national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014

Hicksville

Laura Creste  • 
Bennington College

An hour west toward the beginning of Long Island

we drive to a party in Hicksville. We pass a series of one-story houses.

Airplanes, coming or going, chase the birds from the sky.

 

A blue hydrangea blocks the back porch, where

the hosts are wide-eyed on coke and their mother

spoons baked beans and macaroni salad onto paper plates.

 

I am creeping out one of the boys with long hair who stares

too long when I speak. A. unpacks his keyboard case

and I find a lounge chair, buy a beer, and break mosquitos open

 

against my legs. I should stop eating sugar. I am tired

of the grotesque blood-suck-burst.  My boyfriend

does not attract mosquitos, only women.

 

He was born without wisdom teeth or myopia.

I am primitive with childbearing hips, peasant hands.

Hours pass, as they should, on time.

 

In the bathroom boys divide $100 worth of cocaine.

“What’s she doing in here?” the longhaired boy whispers,

fishing a bottle of absinthe from the freezer.

 

People drinking absinthe are boring in their need

to be acknowledged. He will talk about it for the rest of the night.

“I’m waiting for the bathroom.” He is startled that I heard him.

 

Still he takes me aside to tell me about my boyfriend’s talent.

“Hold on to him, he’ll be famous.” The glow of the infomercial

throws light across the face, eyes exhaustingly alert.

 

His brother is purported to be a professional pickup artist.

He gave lessons in cunnilingus at Stony Brook.

“Like the school actually hired him?”

 

On the lawn I sit down with the pickup artist; he offers a blanket,

asks if I like his band.  A. takes down a girl’s number.

“I liked the Neil Young cover,” I say because it’s half true.

 

He’s speedy and feels like talking. “Smell my hair.

It’s women’s shampoo, you know why?

Because girls are territorial, and they’re more attracted to a man

 

if they smell a woman on him.” “That sounds like bullshit,” I say.

“It’s true.  You know what else?”—he doles out innocuous secrets

because I don’t matter to him. “Fear makes a girl more attracted

 

to the guy she’s with.  So that’s why you should take a girl

to a scary movie, or on a rollercoaster.”

“Alright, pheromones,” I allow and A. returns

 

to tap my shoulder.  By midnight we drop the rest of the band

at the LIRR station, to deliver them to the city.

We head east on 27 until I stop at a diner,

 

lightheaded in a way I can’t identify,

like an eyeglass prescription a fraction too strong.

“I think there’s something wrong, but I might just be imagining it,”

 

which is a problem for me always. The diner was voted best

on Long Island in 2004 and 06.  We order a Belgian waffle,

two eggs over easy and fries. Abruptly A. says “That girl wants

 

to go to my shows. She lives in Queens—she likes my brother, anyway.”

The neat yellow yolks sit like closed eyes.

“I wouldn’t flirt with a girl right in front of you.”

 

He asks who I was talking to earlier and I say a very sober boy,

who asked pointedly what I do. I shrugged write,

and he guessed poetry —then ventured, I bet you have a special place

 

where you write, like by a window overlooking a lake.

No, I said recoiling. A. tells me, “I can imagine you’re impossible

to flirt with.”  “You think I’m not funny?” I hate

 

the word flirt with its awkward phonetics,

the frivolous letter f,  the harsh end

of consonants. He cuts the waffle with a fork; he never worries

 

someone could take me from him.  I’m not stoned

from the downwind of a blunt, only sickened

by my sister’s perfume on the cardigan pulled out of the hamper.

 

Victoria’s Secret is a poisonous vanilla. For fifty miles we pass

deer grazing on the Sunrise.  I hate them for their stupidity.

They wait to be harmed like a lesson in repetition.