Monday, September 05, 2011

"The Pick-Up"

I didn't see anything interesting in the stores and I didn't have any money. When I talked to the boy at the shoe store he kept rearranging his shoes and he said, "Shouldn't you go home and have dinner?"

I sat in the coffee shop. I held my textbook open just like I was reading it and watched businessmen coming in out, their suits with little creases in them, pants sweaty around their crotches because of the heat. I sat in the black shadow of the investment bank that was visibly moving across my table, feeling my own sweat drying between my shoulder blades and between my breasts

I read for a while. My legs were stiff and tingling and my neck was getting sore, and there was a man standing at my table who said, "Good book?"

I nodded. "It's just regular biology. I forgot my highlighter."

His suit was like the others, but so fresh it looked like it had just come off the hanger. "You can have some of this if you want it," he said, gesturing with his coffee cup. "I only bought it so I could talk to you." As if for inspection he lifted his hands so I could see his clean fingernails, the little pink cuticles. He smelled like the seats in an orange Volkswagon car.

My own fingernails needed clipping, I remembered.

We crept outward in his car, the windows rolled up and the AC blasting. He played '60s rock too loud on the radio and his knuckles were tense, his hand jerking the gearshift.

"What do you do for a living?" I asked. He hadn't looked at me since I'd gotten into the car. He was an excellent driver. He was scrupulous about the right-of-way. "I'm an Biology major," I said. "Third year."

He nodded. "I do financing. Financial stuff. Banking." He didn't answer any other questions.

By the time we'd pulled into his driveway my face was hot and my jaw had a tough knot in it. It was hard to recognize anything without my glasses on, but I thought I knew where I was. I tripped over one of the shrubs beside his porch. "Careful," he said. "Jesus, don't worry."

Everything was orderly in the front hallway. He walked through every room of the ground floor, yelling "Dora? Dora?" while I waited by the door. There was no answer.

"Go upstairs," he said, and walked around the rooms again. He hadn't loosened his tie or taken off his dress shoes.

All the carpets on the second floor showed the runners of a vacuum. I found an office and a nursery and then the master bedroom, a place like a museum. A woman's silky nightgown was over the back of a chair in front of a mirror, a table with hairbrushes and some pictures.

I took off my running shoes and belt and jeans, my awful tank top with the dolphin on it, my underwear. The room was cold with central air conditioning and I lay on top of the plush quilt, mostly naked. When I began to shiver I moved down under the covers and pulled my socks off and held them in my hands.

The traffic was going quiet outside. I looked up at the white whirls of plaster that nobody ever noticed, and my body began to warm up under the covers.

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