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Sailors by Genevieve Field  

It’s the fourth of July so everything is burnt and everyone has a dry mouth they’ll make a job of keeping wet. It’s 104 in the shade so there is no shade. My high-heeled sandals beguile me, collapsed in the corner of my bedroom like broken ankles. I strap them on and we are no longer broken. We catch a cab and take it to the Lower East Side and climb twelve flights to the roof. We weave a little at the top, shallow-fucking the sweaty tar with each step toward my friends, Cintra and Melvin, in matching sailor suits. The cute bastards are kissing, Cintra’s platinum pigtails tied in star-spangled ribbons, swinging. Melvin’s black-dyed spikes won’t let the sailor cap sit. Sweet. And that’s not sarcasm talking. What kind of gargoyle-heart would begrudge a dominatrix and once-junkie their cute? Not mine, though I’m told it’s been carved a funny shape. I’m from the suburbs, yes, okay. My friends admire my efforts to run the other way: rope tattoo healing pretty around my wrist, prophylactic tank in black, kleenex-thin skirt (waxed waxy under that). “Look.” Cintra points. It’s my date, on top of the water tower, having a smoke. He hasn’t met Cintra and Melvin, but they know him because they are good listeners. “Didn’t I say he looked like a lion, minus the mane and muscle?” “Yes, you did, honey.” He delights me as much as the shoes did before I put them on. The shoes climb to him, slipping a little on the metal rungs. Someone’s built a deck up there, it’s scattered with butts. He adds one, lights another. His eyes are a dry gold fire hazard, when they crinkle they might spark. But like the mouth around his cigarette, their smile is narrow. I wipe his brow like a humid window and run the sweat through his hair. It would be gentle to hold his hand, so I kneel and place it between my legs instead. “It’s me and the shoes,” I say. “Together we are possessed.” “You mean repressed,” he teases. “This is repressed?” “Yeah.” It’s our fifth date, counting one apology over drinks. “Let’s fuck right here then.” “You’re sad,” he says, “I have to find the bathroom.” On his T-shirt, a picture of a gun. “Go then, I think there’s a place up the street like fifty blocks.” He shakes his cub-head and takes the ladder in a step and a jump. Down on the rooftop his shoulders square and the crowd unzips. He pauses to admire a halter-topped girl passing out firecrackers and other dangerous favors; he slides through the trap-door floor. I kick off the shoes, lie back and watch the smog blush redder than this. Cintra and Melvin climb up and lie down on either side of me. She presses a cold beer to my cheek and the three of us hold hands, flinching together when the bottlerockets start to explode. I don’t have to tell them what else has walked away.

©1999 Genevieve Field and