This is how it always begins: a draught followed by a storm. For three months my dating landscape was as barren as the surface of the moon. And, then, suddenly, I was in demand.
This situation had happened before, but it always came as a surprise. A happy surprise. One day I was a pariah, repelling every woman within sniffing distance. Then, the next, I was the most popular girl in the room. Women would fight ( in the passive-aggressive way that they do ) to buy me drinks and take me to dinner.
There seemed to be no scientific explanation behind this sudden change in my powers of attraction. I looked the same... give or take a couple of pounds. I acted the same... give or take a couple of mild mood swings. And I always managed to maintain my exquisite table manners through the most devastating cycles of rejection and magnetism.
So, there was no telling when my fortunes would suddenly change. I was unable to manipulate the mysterious flow of my charisma. The best I could do was to wait out the dry spells and welcome periods of allure with unquestioning abandon.
Our story begins at the end of a dateless summer. I was sitting on my back porch, trying not to think of how I had failed to make meaningful eye contact with any drunken women at a bar the night before. And then the phone rang. It was Vanessa, a woman I had met a year before in a tennis league. At the time, I was vaguely attracted to her rangy good looks, her awkward serves ( I'm never charmed by athletic prowess—I like klutzes ) , and her blue-blood ( she had attended one of those rarified liberal arts colleges that offer majors in self-esteem and posture ) . But I hadn't heard from her since the tennis season ended, so I had long ago relegated her to the 'lost cause' heap. Then, out of the blue, she called, and in her distinctly quavering, upper-class Eleanor Roosevelt voice she asked me out to dinner. I accepted.
The next morning at work, I received another call. This one from Lucy, an attorney I had met during a bridge class I taught months before at a lesbian community center. She was a renegade card player, who quickly gave up on the game of bridge, and convinced her group to rebel against me by launching into a merry game of hearts. I admired her willful disobedience and her officious self-assurance. When she demanded my number, I gave it to her with a sigh of submission. But she didn't bother to call until that morning. She commanded me to go to dinner. I accepted.
That evening, the phone rang again. It was Ellen, who I met at an art gallery opening that spring. She was one of the featured artists, specializing in funky cityscapes painted in primary colors. Unfortunately, the sunny color scheme did not reflect her mental state. The first time I visited her apartment, she made a point of gesturing to a counter crowded with prescription bottles. Most were anti-depressants, but there were also bottles of jelly-like vitamins that she had to take in complex combinations several times a day. She called to invite me to an art reception, which she promised to be dreary and uninspired. I accepted
And, so, began my autumn of love.
If you can guess which of these women I end up with at the end of this mystery series, I'll send you a fabulous prize. Register your guess-and find new clues-at www.jenniferparello.com