We sometimes dream a moving dream of living simply.
The sky opens its lips in summer. I unpack boxes in the freezer and do whatever the brothers tell me to. June, she comes into the store where I work. And I’ve seen her before and I’ve seen her before. A woman I want to taste.
She heads for the counter. Says she wants to try Manchego. It will be good with apples for breakfast. Crisp, and a better deal than what’s sold at the market on 224. She says cheese makes her hair grow. I look at the amber tangles and her rich lady bag that I know is just vinyl. Only the brand puts it out of reach of most, all the tan checkers and checkers patterning to finish at brown piping. Though I work at the wholesale restaurant supply, I know that.
I come from money but I have nothing now. My father was a gangster. Not the kind in songs, but the kind with a graduate degree and a gun in the glove compartment. Made it big on personal injury in the seventies. Used to eat pistachios while perusing files with photos of guys skewered by augurs and mutilated in motorcycle wipe-outs. We got a dry sauna from a settlement for a kid who drank a bottle of clog remover before there were childproof caps. The hot wood burned my breath. My father gave all his money away to the ASPCA because he thought we weren’t loyal, thought it would be apt punishment to will it all to cats and dogs. Told his lawyer: “--Treat my daughters as though they’d predeceased me.” My sisters tried to sue but it looked sinister attempting to take money away from the animals. I didn’t even know predeceased was a verb.
She looks like a Modigliani set in the center of a birthday cake. They stood dolls in cakes in my time, so that accounts for the queer. I’m always seeing women in cake. And I see her nose escaped the mallet whereas everyone else’s was broken and compacted. Where I came from, they wrote desperately over Semitic features. Even so, my taste runs Eastern European. Good, she’s mixed gold, long-faced, pink-eyed.
One of the brothers comes out from the office. Maybe he smells the crushed citrus and spice of her. He tells her she looks like an angel and she’s laughing. At him not with him, but he doesn’t suspect because he owns the business and he’s proud like that.
I unpack calamari rings, let the drama play out.
My life is solitary. Not ambitious. I don’t think the universe sends signals to me. I don’t see patterns where there are none. I don’t think anything is right or wrong, so doing anything is always possible.
That’s why, when I take the trash to the parking lot, I’m not surprised to see her.
She tells me that I took a long time.
I say my job is to get the store in order.
Money makes her daring whereas lack of money is my strength.
Didn’t you want to check me out?
Ignore the juvenile double entendre.
She drives one of those Nazi cars, the company that once rerouted exhaust pipes to the inside of the trailer. My dad bought a car like that for one of his whores, but he refused to drive it.
History’s important, I tell her. It’s the opposite of what that fucker Ford said. You need to remember.
But she’s straight-up postmodern. Little flecks of history are enough for her. They make a style and that means forgetting in a beautiful way, like an ironic remembering.
My dour disposition, plus I’ve read Jameson, so I doubt we’ll get it on.
I was thinking that you could come home with me she whispers on my neck and next her smell is with me, wandering inside my throat. She’s on my hands. Then I’m pressing into her against the car with the traffic moving soundlessly off Mahoning. I’m conscious of but insensitive to politics, mourning my own problems, wanting a doll in cake.
I rethink my analysis and follow her home.
I respect the city’s persistence, its beer cans crushed into blue gutters with religious icons bent under awnings seized up with rust, vine overgrowth consuming garage where weak lilies dot the tire lot overrun by cat colony and silver leaves murmur above a gated compound alongside the shell of a shell of a shell of a, boards bowing, masonry crumbling, folding oneirically back into nature.
Riding separately, she tells me about her husband over the phone. How he owns several run-down tenements in the city and has to bind the ends of his pant legs and the cuffs of his shirts with cords before he can enter one of his buildings due to the roaches.
We eventually come to her house. She thinks it will be funny to have me there and him there, though we’ll happen elsewhere. This is just a stopover.
And maybe there’s something to it. Her game. Putting one over on the profiteer. I feel glad to spoil the guest soap, to cause the rose ridges to smooth down to dirty grooves, to eat his almonds from crystal, footed dishes.
I visualize one of his investments, the apartment building off the segment of brick road broken into units of brown and green glass where I plan to take his wife and pretend Rimbaud’s Paris.
So she goes upstairs to change and I see him outside pacing beside a muscled police dog. One of those breeds you see in documentary footage lunging vicious into the camera. The dog had been purchased with the intent to drive out the tenants who had fallen behind on rent.
You a friend of Iris?
I nod to the flagstone and juniper. The dog moves brutishly through the owner’s imagination on errands of exploitation.
He tells me, I won’t need a gun with this thing around. I just let him loose inside and he does the rest.
Some plans spoil. Never mind the lust for the doll in the cake. It would be as impossible to run soft tongue over the pulse of her, to kiss into the deep of her, to stroke to the sighs of her, as it would be to halt the animate trees from twisting through rooftops and collapsing frames, admitting wildlife through gaping casement and ruined latticework.
Nature does a take back.
About the author:
Stacy Graber is an assistant professor of English at Youngstown State University. Her areas of interest include popular culture, pedagogy, critical theory, and semiotics. Her work has appeared in Storm Cellar and the Hamilton Stone Review, and she is a frequent contributor to Modern Times Magazine.