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46 My Nonsexual Affair A Tale of Strong and Unusual Feelings My nonsexual affair began on the day Linda and I had hot fudge sundaes, in the park, near the fence, where most of the grass was dead and the weeds could not be identified by anyone who was not a trained botanist. Luckily, Linda was. “Ambrosia artemisiifolia,” she said. “See the hairy underside of the leaf? Ragweed , people call it. Bad for allergies.” “Fascinating,” I said. She smiled to herself in a way I found mysterious. Her fingertips lingered on the underside of the weed’s leaves as she released it, a gesture both sensual and vaguely scientific. I had never known anyone who could call a weed by its true name. I wanted to hold her brain in my bare hands! “It doesn’t get any better than this!” I exclaimed. In my excitement, I bit the inside of my lip. I soon tasted blood, and my eyes watered from the pain, but this was the most enthusiasm I’d felt in years. Linda straightened up yet continued to examine the nearby plants andy mozina fiction 47 with her hands on her hips. “How’s work?” she finally asked, turning back to me. I tongued my wound before answering. “For some reason, I had ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ playing in my head all day.” “Glen Campbell?” “Yeah,” I said.“‘Gettin’ cards and letters from people I don’t even know.’” “‘ And offers comin’ over the phone.’” My breath caught slightly as I realized she’d completed the lyric for me. “Linda,” I said. “What?” “Nothing.” “No, I’m listening. Let me know what you’re thinking.” She tilted her head and squinted in her trademark quizzical expression. To an almost violent degree, she invited me to reveal a confidence. “Well, sometimes I wonder if we’ve gotten to know each other—a little too well.” “Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “You’re definitely a puzzle to me. I definitely don’t understand you.” “You and my wife both,” I said, and immediately regretted it. It had been an unspoken rule not to mention our partners. Linda had been sitting with her knees pulled up and her forearms wrapped around her knees, but now she extended her right leg and her right hand fell to her thigh, while she kept her left forearm around her left kneecap. I knew this meant she was extremely upset. “Kidding,” I said. “I bet,” she said. “Kidding,” I said again, more earnestly. “All right, you clodhopper,” she said, and pushed my shoulder. I swayed as if she had sent me moving like a tire swing. She didn’t seem to notice. “Good ice cream,” she said. “Gotta get back.” She stood up and brushed off her knees, though they were already clean. We ambled over to a green trash barrel that smelled rancid from five paces. We tossed in our plastic sundae boats and spoons and napkins , then veered toward the street where our cars were parked a block apart. 48 ecotone “Wow, that was fun,” I said. “It sure was. Hey,” she said, stopping and making intense eye contact . “You take care?” “No, you take care.” “Get out of here!” she said. As she walked away, I asked, “You watching Lost this week?” “Of course,” she said. “E-mail me?” “Maybe.” I winked. “Sheesh!” she said, waving her hand at me. But she was smiling. When I got home, Sarah had the lawn mower all taken to pieces in the garage. I left the Camry in the driveway and walked up to her with my hands in my pockets, whistling. “Jesus Christ,” Sarah said, “is that chocolate sauce down the front of your shirt?” I looked down. Sure enough. There was a long streak of fudge sauce, slightly thicker where it crossed the bulge of my paunch. I blushed furiously. Why hadn’t Linda said something? “Where?” I asked foolishly, on the brink of spilling a confession. “Oh, that,” I said, dabbing at the sauce with a finger. It was still wet and surprisingly thick. My mind flashed again, almost angrily, to Linda. “You know, I got a lot done, so I...


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