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photo of deformed fingernail

I had seen her at parties before, squinting around with that smile on her face, as if she was on some medication that made her too happy, too facially contorted. My friends made fun of her teeth and her haircut. She was taking photos of people's fingers and hands. She said it was for a magazine. Her dress looked like it was made of paper towels.
      "You gave me your phone number once," she told me by the bookshelf.
     I was always hovering around bookshelves. It made me feel prepared for conversation. I couldn't remember her name. It was Jule-something. Julianne, Juliette, Julee.
     "Can I take your picture?" she asked. "Just your hands."
     I looked at my hands. The fingernail on my left-hand middle finger was grown in weird, a result of an accident in eighth grade. I showed it to her.
     "You should get a focus on this one, it's sort of deformed."
     She tried to snap a photo but her batteries were drained. She pulled a Polaroid camera out of her bag. "I won't be able to get a good close-up of it, but I want a shot of you." The camera flashed and the photo came out of the front like a slow tongue. She walked away and talked with someone else for a few minutes. I could see the photo between her fingers, by her side as she talked, fading into existence. She came back with the photo. It looked like I was flipping her off. "Is this the way you want to represent yourself," she asked.
     I looked at the photo. It wasn't so bad. It had more of me than my hands.
     "You can't really see my fingernail," I said.
     "It's okay," she said. "I like it. I'm going to put it on my door."
     I gave her some sort of look. A look that said, What kind of door? She gave me a look back, as if to say, You know what kind of door.

on your bed

I'm trying to remember last night. It comes to me like shrapnel.
     Sitting in the booth at the bar, you told me about the drunk girl in the bathroom, the one with olive skin. "She has all this wild black hair," you said, pointing her out at the next table.
     "Let's take her home," I said. But you were shy.
     "I haven't had sex in over three years," you told me earlier. You knocked over your bottle of beer as if you didn't care. "I'd rather take her home and watch you have sex with her," she said. "Let's just stare at her for a while."
     Not only was there this conversation, but there were others, more sobering. When we were at your house later, kissing on your bed, you asked, "What if you were one of ten guys? I mean, would you care?"
     I tried to be honest, but creative. I tried to think of an abstract sort of truth. "I can't have all of you," I said, and I knew it was abstract enough, true enough.
     We wrestled on the bed.
     "I hate men," you said. "I wish I was a guy, then I could separate sex from my emotions."
     "That's not the way it always works," I told you.
     "You have to leave in twenty minutes," you said. It was getting late into the night, early in the morning, the exact time when it seems like you could wake up the whole city with one good scream.



two fictions