A Many Splendored Thing

“Break up with Peter by voice mail?” Michelle stared at me as if I’d suggested kicking a puppy. “Venus, that’s so—“

“You’ve read the book,” I slapped a copy of my latest paperback down on the bar in front of her. “If he was into you he’d have jumped you already, period.”

She stared at me, trying to think of an argument. I didn’t give her time. “‘chelle, he’s a guy, right? So he’s hardwired to be sexually aggressive, unless he’s not interested. Didn’t the book prove it?” Actually it didn’t, but as a goddess, I’m very good at making complete bullshit sound plausible. “I know, you’d like to ‘stay friends’—“

“Sure.” She nodded hopefully. “It’s so hard to find anyone who likes foreign films around here.”

“But don’t. Like that Cosmo article last week said, it’s kinder to be cruel.” I wrote that one too. “And a face-to-face confrontation’s going to make you both miserable.” This was taking too long, but I really wanted to seal the deal. “I’m not budging from this bar stool until you leave that message and break it off clean.”

It took 15 minutes, but Michelle left the message. She looked so miserable, I decided to take extra time, reminded her of the “Six Signs of a Winner” and showed her they applied to the douchebag at the end of the bar. He’d have her heart broken inside two weeks.

I was rushing out when I saw Ian scowling from his table at the hot redhead sitting, oblivious, a dozen yards from him. Judging from his outfit, he’d swallowed all my advice about how overspending on clothes would improve his sex life. “Ian, how’s it shaking? You look pissed off.”

“She's a bitch.” He slammed his glass down, glaring at the woman again. “A fucking bitch. I hate her guts.”

“Turned you down?”

“I used all the best lines in that pick-up book you recommended, but—dammit, why should she have the power to decide whether I get laid tonight or not?”

“Oh, it’s not that bad,” I said. “You see Riley, the little programmer over there?”

“What?” He glanced at Riley, stared back at me incredulous. “Aphrodite, you know I don’t do blimps.”

“I suppose she is kind of fugly.” She was cute as hell, actually, but I’d convinced Ian to set the bar very high. “Besides, I heard her last night and she says she has to have an intellectual guy.”

“You think I’m too dumb for her?”

“Try hitting on her if you like,” I said, in a tone that suggested I wasn’t optimistic. “If the book isn’t working, use some of those tricks from that online course you took.”

I watched him stalk over there, smoldering with resentment, ready for an encounter that would reinforce both their worst opinions about the opposite sex. I’d have stayed to watch but I wanted to get a little more work done.

Happily, a couple of bars down the road I found fresh meat.

“I don’t understand.” Hal held up the copy of Men’s Monthly, finger jabbing at another of my columns. Good thing goddesses type fast. “I did everything this guy says about cultivating a bad-boy image—“

“Then you did right. Nice guys don’t get laid, everyone knows that.”

“So how come she broke up with me?”

“It’s a test, to see if you’ve got the balls to stand up to her.” And because I’d shown her another column that identified Hal’s behavior as self-destructive and immature. “So don’t be a eunuch.”

“I shouldn’t try and call her back?”

“Women are hardwired to want what they can’t have. If she thinks she can have you, she’ll completely lose interest.” Then I saw my watch. “Oops. Gotta fly!”

Rushing to the street, I texted Alan, assuring him that nobody would think he was being a jerk if he posted a detailed description of Larry’s inadequacies on Facebook. I sent that off, then Pete called me. Busy, busy, busy… “Michelle broke up with me, Venus! By voice mail! That’s … not even to my face!”

“That’s why I told you not to make a move on her. Think how much worse you’d feel if things had gotten serious. Don’t worry, as long as you shower and wear clean clothes, you’ll find someone soon, unless you’ve got a real problem.”

Peter did shower and wear clean clothes, so that kind of advice only made him more insecure.

Fifteen minutes later I was back in the apartment, opening my laptop to check out my PayPal account. Money isn’t as satisfying as the scent of a roast bullock, but a sacrifice is a sacrifice. And this week’s offerings were good: Fashion designers, makeup companies, men’s magazines, women’s magazines, reality dating shows, I had a lot of worshippers. They needed desperate, lonely people for customers, and I, their goddess, provided.

Don’t judge me, okay? My power was at its peak in an age men and women had nothing in common. Back in the day, Greek husbands barely tolerated their wives. Over the centuries since then, men and women have just gotten too damn comfortable with each other. The only way to keep them praying for love is to make it as hard as possible  to find it.

Midnight struck, and I felt the day’s accumulated prayers washing over me.

Can’t I find someone who’ll like me the way I am?

Why didn’t I see the break-up coming?

Why do they act that way?

Am I going to die a virgin?

What’s wrong with me?

Cash sacrifices are fine, sure, but being prayed to is the best high in the world.

So I poured myself some Red Bull and began working on my new book. After they read this one, they’ll really need a miracle to find love.

Report to the Grays Harbor Commissioner

Washing Day