“Well, the way I see it, you only gave me two choices, binary thinking; I do not accept binary thinking as an interpretation of the world. Watch out for that in the future, deadly you know. Let me propose a third possibility. Did you know that between the two of us, we have free will if and only if I do what you want, and you do what I want. See how simple it is?”
“Artists are always talking about free will, but to most of us, that’s a mumbo jumbo sort of philosophy that has no bearing on day to day survival.”
Ethan laughs. “Come on, don’t be such a hard ass; go ahead, ask me what I want.”
“I feel like I’ve already used up my wish without knowing I had one in the first place, but OK: What do you want?”
For several moments Ethan studies Maria in the same way he had formerly studied the painting. “Be honest, tell me what you’re thinking right now. I mean right this second.”
“Why? Why don’t you just leave?” The former discomfort has returned.
“If you want to get rid of me, you’ll have to answer my question.”
“What if I don’t want to get rid of you; what if I simply want you to put out the cigarette?”
“I’m a very irritating person or so I’ve been told by all the best people; I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to throw me out; answer the question, and your troubles will be at an end.”
“Is that to be your wish?” she responds.
“Sure why not.”
“I was thinking you were looking for a gallery for your art.”
“What a god damn liar you are.”
“I am not a liar,” she replies frustration elevating her voice. Heads bobbling indistinctly in the background rotate in their direction. “Will you please leave?” These are her words, but she is being dishonest again.
“Not until I get my wish. Lies don’t count.”
“If you’re such an amazing mind reader, tell me what I was thinking?”
Ethan moves closer to Maria, so close that their scents blend, briefly losing their individual identities in the creation of a new perfume. You can feel it in your lungs, your bloodstream, your mind, inducing a temporary euphoria before separating into its component parts. From that moment, every one of your senses is alert and searching for even the tiniest reoccurrence of that perfume to satisfy this new craving. He is whispering in her ear. You cannot hear what he says, but the effect of those words is clearly apparent in a blush that suffuses her cheeks with high color: “I granted your wish, now will you grant mine?” she insists.
“Case in point: Lying to yourself is the reason your wishes are never granted, Maria.” He handles her name with unexpected familiarity, “and like I already mentioned, lies don’t tally except as demerits on your permanent record: Here lies Maria, she lied her way into the afterworld, and now she’s dinner for the maggots. Bottom line: Lies do not rate at the wish factory,” he grins most charmingly.
She sighs indicating her realization that this man is not going to be easy to deal with: “Ok, but could it be a different wish?”
“Sure, and as it turns out, we both have the same one: Sit for me; that will give you an opportunity to see what an uncompromising bastard can achieve.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“Sit for me: 3211 Einstein Avenue. Don’t come to the front door. There’s a walkway to the left side, the sinister side of the house; it will bring you to my front, back door. The woman who lives in the main part of the house, she’s ancient; we mustn’t trouble her. Come any time you like. I’m almost always there. What’s your decision?”
“3211 Einstein, are you sure that’s your address?” Now hers is the face registering surprise.
“I might come,” she proposes.
“I’m not going to leave until you actually commit.”
“I will come,” she admits the inevitable.
“Good, doesn’t free will feel great? By the way, I hope you have something else to wear. That suit does not suit you. Wear something to bring out those splendid, green eyes unless you want to model in the nude,” he ends on a hopeful note.
And then he is gone taking with him the aroma of smoke, leaving behind lavender. You must make a choice, which one to follow: Maria still staring after him wistfully or Ethan, man of mystery. Mystery beckons.