I had a boyfriend once. This was some time ago. I was little more
than a girl.
I told everyone, strangers even. My boyfriend this, my boyfriend that.
I loved the sound of it. As girls do at that age. He was blond, blue-eyed.
Beautiful. Now I wish I had a picture of him, but then I could not
bear it. The thought of him framed in this five by seven on my dresser,
in my room, caged in our little bungalow. With my family trudging
down the hall in their worn satin slippers, slurping up their noodles
in the kitchen with splintered chopsticks. Barely stringing together
two sentences and making crude body noises. Their hair in the bathroom
poking out from the toilet rim, kinked and black on the floor, skiddling
away from my broom.
Anyway he was too big to be in a picture over six feet, legs
straight and long, hed bump his head up against the frame. He
already was a picture. When he bent like a willow tree to kiss me,
I couldnt believe it: I held my breath forever as the space
between us, between the skin of our lips, got halved and quartered,
sliced and slivered. But I knew thered be a space between forever
and ever: its a law of physics, or something.
He brought me to his house once when no one was home. I slunk from
room to room while he changed. I went down on my knees and saw golden
arcs of hair on the burnished Oriental carpet and on the pastel kitchen
tiles. He had an older brother and a younger sister displayed on the
mantel, blond like him, beautiful too. In one of the bathrooms (there
were so many), hairs splayed on the sink shimmered when I flicked
on the light; one curled like ivy around a pink bar of soap. I held
it to my nostrils and the hair tickled my cheek. It could have come
from any of them, his mother or father, sister or brother, even him.
One day, he put his tongue inside my mouth. There was no space left.
I couldnt breathe. I sucked in his breath, what hed kept
inside his mouth under his tongue. I felt my cheeks caving in. I tried
to pull away, to gently push, but he kept jabbing me, tugging at my
tongue. I dont know how or why but I kept it curled to the back
of my throat like a jelly roll, a trick I learned in grade school.
I felt his fingers pressing into my neck and my blood rushed to his
fingertips, I couldnt help it. The windows of his fathers
Riviera steamed up so I couldnt see ahead of us, though we werent
What is it? he asked, rolling away without a hint of impatience in
his voice. After all these years, I can still see his lovely blue
eyes, all light pushing off from darkness like a boat from a dock.
I was melting into the darkness that was me, that was mine; I was
that dock in the night, my eyes swallowed up like minnows. My hair
fell out of its clip, drowning my minnow eyes, strangling my face
I couldnt answer. The last thing I saw was his blue eyes beaming
an O clear through my darkness.
He didnt call. My telephone nested mute on its pillow. For days
I sat with the light out in my room watching my shadow in the mirror.
It did not move. I studied my profile with my hand mirror and noticed
how its outline was little more than a wall. I thought how much longer
it must take for him to reach my face with his face than if he were
kissing somebody else, whose face wasnt flat. A boy could get
After that, I started to wear my hair combed forward into gates at
the sides of my face, keeping me out of sight. I felt protected. I
thought it improved my profile too.
I watched myself in windows, observed myself walking along in a crowd.
I didnt stand out, not particularly, especially in Chinatown.
Years went by like that.
Then one day, I saw them in a department store, by the jewelry counter.
It was holiday time. They were holding hands, pressed in the crowd,
holding tight to stay linked, his blue eyes to hers. She was Chinese;
I knew it right away. Her hair was the kind of silken black that wasnt
coarse like mine; that gleamed silver under intense light. They were
smiling at one another and he was reaching for her across the long
span of his arms. I held my breath waiting for them to kiss but they
The moment after theyd gone was when I felt the O, not like
blue light beaming clear through as before, but as something bearing
down inside: sharp, gouging; tunneling through flesh.