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by Matthew Licht

Silvia was Geoff’s girlfriend. Leo didn’t particularly like her, but she aroused a Pavlovian reaction every time he saw her. He flushed, shivered and grew desperately erect. He hung on the verge of spontaneous orgasm until she drifted away.

This was embarrassing.

Geoff joked about it.

Patty, Leo’s girlfriend, couldn’t help noticing, but she tolerated his dog-like urgency. Perhaps she experienced the same thing with someone else. Maybe even Geoff, a hunky guy who’d screwed around a lot before he hooked up with Silvia.

Leo and his pheromonal muse were rarely alone together. Silvia seemed glad someone appreciated her. “Maybe we should change our lives,” she said. But neither of them did.

Leo didn’t think he and Silvia would get along. She ran a fashion boutique in town. That seemed to be her only interest.

The Silvia Effect occurred even if he saw a picture of her. Geoff took a lot of them when they went on vacation. Look at that crystal-clear water, he said. Look at that white sand, those sky-high dunes. What he meant was: check out my lady in a bikini. In a bathing suit, Geoff was half-donkey, half-man.

Leo told Patty he’d rather they didn’t see that couple any more.

After a certain age, our ears ring with a pure, painful sound which fades to nothing. The silence feels like you just smashed an insistent mosquito, but it’s the swan song of an auditory nerve. They don’t regenerate. We’ll never hear that frequency again, and it might’ve been the one we loved best.

When Leo bumped into Silvia at a party, she was on her own. He was too. Patty had left him. Silvia said Geoff had dumped her for a foreign girl, and had gotten her pregnant immediately. Silvia hadn’t wanted kids. She was concerned about her figure.

Leo didn’t feel what he expected to feel. He didn’t feel anything. They spoke normally. He left the party before she did, by himself.

Leo stopped by Silvia’s shop every now and then. They’d chat over coffee from her gleaming espresso machine, but the reason he went was to look at women’s clothes draped on headless clear fiberglass dummies hung from the ceiling on invisible threads that made them levitate.

Matthew Licht writes the weekly bilingual Hotel Kranepool column for Stanza 251.