Things That Suck

The German, still a little shaky on English parts of speech, calls them stand-by comedians.

“Wayne, can we go on Friday to see them make the stand-by comedy?” she asks so purely.

“Yes, Diane.” Dee-AH-na. She has given us all permission to pronounce her Die-ANN, but I insist on sighing her middle syllable, with longing and regret. “Yes, Diane, of course. Why don’t you bring your whole class? They’ll learn a few words that the teacher will never introduce them to.”

Diane is taking an English class while she is in Ottawa. She spends her time hiking and eating late leisurely breakfasts and writing letters to her policeman boyfriend Jan in Hanover. (I make a point of pronouncing him, correctly, YAWN.)

In the car on the way to the movie, Much Ado About Nothing, she shakes those Dark Lady ringlets and touches the hand I have on the gear shift and thanks me for teaching her the meanings of lame.

“Most people in class knew it can mean handicapped but only I knew also the other meaning.” She pauses. “Their vocabulary was pretty lame,” she says, and then laughs and turns to look out her window.

At the movie I have to whisper more meanings to her, leaning over more closely than necessary, feeling her wiry curls on my cheek, my neck, and perhaps only imagining one poking down my collar.

I am in the car with Diane outside John’s house, where she is staying. (John is a friend of her father’s.) It is about 3 a.m. We have spent the evening and early morning together, first at an open-air version of Macbeth set in the 21st century in which men and women zoomed in and out of the tent on motorcycles, and then drinking at a club in Hull, having to shout at each other on our stools, Diane finally taking me out on the dance floor, swaying with her eyes closed as I move stiffly. In the car I feel the possibility of making love with her, punctuating our time together perfectly. I do nothing because I have decided that she is too young, that the difference in our ages would make any attempted seduction pathetic. She eventually just kisses me on the cheek, says something about having a good time, something that might sound insincere from someone with a full command of the language.

I take advantage of her request to know all the meanings of the word sucks to mention its transitive senses in the context of hard candy and sex. In John’s living room the night before she leaves for Germany, she uses a black marker to make a list of things that suck on the front of my pristine white T-shirt:


Her T’s look like palm trees, her F’s like light poles. Her taste and insight are exquisite, though.

In the doorway saying goodbye, I admit to having propositioned her 498 times, and then kiss her and squeeze her backside to make it an even 500.