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Paper Magazine: Valentine

As published in Paper Magazine, 2004.  


When I follow him I am always three steps behind.  He is too young for fatherhood.  His strides are long, and I run two steps for each step I walk.  I have no time to stop, but I do.  She is holding the hand of her grandmother.  They seize the marble floor of the Metropolitan with prim, crisp footfalls.  They are not from my part of town, or the city, even.  The girl has blue eyes.  Her hair rides her shoulders, catches on the blue wool of her coat.  I can see she wears plaid tights.  I know her—the ones like her—she sits at the head of the class, she knows the answers.  She organizes her pencils into plastic satchels that zip.  I am tattered and thin.  My jeans are worn-thru at the knees and the heels.  My jean jacket has a lining of clumpy fake fleece, and an unraveling corduroy collar.  My eyes are brown and humorless.  She is serious too, and only fleetingly narrows her eyes in my direction—but her ample cheeks seduce me.