The Near-Son

I killed a near-son today. Naturally I did not tell my lover about it. But when I was at the clinic his ex-girlfriend was there and she recognized me, and when that snitch got home she called my lover on the phone and told him what I’d done. She probably snuck it in as if she didn’t mean to let it slip. “Oh I saw Mona today at the clinic,” she would have said. “You knew she was there, right? We chatted a bit . . .” and so forth. We hadn’t even chatted a bit.

She walked out of the clinic as I walked in. She was wearing a silver sheath and looked glamorous. In the exit she paused and I did too because she’d blocked my way. She took her sunglasses off and bobbed her chin at me. I guessed she had an idea who I was but wasn’t sure, and I knew I should not bob back. But part of me thought: Maybe it means, We’re friends. I bobbed back. Her lip curled. She stepped aside and I said, Thanks! and went in and got it done.

When I got home I was thinking, Scot-free, scot-free! I tried to walk normally even though it hurt. My lover was lying down on the couch with a compress on his head. The TV was on the sports channel, but he wasn’t watching TV.

How was the mall? he said. But he said it in a dull, sarcastic voice, like he was dead.

I should have known then, but I didn’t.

The mall was great! I said. I held up some pretend shopping bags, as if I’d almost bought a million things. Pretty expensive though, I said.

My lover looked at me with his narrow blue eyes, the ones that first convinced me we should really have sex.

My near-son died today, he said. I felt a tingle when you did it.

I knew I was in trouble then. So I hung my head to show I wanted to be forgiven. Even though he was making the tingle up. He got the tingle from his friends, because they all had stories about the tingles they’d felt when their near-sons were dead. Also, ever since his friends had found out they had even one near-son, they’d decided they each had a few dozen. To find out their real number, they multiplied each girlfriend they’d had by four, five, or six. The number came from a formula that involved a woman’s height-to-weight ratio, how much money her parents made, and the width of her hips. My lover’s friends liked to get together and drink French roast and reminisce, as in, “I almost met my near-son today.” They were all great friends. According to them, the way you met your near-son was, you felt the tingle and knew his spirit was close. Or if you were sensitive, you might see him full-blown, about 17 or 18 and about to wave before he vaporized—the only way to know it was him, besides being sensitive, was that he looked like you knew he would, which was a lot like yourself in your prime. The other way to see him was to see a real guy who resembled him, in which case you might confuse the guy for a spirit and say, “Hey near-son, wanna toss a few back?” and the guy would say, “Go screw.”

I don’t know why you did it, my lover said, or how you could. He adjusted the compress on his head.

I don’t know either, I said.

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