Border Town Love Affair

Emma Ignaszewsk
 

She asks again why I don’t have a boy, why I don’t get one. As if they’re stacked in the ice freezer outside the gas station, hoping to be stuffed into the car’s belly, instead of leaning easy on the same freezer in translucent cotton that bares pretzeled arms.

She rolls her eyes when I sputter the tired excuse about being picky. It’s true, but she’s picky too, just not until after they fall in love with her. I’m the smart one, taller, older, and, thus, the virgin. She’s the sharp one, funny, pretty. And, thus, heavy with confidence.

The deal is, she pumps the gas, I pay. So I slip out of the car. Crumpled bills, fives and ones, take their time adding to fifty-two. Two for the sacks of ice we need to fill the plastic coolers in the yard studded with beer bottle necks all summer.

Outside, the boy leaning on the freezer drinks me in. He relishes my legs, sheathed in white shorts, nearly as tan as his own brown skin. His face is filled with jade eyes, jaded too, as if he’s seen more violence in his twenty years than I ever will. I believe it, and I’m all the more seduced. I step forward. Open the freezer. The cold is like love, slapping me on the cheeks and chest. The icebox breathes its pale breath over me, and when I emerge, I am my sister. Hey, I say. The ice bags curl like infants in the dips of my elbows. He nods a sophisticated nod.

What year’s the Camino, gringa? Eighty-four. A good year, he says, like it’s a wine made stronger by the heat.

What’s the ice for?

I remember I am my sister. To keep me cool, I say.

I think it’s overkill until his eyes spread, stick out of his face like hands, pulling me close. As if we’re sharing the wine over homemade enchiladas with special sauce that’s bitter, thick, a little burnt. He feels it too—the hollowed edges of his mauve lips turn up like I’ve kissed them. I’m near enough to see that his knotted arms are sculpted and full of wit—that’s where wit can be found, the curve of the upper arm. His other muscles roll under his skin and tell me he’s honest, especially the one arching from neck to shoulder, where I could lay a chip of ice and it would slide, melt, slide, melt, even if the sky froze over. His body savors me, mine him, and the moment stretches until the ice babies drool on my toes. I shudder. The freezer door hangs, ajar, then the fog steals away in the sunlight, taking with it my sister’s composure. Leaving me.

I blush and fly to the car, where she taps her fingers on the wheel to the rhythm of the sunset. She asks what he said, and I tell her he tasted me with his eyes, that his voice was melted ice and though he didn’t say much, we made figurative love.

She explodes into laughter.

The difference between you and me, she says, is I’d never do something like that.