The Right-Leaning Dimple by Sara Stefanini

‘The Right-Leaning Dimple’

by Sara Stefanini

 

“So what was New York like on election night? An all-night party like last time?”

“Well, it definitely sounded like it from my bedroom window. People were screaming and shouting and honking horns and all that shit til, like, 5 AM,” he huffs, adding a big eye-roll for emphasis. It’s not the comedic ‘oh-those-crazy-kids-staying-out-til-five-on-a-Tuesday’ kind of eye-roll, but the other kind.

“You weren’t celebrating?”

“Hell no! I went to bed as soon as we lost Ohio. Didn’t need to see the rest.”

The revelation hits me like a pigeon crashing into my windshield. I wait for a hint of sarcasm; a glimmer of deadpan, but it’s in vain.

“You’re Republican?” I stammer through a tightening throat.

He barely registers my shock. “That’s pretty much when I decided to take this Soc Gen gig in Paris. Why the fuck should I stick around for another four years while the government just taxes, taxes, taxes and spends, spends, spends. He’s driving the country into the fucking ground and people keep voting for ‘im ‘cause he’s good looking and cool and his wife dresses well. It’s a joke how…”

The waitress cuts into his rant to ask if we want another round. He takes a last sip of his pint and nods silently. His eyes wander around the pub, filling up around us. When he finally looks back at me, it’s with a wide smile of orthodontist-approved teeth and a gentle brush of my fingertips.

“Anyway, why talk about US politics when you don’t even live there anymore? And I’ve only got one more day to see as much of London as I can!”

I try to smile, but am still recovering from the whiplash. His teeth are just so white, they seem to glare back. Plus that single dimple in his right cheek keeps winking at me – I’d never noticed how distracting it can be.

Republican? How did I not know this? All those summers in Montauk, surfing and sunning by day, pumping kegs and rolling joints by night, I guess it never came up. We were, after all, just teens who spent a handful of Augusts living next door to each other. Come Labor Day, I would shoot back up I-495 to Manhattan, leaving him and all the other Long Islanders behind for the winter. Of course even if it did come up, I was probably too besotted – dazzled by his freckled biceps and blond waves and charmed by his deep husky voice – to notice a dash of conservatism.

But have I been overlooking hints all weekend? Until right now, our time together seemed to only reinforce every memory and image I’ve held on to since our last summer together seven years ago.

And that first kiss last night. That kiss … and everything after that. Surely, it alone is proof of how perfectly we fit together, right? It all seemed so seamless from the moment he e-mailed me to say he had moved to Paris and wanted to visit.

“So I’m gonna guess by that face of yours that you’re an Obama fan?” he says, his right-leaning dimple digging in. “These Europeans have had their influence on you, huh?”

“Or maybe I’ve influenced them…” I smile back, reaching deep to find a way out of this wretched conversation. Maybe politics doesn’t have to spell the end of our story. Maybe it can be one of those things we bicker about once in a while, legs entangled on the sofa as we watched the news, knowing that deep down we have the same – liberal – beliefs.

I consider changing the subject, but before a new one comes to mind I veer back. “Look, I just don’t really see how you guys can be so dead set against any kind of policy that helps poorer, less privileged people, and instead only talk about cutting things like inheritance tax so that the poor old rich people don’t have to suffer anymore. It’s so self-centered!”

“Well they should pull themselves up by their own fucking bootstraps. Why should my money help them?” He leans back and laughs, seemingly amused by the anger clasping my throat.

“So I’m guessing you’re one of these fiscal Republicans, right? Just worried about your own taxes and money, but not gay marriage or abortion or equal pay or any of that?” He raises his brow in a ‘well, obviously’ kind of way, but I speed ahead, climbing the decibel scale. “But don’t you worry about voting for someone who basically disagrees with you on all of those issues except taxes?! Don’t lots of issues outweigh the one?”

His smile finally gives way to clenched teeth, and his voice turns stern. As he begins to count the reasons on his fingers, I tune out. I focus on Mumford and Sons singing softly in the background, slowly sip my wine and nod in faux-understanding. I’m not going to change him over a few drinks at the pub, and I can’t really be bothered to try any more.

“Don’t you understand? I’m not saying he’s a socialist, but he’s not far off!”

“Fine, let’s just agree to disagree,” I whisper, suddenly exhausted. I make myself reach for his fingers, but miss and brush his wrist instead.

We finish our drinks and walk back to the flat in silence, our shoulders occasionally bumping together while our hands hang free. Just 24 hours ago, I was hoping and praying he would follow me to bed. Now, the thought of his bare arms around me is giving me the chills, and I’m contemplating asking him to move to the sofa.

“Maybe I should take the couch tonight. I don’t wanna keep you up again with my snoring,” he says as we walk through the front door.

“Oh?” I consider feigning protest, except that then he might concede. “OK, if you want. I’ll get you some sheets.”

***

I wake the next morning, straining to hear if he’s already up. I brainstorm excuses for bowing out of the sightseeing program I myself had designed.  Unexpected work? First-ever migraine? Heart-broken friend who needs consoling? I lug myself out of bed and slowly crack the door open, holding my breath.

But the room is empty. The sheets are piled on one end of the sofa and the curtains are drawn back. His bag, hastily dumped outside my bedroom door on Friday night, is gone.

“Jay?” I call out, dubiously.

Then I spot a post-it on the coffee table. “Had some stuff to do in Paris so took the early train back. Thanks for a fun weekend. Adios!”

He wasn’t kidding when he said he had yet to learn a single syllable of French.

 

Did you like the story? Opinions? Praise? Please leave a comment below

Sara Stefanini

Bio:

Sara Stefanini is a half-Italian, half-Australian third culture kid living in London. Prior to that, she lived in Brussels, Mumbai, New York, Rome and Washington, DC. On weekdays, she reports on oil and gas news for a daily trade pub. On evenings and weekends, she writes about anything other than energy. Follow her on twitter @sarastefaninio

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Photo by Susie Sweetland

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6 Responses to The Right-Leaning Dimple by Sara Stefanini

  1. Sara, there’s really nothing quite like finding out something awful about someone you thought you knew. This is even more true when it’s someone for whom you care. I can feel the young woman’s disappointment, her grief, even, and growing disgust. The casual, entitled arrogance Jay radiates reads true. That said, it strikes me as an almost gallant act for him to request the couch, even more so for him to leave before she wakes. Love your story.

  2. Orla McAlinden

    sara, I also loved your story. there are some character traits, beliefs, past criminal actions that I could never live with. I can just imagine the sinking feeling in her stomach, and the feeling of stupidity creeping over her. lovely, realistic writing. Orla

  3. Sara Stefanini

    Thank you both so much for your comments! I’m very new to fiction writing, and it’s an incredible feeling to hear people pick up on the subtleties you’re hoping to get across.

  4. Great story Sara and well told – the narrator’s disappointment in her old boyfriend filters through in a depressingly familiar and true fashion. You hit the mark with both characters.

  5. Denise Shell

    Good writing, Sara!
    The feelings were true, on both sides. Even though you were writing with the voice of the liberal, he would have been just as shocked and disappointed to find out that she didn’t live up to his ideals. Obviously, since he took the steps that he did, he was quite aware that this relationship could not work. Best to back out gracefully before feelings were hurt.

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