When the skeletal boy drifts in, everything’s ruined. I can’t eat as planned. I have to look; he’s asked for that. I recognize him: joyless as a crow. He waits for food like he wants it. Squeezes lemon in his iced water. Wears jewelry – a bracelet today – because wrists, skin over joints, look finer with silver. I’m betting now; he’ll eat half a taco, sit over the meal and hope his phone will ring. Someone, please, steal his occasion to be sated. By the time his order is up, my food is cold.
At the Mexican fast-food stand one block from home, I was nine and in line three times a week for a bean and cheese burrito. It was 1975, the year we moved away from my father. Once, at a table behind us, I listened to a man and boy talk. I heard the older one: you know, I shot a guy once. Was he bragging? Was he confessing? I wanted to ask did you kill him? Wanted to say – even then – why are you telling a kid this? When we left, one of the man’s eyes met mine and the other reeled, loose. The place wasn’t the same; I was afraid we’d see him and that he’d shoot someone else. It was hard to swallow while thinking that.
At the sea, I vanished into a hole dug – deep – to make me even with the ground: hips and breasts identical to sand-swells. I recognized the spice, sandy clove of the ice plant and its purple woven threads, spread in midday heat. Later, at a Mexican restaurant, I ordered an adult’s meal: I’ll have everything. The man across the table didn’t care it was a lie. Later, I covered my face from him. Drop your hands, he said, and I did. When he said, now, kiss my neck, I opened my mouth to that: the faintest version of take me. That kind of consumption can be plenty. Like licking a plate clean.
The boy of bones never builds a house. He lives within skin, a breed of possibility. Between new and finishing, he’s not yet, more please, a nascent nothing.