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you like?” “Tell me about Mom,” I said, eyes on the floor. Stars of white speckled the tile; salt or sugar, I couldn’t tell. “Tell me again how you met.” *** Alcohol works in funny ways. When it’s fermenting, the yeast breaks down all the sugar and leaves behind ethanol, poison. Doesn’t matter if you start with grapes or barley, molasses or potatoes—the yeast gobbles up all the sweet and tells your blood: here, have fun with this. Alcoholics feel this on a grand scale. Over time, their bodies forget how to regulate blood sugar. Their insulin can be too high or too low. They can become diabetic, even die. I wonder about my insulin as Dave pulls into the lot of the La Quinta. What parts of my body have the Jack and Gingers saturated? Has my blood taken them everywhere, from the little veins in my toes to the fat ones in my wrists? If I took a butcher knife to my wrist now, would I smell whiskey? Dave’s hand moves in mine as he guides me through the lobby. A little stroke: his thumb on my palm. The first stroke of many. I don’t make eye contact with the woman behind the counter, but in my peripheral vision I detect curly hair, thick-lensed glasses, maroon lipstick. I detect judgment, too, but that’s nothing new. I expect it from women who work the graveyard shift. After we climb into bed, but before he asks me to take off my clothes, Dave pauses. A patronizing moment. “I know this isn’t just about the money,” he begins. “No,” I lie. “It’s an arrangement.” I nod. “I want to see you again. Often.” I nod. His hands spin through my hair, fingering the long pieces, tickling my scalp. “But you must need something,” he whispers, his mouth moving to my ear. I tell my answer to the ceiling. The curdled texture of the white ceiling: like cottage cheese, or clumpedup baking soda. “School,” I lie. “Help getting my paralegal certificate. It’s a couple thousand dollars.” The heat of Dave’s mouth moves from my neck to my lips. He exhales on me, smiles, says he thinks

we can make that happen. After a long kiss, after my mouth is free of his tongue, he gives a playful little laugh. “A smart girl,” he says. “That’s what I like to see.” I nod. And then says he’d like to see more. *** Of course my mom balked when I, a smiling tenyear-old, told her my dream of becoming a secretary. She said secretaries barely exist in this day and age— if anything, I’d be a personal assistant. She said it with a face as if she’d smelled something foul. “Well, maybe I could be a paralegal,” I said. “Like Nancy at your office. You love Nancy.” Mom laughed. Loudly. “Nancy’s a paralegal because she was afraid of the LSAT. Is that what you want to be? Afraid?” When I turned away, Mom spoke to my back. “You’re better than that, Ruth,” she said. “Act like it.” *** Dave deposits me, three hundred dollars richer, at the gas station a few blocks from my apartment. Because I always stop at the Shell after an arrangement, Nadia behind the counter doesn’t look up from her Ok! magazine as I make my ritual trek to the grocery aisle. There, where it always sits, is the jumbo-size box of Saltines. Four sleeves: 4844 milligrams of sodium. I calculated it one night when I couldn’t sleep. In my apartment, in my bed, crumbs of cracker and salt spill around me as I eat through each sleeve. Caressing the pristine white wrappers, easing the crackers toward my mouth, sliding them past my lips. I let the white mess glom the crevices of my molars and the spaces between my teeth. Eventually the taste is so overwhelming I don’t think I can swallow; I just hold the ball of white in my mouth, eyes burning, lips swollen, thinking my blood must have turned to salt and sludged to a standstill. Finally, eyes squeezed shut, I swallow.

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Profile for Apeiron Review

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...

Apeiron Review | Summer 2015  

The summer issue of Apeiron Review, a Philadelphia-based literary magazine, is ready for you and a glass of your favorite beverage. Cool off...