Monday, August 21, 2006

Warm, by Victor Bornia


by Victor Bornia

My adventure with Angela began at 6:46AM, when she pulled me out of bed and towed me into the back yard. It was times like these that I was glad I slept in my boxer shorts, not nude like Angela's mommy. Can you imagine?

I had already awakened and was staring at the plastic clock on the nightstand, wondering what kind of creature it was supposed to look like. A panda bear? A skunk?

The grass out back needed mowing. Weeding, too. Angela's daddy wasn't here anymore, she'd told me, and it showed. Angela's mommy had also mentioned working double shifts, occasionally, to make ends meet. So it was understandable.

Where the garage used to be was an enormous cylindrical object with a mirror finish. It was, I estimated, at least fifty yards high. I know this because in high school I'd nearly run myself to death while competing in the fifty yard dash. Ever since then, "fifty yards" had been my baseline measurement whenever estimating anything of significant size. So it was at least that tall. I'd never seen anything like it.

I yawned, despite my lack of anything approaching boredom, at this point. It was just that Angela's mommy had kept me up quite late, had seemed determined to consummate our nascent relationship in as many different ways as possible, including one in particular that honestly had never occurred to me, and that I frankly didn't find particularly enjoyable, at least at first.

I knew that the large, shiny cylinder was exactly where the garage should be, because that was where I had parked my Toyota the night before. Angela's mommy had told me that street parking was impossible, to go ahead and park in the garage, next to her Honda. Her name was Patricia. She was a big woman, with bright eyes and large eyeteeth that made her look like a vampire when she laughed, which was often, and easy to bring about. We'd met at a traffic signal.

"Make it stop," Angela said, giving my hand a tug. Angela was, I estimated, seven years old, and was easily the most beautiful child I'd seen in my entire life. We'd met the night before, in the hallway outside the bathroom.

"Please." Angela added, remembering her manners.

Stop what, I thought, and then I heard it. A hiss of static, white noise with a high-pitched hum accompanying it. Not especially aggravating, to my dulled, middle-aged ears (I hadn't even noticed it, at first), but I could imagine a child might find it quite irritating.

"Wait... Was this here, before?" I asked, trying to prioritize. I could have been mistaken. After all, I had been in a bit of a hurry, knowing what was in store for me once I got inside the house. Patricia hadn't minced words. We'd flirted, I'd made her laugh, and she'd invited me home, just like that. When I'd found my way from the garage to the rear sliding glass doors, Patricia had greeted me naked. She didn't mention having a daughter, but why would she?

"Well, it wasn't here before, necessarily," Angela answered, having given it some thought.

"What? Wait, how...?" I looked around, increasingly alarmed. Angela squeezed my hand, brought me back.

"I mean yes, it was here. But so was the garage," she explained, then finished with a sad, amused gesture that acknowledged the uselessness of the statement. She shrugged, and absently pulled a leg up, behind her, an astonishing dancer's stretch.

"Where's the garage, then?" I asked, and looked around some more, hoping I'd find it. There's the patio, there's the sliding glass doors... Yes, it was right here last night, I was sure of it now.

"You're absolutely right," Angela assured me. By the time I could turn to give her a puzzled look, we were airborne.

It was chilly, even though it was still summer. I was wearing nothing more than my boxers, mind you, so the crisp morning air gave me goosebumps. My eyes were locked onto Angela's, and I hadn't noticed the ground dropping away until it already had. There was a breeze, higher up, and then it was still again. Warmer, when we were exposed to the early morning sun. I could feel it heating my skin.

Angela's face lit up, and she wiggled my hand. "You did it!" she whispered, and seemed quite pleased.

I wondered what she meant: Achieved loft? Or, stopped the noise? For it had indeed stopped. I shrugged, modest. I knew I hadn't done anything, really, but I'd learned long ago to never reject appreciation of any kind. I knew it was tough to come by. I turned and marveled at our fat, circus-mirror reflections on the curved surface of the gigantic cylinder. Angela and I, holding hands, against a backdrop of hazy morning sky.

Angela caught my eye, in the reflection, and I felt a surge of elation, suddenly wished that I was Angela's daddy, imagined a life together with the two of them, Patricia and Angela, a happy little family in a future no less likely than any other I'd imagined for myself, and decided that this was the future I wanted, over any other.

"She's not my mommy," Angela said. Or didn't say, exactly, but let me know, somehow.

"Oh. I'd just assumed," I replied aloud, and remembered finding the rear sliding glass doors open, last night, after Angela and I had met, outside the bathroom. I'd apologized for waking her, but Angela had assured me that I hadn't, that there was nothing to apologize for. "Not ever," she'd added, which stuck with me. Afterward, I'd closed the patio doors, and gone back to bed. Patricia woke when I returned, and started in again. It'd been quite a while, she explained, and I tried to keep things quiet, for Angela's sake.

Angela smiled and squeezed my hand, and suddenly I was quite curious about, well, pretty much everything.

And just as suddenly, I understood that there was a homeless man who had wandered into the alleyway behind Patricia's house, that he had taken advantage of the fact that Patricia didn't always close her garage door, or lock her Honda, and had taken shelter in her car.

I saw, too, that the man was Angela's father.

"But you told me last night that your daddy wasn't here, anymore," I said.

"He isn't," Angela replied, and we descended.

And I knew what Angela meant, that her father was from somewhere very far away, had somehow been stranded here. Angela had finally been able to come, to rescue him, because someone or something had suddenly made it possible. There was a chemical compound, something her father had been unable to replicate using earthly ingredients, but he'd finally found it, thanks to Patricia. There were traces of what he needed on the steering wheel of Patricia's Honda, and that was enough.

When I had arrived, last night, and pressed into Patricia's smooth, welcoming flesh, I'd asked her what that amazing scent was, coming from her. There was something extraordinary about it, difficult to describe. She'd laughed, embarrassed, and told me about a "tub of goop" they had, at the airport, how she'd accidentally lost a bracelet in it. It was an old family heirloom, Patricia said, and she'd been forced to dig for it, immersing her arms to the elbows to retrieve it. She'd washed immediately, and showered since, but no amount of scrubbing seemed to entirely eliminate it.

"No, I like it," I'd assured her.

"I know," She'd whispered, between kisses, while walking me to her bedroom. "Everybody does."

For a large woman, Patricia was extremely flexible. And those eyes, and those great big eyeteeth. I was suddenly quite positive that I loved Patricia, profoundly and completely.

And just then, I noticed that Angela was gone.

I was standing once again, near the garage. I opened the side door and checked inside. There was Patricia's Honda, and my Toyota. Just as I'd left them.

"What are you doing out there, silly?" asked Patricia, from the sliding glass doors.

I turned and there she was, big, naked and smiling.

"Marry me," I demanded.

Patricia laughed, then hugged herself against the chill. "Well maybe I will, cutie, maybe I will. Get back in here, I have to get ready for work. C'mon!"

I hurried back inside, and held her close.

"Mm, you're warm!" Patricia murmured, pressing my skin with her cool little hands. "How'd you get so warm?"

She huddled against me, and we continued right where we'd left off a few hours ago, only now right there on the carpet, next to her sliding glass doors.


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