Mind Like A Cookie
I bought Stacy a new bikini because it was summertime, and because it matched the color of mine. She looked at it in its tan packaging and said, pretty shit. That’s not what she said. Out of the side of her mouth, “I appreciate it” sounded like pretty shit. The running joke that misunderstanding spawned endured through the following summer, when I found out I was gay. The other thing I found out was that Stacy is not gay.
I discovered this unfortunate fact when I reached across the beach towel to remove Stacy’s sunglasses, looked into her squinty eyes and said with coquettish indifference that was a little too rehearsed, “Permission to complicate your life?” I thought Stacy knew me well enough to not be surprised.
I wonder what she predicted the next instant would contain—whether she was bracing herself for me to ask to borrow money, or to confess some substance abuse habit, or to reveal some knowledge about a mutual acquaintance—but I will never know what she expected because I will never ask.
What she did not expect was a kiss. My kiss was not pretty shit.
Stacy and I do not talk much now. Now I write fortune cookies. They’re not fortune cookies in that they are not printed on tabs of paper folded inside any kind of hard pastry, and I am not employed to write them. I just jot things down that feel kind of like fortunes that would be found in cookies, things that jump in my head while I’m walking across rocks or wading in a lake or riding a bus or frying grilled cheese or lying in bed or getting dressed. They don’t usually make me think of Stacy. In fact, none of them do. I started thinking of them after Stacy rejected me.
My favorite fortune is I wipe my ass with rattlesnake skin. I don’t think I’ll ever write that one down. It was raining and my pants were soaked with slush when I first thought of it, and I laughed. I don’t tell people about my fortune because it would not make for good conversation. It’s just one of those stupid things everyone does with themselves to pass the time, like counting how many times you step on a crack in the sidewalk with your left foot and then with your right, or counting how many times your tongue presses your front teeth while reading silently, and pausing every time you hit seven repetitions of the same vowel.
I change my mind. My favorite fortune is Most people forget to look at the night sky. It’s not a lack of interest. They actually forget. It’s like something some wise man might say to a young man in an old movie. But it’s not something anyone’s probably said to anyone, it’s just my fortune that nobody else will read.
Stacy could have been part of my fortune. That’s the kind of thing you talk about with the person who kisses you back, the person who pretty shit. I imagine how it would be, the stupid little things we would talk about and how nice it would be.
She reached behind me for her sunglasses. That’s what she was doing the instant I thought we were engaged in a mutual act. She did not push me away. She put them back on before I knew I was done kissing her. I felt the hard plastic edge between the bridge of her nose and my cheek. The beach towel was still smooth beneath our weight, not wrinkled and clumped up the way bed sheets look after people who love each other love each other.
I scooted beside her. That was all I did. We sat by the water facing forward. Later she asked me to rub suntan lotion on her back. Later in the car she shook her head.
Do you assume that I compare everyone I meet to everyone else I’ve ever met? No sane person can do that past the age of twenty-five. That’s another one. I thought of it walking over the Ross Island Bridge. I wasn’t thinking of anybody in particular. Although I probably was. It doesn’t matter. From the top of a bridge, you see lots of people, but you can’t really see anybody. I feel like I’m walking atop a bridge when I’m sitting beside someone. Anyone. Everyone.
Stacy did not shake her head in a way that started a new conversation or in a way that ended an old one. She did it while turning on music. Later in the car I cried. She said, “Hey, you’re not getting weird on me, are you?”
Without looking at Stacy, I wondered if I could actually turn into a cookie. If I tightened my whole body in the seat, maybe all the useful knowledge in my brain would coalesce into a neat little strip of paper curled inside my hollow cookie self. That would be weird. Then, in that case, I would be getting weird on her.
My mouth started to move.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED