portion of the artwork for Ian Sanquist's fiction
Ian Sanquist

Francesca was a beautiful woman, an intelligent woman. She smelled expensive, like Tuscany, or as I would imagine Tuscany to smell. She wore long silver earrings and golden bracelets, and dressed in scarves, in veils, in colors: she dressed like she knew she deserved a piece of the world. All my friends have babies, she complained one night while we dined in her father’s restaurant, pouting over her pasta Bolognese. Don’t let it worry you, Francesca. She knew the aphorisms of Voltaire, she said she’d had a one-night stand with one of Rilke’s angels. We met at a bus stop one day when she asked me for a cigarette. She told me her parents owned two restaurants and we could eat for free at either of them. She said she could read palms, so I gave her my hand. She told me that I was lonely, but that I would live long because I was lucky. Is that really luck, Francesca? On the terrace of her father’s restaurant, she took my hands and placed them on her hips and said, Dance. If you remember nothing else, remember this, as though we were waltzing through some charmless millionaire’s sexual fantasy. When she got depressed or agitated, she would take Valium with red wine and tell me all about her years from fifteen to nineteen: a porno theater at the end of time. A collection of torn photographs: car accidents, stabbings, malignant growths, unprotected sex. A place where no one played it safe. A place where everything was for sale, but coming up on its expiration date. She wanted to be a nurse in the next world war, but in the meantime she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. When she needed money she worked in one of her parents’ restaurants. When I came around, she fed me bread and marmalade. When we were alone, she turned off all the lights so we could see each other with our hands. All my friends have babies, she complained. She said she’d been pregnant once, but the timing had been wrong, so she’d had to get rid of it. I didn’t know what to say. We got dressed in our best clothes and pretended we were at a party. We got drunk on wine and jazz, and made totally superfluous speeches to each other. I woke up on the floor with Francesca dozing next to me. She murmured something about disquietude, or flower arrangements. I felt like getting high. I felt like having my blood replaced with Bordeaux. I felt like sucking darkness from the hearts of anyone who would tell me their confessions, and hitching rides down broken highways, leaving a trail of broken detectives, worn out from their contempt, or fear. One night Francesca put her head on my chest, and put her lips around my nipple, and told me, This is the part of you I want to suck. Which part, Francesca? Your heart, she said. I’ll suck your heart, baby.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 36 | Spring 2012