PEN CENTER USA — WINNER

International Imitation Hemingway Competition

 

Across the Potomac and into Her Pants

by Maxine Nunes


The young intern flashed her thong at me, and it was good. And it was also bad because I thought about my wife in a thong and knew she would look like the jambon that hangs in the windows of the charcuteries along the Rue de Buci. It was a long time since I had cheated on my wife, maybe even many hours or many days.


“Meet me later,” I said to the girl, “in the room that is not square and is not round.”


“You mean oval, Creep-o,” she said in that spoiled and charming way the pretty rich girls from Beverly Hills have.


“Yes,” I said, “The oval place. And if someone asks what you are doing there, you must say you are there to sharpen my pencil. A man needs a sharp pencil if he is to make up fine stories that are not true but are more manly and more convenient than truth.”


“What-ev-errr...” she said.


The girl was plump and juicy and offered up pleasure like a plate full of raviolini at Harry’s Bar when you haven’t had money for awhile because the women and their lawyers were robbing you blind. Her dark hair gleamed richly like the fine dark wood paneling of the back room, where a man and a woman could be alone, and yet not alone in a way that someone could later testify about. And you knew that she would order a Bellini thinking that maybe her life was a Bret Easton Ellis story, which it had started out to be but was not anymore.


Once, after we had known each other awhile, she pouted and said, “You never take me anywhere,” and called me again by that special name she had for me, which was Creep. So I took her to Harry’s and watched with mounting desire as her voracious lips and tongue consumed the carpaccio and the calamari and the capellini and the conchiglie and the carre d’agnello.


Then, just as the food had disappeared into her mouth, she suddenly disappeared under the table, where she continued to sate her hungers until the torrents did spring from me and ruin the blue dress she wore.


Later, I enjoyed a cigar with her because I knew many fine ways to enjoy a cigar, and I thought about how it would have been different for Jake Barnes if he had known what a man needs to know about cigars.


The best of it was the good fiction I would later create, about how a real man knows what sex is, and also what sex isn’t, because a man, if he is to be a man, must have his own definition of sex. We did many things together, the girl and I, but they were not things that you could call sex, although they were sexy things and things of sex, but they were not the thing itself, which is the only thing you could truly call sex.


And we did not have sex in the room that is oval, and we did not have sex in the corridor, and in the kitchen, and across the desk and into the hall. I will never forget the girl, because no one will ever let me. And the girl will always remember me, because I was her moveable feast.