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By Karen Kevorkian
We are sitting in Tosca, where the once-sepia walls are edging toward Hershey Bar. On the walls are many studio stills of actors long gone, including a sequence of Nureyev as Nijinski in Afternoon of a Faun, that miserable film. But the dancing was something else, Nureyev humping that scarf.
They are not keeping their hands away from each other. The young man has a squarish body, rather pretty ears. She, of course, is her usual self, meaning as we walked over here, I could hear the men's necks snap, they turned their heads so fast. Though the truth is, her face is a little narrow, the chin just a hair long.
We're in one of the half-circle red banquettes, her in the middle. She leans on him. She leans on me. When she's canted in my direction, he torques his body to the extreme left, pulling away from her, though he keeps an arm around her waist, his expression some mix of apprehension and joy.
She is saying that last month when she was with Drew in New York and had learned she was pregnant, she wasn't feeling well, and while he was at work, the days would be long and lonely as she waited for him to return.
She would say: Hooray, Drew's coming home soon. And Peanut would say, Kill Daddy. You're mine.
Peanut was the size it looked on the ultrasound. Peanut wanted her to run away.
It would be just the two of them together.
The waitress, who is still doing Betty Page, hands us a little printed card about it being the State of California's law that there is to be no smoking in public places and that this establishment firmly endorses that law, then sets down an ashtray and leaves.
Tell me something about myself, she says. When I was little.
Her hand does something beneath the table in Drew's direction. He dives into her neck. My drink is finished, Tosca's usually lousy version of Irish coffee, bitter, tepid, flat cream, and a too small glass.
Two men come into the cafe wearing porkpie hats. Cool hats, I say.
Fifties is still in, she assures me.
I went to meet Drew's mother in Laguna Beach, she says, and she showed me videos. I'd look at photographs of baby Drew, then see him on film.
I nod like I know what's expected of me. Drew looks alert.
She was a creative child, I begin. Whatever she had at hand, she'd invent a story. Two stones and a toothpick. Always a drama.
Tell him about the bunny suit.
She was in a play in a park. We lived in Virginia then and it was a hundred degrees and they'd put her in a rabbit suit, her little nose colored black, her little face shining with sweat out of the fur.
Already suffering for my art.
And the cats. She dressed them up in costume jewelry, rhinestones and pearls. It was as if, being her cats, of course they were embellished.
I fall silent.
It's been a long time.
Drew's mom has videos and I dressed the cats?
Well, here's a story about you and your sister. There were two of you, right? And I only had two hands. And you squalled, what a screamer. So I'd pick you up and there she would be, still lying in the crib, a little hopeful smile on
I'm getting into the story now, laying one hand on my heart, swearing I've blamed myself for everything that's happened since then. But laughing, of course, while swearing.
And you wouldn't shut up. See this arm?
I crook my right arm.
You lived there. I could never put you down.
Oh thanks. Now I'm hearing I ruined my sister's life.
Drew's expression is a little alarmed.
I try laughing. She tries, too.
You had a lot of fits, I say.
She turns to Drew.
What is this? Payback? I ask for fuzzy stories and I get, You had a lot of fits?
Even with Drew sitting there, I finally ask, So what are you two doing? Are you staying in L.A.? Moving to New York?
We've been talking.
She leans close -- a stage whisper. I tell him I want to see a ring on that finger.
Joking? Serious? I look at Drew.
He shrugs, takes a drag off his Marlboro.
It's not impossible, he says.
What with Peanut, she says, I half wanted it, the whole package-- but then I thought I must be crazy. Some part of me didn't want any of that. You understand?
Oh yes, I understand.
I want a little dog.
It's one of those silvery August nights in San Francisco, the fog blowing in thick as sleet, blurring streetlights. A tonalist photograph, the city's sentimental version of itself, ready for tourists. Drew, of course, dividing himself transcontinentally as he's been doing since they started to see each other, wears no coat. She has on a leather jacket and, bare-legged, is wearing those silly shoes with the giant platforms since, of course, technically, it's summer.
I'd debated about whether to put on a long or a short wool jacket. Gesture to summer by putting on a short one.
You look great, she says to me.
Do I? Today a woman on the phone said to me she was saying to her husband she'd run into me, but couldn't remember my name, and she said to him, Oh, you know, the sexy one, and he knew exactly who she meant.
The sexy one? she says. *
Karen Kevorkian has published poetry and fiction in numerous journals, including Fiction International, Massachusetts Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Antioch Review. She was awarded the Mississippi Review's Annual Fiction Prize in 1997 and 2000, and has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Djerassi Artist Program. She lives in San Francisco, where she edits and produces exhibition catalogues for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.