Archive for January, 2011


31 Jan

goes up tonight, late


Andi, part 3

23 Jan

“Okay, you can look now.”

Andi’s back, scrofulous with acne scars, faced me. She waded out deeper into the silted water. Small waves, the wake of passing motorboats, splashed at her uncovered thighs. One arm covered her breasts. Absurdly, I focused on her only tattoo, something Sanskrit written across the rise of her buttocks, on the left side below the waistline. The muddy river rhythmically obscured and revealed it. Later that night, when she was naked again, I asked her about it, which is how I know it was Sanskrit. I think she also told me what it meant. That part I forgot.

With the arm that was not cradling her chest, she waved cheerfully at whatever cat-calling watercraft happened to notice her. Smiling, she turned and waved to me, backing shoulder-deep into the river and letting both her arms float. The river licked her breasts, covering but not hiding her dark nipples just beneath the water line. “What do you think?”

It was a good question. I thought critically about her body. Really, she didn’t look any worse than I did, and clearly she felt far more comfortable with herself. I supposed that was a good thing.

I felt some mild terror at the though of getting back into a car driven by this person, a sensation that overwhelmed any sense I had of eroticism. The letters-to-Penthouse narrative of this situation demanded that I also disrobe and, y’know, get in the fucking water, but instead I leaned against a tree and watched her, pretending that none of this was unusual. As far as she knew, I spent every weekend afternoon watching half-sloshed girls skinny dip. I thought about how we’d spent nearly an hour driving around drinking off-brand beer from the type of can that’s sold only in gas stations.

I thought about her. Like job interviews, usually first dates are about a carefully managed image. Her carefully managed image involved drunken public nudity. I wondered what her other boyfriends had been like.

“It’s great,” I yelled back to her. It seemed like a safe enough answer.

“I’m coming out. Close your eyes again.”

Exasperated, I sighed and closed my eyes, listening to her climb up the bank to where I stood. She moved herself close to me so I could feel the water dripping from her body. Suddenly, I became sharply, unavoidably conscious that absolutely no one knew exactly where I was. This is when it happens, I thought. This is when she stabs me and pushes me into the river. Wet, bare girl pressed against my body.

She took her clothes from me.

“Dry me,” she said.


She tugged at the hoodie I wore. “Dry me,” she repeated.

Keeping my eyes faithfully closed, I took off my hoodie and, between her accusations of peeking and my protestations of innocence, mopped at her body, muffling my hands in what I helplessly assumed to be the protocol for the situation. Was I supposed to grope her? It seemed possible. There was no way to tell, and no way to predict her reactions. Everything feels bigger than it is when your eyes are closed. I toweled the thick cloth of my hoodie over soft, vast regions that could have been arms, back or breasts, and probably at some point were all of these things. She stepped back.

“Stop trying so hard,” she said.

“What?” Me? Startled, I opened my eyes.

She remained barefooted, but she had shrugged herself back into the dress she’d been wearing earlier. Stepping carefully around the roots and rocks on the ground, she came close to me again and kissed me. The kiss was long and soft, and despite the day thus far, it didn’t feel insane.

“You might get lucky anyway.” She turned and started up the path that led back to where we’d parked. “Best first kiss ever,” she said. “Good job, everyone.”



19 Jan

I’ve written one sentence a day for the last three, so I’m calling a do-over. The story continues Sunday. Pardon me while I go soak my head.


Andi, part 2

10 Jan

“Don’t you just love that?”

We hadn’t spoken for endless minutes, but I hadn’t been thinking about that. I’d been looking out the passenger window at the passing one-story houses of Dayton’s semi-suburban satellites, trying to convince my body and brain that their experiences of motion were in fact identical, and that, therefore, I did not need to lean my head between my knees to puke on the floor mat. Also, the window and the outside beyond it were on the opposite side of my head from Andi, helpfully preventing me from seeing her. I could hear the faint clattering sound of her lifting her Miller tallboy from the cup holder and sipping from it, but actually watching it made me nervous. She shifted the transmission through hills and curves, wedging her beer against the steering wheel with one hand while with the other she manipulated her needlessly complex radio. I think it was the sort of radio that can talk to satellites. Probably she also watched the road. Thinking made me queasy. I sipped my own beer, hoping that it would calm my stomach, or my nerves, or something. Two more tallboys lay behind my seat, rolling fretfully, still wrapped in convenience-store plastic. According to Andi, this was what she did to unwind. It was about three o’clock, and we’d just left the bar where we’d spent the afternoon.

I looked blearily at her, sharply aware that I had no idea what she was talking about. It had been that way since we met.

“Um, what?” I asked.

“Comfortable silence. Good job, high five!” With her beerless hand, she high-fived me. Cheerfully exceeding the speed limit, she swept the car around a curve, never swerving. “What did you think of that bar?”

The bar, a nondescript sports bar in the corner of a Centerville strip mall, had been tended by Becky, a grimily pretty girl with big tattoos and dirty fingernails. She was the sort of person who looked like she might give you something itchy if you slept with her, but she also made the part of your brain that is stupid think that maybe being itchy is not the worst thing. Strangely, I’d known her from Columbus. She and Neal had been friends, and we’d first met during a drunken evening of watching Australian westerns. She had a persistent habit of giving me her phone number and then pretending not to know me when I called. By then, I’d learned not to take these things personally. Andi and Becky bonded over an improbably personal conversation about Becky’s recent bankruptcy, while I listened passively, watching the two of them. Andi punctuated their conversation with questions to me about the quality of Becky’s ass whenever she went to the other side of the bar to serve the only other patron at two in the afternoon. Becky’s ass met with my approval. Andi then tipped forty dollars on four gin-and-tonics, gassed up her Mercedes, and bought cheap beer to go.

“It was all right. I mean, it was weird to see Becky. I thought she still lived in Columbus, and I haven’t seen her in months. Is it—“

“Do you want to see the river?” she interrupted me.

I’d thought we were driving randomly, but clearly she’d had this destination in mind. We came upon a park, and she pulled her car into a space with the easy grace of a habitual drunk. I stepped dizzily out of the car and followed her as she avoided the marked trail and walked into a space between two trees. We walked a few dozen yards until we found a small embankment. The Great Miami, brown with sediment, flowed beyond it.

“Let’s go swimming,” she demanded.

I thought about it. I didn’t have any swimming trunks and I wasn’t wearing boxers, less out of hope that Andi might take off my pants than so that I could still fit my thickening torso into my adorably hopeful size 32 corduroys.

“No, not really. I’m not much of a swimmer.”

She looked out over the choppy water.

“Well, I’m going to swim. Close your eyes,” she said.


She peeled off her shirt and thrust it into my hands.

“Close your eyes, I said. And don’t drop this.”


Andi, part 1

04 Jan

Once upon a time in France, there lived a sociologist named Emil Durkheim. Doing what sociologists do, he hijacked the word “anomie” from its earlier context in philosophy, forcing it to make an unscheduled landing in sociological territory. It means a collapse of social norms and values, which is just a very stiff way of saying that, socially speaking, what worked for our parents doesn’t necessarily work for us. What worked for my parents in a relationship sense was having known each other since before puberty, and that ship tends to sail pretty early. They had met sometime around the incident when my uncle accidentally cracked my mother in the mouth with a rock while playing army with my dad, splitting the first of her adult teeth in two and necessitating the first in a long series of crowns. Her teeth are still mismatched. I needed to do something different.

Emil thought that anomie across societies caused spikes in the suicide rate. I thought about that while, deliberately unhelmeted, I biked around Columbus, mulling over the smug aphorisms I’d unconsciously absorbed since I was very short. Childishly, I’d more or less believed that if I followed them, they’d keep me from fucking up too badly. For example: You’re smart, you’ll know what to do. You’ll succeed if you just work hard enough. You just have to meet the right person. And so on. I hadn’t necessarily chosen to believe them; rather, it was the same sort of involuntary and unconscious faith that assures you that driver of the No. 21 Nite Owl won’t drunkenly drift into the bike lane, plowing through the fragile, poorly reflectored aluminum of your accidentally vintage bicycle while you pedal along on leaky tires, thinking about something else. None of these beliefs seemed to have any basis in, you know, actual events (the buses do tend to pass awfully close), but I couldn’t think of anything to replace them. I’d stopped driving a couple of weeks earlier to save gas money. Regardless of anything else, I wanted to move back home under my own power.

Fourteen numbered boxes lined the back wall of my mom’s basement, mother’s basements being the traditional cultural storehouse of late-twenties failure. Really, it was my parents’ basement, but I didn’t think of it that way. I hoped I wouldn’t have to stay long. On my laptop, I’d created a document that listed the exact contents of each box, so when I wanted to find something, I could just do a word search for it. Possibly this is the cleverest idea I’ve ever had. At the very least, it allowed me to have the feeling of organization and absolute influence over something. Really, at that point, anything would do.

Less clever was accepting Andi’s invitation to visit her in Dayton.

As she explained to me, Andi was short for Aanandi, a name she chose not to use with new people because of the predictable and tiresome questions about her heritage. She came from casual, obvious, and intimidating wealth, no doubt the consequence of having two doctors for parents. A few weeks ago, I would have allowed the conversation to die before it got to the point of going on a date, but I’d moved home resolved to do things differently. Earlier, I had excluded potential dates for any number of reasons. Looks, for example. Or tastes. Or saying “irregardless.” This time, I decided that I’d go out at least once for anyone who asked me. She looked different from the girls I usually liked, but the girls I usually liked lately had been turning out to be terrible people. I decided to give her a chance. Her photo showed her body in profile with her face turned toward the camera, revealing a wide, probably genuine smile and eyes that, as I’d notice later, were utterly glassed and empty, focused on absolutely nothing. It was the absent smile of an unhinged country clubber in the moments before she steals a golf cart and drives it through the plate glass of the pro shop display window.

She gave me an address and a time, and that was where and when I showed up to meet her. For the next hour, I waited awkwardly in front of her empty house in a neighborhood where people clearly do not park their cars in the street.