The Aunt allowed the girl one pleasure: half a glass of Coca-Cola on weekends. The girl watched the world through this glass, with its line dividing sweet from unknown involved in separate private whirling. She sipped carefully, under the gaze of the living-room bird, straining her neck to read the bird’s thoughts.
She brought The Aunt tea, straw, teeth, things she needed. Said Sorry if they were late, or Thank You if they weren’t. Said Sorry when inside her was soggy and swollen. On her eighteenth birthday The Aunt brought the girl to a hotel, said: Here.
The hotel proprietor put the girl to work washing coins. For the work the girl got a small room in which she stood with all the lights off watching people on the street, not touching.
She liked to count the coins as she washed them while not looking at any of the rich hotel guests during their lunchtime. Or stand behind the lobby palm people shine into the hotel. But she needed more than this. Salt. Her salty mouth circled back to the ocean. One teaspoon, a little more rocking. At the beach with The Aunt. Together they’re asleep.
She barely slept. In the early mornings she dream-walked through hallways, stole unopened newspapers and taped the classifieds to her walls. She studied the ads, imagined their authors walking through the streets with their tongues dragging on the floor.
One afternoon, a soft-bright yellow triangle jumped out from the bottom of a page. It looked like her.
The personal ad beside it read:
TRIANGLE, 26. Lefty. Secular Buddhist. Seeks person for intimate company. Person should be early-riser, tall, industrious. With a collection of sorts. Rocks would do. Birds even. Routinely given to philosophic inquiry. Find me in the botanic garden on Tuesdays.
She could have sworn this triangle was glowing.
Dear Triangle, she wrote, though the ad asked for no letter. Dear Triangle,
I have often contemplated my own geometry. I give the thread of my walk to others. The wind picks up a little, affects the thread. Say it gets stuck in a branch. Who’s responsible for it then?
Sometimes the sun is drawn to me blank. Or I feel I am in a war diorama edited by insects.
I think you and I are similar in this. Those around us have built houses. We are looking to investigate a more “risky” technique. Wood breaks in storm. Wood catches fire. I often ask myself: Is that tree real?
I like to think about wool, for instance! Wool is practically nonflammable. It springs back on itself in infinite shape. It is versed in absorption. You never know when you’ll need to absorb something!
We might take our threads for a picnic and knot them together and shove this knot thousands of years underground.
I have learned to hunt alone. I can keep it up all day. That is to say, I ache for company.
She had hardly come to a definitive statement, but thought, better to leave room for the unknown. She signed, “John,” which was the name she heard most often and therefore seemed similar to hers.
That Tuesday she paced about the botanic garden pretending to be a spy. She followed a group of uniformed schoolgirls. Imagined they each held a tiny yet integral sliver of a bomb. They could only detonate while all touching at once. She watched them drift together and apart, grasping elbows, bumping lunch-sacks.
When the crowd of girls left the front of the tiger-lagoon a yellow triangle floated in their place, before the metal bars, rapt.
She shivered below her surface.
It’s lovely, she thought. A profound yellow. The yellow at the heart of something. The yellow inside a peach.
She knew it was a person in every way except that it was a triangle. This made it superior to the other persons she knew. It would rush through her, its color behind her eyes. It would fill her and she would pulse, her toes curled into claws for the purpose of holding on.
Its backpack had another bag hanging off the side. What’s in there?
She thought about weeping, but decided instead on peppermint candy.
She stared at the triangle until she couldn’t feel her feet. Then she stared from a sitting position. It floated by the tigers all afternoon. Her breath slowed as she followed the subtle undulations it granted still air.
She returned to the botanic garden every Tuesday for a month, letter in a sealed envelope. The triangle spent an average of four minutes in the Northern Native Plants section, five in Desert Flora and the remainder of the afternoon before the tiger-lagoon. She scanned every newspaper article for information on tigers, macaws, or wide leaves that might be useful. She wanted to give it color or a banquet.
No one else approached the triangle. This was her only comfort. She felt a growing closeness between them. She could see their threads snuggling in a slipper.
She wrote the triangle a second letter, this one detailing her research on tropical birds.
She hoped it would interpret some of the geographic formations sexually.
This would all be so much easier if she had the triangle’s address. Or its email.
What an ecstasy it was seeing the triangle complete its Tuesday routine. She decided next Tuesday would be The Tuesday. She would approach softly, with caring footsteps, and hold out her hands, like you do with dogs. This way it would know that she meant no harm, and that she wanted it to lick her. It would whisk her away on its scooter, not the electric kind. She would see clearly the contents of the bag hanging off the side of its backpack. She would clean it with her tongue. And after, they would visit a museum. In the museum would be rocks that looked like other rocks but somehow convinced them for good they did not need a house. She’d liken a house to something irrelevant like a woman that lives alone and eats children. The triangle wouldn’t understand this it’d say, What? Never mind. They’d give birth to fire gods. She’d leave her scarves everywhere.
She decided she needed to take one Tuesday off to prepare for all of this.
The next Tuesday she approached to find construction tape encircling the botanic garden. A wrecking ball above the tape, diving into the glass. Wreckers. She had seen them before. They swallowed up the mysteries of this city, and its people, so that beauty could only be seen in dreams.
Where was the triangle? She stood, transfixed, as bulldozers arrived on the scene, chomping the botanic garden to bits.
She felt the sides of her head folded into a single line, flat as a kitchen table in a house no one lives in. A lost question. The building debris slid toward her. She looked down and realized it had begun to rain. The glass proscenium, inseparable from the other misshapen shards of plastic in the mud.
Zoe Goldstein (b. 1992, San Francisco) lives in New York and teaches English at CUNY.