Issue 5

Ribbon of the Full Moon

 · Fiction

The boy in the back seat next to me is unlacing the ribbon from my shirt. I know there are buttons underneath, but he is so intent on this undressing I can’t bring myself to pull away or tell him, that’s just for show, there’s more underneath.

A full moon illuminates the car even though I’d been careful to park in an unlit alley, a couple blocks down from the club we just met in. His eyes are focused on the ribbon as it becomes unlaced, the front of my shirt just starting to unfold in his hands. He doesn’t see me watching him, comparing him to others, trying to make his head of dark hair be Cesar’s hair, his small hands, Cesar’s hands. His breath is familiar though, beer and cigarettes, what Cesar would come home with on Friday nights. I focus on his breathing and see if I can time my breath to match his.

I am easily twenty years older than him. The club Alma took me to had only older women in it and younger Mexican men. No English. The announcer spoke over a microphone in Spanish, the songs were um-pa-pa songs in Spanish, or slow rock and roll numbers from the seventies I’d all but forgotten. Alma and I sat against a long wall where all the women sat, ordering drinks from the young waiter, finishing two beers each before getting up to dance. Alma went first. I sat back and waited for the waiter to come over. All I wanted was another beer, for the Christmas lights to start going out of focus, for the music to stop making so much sense. This time the waiter came over with a beer and asked me to dance.

It was a slow song I didn’t recognize. He was maybe three inches shorter than me but he didn’t seem to mind. I’d had just enough beer for it to drift into my thinking that a tall woman and a short man look ridiculous together, but then that drifted out again. I could feel him pulling me closer to him, my breasts smashing against his chest and then he pulled my hips in closer too. The lights started going out of focus just like I’d hoped they would.

And now he’s found the secret under the ribbon, the buttons. He says, “Ah,” and makes quick work of them, pulling my shirt down over my shoulders, easily moving my bra straps out of the way. Quickly, I’m on my back, his hands on me, his mouth on my neck. There’s pomade in his hair, just like Cesar. I wrap my legs around him and hold him closer, dig my heels into his back, but the car is clear around me. The night is colder without the protection of my shirt, and this boy’s body is so small, it brings me neither pleasure nor protection.

When we’re done, I’m doing up my own buttons. His pants go back on fast. He’s out of the car fast, opens the front door for me, I slide in, he closes the door gently and raises one hand, turns and walks back toward the club. The key is still in the ignition. I turn it and the engine comes back on as if I’d just left it there idling, as if it’d been only a moment, as if nothing at all had happened in my backseat, no dark head of hair, dark hands on me, but I know better. The moon keeps me honest. And the smell of pomade lingers.

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