That summer while Emily’s mom painted pictures of Iranian militiamen in the garage, we watched Sarah Morrison have sex. Sarah rented the casita behind the Freedman’s pool shed, a tiny stucco building with just enough room for a bed and desk—a little alcove in the corner with a hot plate and a mini-fridge. She took classes at Arizona State and wore pink tights under frayed jeans cut off at the swell of her thighs. Emily thought she looked like Madonna with long curly hair and slightly less eye makeup, but I said she was prettier. From the window in the Freedman’s bathroom, with Emily’s Nikon bird-watching binoculars, we could see everything.
In the mornings and evenings, he was a milky white redhead with a sunken space between his chest. The guy in the afternoons looked about as simple as the first guy, but when he took off his clothes, it was all sweat and testosterone: a broad back and twitching muscles, a look on his face like he might eat Sarah alive without saying a word.
Emily said she liked the redhead better because he was Sarah’s boyfriend and because he’d helped her make a mousetrap-powered car for the fifth grade science fair the year before, but this was because Emily was boring. When I told her I liked Kirk Cameron, she said her celebrity crush was a tie between Joseph Salk and Simon Wiesenthal. “Um, the Nazi Hunter, duh,” she said. “Don’t you know about the Nuremburg Trials?”
The redhead always came over with a stack of textbooks and spent hours behind Sarah’s typewriter. When they did have sex it looked like the diagrams of procreation I’d seen in the slideshow at Woman Readiness Day the spring before—the two of them staring off in their own directions as if they were each imagining the mystery of the egg leaving the fallopian tube. Mr. Afternoon made Sarah wriggle like a half-dead fish.
After, we’d lie on the floorboards in Emily’s room picturing their blurry pink-white bodies and imagining what they said to each other. Emily said Sarah was in love with the redhead and was only hanging around with Mr. Afternoon to be nice, that Mr. Afternoon came from a bad family and Sarah felt sorry for him. “Oh, Sarah,” Emily would say, dropping her chin to make her voice sound deep. “I can’t believe a girl as smart as you lets me kiss her. Your family would hate it.”
I said Mr. Afternoon was a Russian mobster who liked Sarah because she reminded him of his wife who’d died of scurvy.
“They don’t have scurvy,” she said. “It’s a modern country, too, you know.”
“She was very poor,” I said. “She only ate stale bread and garbage.”
“Maybe,” she said. “I guess if she was an orphan.”
[Continued in Confrontation 111]