Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

 

As Beautiful as a Can

 

 

 

His teeth catch and tug on her earlobe. “Believe me, babe. I don’t say anything unless I mean it.”

 

She laughs. She knows he doesn’t think she’s beautiful even when he repeats it.

 

He sits back, his eyes half closed. “What’s so funny?”

 

“Soda cans are beautiful too,” she says.

 

Without a word he leans forward again, his hand slipping under her shirt.

 

“There we were. Driving across red-earthed savannahs. Undulating hills. Un-du-la-ting. That’s such a terrific word, right? Your tongue demonstrates its very definition when saying it.”

 

Her bra undone, she thinks of how all of her sister’s words are terrific.

 

“What do you think of me?” she asks him.

 

He nips at her neck.

 

“Tell me.”

 

He squeezes the inside of her thigh. “Isn’t it obvious?”

 

“We searched the map we had, but it was useless. We were lost, but it didn’t matter. It was so beautiful there. Acacia trees. The wildlife. You can’t imagine the wildlife. Seeing all that—the lions, the elephants, the leopards—in real life. It’s amazing.”

 

His lips hover over the gap at the base of her neck where her collarbones meet. He laps at the dip in her skin there as if it’s a watering hole.

 

“We made a stop at a lonely petrol station.”

 

She thinks about the way her sister said “petrol” without hesitation or explanation, proving her worldliness, her sophistication to the small-town, gas-station-using crowd that had gathered around her on one of her trips home.

 

“There was this square-of-a-building made of cinderblocks. It was painted this faded, mint green, and all it had was one rusted pump in front and a cluster of huts behind it. I waited outside while Jabari slipped in to ask for directions.”

 

She could picture her sister waiting for her Kenyan companion, sitting yoga-style on the red dirt, her face turned up to absorb the bright sun, her contemplation of the beauty around her and her understanding of her role in all of it so complete that she wasn’t aware of the flies crawling over her skin.

 

Unlike her sister, she was aware of the ugly that touched everything. His fingers traveled down her stomach and found the button of her jeans.

 

“I had a can of soda. My friend Terri. She worked at the American Embassy. She had a case, and she gave me some.”

 

So many friends. All of them wanting to give her sister things, to take care of her.

 

“Come on,” he says, frustrated. “Kiss me back. Give me at least that.”

 

She slides to her knees, prayer-like, and kisses him how she knows he likes to be kissed.

 

“Beautiful,” he says again without looking at her.

 

“Beautiful. Those kids swarming me. They thought my soda can was beautiful. They were offering me shillings for it. Their precious money. Can you imagine that? They’d never seen a soda can, you see. At least then, soda only came in glass bottles locally. It’s crazy, right? How something that was nothing more than trash in my hand—to me at least—was, in this rich land of roaming wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, an object of beauty? A soda can. Something so mundane. Can you believe it?”

 

He leans her back and pushes up against her. She lets her knees fall to the side, hoping that, in this moment at least, she’s as beautiful as that can.

 

 

 

Deborah S. Prespare majored in economics and philosophy during her undergraduate studies at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. After graduating, she worked for the federal government in Washington, D.C., and pursued, on a part-time basis, her Master of Arts in Writing at Johns Hopkins University.

Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, Blue Lake Review, Cadillac Cicatrix, Common Ground Review, decomP, Diner, Diverse Arts Project, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Fiddleback, The MacGuffin, North Atlantic Review, The Penmen Review, Potomac Review, Prospectus: A Literary Offering, Qwerty, Red Rock Review, Rougarou, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, Third Wednesday, and Valparaiso Fiction Review.