Ronald F. Currie, Jr.

Beth and I are sitting in a booth at the restaurant where I work, taking our break together during the slow hours of mid-afternoon. I don’t say stupid things or talk too loud around Beth, like I do with other women, because she is my boss, and because she is married and happy and has a little boy. If she weren’t married, or if her husband were a slob or beat
her up or ignored her, then we wouldn’t be able to talk like we are now, easily and casually, because I would be aware of her breasts, and the implication of her vagina, and conversely she would be aware of my cock, and would be wondering whether or not I had any desire or intention to use it with her, and I would in turn be wondering if she was wondering about my cock and my intentions with it, and wondering further whether or not she hoped or wished I was thinking about using it on her—and then I would do what I always do when talking to a girl with whom there is a possibility I might have sex and share my bed and, perhaps, later, some breakfast and, perhaps, still later, after much sex and many breakfasts, the thoughts and emotions which constitute that impalpable and somewhat amorphous abstraction known to me as me, which is: Act weird. Fuck it up. Go home alone, again.

As it is, Beth and I don’t have this problem. We’re friends, maybe better friends than we should be, considering that she runs the restaurant and I’m a cook here. We talk frankly, laugh often. When the conversation turns to sex, it’s purposefully raunchy and insincere, as if we were both men. Beth is from up north, farming country, and has five brothers and two stepbrothers, so she knows how to talk like the boys.

On the other hand, we both fall victim on a more or less regular basis to swoons of sentimentality, and when one or the other of us is feeling this way, we speak in hushed tones, our faces close, confiding like women. During these times we touch a lot; our hands, wrists, shoulders are in constant fluttering contact. She’ll give me details on last night’s bubble
bath and foot massage, courtesy of her husband Jake. I’ll tell her how I am, finally, against my better judgment, feeling quite lonely and in need of love.

I am telling her this now, in fact. Her eyes soften as I mutter sentence fragments and gaze out the window and sigh a lot: “Shit, I don’t know...”

Her hands find mine under the table. “It’s been four years since Jenn left,” she says. “You’ve spent enough time in purgatory, I’d say.”

“I’ve had other women since then,” I tell her.

“Sure,” she says. One of her hands skitters up to grasp my forearm.

“Sure, and you haven’t loved any of them, but so what? You’re a young man, Tom. You’ll find someone. If you ever leave that cubbyhole you call a home.”

Beth knows me too well. She knows I live in an efficiency with a tiny television set, no telephone, and a stack of books most people wouldn’t read unless they were forced to. She knows I take my shoes off and place them in a neat, even line with the others on the mat just inside the front door. She knows I subsist mostly on peanut butter and cereal,
scrub the toilet twice a week, and keep my garbage and recyclables in separate containers. She knows I left college after my sophomore year because I thought the cost prohibitive. She knows I am dull and utterly pragmatic, almost Spartan, except in one regard: I’m an absolute girl when it comes to romance. I want to woo and be wooed, to live in a perpetual state of queasy infatuation, palms moist, heart aflutter. I have had this feeling only twice in my life: once with Jenn, and once with Natalie Portman, after I saw her in the movie Closer. I will forego companionship altogether rather than settle for less than that.


You can read If Natalie Portman Were My Girlfriend, Life Would Be Like the Movies in its entirety in issue 3 of Swink.

Ronald F. Currie, Jr. is a native of Waterville, Maine. His fiction has appeared in recent issues of Glimmer Train, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Sun, The Cincinnati Review, The Southeast Review, and elsewhere. He’s seeking representation for his novel-in-stories God is Dead.


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