Friday, May 27, 2005

The Man in the Pinstriped Suit, version 2

The long line to the bank teller’s window won’t move. The woman before me, her black hair twisted into a bun, skin a lighter brown where the straps of her blouse have slipped, sways, one hand hanging onto her toddler as though to an anchor. Her grass skirt sways as she sways. Beside me a man clears his throat. I turn to him, and find myself squinting to keep out the brightness of his pinstriped suit. As he talks, my mouth hurts. His voice draws out, longer and longer, each word crawling past my nose in fuzzy caterpillars. I know I have to swat them or they’ll creep into my nose and I’ll suffocate, but I can’t raise my arm. The woman in the grass skirt has pulled my hand across a butcher’s block. A white surgeon’s mask hides her nose and mouth. For some moments she works steadily with a big knife, then gives me back my hand. I step away from the head of the line, my fingers wrapped in bloody bandages. “That wasn’t so bad,” says the man in the pinstriped suit.

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