Say this out loud: prof-yes-or. Prof-yes-or. That's what she sounded like when she said the word "professor." She was this blonde fair skinned freckled ball of chaos and exotica in a biology class of 200 at NMSU. She had moved to the states after her parents had both been jailed for something. Her uncle fought for two years to remove her from the (then) USSR, from a town outside of Moscow. He'd "emigrated" or defected or something back in the 1960s. With careful bribes and even more careful application of dogged diplomacy, he had her plucked from a Cuban house where she'd been the guest of a military man on leave.
She had a bored look. Under a knit cap with her blonde hair as long as a daydream she had this quality like a used battered Barbie doll, those onjes with the arms missing, legs akimbo. Lines around her eyes at 22 because her uncle had extracted rent for the last ten years in flesh and sweaty pained embarassing gropings in the middle of dark muffled Phoenix nights. Her intro to Am-year-ica, land of the free. She was born with one arm shortened and twisted, fingers stunted, and she paid no attention to it though everyone else did. Like a crack in a statue, a burned painting, your eyes pulled to it. One night after a bottle of something noxious, Nick and I were trying to figure out the quickest way to her heart and she said her uncle was a good man, but his flesh made him weak and stupid. She said his core, his soul was good. He would have made a fine coffeetable, she said. A decent antelope. He would have been a fine fish, a sturdy tree.
Quiet conversations post-blowout drunken bash. We sat staring at the blue light from the muted television flickering violence across the all-too-deserted livingroom floor, littered with empties and drunken passed out bodies. Nick got up mumbling, crawled under the kitchen table, passed out.
I offered her a cigarette and we got up and walked outside. It was November cold, deep clear blue black sky right to the edge of the universe. She told me, the stars in Arizona are beautiful, saying it "bee-you-ti-fyul" and eyes lighting in a way that made me hurt. I lit her cigarette, snapped the zippo shut. The world raced by on I-25 in the distance. The desert was quiet. Her head tilted back, she closed her eyes and smiled, a beautiful smile, pale and deep and full of earned joy.
She looked at me, smiling, one thin finger pushing hair out of my eyes. I smiled back, suddenly shy and heart racing. "You would make a good man," she told me. I smiled and reached for her hand. She turned to the desert.
"You and I, we're not going to do this," she said, still smiling, the phrase said clear and happy but with a weary edge. Tired. "Thanks for the party. I will see you." A wink. I walked her to her car. She not even drunk, just weary, driving slowly home. I staggered back to stale whiskey cigarette air, relieved somehow and disappointed and unsure. Alone but on fire.
We said hi a few times after that, sometimes talked about class. We had coffee once, coincidence. The conversation was quiet and familiar. We'd opened up all at once in the middle off a drunken cold night. There was little else to say.
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