“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 12

Chapter 12

This struck Frank and it caused him to go back in time when he was a ten-year-old living in Hawaii. He told his friend Taki that he was attracted to a Filipino girl they were dancing with during the May Day Parade at Jefferson Elementary in Waikiki. The next thing he knew, Taki asked him to meet him outside class and Taki threatened him, that if Frank ever tried to date her, he would punch him. Frank was the smallest boy in class. Taki was the second smallest. Still, Taki greatly intimidated Frank. Then, in sixth grade, Kazu and the other boys would throw a hard plastic ball at him in a game called ‘Bean ’em and Run.’ Instead of chasing the other boys, they all kept throwing the ball at Frank. Eventually, he realized that as the Haole, the outsider, he wasn’t really their friend.

He went to Noelani Nishiki’s with Caitlin Watanabe, who was his “girlfriend” at the time. They held hands, walked home, and that was about it. A Samoan classmate escorted him outside near one of the only bushes between the classroom and the Ala Wai Canal and threatened to kill him if he ever saw him with Caitlin again. It turned out that the Samoan was later in jail for murder. What really upset him in these cases was that neither Taki nor the Samoan seemed to have any contact with the girls. Were they jealous? Frank wondered. Then in intermediate school, Frank managed to tell Taki that he liked Sara, then Taki and Kazu tricked him into meeting them by the tennis court. He can’t remember who punched him in the stomach first, but it made him cry mostly because of the injustice: It didn’t seem to matter what Sara thought, or if she even knew. He never sat with them on the bench again. He was fooled for the last time. He did however, dance with another Caitlin during a dance period at school. He, Caitlin, and another couple were the only people on the dance floor. The affect on Frank was to take away that part of his childhood. He reasoned that this may have been the cause for his attraction to Nicole. He also knew that he was attracted to types of women and that their ages didn’t matter. Nicole was beautiful to him despite that she was probably considered beautiful to anyone.

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 11

Chapter 11

“Wow!” Nicole said, “You’ve got a rough draft.”

“I want to type it up and then think about what I need to do to flesh it out,” Frank responded, “I’m going to think about what I was feeling when I wrote you and about the things that are happening. Today, for example, I opened a book I bought in July called And Everyday It Was Overcast by Paul Kwiatkowski and this particular passage struck a chord with me:

He sold ecstasy, heroin, acid, and coke to punk high school kids. His house smelled like Vicks VapoRub. Over and over I watched him single out the sad loner girls, get them addicted to opiates, and make them his until absolutely no one wanted them.

Frank cited this section of the book, because the entire book appealed to him. He was interested in the young girls and those days of his own youth, where he remembered how easy it was to attract and seduce. He was also drawn to the pictures from the book, because they haunted him. The kids were clearly drugged and isolated in a backwoods area and these excursions into drug-taking and sexual frivolity saddened him for the advantage the boys and men were taking of the girls—how one older woman was indeed so awkward and thin in her pictures that it didn’t seem like she would ever survive.

Nicole said, “I would hate to have that happen to me. Although I am talking to you, for example, and I get that you are a normal person, I kind of understand how someone lost could be taken by someone they needed to trust. But, I also know when it starts to feel uncomfortable and I just know I could tell that guy was going to take advantage of me and it’s not cool!” She was looking down at the screen and she could feel the predicament that the “Sad, loner girls” were getting themselves into. It pissed her off. She looked up from her computer and looked around her bedroom. Everything was in its place. Her family was in the other rooms doing what they did. Her father was at work. She felt safe. She didn’t have to go outside of her home to find safety.

The computer made that sound like a door bell and Frank looked up at the red medallion at the top right with all the other icons and it made him smile.

Another bong rang out with another statement by Nicole: “When I was younger, I met this guy in our neighborhood. He was lanky, kinda cute, and we messed around. I can remember him lifting my shirt and putting his hands on my stomach and then moving under my bra. We kissed a lot and he also touched me, you know where. I don’t remember what happened after that. The next thing I knew, he was the kid in High School with the drugs. He had a lot of girls following him around and I think they used to party at his parent’s house. He and his group were popular, but they also seemed strung out and there was an edge to them. I thought, I never wanted to be like that. I didn’t see the point.”

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 10

Chapter 10

When Nicole reminded him of this, he knew the stupidity of his attraction. Turning this into a short story was, in effect, a kind of fetishizing, what he finally realized he could never have. The short story represented the shoe that would never fit even though he may have come upon it. The fact that he was in his room some unknown distance from her should have told him that the relationship wasn’t real. She was playing with him, even though she might have sensed he was a real person and although completely not her type, she sensed his humanity and didn’t want nor feel the need to hurt him. She was curious about what was happening. Frank hoped she had some daddy issue to work out, but then his intentions would still not be aligned with hers, since missing a father does not correlate to wanting to have sex with an older man. She might have wanted to feel protected, but not engaged in intercourse, unless she had been, and that was another thing entirely. Molested women had come to him in the past and sex was on the menu, but so was their desire to control the sex, whereas Frank was only interested in having it.

Frank picked up a clear glass mug of hot fresh vegetable soup that he had just made to clear his congestion. He raised it to his mouth just as the neighbor across the way was walking with a shopping bag across the second floor balcony. She was too far away for Frank to get a sense of her figure or what she looked like. Neighbors from that unit and the other one to the right of it came and went at least every three months. He had only seen her about three or four times over the course of a month or two. She came out again wearing a black coat that went to her waist and a magenta T-shirt with white letters underneath. She seemed tall, and large-boned. She wore black-rimmed glasses. She left her door open and went down the steps again. She was returning with things in her arms. Each time, it would appear that she knew he was looking at her, but he couldn’t tell she knew he was there simply because it was dark inside his apartment, the window was shut, and there might have been a reflection on the sliding glass door. He couldn’t see into her apartment. Her door behind the screen door was open, although the overhang didn’t cast a shadow over the door, where in his case his balcony was covered by the roof.

Frank finished the broth and looked at the vegetables that remained. Nearly the entire mug was full. He went to the kitchen, poured more broth and vegetables into the cup and grabbed a small plate and spoon. He returned to his desk and the neighbor’s door was still open. It was cold outside. What was she saying? Or was he imagining her invitation? He returned to the short story and Nicole.

“A short story would set up the scene,” he added, “It would describe Spark and go from there. It would describe the two people. You would have to do this on your end because I don’t know you. What is happening in your life? Who are you? What do you dream about becoming, etc.? People would want to know. They like to relate to others with common threads. Then there is me. What was going through my head? Didn’t I know it would be awkward? Wasn’t it awkward? Until you responded, I didn’t realize I had nothing to say, and then by intellectualizing the conversation, I was able to shift all of it into this story. Perhaps it is just about me.

“Last night I kept thinking I should just cut this off. It was risky. Still, as a writer and in an attempt to garner some semblance of virtue, I am interested in getting to the truth—is it a simple attraction to beauty and youth? I am interested in your feelings. I know they aren’t romantic. How could they be? I can’t sleep with someone I am not attracted to. How could you?”

“Anyway,” Frank said, “the short story might start as:

“‘Glenn saw Alexis’ picture. He pressed the green button because he wanted to. Alexis was someone he wanted and didn’t consider the other information that might have given him more to think about. It was a dare. What would she think about him? He didn’t know. He just pressed the icon and her picture went right. He wanted. Then, and he can’t remember this, she matched him. She said later that she only did it spontaneously. She said she wanted to make friends with other people. For Glenn it posed a problem. What would he say to her? He was attracted but reality showed its face as he imagined her doing this on a whim and then laughing at the audacity. She was already in love with David who would find this ridiculous too. Maybe it would also anger him knowing what Glenn was up to. She was going to tell Gretchen and Mimi, but she hadn’t seen them yet. Maybe she could write this as a story for class – what she thought of him. What was he doing at this moment? Where was he? He thought of her too. They were having a conversation that meant that they had to think about what was being said and about themselves and it was risky, at least for Glenn. He felt embarrassed but also drawn to it, as it was mentioned, everything is about sex. For Glenn, it was more interesting than the sunlight over the neighborhood outside that seemed never to move except as the trees blew faintly. Perhaps, they would meet for coffee in some urban coffee shop or in the suburbs since they didn’t know where the other one lived. She imagined the awkwardness of his attraction and the hopelessness of that having to translate his dreams into intellectualization. She just looked back at him almost as awkwardly as he felt. They talked about themselves and the story that was moving forward. It turned out that he was very attracted to her and she was just thinking about the story for class, about her life, and the risks she would take for something to tell her friends.

“It was awkward Mimi,” Alexis told her friend. “He was wearing a pair of seersucker shorts and a blue and white striped shirt. He was so informal. I could feel his nervousness. I guess he realized how old I was and it made him feel evil. I thought it would be fine, but I felt bad for him. I had no intention for any of this to happen, but there I was looking back at him. He was fidgeting with a Starbuck’s cup.”

“Pickles and Tarts” — Chapter 9

Chapter 9

It was sunny outside and the sky was relatively blue, except Frank could see a light gray cloud cover and he knew having learned the lesson, after arriving from Honolulu in 1993, that just because the sun was out it didn’t mean that it was warm outside. Frank looked down at the words Nicole had sent and he looked up too at the reality that they both must be aware. In Frank’s mind he was hopeful.

“That’s fabulous,” Frank said, “I was talking about a short story built out of this experience. It felt weird, my being physically attracted to you, but it also appears that we both have an interest in writing, unless this is a class you have to take.”

“Well,” Nicole said, “if you were to write a short story about this meeting what would you say? And no, this class is an option. I decided to take it.”

Nicole, in Frank’s eyes, was flitting about the issue that most concerned him, but he was also either ignorant that she had answered the question about her sexual interest in that there wasn’t one, or he dismissed it and was feeding off the contact she was giving. His desires were stronger than his better judgment.

“I think” Frank said, “that we’ve already said a lot: The implication of your short responses and then your grand explosion of statements, where you could finally relate, you were spontaneous. What was on your mind when you took the leap? That is what is interesting. My pressing the green button when I saw you with perhaps the same spontaneity is not. The short story, or what I would say, is to put our words into quotes going back and forth and filling in the blanks that the conversation left. There were intentions on both sides of our conversation.”

“A short story,” Frank continued, “gets at those with the intent of informing. It’s been a theme with me of late. I told my friend Lani that I felt like a dirty old man now that I’ve gotten older but my tastes in women have remained the same. As an artist, perhaps as the son of a television model, I can’t help but find impossibly beautiful women attractive. That would be something I might explore. What about you? What would you want to say? I pictured you laughing at the absurdity of my trying to maintain a conversation. It must have felt trying. Was it uncomfortable? ‘Why is this guy writing?’ you may have thought? ‘Is he crazy? I was just kidding. I’ve got a boyfriend. Doesn’t he know this?’”