Nyla Matuk

Magical Thinking

Eric Rohmer, “Love in the Afternoon” (1972)

Not that long ago, I walked out of my university library and into the heat of a late August afternoon. A familiar-looking man walking by said “Hi.” This is not typical in Toronto, and something like surprise made me ask, “Do I know you?” He walked toward me a few feet, and leaning in slightly said, “Robert Redford?”

I could see the resemblance, from the time of “The Way We Were.” He was thinner, and perhaps shorter than that Redford, and didn’t really appeal to me, but he seemed genuinely interested in chatting. It turned out he worked out at my gym on the university campus. He told me, as we sat on a nearby bench, that he was a researcher in economics. He had a heavy accent and I discovered he was Brazilian.

My Brazilian man asked me to stay, asked if I had a boyfriend without waiting to hear the answer, and expected that since we had met “in nature,” we were destined for each other. Wasn’t this better than meeting online, he asked. Wasn’t this destiny, a man and a woman, right here and right now, “in nature”?

When I feebly suggested I had to go home because I had to get somewhere later on, he considered it ridiculous. I asked — out of some sense of social duty, I suppose — if he wanted to meet some other time, perhaps for a glass of wine, or a coffee?

His swift reply: He didn’t drink wine, and no, he didn’t drink coffee. He stared at me wildly, almost accusatorily. I wondered how long this fantasy of his could last. I said it was time to go.

As I walked home, I wondered if he believed he was that irresistible. Or did he think he was wearing a magical amulet that would deprive me of my free will?

– Nyla Matuk

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Nyla Matuk is the author of the poetry collections, "Sumptuary Laws" and "Stranger." Her poetry, fiction, and essays have also appeared in numerous literary journals including Event, Room of One's Own, Descant, The New Yorker and Poetry Review. She has also contributed journalism on architecture and literary topics as a freelancer to the Globe and Mail and various magazines. She is editor of an anthology of poems, "Resisting Canada." For more Nyla Matuk, go here.