines, houses becoming smaller by every mile or so.
They arrived solemnly and walked in awkward taciturnity past the gates of the cemetery. Dom broke the silence by asking Margaret one simple question.
“When did she pass away?”
“Just two years ago as of today.”
“She was ill.”
Flowers withered, some fresh. Row after row, each headstone sat cool and untouched. Dom and Margaret kept walking past the heft of death and its objective symbolism.
“Well here she is.”
The headstone was simple and dogmatic, a stone-cross marked the belief of the family, but a picture of the girl distinguished it from the others. She was so young, normal, not the woman that Dom had met the night before, but it was her. Her almond shaped eyes, her red hair, her skin. Beside the headstone, on the lower left hand side, Dom’s black jacket laid on the ground neatly folded.
“I gave her my jacket last night."
Margaret ignored Dom, replaced the dying roses from the ground with the fresh bouquet, and sat on a bench that faced directly at her daughter’s headstone. Dom sat next to her with his black jacket on his lap.
"I think I fell in love with your daughter.” Dom could not believe he just said what he said, the timing made him shrug in embarrassment.
“Don’t worry hun, I know,” replied Margaret, stoically.
“How? Did she talk to you too?"
"No, she does this every Valentine's Day."