Below the Knee

By Eduardo Santiago

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            He did not want to see her and comforted himself with the thought that she did not want to see him either. It was too much!   
            He did not want to think about that, so he thought about the summer of seventy-four or seventy-five instead, when they had both read The Great Gatsby and all summer long imagined themselves very bohemian, very 1920s avant-garde,people of affairs, perhaps, or at least people not shocked by affairs.  
            Yet for the Halloween party that year they did not dress as Jay and Daisy, or even Scott and Zelda, but chose Bonnie and Clyde because she had been seduced by Theodora Van Runkle’s costumes on Faye Dunaway’s flawless frame.   
            In particular, the beret.   
            He had gone along because he dug Warren Beatty. Secretly, he read her movie magazines on the toilet. Warren lived not in a house but in a penthouse atop a Beverly Hills hotel and night after night slept with the most beautiful women in the world.  
            She was the most beautiful girl in his world. And she was his girl, even if he didn’t know what that meant, exactly.   
            At first it had meant that he could kiss her and she wouldn’t resist, she would,in fact, cooperate. But then she wasn’t his girl, like when she met other men for drinks. Just drinks, why can’t a girl have a man friend without everyone getting all worked up about it? She’d say.  
            Well, he didn’t like it.   
            He was not a man of affairs.  
            A few years later it meant that when he went to bed, she went to bed, right next to him. And when he woke up, she was right there.   
            Except on those mornings when she didn’t.  
            The answer to where were you, he discovered, was: Out.
            Out was no answer.   
            And her jumping in the shower to avoid more questions was even more pestiferous.  
            So she left him, or he left her. It was unclear because he didn’t want her there but he didn’t want her to go. 
            He simply wanted her to change.  
            So she changed her address.  
            He tried living in a hotel, sleeping around.  
            But the hotel was not in Beverly Hills but rather, in Monrovia.  
            And the women were not the most beautiful in the world, but rather the most beautiful he could get.  
            Mainly, they weren’t her.   
            And he discovered what Warren Beatty probably already knew. A hotel room, night after night, with just pussy passing through, can get sad.  
            And kind of disgusting.  
            Enough time had passed, so he called her.  
            She told him point blank that she has been in a car crash, that her boyfriend had been killed, and that she had lost a leg.  
            She had a boyfriend?  
            Rather than dwell on the tragedy, he tried to make her laugh.  
            And she did.  
            She laughed at his stupid jokes the way she used to.  
            Before she so swiftly walked away.

Eduardo Santiago