Thursday, February 22, 2007


Germany was home; I couldn't change that. Pickering thought it was abominable, which irked me. "I don't think less of you because you're from Rhode Island."

"Rhode Island didn't elect Hitler," he retorted.

These sorts of conversations usually degraded into exchanged "fuck you"s and "fuck your country"s, simmering baleful glares, and at least one of us stalking off. Once they had actually led to physical blows. This was because Pickering was a full-blown jerk. Among all of us, this was established; everyone by now had resignedly accepted his assholitude. Still, somehow, there was something about him which attracted me. I had always dated boys who had later turned out to be secret jerks, but never had I been interested in one while already knowing the extent of his stupidity. Thus, I reasoned, I was definitely not into Pickering. Not even a little bit. Hell no.

I went home and looked at atlases. Berlin, now divided. When I was seven I went there with my father for a weekend; I remember taking a day off of school for it.

'Rhode Island can bite me,' I thought, then pretended I hadn't.

In the shower that evening, the water bouncing and running off the oils of my skin, I mentally defended my country to him. I dug out all the national history we had made reports on in grade school from the crevasses of my mind, and presented it too proudly to my not-quite-friend, dodging all his arguments with the grace of a ballerina. (In my mind, that was. When I tried to debate Pickering for real, I was always the one who got red and flustered while he'd stare me down, he'd always keep his cool.)

He had a girlfriend, a peachy thing with an incongruous Bostonian accent, and when he kissed her in public I blushed for the both of them. They lived together and I knew they slept together, but fiercely denied it to myself. I was sure he was an expert in bed, but denied that too.

Pickering was thin, tall and European-looking, with pinched features and a brown-blond, scraggly goatee. He was barely in his thirties but already balding. I told him he looked Germanic, but, infuriatingly, he remained supremely unruffled. I couldn't push his buttons, probably because he knew that was the way to push mine. He made me want to punch things, to crack bones, but I spent hours imagining the freckles on his thighs, the taste of his sweat.

I knew he would stay faithful to the girlfriend; he was that sort. It made me angrier. I wanted to kidnap him, to force him onto a jet plane to my little country town in Germany, to fuck him on the grass until even he, so imperturbable, gasped for breath. I knew it would never happen.

I spent all weekend painting him in my mind. I wanted to break his heart.