Apr 1, 2005

Wanting an act of grace

He did this to himself, he said, though we didn't ask. "I did this on purpose," he said, "I wanted to get fat.

He went to the McDonald's and drank creams, peeling off the thin plastic seal and tipping up the tablespoon-sized cup held between three fattening fingers and drank the milk thick to half cream.

"Can I help you?" said the girl behind the apron, behind the counter.

"No," he said and he drank another creamer.

"I wanted to know," he said, "I wanted to know that if someone liked me it wasn't for something. I guess I wouldn't have done it though if I'd known it wasn't going to be so hard."

But I don't know, I think maybe he would have.

If I were to describe her, you would think of other pretty girls, but she wasn't other pretty girls. You would think you knew what she was, you would think "cute," think "pretty." I can't describe it, but what she was was beautiful.

Guys would ask her if she had a boyfriend before they asked her name. When she left they stood there, staring. "Shit," they'd say. Girls hated her, sometimes trafficking in harsh wither-looks and hush-mumbling gossip, or the stood around trailing her shadow, trolling for left overs.

Somehow, being beautiful had wrecked her life. She played tennis, but no one mentioned tennis. She took photography, but no one talked about photography. Her beauty had destroyed her world. Her beauty was a gravity and everything around was weighed down into an orbit of disfigured shapes.

I had to call her a lot, for the work we were it, call her at home sometimes in the afternoons when her father would answer and at work some nights when some girl would giggle and call her name long and slowly teasingly dangling out the second syllable.

I'd wait, in that breathing silence of holding on the phone, and wonder. How do you act for someone, towards someone, whose every passing social and working relationship is too tense, where everyone always wants, wants something and lets it show long dog in their eyes? How do you say hello, smile in the hall, ask for her on the phone when all she can know is to think those are demands and desires?

I never told her a joke, never gave a grin. I ignored her in a way, I think, that no one had allowed her to be ignored. I thought it was the best I could do. We talked about photography.