Mark Chiusano

Why Don’t You

My father was born at the bot­tom of a hill: in a base­ment, where the land­lord didn’t allow vis­i­tors.  He had brown fin­gers, even then.  At the top of the hill was where the mafia lived, or at least the rich peo­ple.  It went down in wealth from there.  He liked to say this at din­ner.  Feel more sor­ry for your­self, why don’t you, my moth­er said.  She threw sal­ad on his plate.  My sis­ters had their forks and knives in their hands.  I left, or I would leave, or I walked out again.

My girl­friend and I drank Coca-Cola in the oval in Marine Park.  People played crick­et there, but lat­er it got emp­ty, and we brought drinks from the Russian tea-house.  Inside they only used plas­tic cups, even though it was a nice restau­rant.  We mixed the soda with vod­ka from the liquor store down the block.  She had moved out of her dor­mi­to­ry apart­ment at Columbia to live in Rockaway, and I had got­ten my first job.  From her old dorm bath­room you could see the city in all direc­tions.  The way the build­ing was angled, it was hard to tell where the rivers were.  The city kept going, like it cov­ered every curve.  We used to stand on the toi­let seat and watch the lights change on Broadway.  In Brooklyn, in the mid­dle of the park, the cars on the edges sound­ed like waves.

We would stretch out on the grass, so that just our heads were next to each oth­er.  We came here often.  I worked indoors too long and the office had no view.  She reached her hands behind her to cov­er my ears, and I did the same with hers, and reached far­ther down until they were on either side of her neck.  She got up and we stood togeth­er, her hands clasped on my back, try­ing to push me through her.  We didn’t kiss.  With my head on her shoul­der I could see the water, the Marine Parkway Bridge in the heat-fog, where the ocean start­ed and the city ends.  Let’s go to my place, she said.  I couldn’t talk, so I just squeezed her wrists.

Avenue U, the cars on all sides, where I learned to dri­ve the first time.  The instruc­tor had been a Vietnam vet who want­ed to get into Republican pol­i­tics.  He let me into four-lane traf­fic even though I wasn’t ready.  I told her about it.  We made it to Kimball with­out let­ting go of each oth­ers’ sides.  The 89 wasn’t run­ning for the week­end, so we took car ser­vice instead.  In the back­seat, she sat in the mid­dle, me on the end, and she put her bag on my lap.  Her hand went under­neath.  I held it there for a lit­tle, then let it go.  The dri­ver was lis­ten­ing to a sta­tion with words we didn’t under­stand.

She was look­ing out the win­dow.  Motorboats went by on our left.  Flatbush Avenue to the Parkway Bridge that goes to Rockaway and out towards the Hamptons.  We didn’t want to know any­one who lived in the Hamptons.  We’d thought about going there, some­where right on the tip: bike out or bor­row someone’s old Camry, sleep in the back­seat; have one sleep­ing bag and throw it on top of us all unfold­ed like a tent we hadn’t bat­tened down.  We drove past the hangars, the emp­ty Air Force land where noth­ing grew.  Her apart­ment next to the water.

I paid the dri­ver.  We took the stairs up.  Her keys in the door and the voic­es of her room­mates, all three of them.  I just walked straight to her room.  On the edge of the sheets, she put a hand over my mouth.  They’re hav­ing din­ner, she said.  I hadn’t tak­en my jeans off.  We stand by the cur­tains and start all over again.  We go slow­ly.  The life­guards are gone from the beach.  Their chairs are bare and flecked with paint.  Her hair smells like sand, like the worn sea­glass my sis­ters col­lect­ed when they were young, string­ing them togeth­er in neck­laces, the blunt edges bounc­ing on their cot­ton shirts.  I see anoth­er, they would shout to each oth­er, mak­ing con­stel­la­tions of their find­ings in their palms.  There’s anoth­er, with the glass grainy in their hands, anoth­er, there’s anoth­er.

~

Mark Chiusano is a senior at Harvard University study­ing English and Mathematics and writ­ing a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries for his the­sis.  His work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in The Utopian, The Harvard Review, plain chi­na, The Bad Version, The Harvard Advocate and The Harvard Crimson.