vignettes


I went to the park yesterday during lunch to write and to enjoy the feeling of escape, however evanescent. It was beautiful outside: warm enough to be comfortable, but with a slight breeze. The elementary school next door was having recess when I walked up to the picnic tables underneath some trees.

I sat down at one table with my satchel and started to take out my notebook and iPod, when I noticed three little girls seated at another picnic table across the path from me. One had a pink Trapper Keeper and they were discussing something intently.

“God is like the most magical and beautiful fairy,” the girl with the Trapper Keeper said intently, loudly enough for me to hear. I smiled–it was a lovely idea and it charmed me.

When they were called back in, I went and sat where she had been sitting, hoping for a similar inspiration.

There we were that warm Sunday night, 16 of us, remedial students in the college of love; in danger of dropping out or failing.

We’d come for help to Babeland, a classy sex toy boutique on Melrose, where a love letter writing workshop promise to recharge our dying romantic batteries.

Nervously, we shuffled around a platter of vegetables and sipped Yellowtail champagne out of plastic cups; we asked shyly if a seat were taken. We sat in plastic chairs around tables; we pretended not to stare at the large collection of riding crops and whips hanging on one wall.

“I want to write with that pen,” I whispered to my friend Z, pointing to what looked like a loooooong black writing utensil with a fluffy, purple plume on one end. It would be the perfect thing to pen a love letter, and I had visions of using it at work, too.

“That’s not a pen,” he whispered back. “It’s a French tickler.”

We weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Our teacher swept in, setting her iced chai down on a shelf next to some fuzzy handcuffs, and adjusting her tight green top. Her mighty cleavage strained to burst out; it added to the air of mystery, of anticipation surrounding her.

“My name is Midori,” she said, and we all sat there, taking her in: the artful blonde streaks in her brown hair, the thigh-high black vinyl lace-up boots, the sexy librarian glasses. “Artist. Author. Sex educator.”

“Feeling desired is the number one aphrodisiac,” she continued, adjusting her glasses like a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. “What does it take to feel desired?”

No one raised their hand, and Midori looked at us sympathetically: truly, we needed help.

She held up a piece of paper, and drew a line down the middle. She instructed us to title one half “Terms Of Endearment” and the other “What You Adore About Your Lover.” As we set to work, she walked among us, sharing thoughts and tossing out suggestions.

“Write everything, from the twin spectrums of fuzzy, puppy love to wild, weird, gonzo sex,” she said. “Use words that are true and authentic to you.”

I struggled to come up with a list of pet names I’ve said, both in seriousness and jest: duckling, babe, sugar, parakeet tail.

“My tentacled love monster!” Midori trilled, moving her hands around as if she could manipulate the energy in the room—and it was as if she could. “I am a fan of anime, so this is a major term of endearment.”

I looked at the other half of my paper. It was surprisingly difficult to think of a list of traits I loved in my boyfriend, even though I’m sure I knew one or two.

“If you’ve been with a partner for a long time,” she said, as if reading my mind (and perhaps she could!), “think back to the first six weeks when things were hot and heavy. You know, when you two couldn’t pass a dark alley without disappearing into it.”

She paused, and gave a worldly little chuckle.

“Been there, right?”

We all sighed in agreement—yes, at one time, we had eagerly enrolled in romance, knowing just what we were doing.

As we scribbled eagerly, she gave us more headers, more suggestions and tips on how to link them all. When we’d all filled two full pages, Midori took a sip of her tea and started suggesting creative methods of delivery.

“There’s origami. Why not turn your love note into a jigsaw puzzle? You could mail each piece separately,” she said, and we struggled to keep up with her flow as we took notes. “Get a fancy French lemonade bottle, wrap your note in ribbon, toss in some confetti. Sneak little notes into their briefcases, their pockets, their purses. Make a little flip book animation of hearts. Slip a fake page into their favorite magazine. Create your own fortune cookies!”

Midori tossed out ideas worthy of our finest romantic comedies, a master creating her art, faster and faster, like the part in The Little Mermaid when all the magical bottles and ingredients are flying into Ursula’s cauldron. The very air in the room had changed as she spoke; we were becoming something other than we had been before.

We were hopeless, all of us, but Midori molded us quickly and with authority.

“Can I start my love letter with, ‘Hey bitch’?” a shy girl volunteered.

“Terms of endearment are distinctly personal,” Midori said warmly.

“I don’t know what to say after ‘Dear Chocolate Bunny, I love the way we made out in the back of my van…’” a guy trailed off.

“How about,” Midori thought for a second, her eyes shining. “‘Longingly, until we find each other in another backseat’?”

“What would you say to someone who just broke up with you, but you want to get back with them, even though they have a violent temper and you’re already dating another man?” a girl in a cheerleader uniform asked. “Oh, and you want to convey a top/bottom power dynamic?”

“Thank you all for coming out tonight,” Midori said, smiling at us proudly.

It was like Dead Poets Society, except with vibrators and sexy mad libs.

“Does a love note need to be wordy?” she asked, and we looked at each other, before the bravest among us spoke out: “No!”

She smiled, nodding slowly. We were getting it!

“Does a love note need to be expensive?”

“No!” more of us called out.

“It’s up to you to update and maintain your ingredient lists. Some will work better than others,” she said triumphantly as we cheered. “Whatever you do, be sincere and authentic!”

We stood and applauded our mistress, love rejects no more.

“Romance is easy. Be creative and have fun,” she said with a mysterious smile and the barest hint of a wink. The hints she had given us were just the tip of her vast iceberg of knowledge; we could admire Midori but we could never truly know all her secrets.

She picked up a huge plate of candy: our transformation had left us starving, but, as always, Midori was prepared.

“Chocolates, anyone?”