Carl wasn’t that into it, the dresses she wore, her hair, the way she walked down the street.
His friend Buddy said, Well who the hell is? I don’t pay attention to my wife’s wardrobe.
That’s kind of sad, he said, and Buddy shrugged.
Carl wasn’t that into it. They’d been dating a month. He liked her naked, her breasts and thighs, the curves in her back, the wings of her collarbones. Outside in the street though she was just an excellent person, he felt nothing for her beauty, her style.
It’s sad for me? Buddy said, But you could care less yourself?
I want to care though. That’s the difference. Didn’t you care when you were first dating?
Nah. At home, that’s where it counts.
Carl was confused. Buddy and he, they weren’t alike in anything. Cars versus flowers, games versus books, apartments versus houses. But here they were, agreeing, almost in unison.
What if she wants me to care? he asked.
Wow, Buddy answered, It’s like she’s the first person you’ve ever dated.
I know, that’s what I just said. Buddy finished his wine, got up to get some more from the fridge. Look, he said. She’s beautiful, right?
Well then, don’t worry about it so much. She really seems to like you. She’s smart.
Carl shrugged. Ok, ok, I got it. Let’s talk about something else. He looked at his friend’s clothes, the button-up and twill pants. Buddy should care, he thought. He doesn’t have a clue.
The firm, said its ad, Represents lawyers, teachers, actors, musicians, and people from all walks of life. The background was a deep, rich red and the text in a lemon yellow. It hovered above a game of three-card solitaire.
She closed her computer. What a relentless night, she thought, I’m so glad it’s done. What she meant was her thesis, of course, Poverty on the North End, and not the countless games of cards she’d played—a case study, then a game.
She went to the kitchen and stood at the sink, the window that overlooked her yard. A cat crouched behind a weed, orange tail a-flicker. Two birds fluttered in a patch of dust.
Hey, she called, and rapped on the window. The cat didn’t hear, or didn’t care, went on dreaming of the birds.
Story of my life, she thought, then felt silly for it. As if I’ve got something to complain about. LOL.
She got undressed and stood in front of her mirror. Yep, she said. Her face looked healthy and the very last of her tan still showed against her bikini line. It was late April and soon the summer would begin.
Without getting into the shower—or getting dressed—she sat on her bed and opened her computer. We put your best foot forward, said the ad. PR is for everyone!
Her thesis was good, very good. City Hall would have to pay attention, now. She put her mouse over the ad. You’re the best brand we have, it said. To which she answered, Yes we are.
He’d be cold dead in two days. That’s what the angry lady on the subway told him. She was crazy.
Two days later he was doing his taxes. No matter how he fiddled with the numbers, he still ended up owing. What the shit? he thought.
He went out to the living room. Bastards are going to crush me, he said, his wife watching a soap opera. It wasn’t the one with the hospital, it was newer, and more hip.
You deduct everything?
Ok, she said, ok. You deduct your parents’ plots?
He looked at the pretty woman kissing a pretty man on the television, both scrubbed pink and suited in plaid. I can deduct those? That doesn’t seem right.
She shrugged. I don’t know. But just do it, let them tell you that you can’t.
Alright, he answered. But if I end up in jail . . .
He left the living room, went back to their bedroom, the light in the curtains coming in red. He sat on the bed and lifted the computer into his lap, it and its sprawl of hopeless numbers.
Jesus, he said, hands on his head. He did feel bad. He should have let the beat lady on the subway sit.
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