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Published: Fri Jul 1 2005
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Destruccion por un remolino del aire Xocomeel del Lago Atitlán / Destruction from a Vortex of the Xocomil Winds around Lake Atitlán (detail), 2014, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

I’ve overheard them say, “Shall we wave to her and see what happens?” No, you won’t wave, because I won’t respond. You might ask, “Were you at the Chanel show last night?” But if you do, and if I was, I wouldn’t tell you, even if I remembered the pleasant things that might have happened there.

Later, Peter undresses me, and when I’m down to my bra and panties he tells me I look just like a model, that he’d had pages of me smattered on his college dorm walls years ago, and it makes me feel hasty. When he’s kissing my hair I’m fixed on the mirror, and I think I might very well look like one of his girls, and even still I would never behis, that is.

Fuji, my dinner man, sometimes tells his patrons, as he winks and points to me, “She my girlfriend. Tonight we go out.”

“I don’t think so,” I said the last time, loud enough for the diners to hear. “You twice my age and you overcooking the noodles in the kitchen.”

He hit his head violently with his palm. “Ah! I forget! Thank you, Precious, to remind me.”

Precious I am. But one night I recently dreamed of stealing onto black metal fire escapes in the midnight dark, peering in closed windows, taking notes. No one catches me. No one knows.

“Are you all talk, or are we going to swim?” I’ve been known to say, at the beach, in a rooftop pool, in a spa standing next to strange men who look like they’ve at one time cast a fanatical chamois over the hood of a Ferrari 308 GTI. Peter watches me from the safe distance of the bed. Closer, and I will say he is obsessive, an ugly thought; farther, and he thinks he is guilty of neglect, and he will be utterly wrong.

I move sometimes with the polish and self-consciousness of someone aware of having an audience. Can’t help it. A vice, call it, if you will.

“Usually, I’m not terribly gregarious,” a boy, eighteen at most, said to me yesterday outside a deli on 7th and 56th. He looked at me to see if I knew what he was getting at—his mistake, and such an unfortunate one it was.

“Save me from that need to get drunk and silly, so I won’t fall all over you with desire,” I spat.

Peter would have kissed me in the rain right there, but the boy whispered, “You are the prettiest woman I have ever seen.” Yawn.

Peter quotes Cheever, “The girl with yellow hair represents a boundless chain of lighted rooms,” that even though the sun has fallen, I’ve solicitously managed to preserve the freshness of my morning bath.

I tell my driver to go and come back for me in the morning.

“I think three boys at school are in love with me,” I cast in his ear when Peter is inside of me in the candlelight. “They wrote a note, signed it, and slipped it in my clutch last Tuesday.”

“So what are you going to do about it?” he stops, asks.

“It’s under advisement.”

“Whom, may I ask, are you consulting?” His eyebrows raised, his head still. He could use a hat at this particular moment. Yes, a fedora in a grey herringbone, a small silken feather of red tucked in the thick black band.

I start singing.

“Sometimes I want to crawl into your pocket and be carried around like spare change,” he says.

“You’re worth more to me than that, lover,” I say. “You’re legal tender, warm, hard cash.”

He kisses me forcefully. He grips both sides of my head. When he lets goof my mouth, that isI say, “I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned my particular infatuation with the sound of rain water being swooshed by speeding taxis.”

“Will you let me fuck you, please?” he pleads.

“You are.”

“You’re talking too much.”

“I do that. I sing too.”

“Scream for me. No, rather, make those little whining, yelping noises, like a bird, trapped, trying to shift a hinge and get out.”

“A raven?” I ask.

“I don’t think ravens are very charming,” Peter says.


Joseph Levens was finalist in the 2010 Bakeless Prize for Fiction and won The Florida Review Editors’ Prize in 2007. His work has been published in places such as AGNI Online, Sou’wester (four issues), Other Voices, New Orleans Review, Cream City Review, Meridian, and The Literary Review. He is editor of The Summerset Review and lives in Smithtown, New York. (updated 7/2012)

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