By Robert Lopez
One man says to the other, we are speaking in hypotheticals now. We all know this can’t happen in real life.
The man is referring to his marriage, the one he’s been in for twelve years. Before that he drifted in and out, found himself in a few situations, different places.
Once he was involved with a woman who liked to commemorate bad situations with tattoos. The first time he noticed it was an ambigram on her wrist that read “I’m fine” or “Save me” depending on how you looked at it. The next time he tried not to notice, though the woman made it difficult.
He never looked at her tattoos after that. She would always ask him to look and he always said he wouldn’t. The woman was known as Sister and had a best friend named Sofia. He didn’t like anything about this Sofia. He didn’t like that she always carried with her a leather satchel that bisected her breasts and wore copious amounts of eye shadow and he also didn’t like how she spelled her name.
Sister would call and suggest the three of them go out to dinner, that they hike up some mountain in Vermont or go on vacation somewhere warm. He thought maybe they might be swingers, that they might be lovers themselves. He wasn’t sure if he or they were interested in a ménage a trois, but he’d give it a try if asked.
The other man is only there in relation to the first man. He has no life of his own, not to speak of. Yes, he sleeps in a queen-size bed and drinks orange juice every morning, but otherwise, there is nothing noteworthy about him.
Once the other man had over a cleaning woman to clean his apartment. Both of them remained clothed the entire time and this is something the other man will never get over.
The first man says, in real life this is someone who needs help. This is someone we call 911 for.
The other man says, I know.
The day began as most days do, in the morning. The first man woke early, made breakfast and then ate it. He looked out the window and considered a running jump. He watched the television news. Somewhere in Asia people were being wiped out by a sequence of natural disasters. On the home front, some locals got into trouble with the police and now the whole town was up in arms.
The man is married to a woman who folds everything. She folds towels and sheets and paper napkins, folds plastic bags, cardboard boxes, anything that can be folded. Sometimes, after sex, she tucks her legs into her chest and folds herself up right there in bed.
The first man says, we call in the marines, the Red Cross.
The other man says, it’s all too much.
The first man says, it’s true.
The man has height and weight and a steady income. He lives a daily life. He drives a reliable car, one with four doors and two speakers. He uses his fingers to eat, shave, and write notes to his wife. The notes concern the locals or what he hears on the news. His wife folds the notes up neatly, sometimes making paper airplanes out of them.
The two men are friends. They share values. They counsel each other on matters great and small.
They mean almost nothing to each other.
So much so that if one were to meet with an untimely end, the other would barely take notice.
One man is named Manny and the other man has a different name. No one can ever remember his name because his importance is limited only to his relationship to Manny.
He continues and says, What I want now is I want to go outside and play football. I haven’t played football in years, but years ago I would play all the time. I was good.
The men are eating and drinking. They are in a restaurant. There are other people also eating and drinking. The men do not pay any attention to the other people, who pay the men no attention, either.
At home the man keeps a bouquet of paper airplanes in a flower pot. He never opens the airplanes to see what is written inside.
The first man says, I want to see my breath disappear in the air and lose sensation in my limbs. I want to go out for a pass and scream bloody murder when the ball hits me in the chest. I want to fall to the ground, desperate for wind. I want the other players to huddle over me. I want there to be genuine concern.
The other man says, genuine concern is good.
The first man says, then I want to limp home after the game and feel sore. I want to take off my sweatshirt and leave it alone on the sofa to dry. He says, how come something like this can’t happen.
The other man says, because you married a folder, that’s why.
The first man, Manny to most of his friends, thinks about this, the implications. He thinks about his wife and what she might be folding now while he is out to dinner with his friend.
The man wants another drink and plans to order one. He will probably have another after that. Then he will probably go home, unless his friend wants another. The man will be open to suggestion.
The man doesn’t actually want to play football and isn’t sure why he’s indicated otherwise. He never played football as a younger man, certainly wasn’t good at it. Maybe he tried once or twice, but he couldn’t run, couldn’t tackle or block, couldn’t catch or throw. His friend is a casual fan, but he never thinks about the game at all in his daily life and doesn’t even watch it on television.
Robert Lopez is the author of five previously published books and the forthcoming A Better Class of People (Dzanc Books, April 2022) and Dispatches from Puerto Nowhere (Two Dollar Radio, September 2022). He teaches at Stony Brook University and lives in Brooklyn.
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