On a Saturday morning in early December you are deciding exactly what it is that you want. You want your mother healthy, and you want a husband or at least a boyfriend or at least a date for Friday night. Right now, though, you’re in bed with one more man you barely know. He’s sleeping, and you’re wondering how to get out of bed without waking him. The two of you are on your sides, his soft crotch up against you. You’re facing the wall, and his arms are wrapped around your body, his fingers intertwined, locked under your breasts. It feels good and suffocating at once, the position you are in, and you think that if this man were your husband he would know when you want him like this, bundled around you, and when you don’t. But he’s not, and he doesn’t.
You’re gently picking his fingers apart while making a list in your head, resolutions aimed at changing things. You’re not waiting for New Year’s Day this time because it’s never worked for you. You know it’s not always enough, just deciding what you want; there are necessary steps. And even then, if you take those steps—if you sleep only with men who know your full name and occupation, if you start ballet or jazz or modern dance, if you eat more bran—even then there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you want, or if you get it, that it will be what you really want after all. Also, there are things you can control and things you can’t. Say, if you’re approachable, dressed casually in denim and tennis shoes with a smile on your face, you might be approached. Then there’s your mother’s health that you can’t control, and it doesn’t matter if you scream and sob and shake all night long, if you run your fingernails across your bare thighs, drawing blood, or if you behave like your pragmatic married brother who hasn’t yet shed a tear. What you want doesn’t affect anything; cancer disappears or comes back on its own.
You’re hoping that with a husband or a boyfriend or a date for Friday night you will have someone to soothe you when she dies. Who knows, if you have a husband, you might turn from him with a scowl on your face. Everything he says and does not say in response to her dying might be all wrong. He might run off with David and Tommy and Jack to get a beer because your sorrow is too great and ugly, filling every room and cup in the house. He might sit across the table from you, shrug his shoulders, and say nothing. He might try, “She’s in a better place,” or “She’s with Jesus,” or worse, “God’s got a special plan for her.” You might hate him suddenly, asking, “Yeah, what’s that? What sort of plan does God have?” And when he mumbles something else, you might wish him dead instead of her. You might barter in your head with that God you don’t believe in for her life back—take this from me, take that, take this mumbling idiot and my job, but please let me have her sitting at the kitchen table in one of her handmade dresses, lifting a bite of pumpkin pie to her lips. But now, you are prying at Rex’s fingers, convinced that a husband might make the unbearable a little less so.
Depending on what magazine you open or what relative you talk to, there are specific things you must do to get a husband: lose ten pounds, balance cucumber slices under your eyes, smile when you’re miserable, keep the number of former lovers you’ve had to yourself, learn to cook a perfect brisket, pretend you’re sweeter than you are, less educated, more educated, younger, taller, talk during sex, scream during sex, be quiet during sex, take him into your mouth because he’ll love it, don’t take him into your mouth because it’s a whorish act, smile some more, and above all, stop cussing.
“Fuck,” you say softly, just now breaking Rex’s hands apart and getting free. You turn and look at him. It’s still early, and the sun is coming in a bit at a time, lighting the sheets and half of his face. The other half of his face is smashed into the pillow, but the half you can see looks fine, full lips and long girlie eyelashes. Still, he isn’t your future husband. The reasons are numerous: he lives in England, he already belongs to another woman, there is a baby boy and a teenage girl, but mostly, you slept with him after two days, two brief meetings, which is one thing most magazines and all of your relatives agree on—don’t offer up the dressing unless he buys the salad.
You’re still a little drunk from last night’s cider, and you fear your heart is somehow visible, puffed up, obvious and eager inside your chest.
“Coffee?” you say, waking him.
“Yes,” he says, groggily. “Is your mum still here?”
“No,” you tell him. “She went to buy ointment. The radiation burns her skin.”
You step out of bed and pull the sheet with you. You turn at the door, knotting the sheet at your chest. His dick is curled and humble on his thigh.
“Your room is cold,” he says then, yanking the blankets up and around his body. He shivers or pretends to. “God damn,” he says. “Books everywhere. Even in your bed. How come it’s so cold?”
“What did you expect?”
“No, I mean, about the books?”
“I don’t know—less of them maybe. None in your bed perhaps.” He softly boots your Jean Rhys biography to the corner of the bed.
“I thought you’d like her—she spent all that time in Paris, drinking, rebelling.”
“I’m British,” he reminds you.
“I know,” you say, “but still…”
“And it’s not her, it’s the size and weight of the book—you try sleeping with that against your calf.”
“You try sleeping with a pair of huge hands clenched around your ribs.”
He winks at you. “Did you mention coffee?”
“Right away,” you tell him, opening the bedroom door, thinking that you must look like a ghost, moving down the hall in a white sheet, away from him.
You have a problem with your imagination. You might be doing something with someone and you’ll be nodding or moving your torso or moving your tongue or handing him a beer or whatever it looks like you’re doing, but inside your head you’re with someone else, doing something else entirely. Like skiing (which you’ve never been able to do) or accepting a literary prize for that novel you haven’t yet written, or bathing in a huge tub with that husband you don’t have. From far away the husband is fine, an average Joe, but when you try to focus on his features, they’re indistinct; he could be anyone. Or sometimes you’ll be with the person you’re with, but you’ll have scooted the two of you ahead in time and space so that you’re better, closer friends than you actually are, or long time lovers or maybe even walking down the aisle, although it’s not an ordinary aisle with sisters and mothers weeping to the left and right, and little girls dressed like grown women with pink lips and elaborate hair, but an empty room that’s not a church, and your dress is black and tight and low cut, and your legs are three inches longer than they really are.
Like right now. You’re here, but you’re not, standing at the kitchen counter, wrapped like a mummy, making coffee. You want it strong. It’s one of the steps you’re going to take, drinking one cup of strong coffee instead of four cups of regular. You’ll save time, and perhaps with a little less caffeine you won’t be edgy and impatient. The men you meet might have a better chance.
While you’re scooping the fifth tablespoon of beans from the can, it occurs to you that you haven’t learned one damn thing in eighteen years of fucking. Not one. Since that first wrong boy on the bathroom tile took your new nipple between his teeth like a fisherman. You were worried even then about being unlovely, unloved, and on that black and white floor of his everything was slick and cold. Within minutes of your first kiss you were stripped like a squid, and knew he didn’t care whether you were Carol from third period or Angela from sixth or bad Brittany who didn’t even go to school anymore, and something inside you hardened, turned into a chunk of cement.
A girl becomes a comma like that, with wrong boy after wrong boy; she becomes a pause, something quick before the real thing. Even now, you’re certain that the light coming from his parents’ room was a warning that the sincere lovers of the world existed elsewhere, not where you were, and that it would always somehow be just like that—the light on the other side, not even seeping in enough to illuminate his thin cheeks or the stubble you felt with a curious teenage palm.
You couldn’t see each other in that bathroom, and now, making coffee for a stranger in your ailing mother’s kitchen, you realize that you’re stirred by darkness, bars and rooms and clubs, by movie theaters where your date’s hand might rest on your thigh without responsibility, without complete admission—without light, you mean. And a man who is traveling excites you because he is traveling. You imagine Rex’s plane waiting for him right now with its doors open, the tunnel he’ll move through as easily as he moved through you. He’ll pull his bags behind him, the tunnel filling with people walking too slowly or too quickly, but no one—and here’s the thing—no one will match his exact stride. The flight staff will look and sound like mannequins, saying, hello, how are you? and then one starched blond will point her ridiculously long nail in the direction of his seat before he has the chance to answer, before he has the chance to even wonder how he is.
When the plane lands he’ll be across the world from you, and you’ll both be relieved. No chance of him interrupting you during a class. No chance of you showing up at his studio where he’d surely be annoyed. He’d answer the door with a paintbrush between his teeth, rubbing his palms on his jeans. “What are you doing here?” he’d mumble through the brush’s handle. “I mean, really, just what do you think you’re doing?” There’d be spots of yellow, red, and blue paint on his T-shirt, splattered everywhere, on his chin and forehead, those full lips, on his walls, tables, and chairs, so that he’d look like just one more painted thing, a piece of furniture or art equipment, but with a face.
Sometimes you go with your mom to the radiation clinic and your imagination works in another way. You keep your sunglasses on and try not to look at people. You try not to smell the Chinese noodles the receptionist is eating. You try not to hear when she scolds a patient on the phone about his missed appointment. “It’s your life or death, Mr. Simian,” you try not to hear her say. You pick up that kids’ magazine Highlights and follow the path to the defined words: delusion, destruction, feline, reiterate, problematic. You pretend you’re not in your thirties, but younger, that she’s not ill at all, that you’re there for someone else—someone you love less than you love her, your least favorite aunt, your slowest cousin, someone you don’t need as badly, and that’s about the time she comes bouncing towards you, all smiles and bright wig.
When the doctor came out of surgery six weeks ago you asked him what the cancer looked like, what color it was. His jaw fell. “What?” he said. “Why?” Four years ago when he took her first breast and a dozen nodes you were twenty-nine and fell to the floor after he spit out her prognosis. You were a panting heap, wiping your eyes with the hem of your skirt. You were drooling and sobbing, an animal. This last time you were someone else, new, in Italian shoes and silk blouse, your hair dark and shiny. You looked at him. You were curious, wanting to see, wanting a color, a shape, a texture to the disease.
“What color is it?” you said again.
“It’s gray,” he said. “Jesus,” he said.
Some people tell you that she’s in denial because she’s happy, that her mood can’t be real. They don’t know her the way you do. It’s always been little things that made her angry, like burning a chicken or ripping a new pair of pantyhose. About cancer, she says, “I don’t know why people make such a big deal—it doesn’t hurt.”
She does understand what it means when it pops up in her neck or hip or thigh, so she’s busy everyday, shopping, cooking, visiting friends. Sometimes you look at her face and try to see it, what it is, what is happening, and she says, “Don’t look at me like that. I’m not going anywhere just yet.” And you try not to, but it’s a hard thing to do, trying not to see what’s right there in front of you.
Rex interviewed you just two days earlier about your first book of poems. He sat in the leather chair by the window. You sat on the couch. It was tense, sexy. He had you read your poems into a microphone. He drank a diet cola, crossed and uncrossed his legs, nodded while you read. From his body language and the small sounds he made in-between poems, you knew he preferred the ones that mentioned parts of your body—even when those poems dealt with cancer and fear, knives and blood and fate, you sensed they turned him on. It was on his face, his excitement, and every now and then you looked up from your book to see it.
He kissed your cheek before he left, quickly, awkward in his black boots, moving a piece of hair away from his eyes. When the door closed behind him you went to the phone. You called your friend Jane who’d lived in London for three years.
“Do they kiss strangers?” you asked her.
“Never,” she said. “They’re cold.”
“Not even on the cheek?”
“Look,” she said, “you’re lucky if a Brit kisses you after he fucks you, if he pats you on the back the morning after—that’s how removed, distant, they are. You think American men are visual and weird? God damn, good luck with this one,” she said.
“It was probably nothing,” you told her. “He’s a friendly guy, that’s all.”
“Right,” she said, sarcastically. “I should know. I fucked a whole bunch of them.”
“I remember the stories, Jane.”
“They were cute,” she said. “Icy and seductive at the same time.”
“I’m sure it was meaningless. The kiss, I mean.”
“And then there’s that whole bit about land and territory, ownership and war. It’s all about jealousy. It’s all about rage. We hate each other and are curious as hell.” Jane was talking more to herself now than to you. “I remember one,” she continued, “tall, big, hair to his shoulders, and a pierced tongue. Do you know what a willing man can do with a little gold stud in his mouth? My God,” she said.
“I have to go,” you told her.
“A pierced tongue,” she repeated. “I’m telling you there’s nothing quite like it. A pierced nipple on a guy is worthless. I mean, how’s he going to please you with a decorated nipple? A tongue, though, is something else all together. I haven’t had anything like it since…”
“Jane, I’m going. I have to go.”
“Wait,” she said, “how’s your mom?”
Last night at the Reno Room you offered him up excuses though he was leaving the country in a matter of days, and it wasn’t necessary. “Why are you still single?” he asked.
“My mother’s been sick for four years and she needs all of me,” you told him.
“Come on,” he said. “Really.” He shook his head.
“O.K., how about I’d rather finish my second book than get involved. I don’t want kids.” You lifted the cider to your lips, then looked away from him toward the bar.
“I felt like we were on a first date yesterday,” he told you.
You looked back at him.
Then he mentioned his wife, his fourteen year old girl who broods and rolls her eyes, who’s just now beginning to hate him, and his baby boy, Blake-what words he knows, how the boy clings to his shoulders when it rains. He mentioned his farm. You’re the kind of woman a man can do that with; he can be honest about who he loves, that he doesn’t love you, and still you might let him in. You pictured Blake with horribly pink skin, riding a fat gray pig like a horse, and said, “I’m not capable of much.” He stared into his dark beer, the darkest beer you’d ever seen. He nodded. Things became blurry then, and you were scooting one of your purple nails into the thigh holes he’d made in his Levis. “They’re bloody expensive where I’m from,” he said, and you wanted to nibble those jeans right off of him, right there in the booth, with Brenda Lee or a voice just like hers coming from the speakers behind you, with smoke and dust and cinnamon wafting up from his schnapps, and hot little Christmas lights that kept falling off the edge of the booth, making a tangled mess in your hair.
There was an old woman at the bar you recognized. She wore a lopsided wig and too much blush, a bitter orange smeared across her lips. She was screaming that her drink wasn’t strong enough. “I can’t fucking feel it,” she said, tugging at the wig with both hands. “I can’t fucking feel it.”
“It doesn’t matter how much she drinks, she’ll never feel it,” Rex said, leaning into you, gently beginning to untangle the lights from your hair.
“She’s empty.” He pointed at the woman. “And her wig doesn’t fit.”
You wanted to tell him about your mother, how she owns a dozen wigs. Red and brown and blond and black. A thick wig. One made of human hair that doesn’t wear well, that falls in thin strands across her face after a day outside. You wanted to tell Rex about the synthetic ones, how superior they are, about the two that promised to make her look famous, like Cher or Dolly Parton, the one that hung down her back, another that framed her face and fell just below her chin. You wanted to tell him how sometimes, if she was in a rush or being picky, trying to match her hair with her dress, she’d scatter the wigs around the apartment. First you’d see several naked Styrofoam heads on her desk, and then, throughout the day, you’d find wigs, one on the couch, another under the kitchen table. You wanted to tell him how one late night you accidentally sat on the Dolly Parton, how it frightened you, how you pulled the wig from behind your back, screaming. You wanted to tell him how the two of you laughed so hard that you fell into each other’s arms. You wanted to tell him how in the right light an unexpected wig looks like a little dog, asleep.
You wanted to tell him, but you knew from past experience that stories about your mother’s illness, even ones meant to amuse, made people cringe and move their bodies away from you. You let him talk instead. He was telling you about the farm, its many acres, its wide open spaces, all that air. He was telling you that the clouds where he’s from are thick and heavy and black, how sometimes he feels that standing on just the right chair or ladder he’d be able to touch one. He lifted the beer to his mouth and finished it off. He licked his lips. He gave up on the lights a moment, set them behind you so that they were still with you, but not as intricately. You could move your head but still with an irritating sense of being attached to something.
“Do you like animals?” he asked you, picking up the lights again. You were trying not to panic, but the lights were warm against your scalp, and the fake holly was sharp.
“No,” you said, “I don’t.”
“That’s too bad,” he said. “They’re wonderful. She needs a pet.” He jutted his chin in the old woman’s direction since now both hands were occupied in your hair.
“She comes here all the time,” you told him. “Every time I’ve been here she’s sitting on that exact stool complaining about something. And she has a pet. Her moody poodle is probably outside right now chained to a streetlight.”
“Both of them actually—the woman and her dog.”
“That dog’s a beast,” you told him. “It snaps at anything that breathes. I hate that damn dog.”
“I don’t want you to think that because I got a wife at home, I don’t like you,” he said, suddenly.
“Even though I got a wife…” he began.
“I’m not even thinking about it, about her.”
“Because sometimes you accept your lot in life, that’s all I’m saying.”
“Fine,” you said, not knowing exactly what it was he meant. “Whatever, Rex. I’m not thinking about your lot—”
“And sometimes you’re lucky enough…” he stopped then, was quiet a moment, working hard at the lights. “There,” he said, finally, “you’re free.”
“Thank God.” You tossed your hair because you could.
He kissed you then, his tongue inside your mouth, yours inside his. When the kiss ended, he took your face in his hands and tried to look at you. You shook away, saying, “What’s your full name again?”
You fucked him once without protection for the flesh of it, you think, or for the death of it, your mother ill and sleeping in the very next room.
“Let’s not wake her,” you said.
“You’re over thirty and you live with your mum?”
“She’s sick,” you reminded him. “Piece by piece.”
“Piece by piece? What’s that mean? What are you saying?”
“Like a turkey.” You made a carving motion with an extended index finger.
“That’s gruesome.” He shook his head.
“Leg, thigh, breast—”
“Stop it,” he said.
“Neck—” you continued.
Don’t,” he said, pleading. “You shouldn’t talk about it, about her, like that. Are you drunk? Is that what’s wrong with you?”
You laughed. “There’s plenty wrong with me.”
“Like what?” he said. “Anything I can catch?”
“No,” you told him. “I’m drunk, that’s what’s wrong with me, Rex. Too much cider.”
“I’m sorry about your mum. Come here.” He was sitting on the edge of your bed in just his boxer shorts. He had a decent body, a natural body, the body of a man that didn’t exercise—a bit of belly fell over the elastic. He curled his finger. “Come here,” he said again.
You moved towards him.
“Let’s not talk.” He put his hands out. “Let me touch those hips of yours. Let’s not say a word,” he said.
Neither of you mentioned a condom. It was the first time you’d been unsafe in eight years. It was the first time you didn’t insist. You’re not sure what it was. You could blame it on the cider, but you’d been drunk and naked plenty of times and still pulled one from your bag or bra or drawer. You could blame it on his accent or the fact that they’d recently found a chunk of cancer in her shoulder, but several of your men had accents, and they’d been finding gray chunk after gray chunk for the last two years, yet you’d always been cautious. It was important to you, caution. It was something you talked about with your friends, using condoms, something you bought them regularly as gifts. Just last week you tucked a couple glow-in-the-dark numbers in the sleeve of the blouse you bought Jane for Christmas. You’ve been known to hand them out at Halloween parties. Your students know how you feel about protection; you’ve spoken to several of your writing classes about danger and sex.
During particularly active periods you keep a handful of them in a fancy candy dish on your night stand. And then you’re slick and skillful, positioning yourself on top of whoever he is, and while he’s busy with your breasts, you reach down and pluck one up. When he’s really going, mouth and hands at once, you lift the little package to your mouth and rip it open with your teeth. “Here,” you say then, “if you want me, dress it up.” And he’s surprised, but hard already and agreeable, and what’s most amazing to you is that he won’t even have noticed your preparation. He won’t even have seen you. He’ll be staring at the condom like it appeared out of nowhere, magic, like you pulled it from behind your ear or out of a hat—so focused he’ll have been with his whole face, every bit of him, smashed against your torso.
Out of all of them only one refused. You closed your legs. He was from Argentina or Colombia, you think, and wore all silk. Black silk pants, a red silk shirt, even a silk band holding his hair back in a ponytail. It made you uncomfortable, all that silk on a man. He left the shirt on while you kissed, and you remember trying to hold onto his back, then shoulder, but the shirt slipped from between your fingers. There was black hair spilling out, resting on the red collar. When you went to unbutton the shirt, he pulled his chest away. “Hair doesn’t bother me,” you said. “Don’t be shy,” you told him. You handed him the condom then, and he shook his head.
“No,” he said. His accent was thick and he smelled like the whiskey he’d been drinking all night. “I don’t like covers,” he told you.
“Fine,” you said. “Forget it then.”
He positioned himself on top of you, still in that gory shirt, and pushed your breasts together like an accordion. He propped his penis between them, and moved about, grunting, making friction. It seemed it would never end. It seemed you would spend the rest of your life in just this position. He went on and on, full of stamina and liquor. You feared you’d get a rash from all that heat. He talked to you in low tones, in a language you didn’t recognize. The act didn’t make sense to you, and while he moved and moved, you remember thinking: It’s dry, all dry, do you know you’re not inside anyone?
Immediately after Rex came inside you without a condom you wanted him to leave. Your insides were hot and full. You were in your early twenties the last time you felt like that. “Shit,” you said. “What did we do?” you asked him.
“What did we do?” he said. “You don’t know what we did?”
“Forget it,” you said.
Now, though, it’s morning, and you’re sitting together in bed, drinking coffee from cups that do not match. Your cup is pale green. The rim is chipped. His is your least favorite cup in the house, but one of only two that were clean.
“I hate that happy face cup,” you tell him.
He lifts the cup in the air to get a look. He puts the cup down on your night stand, and reaches for the sheet still wrapped around you. You shake his hand away and ask about his farm. He tells you about the four pigs, ten goats, and three cows, how every one of them has a name: Bess and Bob and Ron and Janet, Billy and Sid and Sally… He tells you about his wife’s red hair. You are nodding, pretending to listen, but thinking about your mother.
“What are you thinking about?” he says.
“You’re not here.”
“I’m here. I’m listening,” you say.
But really, you’re not. You’re thinking about how your mother often heads to Fabric King after a trip to the drug store, how she’s probably standing there now, touching assorted fabrics, deciding.
As soon as her arm was working again she started making dresses. Without a machine, without a pattern—by hand. She goes to the fabric store once a week, at least, and buys yards and yards of various prints. And black, she brings back plenty of black for you. All your mother has to do is take a good, long look at your friends’ asses and she knows exactly what sizes they are. She says, “Honey, all your friends are small but their asses are big.” And then she lays the fabric over her bed and cuts a dress out in the shape of one of them. “It’s healthy,” she tells you, “their big asses. She names them: Jessica, Holly, Gwen, and Denise. “You’ll never be alone” she says.
She sits either in the leather chair by the window or on the couch, with or without a wig, with or without her rubber breasts, and opens the sewing box your brother gave her for her birthday. Then she sews. She watches “Jeopardy,” then “Seinfeld,” and keeps sewing.
She doesn’t do buttons or zippers, so she’s limited in style and fabric texture. “It has to be durable, flexible,” she explains, pulling the needle from her mouth. “The body is in charge,” she tells you.
Last weekend you opened her closet and found not one store bought piece of clothing. She’d given it all away. And the closet was full, hundreds of her dresses hanging up—stripes and plaids and dots and flowers, summer pastels and earth tones, winter greens and bold browns.
On Tuesday your mother stood in the hallway, pulling a bright red number over her bald head, working the stretchy fabric over her shoulders. And she was beautiful then, at the edge of everything, standing on that cliff in the hallway, working the vivid dress over her still sexy thighs.
You want to tell Rex about your mother’s thighs, about where she is now, Fabric King, but more than that you want to be in bed with a man who knows you well enough to understand all of it—where you are, your body and hers—how there is nothing at all you demand from him, nothing he could possibly give you. You want to tell him that, but you are looking at his face and hands, and his hands are reaching for a second time between your legs, and the sheet is falling, and you don’t think he wants to hear anything like that just now.
Sometimes at night you lie in bed and listen for her. You fight sleep, waiting until her breathing is audible before you let yourself go. Sometimes you move backwards in time, remembering when she was healthy, busy with men of her own, busy with travel and plans. Sometimes you skip ahead and you’re living alone in this apartment—you’re on the couch with a glass of wine, telling some man without a face all about her. He is bored, reaching for his gin and tonic. He sighs. He nods. “Sorry,” he says, unconvincingly. “A dozen wigs?” he says. “Handmade dresses? No pattern? You’re kidding me, right?” he says.
Sometimes you think about all the men who’ve passed through here. You think about the most recent one first, and then you try and remember the others. You try to see their faces, but it’s impossible, their features blurring into one indistinct mess. They become what they do for a living: fireman, musician, painter, teacher, taxi driver. Just before sleep, that moment when you’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t, they become their uniforms or cabs or props, suspended in the air above your head, twirling around like a baby’s toy: a navy suit, a red truck, a spotted T-shirt, a piece of chalk, a violin, an eraser.
Some people tell you that when a loved one dies, he or she is never forgotten. Other people say that forgetting what a dead person’s face looks like is part of the healing process. Some say that your life will never be the same, while others insist that eventually, after a thousand cups of coffee and days at work, you’ll wake up one morning and not feel pulled into the carpet. They say you get on with things.
It’s 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning when you get up and go to her room. You look at her, her nose and lips. You think her face is shaped like a perfect heart. You watch her body fall and rise. You listen. You lean down and touch her skull, the fuzz there like a boy’s new chin.
“Is he here again?” she asks you, her eyes still closed.
“The man you were with last night.”
“No,” you tell her. “He’s gone.”
“He can stay here,” she mumbles, “if you like him.”
“I like him.”
“He’s on a farm now,” you tell her. “With a redhead.”
“Farms are dirty,” she tells you. “You don’t want to be on a farm, honey.” She turns on her side, away from you so that you no longer see her face. She pulls the blanket around her body, up and over her head so that you see none of her, not the smallest piece of flesh.