Fiction by Dion OReilly • Photo
by Elvira Vila
I looked down and saw that my shoes were stupid. I burst
“Hey, what’s wrong with you?” The hamburger cook thumped
my back as if I was choking. Five minutes ago, he had been trying to sleep
with me. Now he was beginning to think I might be too crazy to safely seduce.
His awkward pats slowed, ceased, and he finally left. Too
bad. I wanted someone to talk to. I was sitting alone on the steps of the
Fremont library. I cleaned-up garbage and sold tickets in a crappy movie
theater, where I ate the candy bars. My parents still gave me money. I couldn’t
keep my weight down. And I couldn’t get laid.
I could get laid, but my shoes were too stupid and my gut
was far too fat for me to consider fornication. Besides, I wanted River,
and he didn’t love me. He had promised to love me, but he went back to his
girlfriend. I had been pining for a year. Lately, I had taken to walking
three miles in the Seattle rain to his broken-down truck which he’d abandoned
near the university. I’d pull out my harmonica, lean against the fender and
play “Since I Fell for You.”
The cook came back, strutting down the street to where I
sat hunched in front of the closed, ornate doors of the library. His cowboy
hat added some height, but when I stood, I was taller. He seemed angry when
I looked down at him.
“You know,” he said, picking up the threads of our earlier
conversation, “I haven’t taken a cent from my parents since I was sixteen.”
“Oh, OK...” I looked at him without wiping my tears.
“I’m not so sad. I’m fine, really. Here’s a joke: What did the sign on the
“We're closed. Beat it.”
He stared at me. “Are you, uh, trying to tell me something?”
My throat ached. My pants cut into my waist, and they were
too short. When I was thinner, they fell down on my hips. I looked down
again and realized my socks were different colors. I couldn’t keep anything
“You're not so bad-looking. You should cocktail waitress.
I could get you a job at the bar and grill. Why don’t you just come over
to my house and mellow out? Have a drink. Jeez, lighten up, woman.”
I thought about it. If I got out of these pants, if there
were gentle hands touching my stomach instead of this tight grip, if I wore
cute shoes, if I quit taking money from my parents, if I found a better job,
maybe cocktail waitressing, I wouldn’t be such a failure.
I turned toward Lake Union. The sun was setting, and the
clouds were swelling with color. The trees, stripped of leaves, were stark
against the lavender sky.
River didn’t love me. Never would.
My ugly sneakers were for running. My mother had sent them
with a note suggesting I exercise. I left the cook standing there and jogged
to the lake, the sky melding apricot and pale yellow around the remains
of the sun. It was chilly, and the dark branches dripped water on my head.
When I arrived at the shore, it was nearly night. I stripped
and jumped in, sinking into the cold, black water, feeling it on every corner
of my skin. My shoes and pants, abandoned on the rough sand, waited for me
to pick them up, to run home barefoot and go to sleep, to dream of water
and indigo trees.