It wasn’t so much that he wouldn’t eat it—this beautiful dinner, everything braised and skewered and punctuated with unnecessary herbs, the kind of dinner you feel guilty just being in the same room with, much less stabbing open with Bill’s filigree-handled cutlery. It was that he watched them eat it. (It was that he placed himself in a crushed velvet armchair in the corner of the room, and wove his fingers into a tight knot, and grinned at everyone for the whole two hours, demanding their critique.

“Do you think it was, like, a sex thing?” Joe asked her in the car.

And of course she said that it was, and they speculated about the contents of that guest bedroom he wouldn’t let Joe’s aunt stay in when the Marriott ran out of room for the wedding guests. And he thought how good they were together, how they were the kind of couple who waiters smirked at because their conversations were the sort you’d like to eavesdrop on. He even leaned across the center console and stuck his tongue into her ear, as a gesture of thanks.

She didn’t say anything, but all the while she knew: if he’d been able to probe further, past the shell of her skull, to taste the thought that was blooming just then, an inch deeper in her brain, Joe would have understood Bill. That night, her dreams would be all taste: a spike of Sangiovese as sudden and red as a wound, the absent pearl at the base of an oyster’s small corpse.

Art by Mikel Uribetxeberria, who, incidentally, has the best name in history.


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