Page 23 - WTP Vol. XI #3
P. 23

 panionship, for Mark. He knew that. He understood it. But Mark, unlike Amber, couldn’t do this insin- cerely, and underneath his doubt he felt the deeper pull of faith, like the tide against a lifeboat, dragging it to shore. It only made him more embarrassed: his sincerity, his need.
Spencer played a chord, and then another, and they sang.
Amber had left him, had left with her mom. He leaned against the outer wall, watching the cars roll away from the lot. The asphalt stretched before him like a target for the sun. He would have gone inside, to softer brightness and A/C, but then his mom,
who loathed attention, would be forced to stop and honk. It was one of those Sundays when she hadn’t gone to church, when she’d aimed the hour instead toward her private and quite nebulous pursuit of new employment. She claimed on these days that she’d gone to the Starbucks, the busy one on Poplar where, espresso-fueled and dauntless, she beat the printed pavement of the classifieds for work. But Mark, on these Sundays, never saw her with a news- paper, never saw her, for that matter, with a coffee, and he suspected that she simply drove in circles for the hour, or parked somewhere and sat in tears and chainsmoked with the windows cracked.
He was leaning there when Spencer came outside and stood beside him. The other kids had been whisked off in Lexuses or Yukons, and now they stood alone, the pastor and the congregant, squinting at the emptied lot, the storefronts just beyond.
“Mom on her way?” Spencer asked. “Should be.”
“Wasn’t she at church today?”
Mark glanced at Spencer as he spoke, then turned away for fear of staring. He was short but squarely handsome, and his hair flowed back and down in curls more biblical than girlish, with the elegant unkemptness of a fisherman or shepherd. The san- dals made it realer, this impression of the ancient: the brown, tanned feet, the suggestion, in this brownness, of an Aramaic dust.
It was the first time, Mark realized, they had ever been alone.
“Some days she doesn’t go,” he said. “She says she’s looking for a job. Or a different job, I guess. She’s
a secretary now for Diamond Lawns. She hates it, though. She says her boss is just an asshole.”
He brought his thumb up to his mouth and started chewing on the nail. Not only had he cursed—he’d overshared. He couldn’t tell which part was worse, the grease-stain of his language or the constant low- grade squalor of the “home life” that produced it.
“I get it,” Spencer said. “Bosses can be assholes. Straight-up assholes. That’s the truth.”
Mark laughed. He couldn’t not. They were standing there, he recognized, as men—men of undetermined age and undetermined roles.
“Where’s your friend?” Spencer asked. “Or is it lady friend?”
“She ditch you or what? Leave you in the lurch?”
“She left. With her mom.”
“Ah,” Spencer said. He whistled as if pondering some wry but lonesome fact.
A silence pulsed around them. The seconds seemed to stretch themselves beyond all normal bearing.
“I think,” Spencer said, “I understand your situation. I think I can relate.”
They were not, Mark sensed, still discussing Amber Whitsitt. Mark’s father was the subject. The absence
(continued on next page)

   21   22   23   24   25