Mean Boys


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by Kathleen


My ophthalmologist noted my astigmatism, told me he’s married, and asked me out. “Nothing casual,” he said. “My intentions are venereal.”

“Venereal?”

“Desire, not disease.”

Julian took me to dinner at Orsay, Café des Artistes, Jean Georges. He’s married and has a daughter, but we got along so famously, they seemed far away. We traded ironies and smirked at saying the obvious. “Really raining.” “Crowded elevator.” “She’s a bitch.”

After a month, Julian took me to the Stanhope hotel, where our sexuality blasted the sun. The magnetic force that’s Julian and me held the planets in orbit. All night.

During one year, we went to the Stanhope one night a week, then two, then three. Everyone knows us—Julian and Samantha. Jean-Georges welcomes us when we enter his restaurant. He brings me whatever amuse-bouche he’s just made.

Today Julian showed me a corner three-bedroom at Fifteen Central Park West. Sixteenth floor. The park’s trees rolled endlessly beneath every window. He was leaving his wife and daughter.

I was too surprised to respond. Julian said, “For you.”

We walked to Jean Georges and he said, “Think about it. Think about us laughing all the time.”

Julian ordered champagne. And then, a coincidence. Effusive Tom Scully, who went to Catholic school in Queens with me, looms over us. How great to see me! How long has it been?

Not that long. A cousin’s funereal, sometime last year. Tom’s huge, handsome face turns red. He’s sorry to intrude. But he sees the guys from our grade and everybody wonders how I’m doing.

I’ve heard this before from Tom.

“Wait till I tell them you look the same.” His tall body sways and I excuse myself.

Possibly, Tom wants forgiveness, which after twenty years, I’ll give him. But I can’t hand it to him out of nowhere. He needs to say, “I apologize.”

At thirteen I looked like I do now. Same big breasts and long legs. The average eighth grade boy’s nose reached my nipples. Back then, in eighth grade, Tom handed me a note.

You look like a frog,
Smell like a hog,
Poke out your eye
And see if you die.

Every boy in our grade had signed it. They called me frog-face and when the girls heard that, they shunned me, too. Even Erin from next door. When someone threw a rock through my bedroom window, I stopped going to school. St. Agnes promoted me to high school with a poor attendance warning.

Thirteen was painful. Most injuries you can’t help. But schoolboy cruelty? A runaway father? Julian and I had fun, a lark. Nothing serious.

Finally Tom lurches away and I return and sit down. Jean-George brings us miniature omelets.

“Julian, how old is your daughter?”

“Penelope? She’s twelve.”

“So besides you, who’s a good ophthalmologist?”

6 comments:

Mike French said...

powerful - one of your best :-)

Liked the "she's a bitch" in the list of obvious things!

Rufus said...

Mike's right. It's great.
You have such a deft touch with language.

Stella said...

I kept cracking up until I hit the poem. I love how you know how to bring in that emotional shift almost out of nowhere without making the piece feel disjointed.

Paul said...

Wonderful.

Jan said...

I don't know how a very short story can pack so much wallop. Can it be true - I'm developing yet again venereal interest in fiction? :) Love it.

kathleenmaher said...

Jan, Thanks for that. This story like so many is one I judged to be interesting upon completion, only to rule otherwise later.
Fiction must be the most subjective art. I change my mind about other's stories almost as often as I do my own.