portion of the artwork for Vallie Lynn Watson's fiction

A Harmless Little Fuck
Vallie Lynn Watson

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 up.

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 was 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 him.

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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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 34 | Fall 2011