Coke And Oreos
By Chris Lenton
Sandra and I had Coke and Oreos in our spot. We looked out across the pond and indulged. I am sinfully obese; still I consume lard as if air. As we ate, park goers stared. Yes, you could sink pennies into my folds. Yes, I should not eat cookies, but I do. And, in Sandra, as we eat, exists not a single judgment. People gorge, Sandra once said, because food is one of the great pleasures.
She dipped her Oreo into the large glass of Coke we shared, and, the cookie dripping in sweet oil, smiled playfully as she put it between her sugar-stained teeth.
"Is that really necessary?" I asked.
"Is anything really necessary?" She asked, pushing me.
I laughed. We laugh, fat people. This is what we do: Big, rolling, death-defying guffaws.
We opened another packet of cookies. In unison city eyes looked at us in disapproval, behind bushes, peeking around park statues, reflecting off the late-afternoon pink pond water.
Sandra was emaciated. Skin hugged her bones fiercely. She had magazine lips, big puffy globs of red, and with her bulgy blue eyes and gangly efficient body she was a dragonfly.
I wanted to tell her how beautiful she was. Instead I mentioned the nice weather.
"They said it would rain," I said.
"Shows you how much they know!" She laughed again. I laughed back, unsure why, but happy to. We were park pigeons, rats, bugs, snorting in animal cheer.
Underneath my Polo shirt sweat lodged, lodged in every damn spot. I felt it slip, trickle, and re-lodge. I smelled of grit; she of grace. I casually changed position to allow my skin refuge from the heavy secretions.
We were colleagues at work. One Saturday every month we met here, by this pond, sitting, snacking, catching up. When it was her turn for food she would bring a wicker basket of grease-based products. I would bring simple foods that tasted of grass and dirt. Neither of us would complain. We would eat happily, joke, and, although we had little in common intellectually, we would mostly speak of interesting things.
"Is there meaning to all of this, I mean, to life?" She would ask, for example.
"I would say no."
"Really?" She would ask, broken.
"Well," and here I would pause, musing, musing in a decisive immense way that indicated I saw through glib surface matters, that my fat, my elephant forehead, the sweat, the perpetual stares, that all these things didn't really bother me. "Well, not in a rational sense, no. Thought and reason have done enough to make this question obsolete. But it does seem impossible to say there is no meaning, sitting here, looking out at this wonderful sky, breathing, next to you…"
"Whatever!" She would say emphatically, relieved.
We finished the second packet of Oreos. I washed some Coke about my teeth, ridding my mouth of any remaining crumbs. I pulled out a flower from my back pocket. A sunflower, its head only.
"For you," I said.
"You shouldn't have," she said, taking it. It had browned and wilted slightly in my pants, against the might of my mass. Only this morning it was vivid, alive.
"My mother once told me you could never go wrong with sunflowers," I said.
She smiled kindly and looked out, away, toward something else.
"I want to give you something, too," she said, looking back.
"Because you are always so nice to me," she said.
"I am nothing of the sort," I said, scratching a pimple on my chin.
She didn't reply. Her face frowned briefly, for a moment, losing color.
"Are you alright?" I asked.
"Sure, sorry. Yeah, just thinking a little too much, I guess."
She looked at me directly and sighed.
"I'm getting married. Jeb asked me."
Immediately I felt stung, winded. I couldn't respond. But within moments I was relieved–I could quit this inane yearning.
"Yes!" she said with feigned excitement.
"Well, congratulations. A wonderful thing, marriage," I said, stuttering slightly.
"Yes," she said.
I picked up a stone and skimmed it across the water. It sunk one skip in. Around us the noise was urban. I heard cars in the distance. Traffic. Elevators. Phones. Complaints. The park was illusion, the colors fabricated, the clean air gone.
"But there is something I'd like to do, now, before…"
"Yes?" I managed.
I looked at her. She was bending her neck towards me, twisting it, arching her insect veins in my direction.
"What are you doing?"
"Shhh," she said, leaning her mouth in to my face. She kissed me. I smelled Coke and cookie and morning coffee on her breath. She held her lips on mine. They felt heavy, awkward, inhuman.
"Stop, really, stop," I said, pushing her off.
"I'm sorry. It's something…something I've wanted to do for a while now," she said, her face near mine.
"It's not right," I said.
"I don't care," she said, kissing me again, softly this time, and I couldn't object. I let her. I kissed her back.
A few minutes later we stopped. She withdrew her face and looked at me with polite satisfaction. The sun had nearly gone. I felt light.
"I should go," she said, smiling a smooth, genuine smile.
"Yes," I said. She gathered her things and mentioned she'd see me at work. I put the Oreo wrappers and coke bottle into a plastic bag and asked her to throw it in the garbage can by the fountain. She nodded formally and said goodbye. I watched her walk away.
I stayed in the same spot. The rain came with the night, suddenly, quickly. Now it continues to rain, in thick, dirty drops, and I sit unmoved, my mouth open, catching drops, wanting to laugh.
Chris Lenton was born in New Delhi, India, and has since lived in Sri Lanka, Argentina, Barbados, Indonesia and England. He now lives and writes in New York. His work has appeared in Adoh!, Sri Lanka, The Indonesian Quarterly and Thieves Jargon. He is finishing a novel.
Photo "Autumn Is Coming" courtesy of Fabrizio Turco.
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