Why would they put that story at the back of the book? He flipped to page 137. The binding was stiff, as though the book hadn’t ever been opened.
My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right.
Doug hadn’t ever read the story. He reached in and brought out the money he had left.
He looked at it. He flipped back to the cover and read the price on the inside. $5.50.
He needed a shower which would cast another three at the YMCA. He went toward the counter and put a ten dollar bill on the counter with the book. Dickhead at the counter wrinkled his nose as if Doug had a horribly unsavory smell–he probably did, but he also probably smelled a lot better than when he had been wearing his other clothes. The clothes that were now swirling in the machine.
They guy gave him back $4.06.
“Thanks,” said Doug.
Dickhead didn’t speak or make any kind of acknowledgment that Doug had.
“Uh, you got a bookmark?” asked Doug, because he wanted Dickhead to acknowledge him.
The guy grabbed something from behind the counter and tossed it down for Doug.
“Thank you so much,” said Doug, ironically.
The guy with a knitted brow nodded without a smile.
Doug left and crossed the street over to the laundromat. Someone else was there now. A woman by the look of her thin shoulders–her back was turned. She was scooping clothes into a washer. Doug took a seat on a chair by the door. The smell of wet and dry and detergent was all around him. He opened the book to What We Talk about when We Talk about Love, smoothed out the spine, stretching it so the pages would lay flat and read–My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right. Before words jarred him out of his revery.
“Hey, what are you reading?”
Doug looked up. It was the girl. The one he’d seen early that morning near the fake grass at the new towering apartments. Now that he actually looked at her, Doug wondered how he’d ever mistaken her for a young man. Her shoulders were too narrow, her hips too wide, her bare arms protruding from her short sleeves too smooth and milky.
Doug held up the book.
“Cool,” she said. “I’ve never read it.”
Doug raised his eyebrows. “Me either,” he said, pointedly.
The woosh-woosh of the machines washing was all the existed for a moment. The smell of detergent painfully obvious to Doug–a reminded of how he didn’t smell clean.
“I saw you in front of my apartment,” said the girl. “Tugging on the fake grass.”
“That’s right,” said Doug.
“Were you hung over?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Yeah.” Doug gave the book a little flourish, a not-so-subtle hint.
“Where do you sleep?” asked the girl
Doug looked up at here. That short, mousy hair, all messed around like she’d just gotten out of bed.
“Are you a student at the university?” asked Doug.
“Yeah,” she said.
“Hmm,” said Doug. “Interesting.”