She’s kind of Puerto Rican, weighs in at a tenth of a ton, and according to reliable sources, lost the left arm in a printing-press accident when she was nineteen, severing at the elbow. The magic begins outside the second-floor cafeteria where she smokes a Pall Mall down in less than ten pulls, with me telling her there’s just something about her that makes my guts all pretzel-like and how her beauty causes me physical pain and would she like to have dinner with me this evening. After her bottom lip starts twitching and those baggy silver-dollar pancake eyes get all glossy, her words to me are something like, “Jou’re fucking with me, right?”
My response: Please consider my feelings. This took weeks of practice. Just give me a chance. She stamps out the butt in a tall ashtray and says she’ll think about my proposition. As she sways back toward the cafeteria door, one leg at a time, my voice calls out, “But I’ve only got six weeks to live.”
It’s actually more like a few months.
Three weeks later, Deirdre, assistant to the Operations Manager, approaches my cubicle and leans over the desk saying, “Rosie wants you to ask her what you asked her again.” Deirdre’s breasts show lots of veins, shot-out from nursing, and she likes to showcase them through an open blouse. She catches me staring and licking my moustache. Deirdre squinches her eyes and bunches her upper lip in disgust. This is more unattractive than Deirdre seems to realize, since she’s more gums than teeth. To make her aware of this, I pull on my own upper lip and rub my gums, then blame my tumor. Deirdre leaves my cubicle. At three of five, Rosie comes over all pout-faced, stump covered with her red sweater sleeve in a crass attempt to fool God knows who into believing she has two arms.
We head over to Boston Market where I drop twenty on a full chicken, three orders of mashed potatoes, lemonades, and pasty macaroni, then make her carry the tray. When we sit, she asks me to open the mustard packet. My reply to Rosie is this is not going to happen, and also that she’s not getting any thinner. Rosie starts crying. Two college Biffs wearing hockey jerseys laugh it up from a few tables over. Being seen with her in public causes me more discomfort than earlier imagined. While Rosie picks at her chicken I fill my cheeks with air as she fondles the rotisserie breast with the spork. After a few shovelfulls of mashed potatoes pile their way down her throat, I lean forward with two fingers clasped against my chin and ask is there any way she would be willing to show me the stump, or whatever she’s packing, or let me touch it even. To keep things interesting I stroke her cheek and say she’s so damned beautiful it kills me that she thinks she has anything to hide. It takes a minute of silence, then the dam breaks: snot tossing, shoulders bouncing, spitting sobs trumpet-like. Rosie excuses herself to the bathroom and fortunately for her, comes out just as these spurs jingle halfway out the door. She follows from a few feet behind. She knows exactly where we’re going.
The love boat takes a seat on my futon and hugs her purse, asks me could she please have a glass of water. I say I don’t have any water and hang my key on the hook. She keeps her eyes glued to my Trinitron. I walk over and unzip. With a few shakes it squirms out of my khakis. I rub it against her moustache, down to her lips, parting those pork links. Not so much as a flinch. “We’ve got a live one here!” I laugh and push all the way in, do all the work. It’s over in forty-five seconds. Considering it’s been boiling for weeks in anticipation, part of me finds it not altogether unimpressive that she makes no sounds whatsoever, and even tries to mask the noise of her gulp by unzipping and re-zipping her purse, which reminds me to demand reimbursement for dinner. I plop down beside her, pocket the twenty, and after a minute or two she asks for a ride back to her car. I turn on the television and sigh, let her know it’s not so far of a walk. She gives me one of those open-mouthed stares she’s famous for, then, lays the side of her head in my lap. When she feels me stroking the stump through the hole in the sweater sleeve, Rosie goes and asks me was the brain tumor a lie. She says it’s okay, really, she feels sorry for me, and asks if she can feel my head and not with her hand, hand. After a moment, she sits up and rolls up the loose sleeve, touches where the growth pulses. Rosie recoils like she’s been burned by candle wax, then starts roaring, the laughter morphing into that of a child, being tickled by a hundred hands.