I picked up a chunk of chicken between my chopsticks. "I hate to be the one to break this to you, Muse, but the answer would be never." I popped the meat into my mouth.
"That's not what I wanted to hear," she said as she reached for the tea pot. "I was hoping that you were all basically caterpillars waiting to transform into butterflies."
"You're close. We're more like maggots before turning into flies. Either way, we pretty much suck."
"Please don't talk about maggots while we're eating rice. My imagination is too healthy sometimes."
She nodded. "Oh yes, definitely depraved. But it's a selling point, really. At least, I've never heard you complain."
"Nor will you. As long as you aren't chopping up prostitutes and hiding them in my basement, we're all good. And maybe even then, depending on how neat you were about it."
She refreshed both our cups with jasmine tea. "You haven't found the ones I've hidden there yet, have you?"
"Then quit your worrying." She blew cool air over her tea, then took a sip. "I think I'm looking for love in all the wrong places."
"Where are you looking?"
"Oh, random encounters in coffee shop lines. Smiling at someone in the next car at stoplights. Checking out hot people on the television."
"So you're not really looking," I said.
"No," she said. "Not really."
"Then at what point should I begin feeling sorry for you? Once there's a boy or girl whose pants you want to get into?"
"Well..." she said, trailing off.
"Ah. There is one, isn't there? Hence the question about stupid boys, yes?"
"Bookstore guy. Very cute. Funny. Must read, right? I mean, he works in a bookstore."
"I worked in one for six years, and a lot of my coworkers were complete and total idiots. A couple of us were brilliant. The rest... forget about it. Besides, weren't you asking me why he was stupid?"
She picked her chopsticks in her food. "I didn't mean intellect-stupid. I was more commenting on the fact that he is clueless that I'm hot for him."
"And what sort of clues have you given him, dear Muse?"
"I always smile at him when I'm buying something. And I try to work my place in line so I get him at the counter."
"That's it?" I asked.
She nodded. "Pretty much."
"Well, what are you buying? Maybe he's not picking up your subtlety because of your reading material."
"Vanity Fair. Books of poetry. Once I even got some of those Shakespeare fridge magnets."
"Maybe you should pick up a Playgirl, or some Mapplethorpe postcards. Poetry and Vanity Fair, he might think you're a bit of a prude. Better yet, Playboy and Maxim. If he sees barely dressed women on the cover, he might mentally superimpose your head on her body, and then you'll get his interest up. Or he'll think about you making out with the chicks on the cover, and then you're doubly in."
She flicked a shrimp tail at me. "You're a pig."
"Total pig. I'd drop trou and show you my tail, but they might toss us out of the restaurant." I picked the shrimp up and put it on the edge of my plate. "You know, maybe the problem you're having is that you're being a little too sly, maybe relying on your pheromones to do all the work for you."
"My perfume is awfully expensive. A thousand whales have to toss up a million pounds of ambergris for each bottle. Makes me feel like the Queen of Sheba."
"Isn't that a brand of cat food?"
"Everything gets co-opted by the man at some point. Your turn is coming."
"I was born to sell out," I said. "As long as the price is right."
"Anyway," she said. "He's completely oblivious to my lust, and I'm not sure what to do about it."
"Muse. Darling. Sweetheart. You're like Helen of Troy. Men have thrown themselves off buildings for you. I've seen it. It's not a pretty sight, all the flailing and yelling and the mess at the end. What's the problem here?"
She tapped the side of her cup. "You nailed it. It's the mess that's the problem. Every time I hook up with someone, sooner or later it all goes splat. People cry, things get broken, the police are called, and then I end up drunk and sleeping in your bathtub."
"And how does bookstore guy figure into this?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I think I'm getting a little tired of the temporary boyfriend-slash-girlfriend thing. It's starting to wear on me. It's too much work being 'on' all the time, you know? I want to relax."
"So you're looking for someone you can fart with."
"Exactly. Someone I can pick my nose in front of."
"And then wipe it on them," I added. "Definitely you'd have to wipe it on them. It's not a good nose picking unless you share the leftovers."
"Okay. Sure. If you're into that sort of thing."
"Do you think bookstore guy is into that? I'd be a little worried if he was."
"That's not the point," the Muse said. "The point is that I'm wanting something a little more long term. Fun's fun, but sometimes a girl wants stability, and someone she's sure will always be around."
"Sort of like us," I said. "Except with more sex."
"Oh, definitely with more sex. You and I are in a dry spell that's been going on since the day we met."
"You're not really my type," I said. "Smart, gorgeous, hot ass, farts a lot. Well, okay, the farting thing is right up my alley, but all the rest of it just doesn't do it for me."
"I'll work on the less-hot thing, just for you. And I'll try to eat more broccoli, to accentuate my positives."
"Good idea. It'll give you a more earthy scent. The boys will go wild."
"I worry about you sometimes," she said.
"Your concern is appreciated. However, let's worry about you and your bookstore guy."
She set her cup down and took up the chopsticks. "Let's don't. I think I've worried enough about the future for one afternoon."
"That's the good thing about the future," I said. "It's always there to be worried about again when you let your guard down."
"Eat your food," she said. "And don't fart on me."
"You don't know what you're missing."
"I'm sure I do."
"Like flowers, Muse. Gaseous romantic flowers of doom."