“Keeping a woman around is hard work. Keeping a woman pleased is the hardest work you can imagine.” He set the cup of water down on the table lightly, pulling it back up slightly right after it had hit the wood. The dust in this old wood house moved slowly over everything, illuminated by beams of sunlight from cracks in the walls. He swirled the water around for a moment. His eyes were fixed somewhere on the center of the surface-water as he continued:
“See a woman really does want a strong man. They want the strongest man. That’s why they want you surrounded with all these pleasures.”
Adam furled his eyebrows, cocked his head slightly to the left.
“It’s not that they don’t want their pleasures—women—they do. They love all the things money can buy. From booze to cars to all the television in the world, they want it all, they really do. But that’s not the main reason they want all these things around. They want to test your strength. That’s the one thing a woman can’t stand: A man without temptation. Women want their men to be tempted all the time, because they want to see how strong they are.”
Both men were silent. Adam now fixed his eyes on the swirling water in the cup.
“You see that’s why I believe they really are a test from God. A woman can make you a holy man, but it’s the hardest way to be holy. It’s better to just move out there, get rid of all those evils that tempt your everlasting soul, and serve God. But a woman is going to keep you steeped in the world. Even when she says otherwise, there’ll always be a world that she wants. There’ll always be a world she tests you with. Now does that sound like something you want?” He paused for a moment.
“I’m sorry for talking so much.”
“No, no, that’s good. That’s…good.” Adam placed his hand up to his chin. “That’s interesting to think about, that’s for sure.”
The old man let a sharp breath through his nostrils, harder than usual. “Yeah, it’s interesting alright. God, I’m almost done here. You know?”
Adam’s nervous laughter.
“Don’t do that to me. I know what you’re saying but you’re not listening to me. God, how bleak. This life almost over, and I have nothing to show for it, no one to share it with save for a kid who hardly knows anything about me. It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault. You’re fine. I’m sorry.”
Adam shook his head, trying to empathize with his eyes. “You’re a good man. I know that much.”
Adam wanted to say something more, to continue. Maybe even lecture. But he knew in the back of this mind he really didn’t care that much. He wanted to get out of this hot, dry cabin. He wanted to get back on the tarmac. He wanted to feel the air conditioning on his skin and fill his ears with voices. He didn’t want to hear himself think tonight, he just wanted to go home.
“So what’s all this, on the wall up here?” Adam tried to prove to himself he wasn’t as disinterested as knew himself to be.
“It’s like Delilah, in the Bible.” The old man was still staring at his cup.
“You know that story? About that strong-man, Samson, and his love interest?”
“Eh, yeah, I know about that one. That’s a classic.”
The old man scoffed again, this time through his mouth.
“Classic. Well yeah, Delilah is just like any other woman. She’s what woman looks like, unless the woman is a saint. Delilah wants to find your strength, and take it from you. But not because she wants to see you weak, she wants to see how strong you really are. She wants to see you overcome all she lays upon you. They love that. It’s perverse. It’s a fetish.”
Adam’s countenance changed, inspired.
“Then what’s a man?”
The old man turned his eyes up from the cup to catch Adam’s eager face.
“What’s a man?”
“Yeah, what’s a man? If Delilah is a woman, what’s a man? What’s his fetish? Because I doubt there are many man-saints out there either, you know? If the woman loves to see her man be strong, what’s that man want to see?”
“Well, what do you think, kid?”
Adam stretched his arms out, turning his palms up in the air. He smiled a weak and condescending smile.
“Well it’s just what you think it’d be. Men want to see their women weak. It’s just the opposite, how hard is that to figure out? They want to see their women cry. They want their women to feel bad for them and for themselves all the time. They love that. They think a woman crying is one of the sexiest things alive. It’s perverse.”
Adam took a few steps towards the shelves filled with dust-laden boxes on the wall. “So, it sounds like we’re not great for each other. Sounds like we should all run for the hills.”
There was a longer pause than usual as Adam thumbed some of the dust off what looked like an old book. Both men found the word “power” on their lips at the same time.
That’s what they both found that day, in that old wood building, dry and hot, quiet and alone. They saw Power gripping at their throats, turning their heads one way or another. It was ironic, or perhaps just surprising. They were surprised to find that Power was powerful. And it didn’t take a poet to show them that Power and Pride were the same person.
“So you never got married, because of that?” Adam’s palms were starting to sweat.
“Never did. Never could. Never really fell in love. Every girl that I could’ve had wasn’t beautiful enough. Every beautiful girl was taken, whaddy’a think that means?”
“You wanted what you couldn’t have? Seems simple enough.”
“Power.” Adam’s rumination satisfied him.
“Maybe. But I always thought I was cursed. I did something wrong, God paid me back for it. And now I’m out here all alone in some damn shack, out here with nothing but a conversation. That’s all I have.”
The old man was begging for pity, and Adam wanted to give it, but he didn’t have any to give. The kid knew he was just the same.