Issue 221, Summer 2017
Funny thing to worry about. Little hairs. Hairs on back of sweater as she goes out of the room. Little hairs, how you look from the back, girls worry about this. Or they used to. Now girls are free. Okay to be unpretty, ungirls. She thinks back, freedom, her first airplane to Europe. Scholarship girl. This term was used. Heady sense of a lightly exotic self chatting with older man as plane lifts, accepting a whiskey, feeling his hand on her knee. Cold yeast of that moment. Please remove your hand. Not exactly shame. What is shame. A matter of temperatures. Heat flooding her neck, ears. Cross your legs, don’t cross your legs, what is he thinking now, now you must stay awake, the long night a black window. His air vent blowing on her, just put up with it, little hairs riffling on forehead, that was years ago. That was innocence. Not that her sexual aptitudes have enlarged or she learned to like whiskey. No. You’ve got a funny look, Eddy is saying, what’s wrong? Nothing, she says. She’d come in again and sat and swallowed an earring, having found a pair in her pocket and put one in her mouth while poking the other through, just a small one, sort of a pearl. Nothing, she repeats.
Does the blood spatter relate to a homicide or not, he is running tests. Could be just residue of life in the house, he says, it’s a drug house. Addicts clear blood from the needle that way but on the other hand, so do paramedics. Really? Clear the syringe, yes. Odd how you use needle for addicts and syringe for medics, she says. Eddy looks at her. She goes back to emailing, what he hired her for. Calm as linen is the lab at night, lamps on, black winter beating the windows.
That was before I knew you is a phrase that steals into people’s idiom vaguely. Thus are eras. She and Eddy do not sleep together. But when not with him she feels a bit wrong. Horizons loud. Men throwing chair after chair into a bin below her window just before daybreak. Night and its stars soak slowly backward out of the world as she goes clip-clopping along in the dawn, hearing the pure strike of bootheels on snow. Thinking sonnets. Thinking other people’s suffering. Who has a right to it. The masters don’t ask. Lift the knife and cut. Virginia Woolf for example, not sonnets but a master cutter. That story about the Maude family. Lived down the street from VW. Their dog, she was telling Eddy the other day, the Maudes got a dog because they couldn’t pay their bills. Made no sense to Eddy. She tried to explain to him what frighten duns meant and how one day the dog ran out and bit someone. Too bad it was Virginia Woolf. Who rallied the locals who rallied the local magistrate who said destroy the dog. Locals appalled. Oh we don’t want it destroyed, just restrained. Poor Maudes, they said. Need their dog. So how’d it turn out? Eddy says. She tells him she doesn’t know, VW cuts the anecdote off right there. Eddy makes a hmmm sound, goes back to work.