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Hierarchies Part 4

Valentine's Day, I get my writing done in the morning, then disappear. I tell Cathreen I'll only be gone for an instant, and I return with flowers, pink roses, like we'll have at our wedding. She beams. I score points with the in-laws. The dogs bark like I've been away and have come back for them.

We go out for dinner at her favorite restaurant--really the decor gets her, the food, Western, is about normal for a place in the West. She says she remembers the taste of prosciutto and melon, those four golden pieces for eighteen dollars, she can't get it out of her head. This time, though, there's something wrong. She doesn't like it. I eat three of the pieces, letting the grease of the pork curl around the sweetness of the fruit, thinking.

I try to make her smile, and she does, and I try to make her forget about the house and everyone.

After dinner, we see a movie I expect will be terrible but isn't that bad, about relationships, how to tell someone doesn't like you. We compare notes. This movie could be a game show. I ask her if people are really like this, like them.

The more movies I see, the more I think what it takes to be an actor is a hollow core, something to fill up, like a hive. We sense the buzzing. I only believe one of these people is a person.

We return home for beers, worrying about finances and America, etc. I show Cathreen the apartments my parents looked at a couple days ago. She seems resigned, in that instant, to whatever fate I choose, though we've agreed she will make our decisions.

The next day, she and I and her sister walk to lunch and eat like feral children. The restaurant gives away as much food as you eat, so we walk out with eight servings of samgyupsal, which is like thick bacon. We've taken the baby in the stroller, planning to walk off the fat in the park, but now the girls say it's too cold.

"Touch my leg," Cathreen says. Not cold, smooth. Bare legs in February.

"Your leg is a leg," I say, feeling cryptic.

Then the wind blows, and I feel it, too. It is cold. We walk home. I try to write but instead watch a movie and hate it. Everyone watches tv in her mother's room.

At dinner, Cathreen sings to the baby, and he tries to sing back but ends up screaming. Later she comes into the bedroom and says, "Jimin got in trouble." He's too noisy. His face turns red as he tries to hit notes that don't exist.

When he learns, I think, he'll never stop. He'll master a beckoning voice.

"He'll be king of the house," Cathreen says. She turns to her sister. "You'll give him everything, right?" He sits in a jungle chair, monkeys swinging on the tray in front of him. In the other room is the castle, which welcomes you when you open the door.

"Not everything," her sister says.

"I doubt it," Cathreen says happily, as Professor Dog yowls in agreement. "Everything. Like Boise."

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