Editor's Note





Contributors' Notes

What Mary Said

Mary said—

"It is the right of every human to see that her humanity remains, and, as I said, the moron who hit my car should be subjected to vehicular violence. Not assault—but we should plunge our keys into his paintjob, feel the chills clamber up our spines, hear that metal on metal sound, that anthem of revenge."

—which is not a direct quote, but something of a misquote—the best I remember it. The parking lot was wedged between the buildings and the winter rain was sifting down on us as we stood and looked at the damage, bending over sometimes, running our hands over the dent, checking the metal for signs of foreign paint. There were none. I said something about what a great date it had been (and it had been), and I had said what a great date it had been many, many times, so that when I said it this time she gave a quarter-smile and looked back at the damage. We looked at the cars around us, looked for wounds of the fresh kind, metal recently stressed. We don't have this type of perception, especially me since, while this was happening, I was holding in a fart, squeezing, concentrating. I had to get distance between us and so I went to the cars at the far end of the lot where I let it out, slow. Then I saw a car with damage and waited a moment and then called Mary over. We bent and traced the wrinkled metal with our hands. We thought we saw the purple paint from her car in the crumpled topography. We wanted to see it there, too.

Mary said—

"What are you waiting for? Humanity must be restored to the fore, as I said, so dig into the metal with your keys and write 'bitch.' Or 'cocksucker,' more appropriately, because of the presence of a bumper sticker that reads 'Go Tigers,' which is a very male thing to adhere to the bumper of one's car."

—which is probably another misquote, but the best I remember it since at the time my heart made my brain stupid and I kept saying "Great blind date!" as I carved out the word and almost spelled it wrong. How embarrassing if I had! Instead, I nailed it, and my keymanship was quite good, but you could barely read it anyway: silver lines on a silver car in the silver rain. Then I looked at her, at her preponderance of beauty and I think that is when it became impossible to ever forget her. So I leaned in and kissed her while the precipitation precipitated and the air between us was pushed through the tiny spaces in our clothes to our skin—to our hot, dry skin.

What a boon for me! I recall that I heard, through the mash and blur of traffic, the tinny sound of trumpets. That night I planned to lead Mary through the maze of dentistry magazines in my living room and usher her toward the bedroom—meticulously scrubbed and perfumed, sanitized and disinfected. She would smell the roses, the Lysol—a little too strong perhaps, since the air in there is so close and thick. But she would recognize the married fragrance of love and cleanliness, of romance and the utter absence of mold. And she too would hear the trumpets clear their golden throats.

Instead, our embrace ended when the car's back door opened and out stepped a man who looked as if he had a weapon. But the weapon sprung open to be a tattered umbrella and the man laughed and said, "What is it, Mary?" and Mary screamed in my ear. Then they had a brief exchange, which, in my mind, implied a prior intimate relationship.

Mary spoke—

"I knew there was familiarity with this vehicle and the "Go Tigers" bumper sticker! But why do you follow me, trap me in dark alleys, ram my feminine car with your masculine one?"

—not entirely accurate, I'm afraid. But I was bloated with fear and the steak dinner digesting inside me. I was wondering why he didn't jump out when he heard me scratching on his paint, and what he would do now that he was before us. He was a lumpy man, smaller than I. But his brow was wrinkled with hot anger and his eyes rolled over me from foot to face.

Mary said—

"Donald, unless the light errs, you've been drinking again. Why do you continue this liver-first self-destruction?"

This is precise. He smiled, bright teeth sparkling in the streetlight. The wind picked up and settled down. A tiny horn sounded in the wet distance.

"Away, boy," he said and pushed me. We began a scuffle that ended on the asphalt. He poked my eyes with his knotty fingers, bit my thigh until I screamed. I tried to mar his teeth in some way. Mary watched us grapple without comment and soon we separated and she came between us. I remember her shoes—black, wet, sharp.

Mary said—

"I'm going to have to go have a talk with Donald, Denis."

—God bless her. I could feel the heat from the streetlights, as minute as it was, and the grain of the blacktop etching its pattern into my skin. I could feel every place where my clothes touched me. Her leaving felt as natural and inevitable as a cough welling up deep within one's chest. I lay there. The black sky was spitting water down on me, each drop infected with tiny shards of light.

I lifted myself. I dusted myself off. Despite the burning cold air, I felt like fighting more, pulling his hair, twisting his balls. But already they were together—two bodies that knew each other, that shared some gravity, some orbit that I will never know. When they exhaled, a single cloud of condensation formed and lifted itself above the sloshing city. There is nothing a man like me can do to a pair like that. There is no way to prepare, to cry, to force. There is only the lying down after.

Mary said nothing as they walked away, leaving their cars to my protection. I said "Great blind date" one last time and ripped into her purple car, ugly metal grinding beautiful metal, anthem of revenge, only anthem I have.