An Online Literary Journal
Finnerty is from Queens, NY and for the time being lives on the
northeastern tip of Los Angeles. She has a B.A. from NYU and an M.F.A.
from CalArts. She is working on her second novel.
by Sara Finnerty
know I’ll see Kiko on the street before I actually see him. There will
be connect-the-dot arrows hovering in the air, transparent, so they
don’t interfere with people walking. Sometimes I think the dots are
green, but they could be red. If I look at the connect-the-dots in a way
that means I don’t care if I see them or not, they smudge into lines
and join together to show me where Kiko is. An arrow will curve around
the corner, or into the passenger seat of a car, or point down one
block, over two, into the back of a deli where Kiko will be getting an
Italian ice from the cooler. The dots show me other people too but these
days I don’t pay attention to much besides Kiko.
ask for Kiko’s number and call him because I think he is sexy and all
these dots and arrows must mean he’s my soul mate. They must. I eat an
apple while I talk to him on the phone to give the impression that I am
both nonchalant and healthy.
see each other almost every night during that summer I turn fourteen.
First we walk and walk all night, smoking cigarettes and eventually we
get to lying around on the grass in my backyard and floating. I like to
swoosh my hand over the cool grass underneath him, cool even though his
body has just been pressing against it. When I float, he runs his hands
not over the grass but my feet, my calves, the backs of my knees, my
back, my neck. It feels good to be touched. Better than flying.
on the grass, we look at the big black evergreens until they turn to
tree shaped holes in the sky. I wonder if the backyard trees have always
been holes. I trace a hole with my finger and one eye closed.
“Kiko,” I say, “who ripped the sky out?” and I can still almost
hear the tears through the air.
kisses my neck until I am mush enough to kiss back. I say I can’t do
all this kissing and rubbing because I’ll fall for you. When I do fall
in love with him, he says girls are weak because they always have to
start feeling things. He doesn’t need to float and he doesn’t need
to see holes in the sky.
gets to be that when I know he is around a corner, I ignore the arrows.
I turn around
and walk the other way.
and walk the other way.
next summer, Nate finds me. Nate was born in Story, Oregon and if you
walk a straight line through the country from his coast to mine, you’d
end up in Story, NY, where I was born. While I remain in my Story, he
moves from his to Wyoming, Utah, Texas, Canada and Wyoming again, which
is when I meet him online when we are fifteen. This is my first summer
with a computer, which my parents put on a tiny wooden desk in the
hallway between the bathroom and the kitchen. I spend my nights in
chatrooms, listening to my Mom’s staticy records, which transport me
to a parallel lonely place that divides me up and makes me feel not so
screen name is Nothing, and when we get to typing he says:
Nothing: I know you
SallyHere: Oh yeah? How’s that.
Nothing: I know what’s in your freezer.
SallyHere: Right. What’s in my freezer then?
Nothing: Only four things. Frozen chicken, Turkey Hill Mint Chocolate
Chip Ice Cream, chocolate frozen popsicle sticks and cookies. You put
the cookies in there, because you like them frozen.
I shove the chair back and get down on my knees, thinking he can see me
through this new, strange computer. I crawl over to the freezer and
press my back against the cabinets and open the freezer drawer with my
foot. There they are- all four items and nothing more. I poke my head
over the kitchen counter and look out through the open window, sure that
he is a sniper in a tree across the street, aiming at me with one hand
and typing on a computer leaning against a branch with the other.
eventually get to talking on the phone. Every time he calls, in these
days before Caller ID, I pick up the phone and say, “Hey Nate,”
because the phone ring sounds like him. We like to play “Psychic
Diary,” a game where we open up our journals, pick a date and say,
“OK, what happened to me on June 12th, 1992?” We close
our eyes and see each other’s day. Every time he sees the day written
out in my journal, I squeal and collapse on my bed. When I see his past,
I never completely believe that I have gotten it right.
we try the future.
what will happen tomorrow?”
meet a girl.” I say. “With long legs and black hair down to her
butt. I’ll be jealous.”
does and I am. Then his mom takes him driving all over the country to
follow God. He sends postcards from everywhere and I am terrified he
will show up at my door. What do you say face to face to someone who can
read your mind? But he never does.
years later, when I am seventeen, the phone rings and the muscles in my
arms and the back of my neck hear in the ring that it is him so I pick
up and say, “Hey Nate.”
hear his laughing. “Sally. We still got it. They don’t believe
me.” Nate is in a mental institution. There are little cars following
him around, tiny little cars that sometimes crash against his feet. He
thinks his mom is driving the cars and he was God all along.
not sure how wrong or right he is.
meet Billy Doon on my Math class desk and we fall in love inside of it.
One day I notice “Math Suckssss”
written on the top left corner of the desk in blue ink. The s’s
trail down the top of the desk into spirals. I write underneath the
final spiral, “I hate math tooooo,” each O
bigger than the last. The next day, I scan the desk even before I sit
down, and there it is, inside my last, largest O:
“so let’s make it interesting.”
When we fill up the top of the desk with our pen and pencil notes, we
start leaving pieces of paper in the desk, then letters. His letters are
sweet, playful and a little flirtatious and make Math my favorite time
figure out, through sly detective work, that Desk Boy is Billy Doon, a
senior, six foot something with a bald head that sticks up over everyone
else’s in the hallways of our high school. He is that rough brand of
bad boy that you think might end up in jail, so bad that you could never
just go up and talk to him. I can’t believe my luck. He gives me
drawings when we pass each other in the hallways. They are real bad boy
pictures with blood, guns and graffiti but they are for me. And even
though we can just hand them to each other, we keep leaving the letters
in our math desk.
school one day, he comes up to me, baseball hat pulled down low over his
eyes, wet and pink like he’s been crying. “I thought you were
different. I heard what you said about me. Everyone thinks I’m a fuck
up but I thought- not you, not you.”
It is that not you that I will
remember the most.
try to explain that I don’t know what he’s talking about and it is
more words than I’ve ever said to him.
thought it would be different with you, Sal. Something weird happens
whenever you’re around. I thought you knew me. There’s something
with us.” He says ‘us’ like its really important.
do know you,” I say even though I don’t know him at all except for
the letters and that he’s so tall.
me something you know.” He looks at me with those blue eyes that make
me want to choke. Billy is standing so close and I feel like I’m
getting sucked into his eyes and forgetting that there is any sort of
gravel beneath my feet.
“Blue. The door.”
your room.” When I bend my neck back to look up at him, the brim of
his hat elongates over my head and widens over the both of us. Inside
his hat there is nothing but his face and mine. His eyes move down
closer to me and this makes me feel like I’m not me anymore. I am this
vessel he is looking at, expecting to know things about him, and then I
“You want to be more violent.”
When I feel his fingers on my neck, I know he is going to kiss me
and this makes me want to pee myself. I concentrate on not doing so and
one last thing comes out of my mouth:
face gets hard and not relaxed and kissy like it was.
steps away. “I should leave you alone.”
brim of his hat retracts. Kids are moving around my periphery. There are
sounds and colors all around us now.
I’m shit, I’m done for. I don’t want the guilt of fucking you up.
Which I will.” And he leaves and won’t talk to me after that except
for little nods and little smiles and then he graduates. Once he is
gone, I think I see him in the halls or on street corners or in passing
cars. His blue eyes and the brim of his hat become what I think about
when I feel too empty because he isn’t there anymore.
really do see him on the street, years later. I cross the street to hug
him but he steps back, his body and face hard just like that day and he
doesn’t say a word. I wonder if it had all been in my head, if I’d
just imagined everything.
works repairing computers and says college isn’t for him. He is good
at what he does, he says, because the computers like him. You have to
care about them like a person, not curse and hit them. They tell him
what’s wrong and he fixes them.
One night, we are parked by a river and making out. He bunches my
clothes and skin between his fingers and wiggles his tongue in my mouth.
Then he pulls away and looks down at me, worried. He says, “I got a
bad feeling Sal, we’re gonna go.” I roll my eyes. I am nineteen and
I figure I am too old for psychic nonsense. He is even older. He should
next day we see on the television that a couple was shot dead in that
parking lot. It wasn’t us, and it wasn’t me who had the bad feeling.
It was all him. I didn’t feel anything at all.
go out without him one night and meet another boy. I don’t like this
other boy, but at the time I think the only way to feel free is to make
my body free to anyone who wants it.
call Joey before I go to sleep and the first thing he says is, “You
cheated on me. I just know it.” And I lie. I lie and lie to keep him
because he wants me. I lie and my body is contorting, it is
constricting. That night I have nightmares. He is sucking the air from
my body. I am deflating.
him, I don’t know how but I want things to be right. I want to feel
however I did before there were ever boys.
daydream that Derek is my childhood neighbor, and that we are friends
that develop over the years into lovers because there is no better kind
of love. Our families know each other and in my fantasies I see his
hair, thick and dry. I imagine him as a child, playing stickball in the
street as I sit on my balcony pretending to play with my headless
Barbie. He looks up while he is at bat and watches me watching him. Then
I am older and he is in my bedroom and we are best friends now and know
everything about each other and I lose my virginity to him and it is
perfect and he will never leave me.
night, in the real world, Derek asks me to dance at a club. I look into
the face of my thick haired fantasy standing in front of me and he is
my neighbor, but his name isn’t Derek, it’s Luke. He lives on top of
me- we have both just moved into a giant apartment complex miles and
miles from the club. His family is from my mother’s small coastal
Alabama village and he is my fourth or fifth cousin, by marriage. He has
also dreamt of me, he says, and that is why he asked me to dance. He
says he has never had a dream come true before.
feel that this must be the end. I have found my dream boy. He has
structured cheekbones and a physical stature that makes me giddy. While
at work, I allow myself a few minutes at my desk every hour to close my
eyes and daydream of him only now it is all real. This time he isn’t
just a fantasy. I feel like clapping my hands all the time.
last for the duration of the Winter Olympics.
ask, “What happened?”
must’ve not been enough magic.” I am sarcastic about this, but I am
right. I have often mistaken one kind of magic for another.
am tired. I am tired of human skin and wanting bodies I can’t have. I
find Jin online for phone sex. He reads my mind word for word and this
makes me come over and over. It has never been easier.
want him to tell me to lie across the bed, my head hanging off the edge.
he says, “I have your head hanging off the edge of the bed…”
me over ...
I flip you over…”
I forget the whole world because the whole world is you.
you forget the whole world because I am everything there is.”
thought that flitters through my head comes out of his mouth while I
move my fingers against myself.
is wonderful, for weeks. But soon Jin stops calling.
I assume he found a real girlfriend.
fantasize about a Christopher because I like the name. I say it over and
over to myself. I think, for the last few weeks it has been Christopher. Christopher.
I meet him at a bar and he says, “I’ve been dreaming about you.” I
take this as a horribly cheesy line. And even if it were true, I’ve
learned my lesson. Dreams that come true don’t end up meaning
anything, not really. I pick up my drink to walk away.
He hooks me in by asking if I think football is more egalitarian and
baseball more capitalistic.
say, hesitating between walking away and standing there,
“Baseball has no time constraints. There’s always hope and
much more room for miracles.” I can see now that this is the moment he
decides to take me. He imagines I am really talking about him. He thinks
I can give him a miracle.
don’t pause at work or in bed to daydream about Christopher. I think
it is about time to grow up and that there is no such thing as
fairytales. I only want for it to work and try to convince myself I am
not making a mistake staying with him. But he knows when to reassure me
and just the right words to say. It seems he can understand any idea,
feeling or thought I have. This feeling of being known can lead you to
overlook many things. I later learn that there are other girls on the
side and once I know, I can see, see all the things I hadn’t seen
before. Everything behind me is a tangled mess I can’t make sense of.
But I can see that it is there.
shows up months later down on a knee with a wedding ring, which is when
I finally understand. You don’t marry someone just because they ask,
and there are things you can’t ever forget. He says, “But no one
understands me the way you do and no one will ever get you the way I
do.” I can see that even if it’s just a line, a lie, or a
manipulation, it’s still a little bit true.
is when I know that with these boys there have been dreams coming true,
dots in the air, fantasies that show up in real life, mind reading and
floating off the ground. There has been magic in my life. But not the
two years, I live in a little, slanted one room apartment. I can only
put bookcases against one wall, because they would fall otherwise. I
cook in the tiny kitchen and dance in my underwear because no one can
see me. Sometimes I think of a person’s face, and then they call, or I
hear their voice in my head and see them minutes later, and these things
make me feel like I am doing something right. They are not messages for
me to interpret. They don’t mean anything in particular. They are
connect the dot arrows pointing me along.
One night in my little apartment I am masturbating and I see a nose. At
the appearance of the nose, I think, “Can you love someone with this
nose?” And right away I answer: Yes. For a second, I see the rest of
the face that the nose is attached to.
has been so long I don’t recognize it for what it is until the next
night. My friends make me go to a bar, though I insist you can only meet
cheating liars at bars but they unzip my sweater and tell me, “Stick
your boobs out. You’re beautiful.”
And there he is, standing at the bar. The man with the nose. I am
reluctant to say or do anything. I can just let a dream be a dream. But
I tap him on the shoulder and say hello, I’m Sally. He reaches his
hand out and says, “Jake” with a big smile. We talk until the bar
closes, and when it’s time to go, I already have my number written on
a piece of paper, hidden in my hand.
is leaving with his friends and I am leaving with mine. “So, Sally,
can I call you?”
produce the piece of paper and when he takes it from my hand, his
fingers rest against mine for longer than what is normal. This means he
likes me. He calls the next day.
On our first date we eat sandwiches and go for a walk through a
street fair. He asks, “Why me? Why did you come up to me at the
watch a group of kids throw darts at balloons. I could lie. Or he could
think I’m crazy.
“I had a dream about you the night before.”
He laughs and doesn’t know whether to believe me.
Later we are sitting at a bar having a drink and I get up to go
to the bathroom. Before I stand all the way up I kiss him and I feel
like I am falling though the floor. His hands on my waist steady my body
but not the whooshing air in my lungs.
For three weeks I tell myself we are only sleeping together. By
the fourth week he has moved in. I feel like I have always known him,
all of this time.
is no floating above grass. Jake can read my face but not my thoughts.
Sometimes I don’t understand him at all, and he doesn’t know the
right configuration of words to say that will open his mind to mine. But
he makes up stories for me when I can’t sleep, and lowers the TV or
radio when I say something, and sometimes while he drives I look out the
window and we are both quiet in our thoughts.
Four years appear and disappear like puffs of smoke but then we
are breathing the same air for too long and it makes me hate him for the
pimple on his neck so I leave. I tell him I need to think.
am gone for two weeks. When I come back, he has cleaned the apartment.
He has done the laundry. He has cooked dinner. He has put my mail into a
pile. He is happy to see me. He is not scared that I will leave for
says, “You dreamed about me and then came up to me at that bar. You
are exactly like an angel for me.” I try to explain that dreams coming
true don’t mean anything. But he shrugs and says there is no way to
know, is there?
sit on the couch and I bury my cold toes under his butt. I show him the
sand dollars I found on the beach while I was gone, and tell him that I
wished he were there when I picked them off the sand.
is magic, I think. When two people want each other every day.
But, then, there is still me, myself, who still sees connect the dots in the air and sometimes, when I am walking alone, the whole world holds still to let leaves crackle and bounce across the street.
|copyright 2010, Los Angeles
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