With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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Christian Zwahlen lives in Rochester, New York, with his wife and children. His writing has appeared in Open City and Stone Canoe, and he is currently at work on a novel and a collection of short stories. He spent this spring coaching his son’s little-league team, the Green Machine.
It was raining outside and cold; we were in the middle of a dark November on the Lake Plains of New York State. Inside the movie theater I was drunk on cheap beer, and you were holding me.
I told Alex that, even though I’d gotten kicked out of etiquette school, I’d actually learned how to be a lady from our grandmother, and that it had nothing to do with how you get out of a car or set a table, but with how you treat people: how you look at them when you’re talking, and whether you actually listen when they try to tell you something important.
“They say that sometimes birds sing to attract a mate,” he told Renee, “but often they sing just because they love it. They love the way it sounds and the way it makes them feel. It delights them.”
We lived in an old, two-story Arts and Crafts house with an elevator, which was permanently stuck on the second floor. We used it as a storage closet, and it was my favorite place in the whole house. Now I went into the elevator and shut the gate and sat in one of the antique ladder-back chairs that my father had put in there, and I looked over the Chopin piece in my piano book and tried to visualize my future.
Last winter started out really bad. The Buffalo Bills went to their first Super Bowl and lost to the New York Giants. For Valentine’s Day, Margaret Trafalcanti took me into the coat closet at school and let me kiss her on the lips and the throat and put my hand on her hip, but then she didn’t talk to me for the rest of the year.