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his airtight heart

In a way you can blame Sid’s lack of a long-term relationship on his parents. They set the bar so high that he’s never felt even close to the love that they shared.

There were four separate parties going on in the apartment building, typical for a Saturday night in a college town. The building was on the main drag on campus, three stories high and built in the shape of an L and each apartment looked out into the same parking lot. The music from each party thumped away and you could look from one end of the structure to the other with little fear of stumbling across a sober student.

Three of the four parties contained women that were of interest to Sid. If you’re looking for it to get romantic, let me stop you right here. When I say “of interest” I mean girls that he’s either slept with or wanted to sleep with. Romance had very little to do with it.

He remembers after his mother’s funeral he drove his father to the little house where he’d grown up and sat in the living room with him. His mom had been sick for awhile so her passing wasn’t a surprise but he was still concerned at the lack of emotion his father had displayed at the cemetery. They had been not only been married but inseparable for the past fifty three years. He finally worked up the nerve to ask him why he hadn’t cried.

“Because if I start I will never stop,” his dad answered in such a way that the whole world suddenly froze.

On the first floor, third door from the stairs, there was a girl named Robin. A local girl Sid had met a few weeks back and with whom he had slept with twice since. As a local, there was this feeling that she was trying to marry a college boy but nothing could be further from the truth. She was just horny a lot and, being she lived at home, she liked to sleep somewhere else now and then. She was pretty and quiet and Sid enjoyed being with her.

Of course, when I say “with her” I mean inside her.

She seemed to enjoy it as well.

“Can I tell you a story about when I met your mother?” his dad asked. A reply was unnecessary.

“I might be one of the few people on the planet that remembers his last thought before he fell in love. I was sitting in a restaurant looking out the window. There was a big storm coming and the clouds were all dark and low. I thought to myself ‘That one looks like a dragon duck’ and then I happened to turn and see your mom walk in.”

On the second floor was Jenna. She wore short skirts and too much make-up and Sid liked the way she whimpered his name when they were having sex. She would no doubt graduate but the only thing more certain than it would not be on time was that it would be with a degree that did not open many doors for her in the corporate world. She liked to drink and laugh and she had a thing for Sid that came to the forefront when she was drunk and laughing.

Now I was going to barrel ahead and talk about the girl on the third floor but I first want to make sure you’re not associating the floor with some hierarchy of sexual need on the part of Sid because each girl was successively higher. It was a total coincidence that they happened to be on the floors they were on.

While I’m digressing, let me also note that at this point you might be wondering if there is a broader point to this part of the story. Both Robin and Jenna are very generic characters and offer little by way of interesting dynamics, be they social or sexual. While I understand that men readers spent their energy picturing the two women during coitus and female readers wondered if they were prettier than them when they were their age, neither of these justifies the amount of time I’ve spent in this building.

Sid could see his father watching the dark cloud crawl across the sky.

“Funny thought to have but that’s what it looked like. A dragon duck. Then I turned and saw her. It was at that moment that I could see for years. I could see farther ahead than I ever thought possible. Clear as a bell.”

His father was there but he wasn’t. He could see his dad moving through the years, just as he’d seen them on that day in the restaurant.

Samona on the other hand…

She was so badly damaged that if I went into any detail about her past this story would end up in a stuffy psychology magazine. The worst part about it was that most of the damage was between her ears, completely invented by her and completely hidden from anyone not interested in having her fall for them. Sid had yet to sleep with her despite taking her to bed twice.

Later he hugged his father and drove off. In the morning he got the call that his father had died during the night. He hadn’t even gotten undressed. He was just lying on the bed with his hands folded across his chest. There was no official cause of death. As the doctor put it, “It appears his head and his heart decided that they didn’t want to go on any further. I wouldn’t claim that he died of a broken heart… just one unwilling to live without your mom.”

Sid sat on the wooden stairs that smelled of stale beer and spilled Chinese take-out and looked up at the sky. At the clouds. Examining them as he often did. Looking unsuccessfully for a dragon duck.

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