Issue 35, Final Fringe

Begin Chest Compressions

by Roxane Gay Issue 28 10.10.2011

Sarah sits at a restaurant with her boyfriend Chad thinking about love, hatred, and indifference. When they first met, Sarah wasn’t sure how she felt about Chad. He was an attentive boyfriend, polite. He was not flamboyant. Her friends called him a good guy.  Chad could hold a conversation. She could take him home to meet her parents. He cleaned beneath his fingernails each night before bed. While she was not sure if she could do better, she was certain she could do worse. A year passed and another and another and she understood she couldn’t do better or, perhaps it was that she didn’t want to do better.

Sarah sits at a restaurant with her boyfriend Chad. They are at a chain restaurant, the kind with colorful commercials boasting authentic food preparation and being home or among family when you eat in their restaurant. Sarah has not eaten many meals with her family. Both her parents were lawyers, worked really late, so she and her younger sister often ate frozen dinners standing at the kitchen counter, watching the small television next to the KitchenAid mixer. When she sees commercials for the restaurant she is sitting in, she thinks, “These commercials were directed by someone who has never been part of a family.” Then she feels sad for that person, imagines him or her to be an orphan who has idealized family life through television commercials that air during primetime reality programming, often involving dance competitions of some kind.

Chad smiles across the table and says, “I love coming here.” He studies the menu carefully as if the options have changed during two weeks since their last visit. Chad believes in treating every day as a new experience. Each morning when he wakes up and sees Sarah lying next to him, on her side, facing away, her hand reaching back for his thigh, he holds his breath until she turns to look at him and when he sees her face and her face is still beautiful and he knows he has one more day with the woman next to him, he smiles. He exhales. He kisses her bare shoulder, brushes the hair from her face and because she is not yet fully awake, she allows him these affections, moves even closer to him, into the void of his chest and warm breath.

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Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay

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Roxane Gay’s writing appears or is forthcoming in New Stories From the Midwest 2011, Best Sex Writing 2012, NOON, Cream City Review, Black Warrior Review, Brevity, The Rumpus, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK, an HTMLGIANT contributor and her first collection, Ayiti, will be released in the fall of 2011.