He thought he was in love, but he had been fooled about other things before, so at the restaurant he waited for clues.
Her dad didn’t hide his disappointment. What will you major in? he wanted to know. How are you paying your way through school? he asked.
Her mom took full swigs of white wine that looked more like urine. She wore baubles on her wrists and ropes of necklaces across her neck, the weight of them sagging between the sun-splotched ravine separating her breasts. In the beginning, she nibbled on crackers and sucked on olive pits.
Beneath the table the girl took his hand. Her skin was hot and moist, like fresh bread.
She said something about Reagan and her dad nodded, saying, Sure. Of course. Sure.
He watched the man speak, noticing how pale his skin was--bologna-colored--that the man’s tongue resembled a bloody ham.
The boy fingered a hole in his shirt, felt all the way through to skin, to a rib.
Her father flipped his own finger, said, What, you don’t like escargot?
Once, when he was a boy, his brother had dared him to eat a slug, said he’d give five bucks for swallowing it, but afterwards, it proved just one more hoax and the loamy taste never really left.
When the girl said, Len comes from a very big family, her dad massaged the base of his glass until the wine inside became a blurry red cloud.
The boy’s own father drank. Olympia Beer—It’s the water…and a lot more! Behind their trailer, next to rusted auto hulks, sat mini mountains of rusted cans.
The girl picked at her fish and rice.
Her mother picked red peppers from her pasta with a single fork tine, as a surgeon might, laying the limp red stockings in a heap by her garnish. She never looked up once.
When the girl said, He’s going to be lawyer, the father excused himself to have a cigar on the veranda and the boy started to breathe again.
Afterward, the girl and he drove and the man and his wife drove in another car.
She said, The truth is I’m not a big fan of liberalism, while he kept blowing burped snail air against the car window.
On the porch, his stomach made rubber-twisting noises. Looking through a sheer curtain, the boy saw her dad in the main room lounging on a chair. It was his home and his room and his chair.
The boy wondered what it would be like to be old and own things. The weight of his curiosity felt like a black ocean taking him down in the undertow. He felt the rush of diarrhea.
Aren’t you going to kiss me? she asked.
published 7 March 2012