is that I look like a professional killer. The benefit of wearing this particular tie is immeasurable. So when I walk into work to find administration, television crews, upstanding members of the community, and delegates from the governor’s office in the lobby assembled for a public relations event to show what saints they all are for having the macroeconomic good sense to invest in education, I take a place at the head of the greeting line and look officious.
Presently, an older gentleman walks through the door, approaches me, and introduces himself in the kind of no-nonsense harrumph harrumph that tells me I should know who he is. After we shake hands I pull him away from the line and introduce myself: “Daniel Mulhill, State Department.” His eyes widen. “Sorry I missed the briefing this morning, but activity was heavier than usual. I’m sure my partner brought you up to speed. Womack’s a hard ass, but when lead’s in the air, you want that crazy sonofabitch on your wing. Am I right? Anyway, try not to stand too close to the podium, you know, like he said. And there was a change. The new signal is polite applause. If you hear tepid, polite applause, that means it’s all gone down, and you need to get the hell out of there.” I smile the devil’s smile and notice that he looks uneasy, so I add, “Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that, right?” He is whisked away by the waiting throng. I see him, every few moments, casting a glance back toward me to see if I am still watching him. And I am.
Then I make my way upstairs to perform reference duty and catalog books. This day turns over slower than most, and when Colletta picks me up at 9, I am more than ready for the night. She takes me to a Persian place in the old neighborhood, a trusted favorite where the food manages to be both homey and exotic. The meal is sumptuous as usual.
“Ooh, they have lemon candies!” She digs it out of the bowl, unwraps it, and places it on her tongue. We’re finishing our meal. Earlier conversation had centered on why it is okay to refer to the present-day area of Iran as Persia, but not the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia. As best we can tell, the culture and food of Persia are immutable, while the rulers of Iran are mostly a bunch of dicks.
She is still digging through the candy bowl.
“Don’t Bogart their candy,” I say.
The man behind the counter, an Iranian national, perks up. “Bogart?” he asks.
I laugh. “Slang for hoarding something all to yourself.”
“Hoarding?” he asks.
“The same as holding onto—” I realize I have defined myself into a corner. “Not like hoarding…like taking too much of something.”
He nods. “Bogart,” he says.
Colleta says, “I wanted something refreshing or I would puke.”
“What?” she asks back.
“You’re going to puke?” I clarify.
“No, I said I want something refreshing like peach.”
“Sounded like you said you were going to puke.”
“No,” she says. “Definitely peach.”
“They have peach?”
“No. Just lemon and orange. I bet pineapple would be good.”
“Are those from Iran?” I ask.
The man behind the counter says, “No, from down the street.”
We all laugh.
“Ah, there’s peach!” she says.
“Peach.” I say and consider it. “Who did we meet named Peach?”
“Peach. We met a couple named Peach. I am sure of it.”
“We met them before, but then they apparently moved to Florida and didn’t like it, so they moved back. Then they were at Jesu and Aaron’s party, and we met them again.”
“We’ve met them twice?” asks Colletta.
“Not formally. Just casually,” I say. “Peach. Yeah, you remember. They were a handsome couple. She has blond hair, and he is tall and dark.”
“I don’t remember them. I think you pick up on different visual cues than I do.”
“Hmm. What else was there about her. She was very pretty.”
“I don’t remember her.”
“She did have distinctive knuckles,” I offer.
“They were the size of golf balls.”
“Right,” she says.
“Her fists looked like Rock-em Sock-em Robot fists.”
“I don’t remember seeing those.”
“And her boyfriend had huge carbuncles on his forehead.”
“I didn’t see anyone with carbuncles.”
“You wouldn’t have noticed them from a distance,” I say matter of factly.
“I wouldn’t have noticed carbuncles?”
“He was wearing makeup to cover them up. Like, from a distance it would just look like his forehead was dark, as if he were permanently standing in the shadows. But up close you could tell that the makeup was only there to diminish the unsightly carbuncles.”
“I don’t remember anyone with carbuncles.”
“You just didn’t get close enough.”
“Oh! Did she have little quarter-length arms?”
“Like a tyrannosaurus rex?” I ask.
“Little stumpy arms?” she clarifies and flaps her forearms.
“Yeah, that was her.”
“Jeez, why didn’t you just say so?”
“We’re really weird,” I say. “Hey, did they have any cherry candies in the dish?”
“Cherry is gross,” she says. Then she pauses over her drink, as if deciding something. “I took you out tonight because I think you have been working too hard lately.”
“I’m fine,” I say.
“I arranged for you to have a two week vacation from work starting tomorrow. Let’s take a road trip. I’ll finally meet your parents.”
“That would be awkward,” I say. “They don’t like people like me.”
“Let’s just go and see where we end up,” she says.
There is no doubt that she has arranged for me to be off work without my knowledge. When she says she is going to do something, she does it. Uncanny is her control over daily affairs and the scheduling of things. Yet it seems like a half-formed, poorly thought decision. I say, “OK.”
“Good,” she says. “It’s settled. We leave tomorrow! Now let’s go dancing!”
“Sorry. Too tired tonight. And I’ll need all my strength to drive tomorrow.” I can see she is disappointed, but I don’t dance.
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Editor’s note: Technically it is her vulva, not her vagina.