the book of embraces, chapter Alex

One night she went to the duck pond at the University of New Mexico campus in the middle of Albuquerque. It was between semesters. She was from an interesting family. This is a curse in China and though she was Greek she could tell you all about it. She went to the pond to throw away a bracelet that her mother gave her. It was an heirloom.

It so happened that he was there the same night to throw away something too. He was throwing away a real honest to God diamond. It was also a present that he could no longer share a living space with.

They each did their deed and then they saw each other. Neither knew why the other was there but they were glad to run into each other. They used to date. Back in her first and his second year of school. They were both going to be graduated next semester. She was a smart girl. He was a lazy student.

She had always loved his poems—because they were good and one of the better ones was about her—so she went home with him to see some new ones. But he tricked her. He was showing her a short story that was about her. He had no new poems. Just stories. She read on the computer over his shoulder. When she read the whole story, he opened his diary and started typing current events. She read over his shoulder and she was one of those girls who was a sucker for bravery and she spoke several languages so she was getting pretty excited.

He asked, “Do you want to take a shower?”

It took a long time for her to answer but he didn’t look around at her. He stared at the black and white Macintosh screen. He wanted the real answer. She said, “Okay.”

They got in the shower and she was Mediterranean so she had to have it very hot. It was difficult for him but he managed. They did not have sex. They never did. Not even when they had dated before, though the first time they met she wrote the words, “I love you,” on his leg while her boyfriend was in the room.

She passed out mostly when they got out of the shower. He held her up. The water had been too hot.

They went to bed and taught each other a couple of Gray’s finer points without having real sex still. She spoke to him in Greek while she drew lines on his face. He wished, later, that he knew what she said. He should have asked her. She slept like it was her own bed. He slept like it wasn’t his and woke up at dawn. He went and bought them some breakfast. That seemed really romantic to him. He never ever did that for another girl. They never even had sex.

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