by Dorene O’Brien
I told him that I was a professor of 16th century Italian art. What else could I do? I’m a 33-year-old court clerk whose mother still demands kisses over the telephone. I have a blind cat and a Twix bar addiction, and I’m clearly not fast on my feet.
We met in front of the knockoff portrait of Madame Cézanne at the Baldwin Public Library when he steamrolled my large and copiously corned left foot while making a beeline for the men’s room.
“I beg your pardon,” he said, engaging in a little bladder-tension hop.
“S’all right,” I said, even though the pain was far worse than when the drugs wore off during my root canal.
When he exited the restroom I was sitting on a bench with my eyes closed, envisioning thousands of miniature carpenters mending my ailing foot, filing down the calluses, planing the skin to an even finish.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “Can I get you some water?”
“For my foot?”
“Forget it,” I waved him off. “I’m all right.”
“Well, I’m Tony.” He sat beside me, his expression pained and guilty.
“That’s pretty,” he said. “Are you named after a relative or did your mother love Texas?”
“Actually,” I said, “my mother loved scotch and misspelled Abigail on my birth certificate.”
Tony’s laugh was hard and real, and I understood then that he was the only person in town who didn’t know the story.