BY JEAN SMITH
“We haven’t eaten fresh food for weeks. I’ll go to the store later.”
“We had that salad last night, with the lotus root. That was fresh.”
“I’m thinking more like fish.”
I’m thinking more like quail. Looking at his hand in mine, across the table, it feels complicated. An entire being, plucked. I don’t want to be apart from him. Weird. Who is he? I lean forward and whisper, “Do you think of this as home? Am I home?”
In the corner of the dining room, over an intricately laid section of hardwood floor, the word parquet appears, lowercase, in 24 point Times Roman. A trumpet plays four notes. “Parquet, fit for a king,” I say. “Wait, that’s Imperial. I’ll come with you. To the store.” What is outside? Greece, Istanbul, England? How heavy will the shadows be, how bright the light?
Swarthy. The man is swarthy, and somehow operatic — squat with a hairline the opposite of receding. His face is friendly, self-absorbed and puffy. This man is going to the store to buy fish, fresh fish, for me. For dinner. For me. Fish for dinner. Will he cook it too?
A woman bumps my chair, “Excuse me, I’m trying to get to the window.”
The rug is bunched up under the hind legs of my chair. “Oh, I thought there was more room there.” The window. Old glass smears the clarity of apple blossoms. Spring!
Standing, I put my hands under the table. The man stands too, automatically, unlike an overgrown boy who would sit there until he was told to help.
“We can put the table where ever we want!” Lifting, I realize there aren’t that many places to go with it.
“We can do whatever we want!” I sound like a child. We shuffle towards the center of the room. Before setting it down, the woman at the window speaks loudly, fogging up more than one pane.
“We’d have to get rid of the doorbell.”
A man, perhaps her husband, walks into the room and lifts his hands from his corduroy hips. Palms up, tuberous fingers slightly splayed, he says, “We’d have to do that anywhere. Come on, we’re in Basket and this place is a steal.”
The table legs touch the floor, bu-bump-bump, punctuation … words left out.
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