Pasadena Afternoons

On the television, the weather man’s arms sweep down like skinny birds, his fingers pressed together, following the conch-like motion of the wind. The winds are becoming drier and hotter as they blow through the desert. The high drone of the air conditioner makes it difficult to sleep or think. More dust than usual accumulates in the three bedroom apartment where you live with the boy, your husband’s son from another marriage. The dust is a mixture of fine dirt and granules of red and white sand. You wipe it away with a damp cloth. The dirt and sand transfer onto the cloth in clean red lines. It is necessary to use the sharp end of the nail clipper file to clean out corner tiles in the floor.

When the boy comes home from school, you undress him and send him into the shower for a quick rinse. Then you both sit in the living room in your underwear, four legs propped up on the green ottoman. Your husband wouldn’t allow this, as you well know, the both of you sitting in your underwear with the curtains open, but you are on the third floor and no harm can come of it. You’ve pulled out pitchers of tangy lemonade or chocolate milk in chilled glasses with ice cubes. You’ve made cheese and turkey sandwiches with thick slices of cucumbers, cut in squares without the crust. The cooking channel is on; the boy says, “That looks good,” and you sometimes write down the ingredients.

When you catch him looking at the slight indent on your shoulder from the bra strap, you let him look. Love is not always clean.

Robin Tung is an MFA candidate at The Writing Seminars where she serves as an editorial assistant at The Hopkins Review. She is the recipient of the 2006 Saier Award for Fiction and her work is forthcoming in Labletter.