Robert Thomas

Jeffrey and I liked to go our separate ways for lunch. I usually had a tuna-radish sandwich and ate at my desk. The radishes were my inspiration: I liked to think of how they clashed with my lipstick, and they tasted how I liked to think my lipstick looked: incongruous. I liked to look incongruous—especially to Linda, the office manager, who could have won a prize as Miss Congruity. You knew it would never occur to her to go into a bar and grill that didn’t match her shoes. It was hard for Jeffrey to ask me to lunch, and I liked that, too. The first time he asked, I couldn’t even speak: I just nodded. In fact I blushed so hard I might as well have been saying yes I’d marry him, and in one of those Mormon celestial marriages that lasts forever and is sealed in one of their secret temple rooms with all the mirrors.
I toured the Mormon Temple in Oakland once. When it was first built they’d opened it for a weekend to gentiles or whatever they call the rest of us. There was lots of gold and marble, like a Las Vegas casino. Total immersion. I’ve always wanted to be the cowboy wearing one diamond stud at the blackjack table who goes all in. The convert who falls backward into the baptismal water, God’s love shooting up her nose. When Jeffrey and I finally had our picnic of BLTs in Bernini Park, I could barely concentrate because of the pregnant woman lying near us on the grass shielding her eyes from the sun with her mystery while her belly in its black sheath absorbed the heat and rose before me like the most blatant sexual organ I’d ever seen. She was all in. I couldn’t help staring. I couldn’t understand how lawyers and clerks and even a beggar and his lop-eared cat could walk past and continue their ordinary business without falling prostrate on the ground like worshippers toward Mecca.