We’re eating at this fancy restaurant when the waitress recommends the peppers. “They’re not spicy,” she says. “Only one in ten are spicy.”
We say okay and order the peppers that are mostly not spicy.
I’m there with my boyfriend and drops of sweat are congealing on his nose. “Did you get a spicy one?” I ask.
“No,” he says, “but any minute now.”
He’s sweating in anticipation.
Earlier that day he suggested we try a 69. He was sweating then, too. He’s an engineering major who lives with three other engineering majors, and despite the car posters in his bedroom and his deafness to subtlety, the sex is pretty good.
“How about the chicken?” I ask him. So far it’s us tasting the food, asking each other how it tastes. The couple next to us is talking about Mormon girls, how they can now go on missions at nineteen.
“Why do they call it missionary, the position?” I ask him. I’ve been thinking about the names of things: tulips, watermelons, pants.
My boyfriend coughs and pulls his napkin to his mouth. He says, “Maybe it’s the best position for conception, like baby-making is god’s work. At least the Catholics think so.”
I picture myself on my back with a halo over my head.
“Then 69 would be what? Satanic?”
We both grew up Lutheran so we’re not exactly experts. He starts coughing again, and I hand him his glass of water. He drinks it in slow gulps, all of it, and I get the feeling he’s stalling.
“We’re talking an entirely different paradigm,” he says finally. “Something Eastern, that involves the yin and yang. It’s about harmony.” He pats his forehead with his napkin.
That night we play a game where we write down things we could do in bed, fold our pieces of paper, and drop them into a pint glass on his nightstand next to his globe lamp. It’s like our own game of truth or dare except every pull is dare. When he goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth and re-apply his Right Guard, I peek at one of his papers. It says “69.”
Some girls dream of rose petals on the bed, fireworks that fizzle into soft jazz. With an engineer it’s probability theory and rebar, vectors and joists. It’s fit and dependability. When he comes back, he wraps his arms around me, and I slip the paper into his hand. Tiny beads of sweat begin to sparkle like glitter on his nose.
Kara Vernor’s fiction has appeared in Wigleaf, No Tokens, Green Mountains Review, The Los Angeles Review, and elsewhere. She is an Elizabeth George Foundation Scholar at Antioch University LA and was a 2015 Best Small Fictions finalist. Her chapbook, Because I Wanted to Write You a Pop Song, is available from Split Lip Press.
Photo by Tom Campone