Posted Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
He's tan. I look down at his large bare feet and he invites me in for burritos. The sun is setting behind the university where I picture him too often. The light is jabbing my eyes through the window, and I'm squinting - accentuating my crow's feet.
He throws a towel on the curtain rod to block it.
Better? he asks.
Last time I came he told me a story about a rat his friend bought in Hawaii, mistaking it for an exotic dog. We were laughing, laughing, and this is how we explained how it started.
I haven't told him I've started real estate classes. After twenty-five years devoted to acting classes, auditioning and insomnia - I'm ready to stop. He thinks I'm a great actress, comes to see me in local plays. He brings flowers every time - stands backstage blushing as if he's the luckiest person to know me. He's in his third year of Medical School. I've just turned thirty-nine.
He unbuttons his shirt. His chest is lithe and healthy. He's got real definition, and it's almost too strange on him. He must be working out - something he said he didn't believe in just like he vows to never live a conventional life. He thinks he will escape it all and be an honest country doctor, living in the mountains somewhere with animals and kids. His is still a child's face - interested in everything.
You're looking, he says.
I'm going to, I whisper, and once again we are doing everything we shouldn't.
While he showers, I notice my eight-by-ten glossy taped to the wall near his closet - the headshot taken of me three years ago with stage makeup and lighting. I look like a movie star. The photographer was so expensive I had to sell my grandmother's table to have them done.
When he comes out of the bathroom a halo of steam follows him. He looks at me as what's next? Is there more? The way a kid begs an Oreo after dinner.
You still like that photo? I ask. It looks nothing like me.
When you're famous, how will I prove I knew you if I don't have your photo?
What if I don't become famous? I ask.
He dresses more casually than ever, Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. He's not into pessimism. Everything lies ahead of him.
That isn't possible, he says.
I've taken my bag and earrings and am walking out. My Adam's Apple feels stuck.
Hey, he comes after me and stops at the front door.
What did I say?
Backing the car out of his alley, my music on, I lean into the wheel's movement. I drive. Near the university, patches of students stall near the coffee-shops, gaggles of girls yucking it up - boys gesturing wildly.
Turning right at the river I stop and walk along the bike path to catch my breath. The wind, as usual, gusts strongly when walking directly north. I have to push against it to move forward.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Donia Carey on Tuesday, July 1st, 2008 at 10:34 PM
I love this story, Meg. You caught the relationship between the two perfectly. Beautiful writing.
Posted by Donna Levy [ firstname.lastname@example.org
] on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008 at 9:18 AM
I was utterly thrown back to those wretched periods when I determined I had no other choice but to give up on myself and throw my dreams out the window. What made it all the harder was to try to express the rationale of my personal surrender to those who would never have to face the same dilemma. How perfectly Meg Pokrass has created the agony of settling for less in her short story. Bravo. With love and admiration, Donna Kenworthy Levy
Posted by K Townsel on Monday, July 14th, 2008 at 12:40 PM
Another wonderful story, Meg!
Posted by Mary Kaley on Thursday, October 16th, 2008 at 7:28 PM
I love the last sentence.