I'm The Economist
by Craig Boyko
I’m an au pair. I don’t speak any English. I wear argyle socks that come up to my knees. The thought of my bare knees terrifies you. I’m an astronaut.
You’re an alien. You’ve just caught me poking around your planet and have brought me before this tribunal.
You’re behind on the rent. I’ve come to evict you.
You’re Goldilocks. I’m the big bad wolf, disguised as Grandma.
I’m Goldilocks. You’re the lumberjack. You’ve just saved me from the wolf. I’m grateful.
You’re the boss. I’m your assistant. It’s late. The cleaning staff have all gone home. No, not home. To their second jobs.
I’m a prostitute. You’re a virgin. I decide to overcharge you.
My doorbell rings. You’re a Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t believe in sin.
I’m going through a vicious break-up. You’re comforting me. We’re old friends. But you seem different tonight. Older, stronger. I don’t know what it is. This could be trouble.
Our houses have been washed away. You’re sitting by yourself outside the elementary school where they’ve billeted us. You’re shivering. I offer you my coat. You hesitate, then take it. I sit down next to you. We watch the stars appear.
Your grocery bag breaks. I help you carry your coffee and oranges home.
We’re on a bus. You notice me. I’m reading the paper. No, The Economist. I look up. No, not the bus. The train.
We’re on the beach. I’m pretending to read. You’re making sand castles with your daughter. She’s five. My husband is back at the hotel. Food poisoning. Your hair is wet. My feet glitter with sand.
You’re not my wife.
You’re blind. I come four times a week to read to you. Your favorites are Jack London, Flannery O’Connor, The Life of Johnson, Stanislaw Lem, Joan Didion, The Winter’s Tale, Whitehead, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Montaigne. I read to you: “What a good pillow doubt is for a well-constructed head.” You look up (that is, you raise your head). You ask if I have a well-constructed head. I laugh; I don’t know. You ask if you might be permitted to find out. I nod, but say nothing (I am always forgetting). I move closer. Your fingers glide toward my face like some graceful sea-fern shifting with the tide.
My car broke down on the highway. You let me in because you like the way I talk. You wipe your hands on your apron. You watch me use the phone. I forget how to speak. You smell like fresh bread and peach pie. Your uncle is resting upstairs. He is half deaf. He is dying.
You’re Harrison Ford. I’m your waitress. I pretend not to recognize you.
You’re a dancer. I’m a big tipper.
You’re a dancer. I don’t want to be here at all. My friends dragged me along. They think I need cheering up. I do.
You’re old enough to be my mother.
You’re old enough to be my grandfather.
You’ve been crying. I offer you a cigarette.
You’re drunk. I’m not.
You didn’t expect to ever see me again.
I’m me. You’re you. You’re twenty-three, I’m twenty. The house you grew up in. Your old bedroom. Your mother has just passed away. I take off your socks.
Craig Boyko has never been to Tchad.
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