Street Light Interference Effect, or, You are a Slider
You’ve got this electricity thing. Capability. Talent. Call it what you want. It works.
Seventh grade was the first time it happened. Pre-Algebra class. Ms. It’s-None-of-Your-Business-Whether-or-Not-I’m-Married taught you how to find x if twenty-times-x-equals three hundred. She was the Cheshire cat. Her grin was so wide you could see the sides of her molars. Her eyelids were painted lavender. She was the drag queen Divine reincarnated, minus the belly rolls.At the end of class she single-filed you all at her desk. You were supposed to staple your papers together. The stapler was aqua, bedazzled with rhinestones. She sat at her desk munching on a snack cake, licking her fingers. Her nickname—Missile Tits—was obvious: she was Madonna in the eighties. Instead of a push-up bra she wore a push-out.
Your turn. You put your worksheet under the stapler’s mouth and pressed down on the stapler. Then you heard it: a sizzle, a thud, a crack, a hiss.
Ms. It’s-None-of-Your-Business-Whether-or-Not-I’m-Married’s smile dropped. She swiveled a one-eighty in her chair. You looked at the computer screen behind her. It waved at you, multicolored.
You pressed the stapler again. Pop! The screen went black. It revived itself, an artist’s palate of color whorls.
Ms. It’s-None-of-Your-Business-Whether-or-Not-I’m-Married swiveled back around and barked an order: Do it again. You did. The screen jumped. Why’s it doing that, she said. Try giving it to someone else. Oh, well, that didn’t work. Try holding the stapler in your hand and then do it.
The screen spazzed every time. It glittered. Ms. It’s-None-of-Your-Business-Whether-or-Not-I’m-Married’s eyes were lighthouse beams. Let me try, she yelled. When nothing happened, she said, What did you do?
You’re older now. Horny. You’ve met a guy with a face so smooth—minus the stubble—you wonder if he has pores. You’re on your first date with him at some Mexican dive with chili-pepper-and-palm-tree lights dangling from the ceiling. You’re sharing a third electric-blue margarita with him. The alcohol makes you restless.
His lips are cashmere. You can already feel them there. Combined with the stubble…
What’s wrong, he asks? You must have been looking at his lips too hard. You lie, say that alcohol makes you squirm as you cross your legs to hide yourself.
Don’t squirm too much, he says, You look like you’re being shocked.
The waitress drops by the table and asks about the drinks. Her hair is blonde, streaked magenta and indigo. You give her a thumbs-up. So does he. Her fingernails are laquered metallic mint.
Mind if we have another, your date asks the bimbo. She makes a high-pitched glottic squeal and scampers away.
He looks at you. High octane, he says, rolling his eyes toward where the waitress stood.
You laugh. You feel his hand on your knee. Out of the corner of your eye, you can see a strand of the chili-pepper lights brightening. The peppers blaze acid red.
You’re driving him home. The margaritas were fine, but the enchiladas were served with marinara sauce on top, so you decided to spare your taste buds and leave. You tipped Barbie, though.
Your hand is on top of the gearshift. He puts his hand on top of yours. You pull yours out from under his and press the knob to turn on the radio, but no music plays from the radio.
That’s weird, you say. Really weird. You press the knob again. It doesn’t work. You replace your hand on his.
Ouch, he says, and pulls his hand away, shaking it.
Sorry, you say.
No worries, he says. He grabs your hand, pulls it to his mouth, and tries to kiss it. Another shock.
His lips form an O and you’re sure he’s saying Ouch again, but you can’t hear him. The radio is on now, full-blast. You turn the volume down.
Sorry, you say again.
It’s nothing, he says.
My shoes must have gathered a lot of static, you tell him. He grins.
You place your hand back on the gearshift. He reaches to put his hand on top of yours, but hovers before he commits.
Don’t worry, you say. No bites.
He smiles. He puts his hand down. No shock.
When you pull into his driveway you get out to open his door. He tries to protest this, but you insist. He’s already tried protesting your driving tonight, too, but you convinced him to let you.
A bolt shoots from the door handle to your hand. It hurts. You brush it off. You’re used to it. Snowflakes and metallic confetti chase each other behind your eyes. He exits the car.
Thanks for the date, he says.
Hope we can have another soon, you say.
He stands in front of you. You see the reflection of a streetlight in his eyes. The light dims.
Those lamps are pieces of shit, he says, and looks back at you. He brushes a piece of fuzz away from his mouth.
He leans in for the kiss. Zap! It hurts. He pulls away, licking his lips.
So weird, he says. You try to say something in response, but only static leaves your mouth.
Finally, you utter something: One more try. He nods. You place the tips of your fingers on his waist, feel the density of his muscle beneath the clothes, and push your face toward his. He wraps his arms around you; you push your hips into his. You kiss.
When you lift yourself off the grass you smell your shirt burning. Your hands are charred black. On the other side of the lawn, he’s lifting himself up, too. His shoes and jeans are fried; the metal buckle on his belt blazes. His shirt is ripped. A trickle of blood runs from his lip to his chin. He wipes it with his wrist and tongues his lip.
He smiles at you. Then, he speaks: Want to come inside?
The streetlight grows brighter and brighter and brighter and brighter and brighter.