We Were Not Always Like This
I went out with the boys to celebrate saving my worthless job. The boys were in a rare state, waving arms even with drinks, sloshing on each other with gusto. During the third round, brass knuckles appeared on the bar, courtesy of Randy, my closest friend and the most disconnected from reality. Maybe we were all on board for a fight as soon as we saw those knuckles, a symbol of our angry youths before the suburbs. We were the boys because we were the boys who had made it: rural and urban weak but suburban strutters. Randy eyed a group of pretenders and flashed his brass. The cops came so quickly we hardly earned the cuffs. Later, in the station, Randy cried, on the hook for his weapon of minor destruction. I tried to be sorry, too. Yet I felt only wonder at our idea of pleasure. “Bring the boy,” I said on the phone, sensing a lesson in testosterone. The wifely woman brought only make-up. A black eye was a matter of Shu Uemura to her. I wondered how much we could hide from each other if we wanted it mutually.
I Told the Boy the Gloves Wanted to be Together
We got a babysitter for the boy. It was the first time the wifely woman and I had been able to go out for a while. I kept fooling around on her but didn’t want to. She had bailed me out of jail. I wanted this date to prove something. I’d made a reservation at the Coliseum of restaurants. People battled their food for survival and we laughed about the murder faces they made before they let their salads have it. She stole a cloth napkin for her Scrap Book of Our Happiness. Out in the cold, she bundled against me, and I didn’t mention she’d lost a glove; I wanted her skin. She didn’t mention it either. Then later she sewed a replacement from the napkin, saving the shreds, so she had two mismatching gloves that somehow matched. When the boy saw, he wanted the same, but I wouldn’t let him throw out the pair he already owned.
The white girl slipped the hairband around my two wrists and let her hair lick my chest. For an hour, she had been using the band as a prop. I had been thinking about the boy’s thick look as I dropped him at his new kindergarten. The boy and I had an understanding. His permanence wasn’t permanence. The white girl and I had the same understanding. Nobody would talk. I could bust out of the band but I stayed put, all about pretend. Then in the corner yawned yellow eyes. The white girl’s lips brushed goose bumps, and it took me a minute to ID the glow. “You got a cat,” I said. She said, “You have a cat and a son.” I tried to remember to pull away before a hickey. I winged my elbows out and the band sprang across the room, the cat springing after it. The white girl pulled her lips with two fingers to make sure the frown stayed. I wasn’t expecting it when the cat fetched the band back like a poodle. “You got a dog,” I said as she rebound my wrists.