“A Lesson in Faith” by Margaret Elysia Garcia
Faith was one of those women who hold up her breasts when she passes mirrors and complains how those small C cup breasts doom her not being taken seriously.
Women with large chests are not taken seriously, she tells you. She could have been a ballerina save for the breasts, she says. She stares at you, a small piece of transparent Scotch tape between her brows, to hold back future wrinkles. You are fatter than she is. You will never be mistaken for a ballerina that never was. Your feet do not point in a perfect direction. You cannot go on toe; your feet would buckle from your girth and you would crash land on top of the last strands of your dignity. But a smile curves up from the side of your mouth. You will not wrinkle the way she will.
You hold onto this thought as you go to get your cornflower blue coat with the white flecks like stars. You’ve spent the day with Faith at your on again/off again lover’s requests. She needs a friend like you, he said. Sigh. Alright. Your day off is spent with a stranger, but you are hoping for clues of his past, so you relent. You still sometimes aim to please him or at least leave open the possibility. He has obliged to meet your friends, now you are meeting one of his. She seems like someone you would want to know, he said.
You stared back at her and smiled when she got you tea. You wanted food, not tea but you were hanging with her at her friend’s apartment in Beverly Hills, not nice enough to be in Beverly Hills, but an address that announced that the occupant was serious about, you know, making it, interning as it were for someone, who knows someone who knows. She brought you here because she is blue, she says, and her friend knows how to cheer her up and she seems like someone you would want to be introduced to anyway because, well she knows.
You ask Faith why she is blue, she says she gave up a man and now he’s hit it big. He has a hit record, do you know it? She says what it is and you say, yeah, you know it. You have it even. You hesitate to tell her you like it. She smiles. His songs, she says the ones on the radio? He wrote them about her. You think about telling her that his hit is a cover song from the sixties but think better of it.
The woman who lives in the Beverly Hills apartment has nearly no furniture but she does have a small coffeetable and a tv stand and one chair and a Sarah McLachlan making of Stumbling Towards Ecstasy video that makes you want to drive cross town so someone can put a gun to your head. You really loved the song “Plenty” but now, you hate it. You are wanting the Apocalypse at the Lillith Fair now that you’ve been forced to sit through this. You and Faith sit on the floor and she does stretches while she talks to you. At home you stretch out on the floor too, but you have the feeling Faith will take any movement from you as an opportunity for her to show you how to do something. The apartment is both void of books and a coffeemaker. This makes you suspicious.
Later, when he is free from work your on again off again lover calls the two of you and asks whether you want to drive out to where he is house sitting. She has been the driver today and you are thankful because where he is house sitting is nearby your own apartment and now you have a ride home and don’t have to worry about taking the bus. But why is she so eager to head out there, you wonder? But you are tired and hate Sarah MacLachlan and tea so you don’t think about it so much. And of course, you are still starving and there are leftovers in your fridge.
She tells you on the way over that you are not what she pictured. She looks over at you from the driver’s seat and says, “You know? I just didn’t picture you. I didn’t know he liked big women.” He’s spoken about you to her, she says. She pictured, you know, someone thinner. Perhaps taller. More outgoing. But she can see why he likes you. She looks at your chest. You think about how torn you are of seeing your on again/off again lover or just jumping out of the car to your death.
She has been talking at you for six hours. You should have taken drugs when they were offered.
You meet up at your apartment, the three of you. He gives you a hug and holds you tight for a moment, in front of her and then he hugs her briefly and you take too much in that yours was longer. He says do you want to see the cool place I’m watching? It was built in the 1920s and full of those built in bookcases and shelves of Craftsman and you love Craftsmans and bathtubs with clawed feet so you agree to walk at almost midnight five blocks away. She doesn’t like to walk so she says she’ll meet you there. She wants to grab a bite to eat. You are still starving but you would rather do anything else than eat in front of her. You and your on again/off again lover walk in the dark. You stop at the liquor store, you pick out a bottle of wine and he pays. You hold hands even. He asks how the day went with her? You say it went fine. She’s a nice person. He should know by now not to ask questions like that. He should know what a lie sounds like. This time of night the waterbugs come out on the sidewalks and scurry across. Once, one scurried over your foot. You never want to feel that sensation again.
She is already there when you get there. She has finished eating her fast food and has taken off her coat and her shoes. She had a key. Your on again/off again lover pours you a glass of wine and pours one for himself and one for her. She says she cheated on her diet by eating a hamburger; she can only drink half a glass. You gulp down the wine and hold your glass out for a second. He pours it and leans over and kisses your cheek and your neck. You smile but return nothing except the glass to your lips. Then he goes over to Faith and does the same and she grabs him down at the back of the neck and pulls him into her. In one ballet like move she has made herself a fallen swan and pulled him on top. He holds out his hand to you, motions you to come to him. She breaks her kiss from him and smiles at you sweetly. You lift your glass to them and tell them in a minute.
You hold onto this thought as you go to get your cornflower blue coat with the white flecks like stars. Perhaps they believe that as they get up to walk to the bedroom hand in hand, still motioning for you , though not looking at your eyes.
You open the door onto the night, flecked with too many stars. You can already hear their sounds. You’d have been willing if you chose the woman; there’s no way to explain that to a man you say so little to. He’ll figure it out by daybreak, you think. The sky is nearly the color of your coat, you can almost disappear. It’s only five blocks to home up Greenleaf Avenue. The streets are not quite deserted as the bar is letting out just now. You had admitted to her hours earlier, just what he meant to you when she told you about her ex. A simpatico moment, you thought you’d make for her. You look at your unmade bed with dirty sheets that still smell of him and of roses from the night before. The off again lover is parked at your house still, and you faith he will understand this morning’s locked door.