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The girl in the bowtieShe was down on the sidewalk, window shopping in orange sneakers and peg-leg jeans cinched up with a colorful beaded belt like the ones they sell at tourist traps. Her blouse was white and crisp and finished off with a tidy bowtie, a proper one, tastefully drab which is better viagra cialis, dainty, and skillfully knotted. It complemented her tomboy allure, her flyaway strawberry hair, upturned nose, pink cheeks, faint freckles, lips that curled in a way that made her face seem to smile even when she was not smiling. He was across the street, on the balcony of his second-floor apartment, spying on her through a camera with a zoom lens. He saw her linger at a display of prim dresses. She’s not interested in those, he thought. Not her. She’s obviously killing time. Waiting for someone. Why should there have ever been any doubt? Look at her! Of course she belongs to someone. An iconoclastic dreamer, no doubt, pouty and beautiful, an artist who lives in a wreck of a warehouse that reeks of acetone and bodily fluids, an irresistible specimen with paint-speckled hands and armpits spewing pheromones. He’ll show up any second, pull a battered bunch of field flowers from behind his back, then invite her to some small-theater production of The Importance of Being Ernest. She moved on to the next window and he dared pray anew that she was alone. He noticed her smile pleasantly at passing strangers. He searched for the courage to be one of them. Carly Ryan was her name. She’d learned how to tie bowties from her grandfather, a former watchmaker and World War Two veteran named Clark McAddams. She’d gone to live with him after his wife died. She was only twenty-two at the time, fresh out of college. Her mother warned her that caring for an eighty year old man was not something to be taken lightly. “For one thing, ” she said, “the man refuses to be seen without a bowtie under his wattle, whether he’s going out or staying in. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can drive you nuts. Grandma Dee – you know she did his tie every day for the last two years, on account of it hurts him so because of his arthritis – she said he would stop to put on a bowtie before fleeing a house on fire at three AM. " Carly suggested the old man wear clip-ons, or maybe the pre-tied kind that go on with an elastic neck band. "I suggested that, " her mother said. "He made a face like I’d farted. He was a wine connoisseur, he said, and I was asking him to switch to chardonnay in a box. " The day Carly moved in with him was the six-week anniversary of Grandma Dee’s funeral. They visited her gravesite in the morning. The weather was perfect: dreary and drizzly. When they got back home, they changed into dry clothes and spent the rest of the afternoon together. “You insist on living with me, so go fetch my ties, ” he said to her, pointing toward his bedroom closet with a gnarled finger. He pulled a chair in from the dining room, positioned it facing a full-length mirror, and sat down. Carly hooked the rack high on the mirror so he could still see his reflection below which is better viagra cialis it. The rack held about a hundred ties. There were silk ones and cotton ones, solids, paisleys, polka dots, [which is better viagra cialis] stripes. There were ties for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Easter, Independence Day, President's Day, Labor Day. "Let's start with the black one, " he told her. She pulled down the black tie and draped it around his neck. “I’ll show you how first, ” he said. She looked puzzled and said, “I thought you couldn’t do it. ” “I can, but it hurts like hell and never looks any good. Pay attention now. I don’t want to have to do this more than once. ” “OK. ” Carly watched carefully as his crooked fingers proved they still knew how to turn a flimsy cloth strip into a sturdy bow. “Now you try, ” he said. The first few times the tie drooped like an overcooked lasagna noodle, but after the tenth try, Grandpa Clark looked in the mirror and said, “Let's try another. " Carly undid the black tie, returned it to the rack, then looked back at him. "The big yellow one, " he said, “with the blue dots. ” She found the tie and began tucking it under his collar. "I wore this one when I took you to the circus. It was a small circus. Not Ringling. You probably don't remember at all. You were three. Your little fingers tugged at this tie and you asked me if I was one of the clowns. " Carly didn’t remember the circus, but the yellow bowtie with blue dots looked familiar. She had it around his neck in twenty seconds. "That one's easier than the old black one, " she told him. "Yep. You’ve already passed the toughest test, " Grandpa Clark said. "But let’s keep practicing. We might need to get out of here in a hurry one day, and I don’t want you telling me we don’t have time for a bowtie. You should be able to do it in the dark. ” She returned the yellow tie to the rack and waited. “Purple, ” he said. “Black stripes. ” She took the tie down and draped it around his neck. “This one’s my brother's funeral. He was a loner. Ended up shooting himself in the head one day, you know. Never could figure out why some people do that. Some of them do, though. I think you were only five. " Carly learned to tie bowties in the dark and the two of them them had just more than a year together. It was a good year, even if you counted the time he literally lost his shit and she drove him home with the car stinking to high heaven and she cursing at the stench and he roaring with laughter until he thought he might die right then. He died a few months later, in his sleep, on the night of their four-hundredth day. Doctors said he just faded away, like a flashlight some kid left on. Carly wore a bowtie to his funeral, and every day after that, too. It wasn't any sacrifice. She liked the look. She was pleased to be known as the Girl in the Bowtie. And what else was there to do after Grandpa Clark willed her the ties one day in a note scrawled on a cheap paper plate from which he’d just eaten a tuna sandwich? The spy on the balcony watched anxiously as a fit young man jogged up and started talking to her. The intruder extended his hand. She shook it. The spy ran out of his apartment and down onto the street. When he got there, the interloper was gone. She was still there, gazing into a drugstore window. He swallowed his fear, crossed the street, and worked his way to within three feet of her. In the window were adult diapers, bed pans, canes, tub rails, aluminum walkers. He waited. In the corner of his eye he saw her look at him. He looked back and thought of Lot’s wife, stupidly facing Sodom. He was transfixed, overwhelmed, terrified, in love. “I used to change my grandpa’s diapers, ” she said. “We pretended he was a big baby. He’d say ‘goo goo ga ga’ and we’d both crack up. ” She looked into his eyes as she spoke. Which is better viagra cialis “that’s funny, ” he said. He saw tears welling in her eyes. “Everybody told me I shouldn’t live with him. They said it was too much, that I was too young. But I loved him. I wanted to get as much of him as I could before he was gone. So I went to live with him. It was a win-win. He needed a woman around the house and I needed more time with him. ” “It’s a good granddaughter who would give up a year of her life to care for her dying grandfather. ” “Nobody knew he was dying. We thought he’d live another ten years. But I guess he grew lonely, and there wasn’t anything I could do about that. He missed my grandma. ” “I think that happens a lot with older couples, right? One dies and the other follows. ” “That’s what they say. ” He took a deep breath and wondered whether he should just ask her out for coffee or risk lunch. As he pondered, another young woman came bouncing out of the drugstore, took the girl of his dreams by the hand, and pulled her away. “Gotta go!” she said, smiling as she departed. “Wait!” he called out. The two women stopped and turned, and as they did he recognized in their easy intimacy a declaration, tacit but unmistakable, that they were a couple. “Never mind, ” he said, waving them off. “Nice meeting you. ”   ### (1, 492 words)


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