Saturday, December 20, 2003

Things She Thought
by Jessica Delfino

"I don't know, I guess I like Diet Coke alright," she said as she swirled the contents of the cup around in her mouth. She only came to this thing to get the money that they give you for sitting through it and honestly didn't give a shit about Diet Coke or who their target market was or if she was involved in that market, which she was, or the fact that in 15 years she wouldn't be involved in that market anymore.

"OK." The man seemed very interested in every word she said. He wrote it down on a clipboard and nodded, his mouth partially open, his bottom teeth, crooked, peeking up over his bottom lip. "OK. Great," he said again after a minute. He turned his face back up toward her and stared at her intently, waiting for her to say anything else. She wanted to say something to freak him out. You know, ask him about his family or pretend to be a psychic for a second and give him a vague prediction about something that could have been true maybe and then spend the rest of the afternoon wondering if he was wondering about the prediction.

But she didn't. Instead, she took his cue and answered properly. "It's not my favorite kind of soda," she said.

"OK, then, what is?" He asked.

"I sort of like Fresca," she said.

"Mm-hmm...." he muttered and began scribbling again. He was left-handed which was kind of weird to her. She hadn't known many left-handeds in her life and no one in her family was a lefty. Left-handeds are weird, she thought to herself. She thought they were weird because when they wrote it seemed like their whole body wrapped around their left hand, like a mother trying to teach her child to ride a bike, as if it took more effort to use your left hand to write something. But there's no reason it would, is there? She thought about Leonardo Da Vinci and how she learned from her art teacher in grammar school that he could write perfectly using both hands. She remembered when she heard that thinking to herself, "So?"

Then, she went home that night and practiced for an hour writing her name with her left and her right hand, just to see if she could do it. Well, she couldn't. Everything that she wrote came out looking like she was writing it while riding on a train or a bus, some mode of public transportation, but not in a car. It would have been messier if she had been in a car, because the center of gravity is smaller and there's more shaking.

She finished her small plastic cup of soda and wondered what the guy interviewing her had wanted to be when he grew up. Certainly not a guy who asks questions about soda. Right? Certainly not. Right? She wanted to ask him but thought it might be rude. Maybe he would get mad and feel insulted and for some reason end the interview and not pay her her stinking $85 bucks that she needed so so badly. She always needed money. She didn't grow up rich. She had to sometimes do soda interviews and occasionally would even go on dates to get the free dinner. "It's no big deal," she told herself as she'd be putting on her make up, getting ready to go out on some poor dickwad's dime who she was never going to lay. "It's kind of like getting a free sample of hair spray when you buy shampoo, or getting a free toothbrush with a tube of toothpaste the way they do sometimes," she reasoned with her conscience.

"Is it?" her conscience asked back. "Or is it kind of slutty?" Hm. "Well, who cares?" she told her conscience. "If it is kind of slutty, it's worth the amount of sluttiness it might kind of be. He's not getting to fuck me. And I never get to go out to eat. And he wants to take me out." Hm. "O-kay," her conscience sung to her in a sing-songy cadence. "Let's hope he isn't one of those guys who puts shit in your drink and rapes you and then falls asleep like nothing happened while you have nightmares all night and then wake up in the morning unsure of where you are with no panties on."

She stared at the guy and he stared back at her. He had those kind of glasses that were so thick that they make your eyes bulge a little bit, make you look kind of buggy. But he was kind of cute, even with the big bulgy bug eyes. He was tan, which was weird, because he didn't look ethnic, he looked Swedish or something. She thought of the word in her head, 'Swedish' - was there one e or two? One, she thought. But it seems like there should be two, she thought. But he was cute, and he seemed pretty young, like maybe 34. He was probably married. He probably made okay money at this shitty job.

"Do you like your job?" she asked him. He seemed taken aback, surprised that she had said something that didn't relate to soda. "Yeah," he said, looking down at the clipboard. "I like it. It's good." She didn't believe him. She had read somewhere that the way that people look, like the direction that they look in or whatever when they are talking to you tells you a lot about that person. It tells you if they feel nervous, or if they are scared, or if they are lying, or if they are thinking. Detectives probably know all about that kind of stuff, she thought. But she couldn't remember the directions and which one meant lying. She thought it was to the right, maybe, but he'd looked down. Maybe he wasn't lying. Maybe she was just overly sensitive and too critical and maybe a little judgmental. But who the hell wasn't?

"Are you married?" she asked him. "No," he said. "Do you want to take me out to dinner later?" she asked. He didn't answer right away. "It's just that I thought maybe you liked me," she offered. "Oh, well, I do, you seem very nice," he said. "It's just that, well, I don't date women," he said. "Oh," she said. "You mean, like, you're gay?" He smiled warmly. "No, I'm not gay," he answered. "I just don't date women."

Later in the evening, she got out of the shower. She dried her hair with a towel which her mother had sent her for Christmas a few years back. It was a nice towel with her name embroidered into the terrycloth. "Stacie" it said, as if she didn't know her own name. She picked up the phone and dialed the chinese place on the corner. She knew the number by heart.

"China King?" the lady answered as if she were asking a question. "Hi, can I get a small mixed vegetables with brown rice and garlic sauce on the side?" she asked. But she already knew the answer. The answer was yes.

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