From the other end of the room a woman's voice rose in anger. "Leave me alone!" she shouted, then threw her margarita in the face of her good man. This dramatic imperative was greeted with applause and cheers by everyone except for the fellow whose face was now covered with triple sec.
Shell looked at me and smiled. "Brandy and Boyd LeMieux," she said wistfully. "They're the perfect coupleshe's an exmodel, he's an exMarine."
Brandy stood up and headed toward the bar where Shell and I were sitting. She was an attractive woman, in a dilapidated sort of way. "You want a cigarette?" she asked.
"I don't smoke."
Brandy laughed. "Right," she said.
"Jenny here's an English professor," said Shell.
Brandy LeMieux laughed like this was funny. "Yeah," she said. "And I'm an astronaut." She picked up Shell's drink, downed it in a single gulp. Didn't eat the prune, though. She looked at my book.
"What's that? Any good?"
"It's Nabokov," I said. "You like Nabokov?"
Her mouth dropped open, as if I were one of the Beatles. "Whoa," she said. "You really are an English teacher. Aren't you!"
Shell patted my shoulder. "Well," she said. "I'll let you two chat. Then she headed over toward the place where Boyd was sitting, staring sadly into Brandy's empty margarita glass.
Brandy and I watched as Shell sat down next to him. I could imagine the counsel she was offering. Don't worry, Boyd! There are plenty of other fish in the ditch!
"What a nerd," Brandy said. "My husband. I can't believe I ever married him." She looked at me. "You married?"
One of the awkward hallmarks of my life is the way relatively simple questions command complex answers, the kind that require a PowerPoint presentation and several Oprah shows to do them justice. I am more than a little hopeful, in most situations, to be seen as human. But there are plenty of times I don't want to go into the details. Especially when I'm sitting next to a woman who's just downed a drink with a prune in it.
"You're wearing a wedding ring," Brandy said, trying to help.
"It's a long story," I said.
Brandy raised her empty glass and clinked it against mine.
"You go, girl," she said.
"You go." We were friends now.
"You're really pretty, did you know that?"
"I don't think so," I said.
"Will you buy me another drink?"
"Sure," I said. The bartender cut another Fart in the Ocean.
"Boyd wants to put me in a time machine," said Brandy.
"Hate that," I said.
"He can't see me where I am. Only where I was."
"Where are you?" I said.
She reached out and squeezed my hand. "I'm here with you, Jenny."
"My son wants to be a time traveler," I said. "When he grows up."
"Well, the hell. Maybe he can use Boyd's machine, after he's done with it."
The topic of superpowers, including time travel, was a frequent one in our house. There were times when it seemed like it was all we ever talked about, Grace and me, and our middle schoolage children, Paddy and Luke. I maintained that the only two superpowers worth having were superstrength and superspeed. Tenyearold Paddy, for his part, advocated the power of virtual reality, the power of time travel, and something else he called superstickiness, which might be the thing that enables SpiderMan to climb walls, or might be something else entirely. In any case, Paddy said that superstrength and superspeed were mutually exclusive. "If you have superstrength," he maintained, "it slows down your superspeed."
Excerpted from I'm Looking Through You by Jennifer Finney Boylan Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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