A Harmless Little Fuck
The next week they sent Veronica to the Boston branch by herself, though they’d
discussed sending Van along. She hadn’t been to Boston since college. The
man who sat next to her on the second leg would not say a word to her. She’d
been on dozens, perhaps hundreds, of planes but this time repeated The Lord’s
Prayer to herself both legs of the flight, and at the airport in between. Had
even written out a short will on Crane stationary and left it in her safe deposit
box. Jewelry to
so-and-so, dogs to so-and-so, journals to Dylan. She wanted him to know
her. She’d spent every day for almost two decades talking to him
in her head, pretending he was with her.
Landing, it looked like they were still in the water as the plane skidded to
the ground. Her hotel was nearby, and plain, on the curve of a highway
with only a gas station. An hourly airport shuttle took her right back
to the airport after she’d unpacked, where the subway took a seven-minute
shot to the city.
She walked through the Markets, didn’t go in any stores, and then into
Boston Common. Most of the trees were still green, a couple turning gold. At
a restaurant on the other edge, she had soup and wine and read.
After her early meeting, she spent all afternoon walking around Cambridge, hoping
she might run into Klein. About six-thirty, she walked down the steps to
the dark bar where they’d once gone, and drank beer, the only beverage
served. She heard male Italian voices get into a fight in the kitchen,
a couple of “fuck you”s thrown about. Klein didn’t show
She took the train back to Boston, and went looking for the street of Italian
restaurants. She found a small one without too many people, sat at a tiny,
low table near the bar, and ordered a pitcher of wine. The waiter said he couldn’t
serve a pitcher to one person, that it had to be by the glass. An older,
heavy guy sitting at the bar turned a little and told the waiter the pitcher
on him, and turned back. She called, “Thank
you,” but he didn’t acknowledge it. The waiter soon returned
with the pitcher and one glass, and she ordered the carbonara.
Veronica watched the man. She thought she probably knew his situation and
was afraid he’d know hers if she sat with him. Sitting alone, being
alone was fine, preferable, though she’d wondered what might have happened
had Van been along on this trip. She and her husband were spending
more time apart but Veronica wasn’t sure if she had the energy to divorce
The pasta was rich. She had most of it boxed up after she finished the
wine, then tipped the waiter almost $30, and left without thanking the man again. She
found a bar a few streets over, and bought beer from a cocky bartender. He
mostly ignored her and she thought about what it would be like to have sex with
him, make him pay attention, but she regretted the Jamaican and didn’t want
to cheat on her husband
again. Veronica took the subway and shuttle back to the hotel. She
had a few more bites of her dinner, and didn’t set the radio/alarm, knowing
she’d be miserable in the morning.
At about two the next afternoon, she found a place still serving brunch in the
city, and had eggs Benedict over sirloin, and three glasses of champagne. After
brunch she walked off the last trace of hangover. It was sunny and cool. From
an observation platform on top of a skyscraper she studied the airport. Its
tiny peninsula was almost symmetrical, curved like a genie’s lamp, two
long runways creating a tall X across the bottom half, the ends at the water.
When she got back to the hotel an attractive man about her age was sitting in
the lobby. She got into the elevator and they stared at each other as the
doors shut. On the fourth floor, the keycard didn’t work in her door,
and she took the elevator back down. She didn’t look at him when
she went to the front desk, said her room number and that her key wasn’t
working. Back in the elevator, she looked at
him, and he was still looking at her. He knocked on her door a few minutes
after she got back into the room, and she let him in for a little while. After
the stranger left she got leftover pasta from the mini-fridge, finished it cold,
and went to bed.
The plane left at six the next morning, and she slept on the first leg. On
the second leg, she talked most of the flight to the man next to her. She
hadn’t showered, and her eyes were bloodshot, she knew. She was surprised
when he said his age; he looked much younger. He had family in Phoenix,
his daughter had just had a baby, he said, and he suggested coffee, or a drink. Toward
the end of the flight he nodded off in airplane sleep for a few minutes, accidentally
leaning on her.
As they got off the plane she walked away from him, though saw him again, standing
with a girl and a baby, as they all waited for their bags to circle.
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