Perpetual Smug

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“In my dream,” Rivi says, “I’m standing outside a blue house at the top of a big hill. There’s a black cat in the yard, and I try to walk around it to look at its face, but no matter where I’m standing, it’s always looking away from me.”

We are laying in her bed, with dozens of photographs spread out around us. She has been looking through photo boxes, pulling out some, transferring others from one box to another. I have seen myself in many of them, and more full of faces I don’t know.

“I can see my shadow,” she says. “It looks like my neck is three feet long, and curved like a question mark. I keep touching it with my hands, but even though the shadow looks weird, my neck feels normal.”

I sift through a stack of photos, stopping at one that is a close-up of Rivi’s face, covered in large pieces of glitter, like what you’d find inside a birthday card envelope. She is smiling in a mischievous way that I am very familiar with.

“All of a sudden, the yard is full of tiny green frogs, jumping on me, and jumping on the cat. Every time they jump on me though, as soon as they touch me, they turn into little green flowers. There’s a thousand frogs, and pretty soon I’m buried up to my waist in flowers.”

Another photo is beneath this one, of a nude woman wearing a crown of eucalyptus leaves, standing in front of a mirror which I know is the one in Rivi’s spare bedroom. She has a tattoo on her stomach that I think is a mariner’s sextant. “Who’s that?” I ask, turning the photo so she can see it.

“That’s Suzi. You’ve met her.”

“I don’t think I have.”

“You did. At the zoo. Last year, I think.”

I look closer at the woman. “Maybe if I’d met her with her clothes off, I’d remember.”

“We ate overpriced sandwiches with her by the old entrance by Sloat. That fucking seagull wouldn’t quit trying to grab things out of our hands.”

“The seagull I remember. Her, I don’t.”

Rivi takes the photo from me. “Maybe it wasn’t the zoo then. Was it the Asian art museum?”

“Again, I don’t remember her.”

Rivi turns the photo over to look at the back, which is blank. “Weird. I could have sworn you met her.”


She rolls against me, reaching across my chest to grab a pen off her nightstand. She moves back to her side of the bed and pulls her phone out of her pocket. She scrolls through her contacts, and then writes a number down on the back of the photo, which she holds out to me. “Call her. I think you’d like her.”

“I don’t even know her,” I say.

“She has a sexy tattoo and she lives on a houseboat. What else do you need to know?” She abruptly pulls the photo back. “Unless you’re too hung up on Hannah.”

“We’re not dating.”

“Doesn’t mean anything.”

I reach out and grab the photo out of Rivi’s hand. “I’ll call her. But only because you’re starting to look smug.”

“Starting?” she says. “I never stop.”

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