Urban – by Lila Dunlap

Smiling Whalecourtesy of © Carol Trammel | Dreamstime

Smiling Whalecourtesy of © Carol Trammel | Dreamstime

And then Urban plopped down in the seat next to me, filled it up with her rolls and rolls, tight in her tight T-shirt and tight black tights. I couldn’t see much of her then—I only dared to look out the corner of my eye at her rustling figure, and the theater was so dark… a few lights and colors flashed onto the crowd. Some blue sheen slid over her big face, over her cheeks, her wide chin, over her round lips and the head of a drip dripping juicy sucker that went entering, exiting, entering, exiting, glassy red in that strange dimness full of silent people breathing and clapping and eating and all staring.

Out of my left eye, I suddenly glimpsed a thick mahogany whale surface her mouth—and then disappear. Almost instantly, my throat jumped and hardened, closed up, and my hairline got hot hotter and damp. My attentions were now completely absent from the performance. I sweated and sweated and sweated; my eyes darted back and forth from the irrelevant stage to my new neighbor, whence I noticed a squash of a hand with long hard nails clutching a shiny plastic purse, like a dead animal in her lap—its teal waves were spotted with rough studs glittering and rhinestones writhing but Urban paid no mind!—just every once and a while during a squirm, readjusted the bag, but no, never looked down.

By then my throat was very tight indeed, and I was in dire straits to sit still. My legs and arms executed over/under weaving maneuvers but I pretended to not notice and assumed a nonchalant expression. I wanted so badly to appease the restless snakes, to stand up and stretch (I could have run a marathon), or at least stand and touch my toes, but, God, I couldn’t let my new friend notice me.

I closed my eyes (just for a moment; had to remain alert) and took a deep breath. I re-opened, looking straight ahead, limbs still calm, controlled, behaved. I even thought for a moment about the show and was able to catch a whiff of plotline or clever social commentary, but, oh, my thoughts weren’t to be reigned in so easily: had she seen me acting silly? Making such a goddamn dirty fool of myself? No, goodness I must stay still. All at once, one of the performers must have made a joke—she burst a harsh laugh (deep, too!). Wet beads flew; the whale emerged.

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