Sunday, February 5, 2012

Of Works, III

Stage Magic
“If you ever want to see your blender again, you’ll call me back,” he says, over my shoulder. I turn around, ready to fire my incredulity, but he’s not looking at me: he’s on a cellphone, face deadly serious. He looks like he’s trading Brazilian teenagers for cocaine. I imagine a blender tied to a stool under a bare-bulb lamp in the office of an empty warehouse by the docks. Two neckless goons stand by, popping their knuckles, ready for the appliance to launch its daring escape.

I decide not to ask the stranger what he’s talking about.

I realize that my wife, Eliza, has said something and turn around, look across the table. She’s staring down at her plate of scrambled egg whites and dry toast. It is five in the evening.

“I’m sorry, what?” I ask.

“It was cold today.”

“Yes. Yes, it was. Did you just hear what this guy…?”


“Never mind. How are the eggs?”

“They’re fine.”

“Great. That’s excellent.”

I gulp half a glass of water in one go. I watch the couple over Eliza’s right shoulder: they’re having an argument. Or conducting opposing symphonies. Over her left shoulder is an elderly couple. They’ve both got newspapers open over their surf and turf. One of them passes a basket of dinner rolls to the other. Not a flutter of newsprint or spoken word accompanies this motion. I look back at Eliza. Her eggs are almost gone. My steak has gone cold; it was overdone.

“Shall we get the check?” I ask.

“I suppose.”

I raise my hand and signal for the waiter. I pay the bill and say, “Happy anniversary, honey.”

As I drive our car home, my phone vibrates in my pocket. I pull it out and see a message from Lily, one of my piano students. She comes to her lessons without underwear. I know this because she just told me. An oncoming car swerves off the road, narrowly saving us all—I yank the wheel to the right amid an orchestra of blaring horns.

“Who called, dear?”

“What?” I puffed.

“Your phone buzzed, Warren.”

“Right. Uh, that was Jim. He needs to reschedule his lesson.”

She makes a vague hm of acknowledgement. I drive us home, thinking about Lily’s crotch. I try to determine how she shaves it, if at all, based on what I can remember of her wardrobe.

Later, in bed with Eliza, it’s Lily I’m thinking of: Lily’s breasts, no stretch marks; Lily’s hourglass, no cellulite. Eliza, middle aged mother of zero, sighs when I enter her. Lily moans and pushes back. I fill in her blanks with the centerfolds of 1970’s playboys. I’m still thinking of her when Eliza collapses on top of me, panting.

“Well,” she says. “That was different.”

I wrap my arms around her and she falls asleep on my chest for the first time in so long I’d forgotten she had ever done that. I soon follow suit and dream of Eliza. She looks like Lily, would be Lily to anyone else, but I know it’s Eliza, in that way you know things in dreams.

In the morning, I sit at my piano in my pajamas, finger hovering over middle C for a few minutes before playing the Maple Leaf Rag. When the tune finishes, I call Lily.

“I was hoping you would call.”

“Were you?”

“Yeah. I was thinking about your hands—“

I cut her off. I explain that I’m married, happily so, and I’m surprised that I mean it today. I tell her that I’ll no longer be able to give her piano lessons.

“Are you sure about this?” she pleads.

I think of a blender in a warehouse in the bad part of town.

“Quite sure.”
That's all for now.

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