High and Inside

I once read a story about a baseball player who took a fastball in the eye. I guess that’s what you get for looking at what’s coming. I made the same mistake the day I met her – the red hair, the way her green eyes flashed when she made change for my cup of coffee. I handed her a five and she said, “they’re wrinkled today” as she gave me back some ones. “Wrinkled?” I said, distracted by the luminous skin of her neck at the collar of her tee-shirt, where a lacy beige strap peeked out. It was the first day of spring and everything was vibrating. She placed the bills in my hand and flashed me a smile more generous than justified by what I’d said or the way I looked or the amount of my purchase or anything other than perhaps the sun streaming through the plate glass and the warm breeze blowing in off the street. She looked at me like that and I thought of what the baseball player had said, how he didn’t feel anything when he was hit, just saw a burst of light and felt his mouth fill with liquid, like when you eat a handful of sour balls or bite into a ripe peach. That’s how it was when she threw me that look: my mouth watered up and my eyes filled with light, and I didn’t feel any pain at all, not at first, not for a long time.

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High and Inside was originally published in the Boston Literary Magazine.