Girls talk of romance in the college cafeteria.
One roommate describes to the other her relationship
in anecdotes: when he bought her a stuffed animal,
when they publicly held hands, when they first
exchanged affectionate glances underneath worn-out
bed sheets at night. With a slight note of shock in
her voice, like she’d been hit by something, she says,
and isn’t it repulsive? Sometimes intimacy can be
overwhelming. First, he noticed the roommate’s mess
on the hallway dresser, and her awkward way with strangers
upon introduction, and particularly her limits when it came
to language; how the word amber can take on different
meanings. He tries to explain it to her—a traffic light color,
a fossil, a moment sealed in it. She turns her head away at
his lectures. Once, she turned and the sun hit her lips: two
crescent waves of pink flesh, a mole dotted along her Cupid’s bow.
Striking: the word dangled in his mind like a broken branch.
He decides to tell her, while his girlfriend is busy ironing out
creases of a skirt in the bathroom. He stands at the edge
of the door as she types out sentences for French class.
You’re beautiful, he says, his voice tremulous with grief;
the painful fact of her inability to grasp the weight of words,
important words like strata, and spine.
He comes over at midnight and makes boxed
macaroni and cheese for the girls, who are drunk
and hungry. At the very end before taking
the shells out of the boiling pot he adds a dollop of
milk. Afterward, the girls pour out their gratitude
and spread it like cream over his sensitive ego.
He rolls his eyes, and thinks of the construction
outside E Street; the gutted buildings, the alternate routes
he can take that he’s familiar with when it’s morning and
time to go home. He puts his hand in between the
cushions of the love-seat. Love, he says to himself, turning
the sides of a loose penny over and over in his fingers.
Katherine MacCue is a graduate of the George Washington University. Her poetry has been published in RiverLit, Stone Highway Review, and she has forthcoming work in The Writing Disorder. She can be found at http://kvmacc.blogspot.com.