Listen to author

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

John wore only the two pieces of fruit. They were bananas, which connected behind his head and wrapped around his temples like the crown of a Roman emperor. His skin was pale and his large stomach almost touched the mirror. The concrete floor was cold on his bare feet. When he looked in the mirror, he saw not himself but another person, who had made different decisions. But this, he thought, was only natural. The doorbell rang and it was Laura. John went to the door.

“You look great,” she said. She was wearing a string of red apples. They lay over her breasts and hung down in front of her crotch. She carried a red purse. Her hair was long and wet-looking and her smile was bright and large.

“Really?” he asked. “I wasn’t sure.” He looked at the window beside them and touched the fruit on his head, trying to see himself. The glass was so clean and transparent that he only saw the city, which was itself clean and transparent.

Really. Come on, let’s eat,” she said. “I’m starving.”

They went to an important new restaurant. All the tables were empty, but the people who worked there looked very happy. They wore suits. John and Laura sat down at a large square white table.

“Have you ever been here?” she asked.

“It seems familiar,” he said. He looked around.

“They have the most amazing desserts,” she said. “It’s getting very big.”

“I don’t see anyone else here,” he said.

Waiters came to the table. They put silverware and napkins and plates on the table. On each plate they placed an oil painting on a small white canvas. Laura’s painting was a portrait of a celebrity. John’s painting didn’t look like anything in particular.

Laura picked up her fork and pointed it in the air.

“I really love the new you,” she said.

John put his napkin in his lap and frowned. He picked up a spoon and looked at it.

“I’ve never eaten anything like this,” he said.

“I know. Everything is so fresh,” she said. “Shall we?” She picked up her purse.

“I’m still hungry,” he said. “Maybe I can see what they have for dessert.”

Laura frowned. “Am I that boring? Anyway, we can eat again after the museum.”

At the museum, the rooms were large and white and empty.

“I think this piece will be my favorite,” Laura said. There was a red velvet rope around a very large square plane of glass that hovered two feet above the floor like a giant coffee table. They got down on their hands and knees and crawled under the glass. It was so low to the ground that John had to pull himself forward with his elbows. Under the center of the glass was a house the size of a watermelon. A curator lay on her stomach on the other side of the tiny house. She wore a suit and new glasses. She propped her chin on her elbows and smiled.

“This is a modern house,” the curator told them. “The walls are made of glass. No mistakes were made in its construction. Inside, you will enjoy bold, contemporary furniture and powerful appliances. This house is not demanding, and will not complain if you only use it sometimes. This house is here for you, not the other way around.”

Laura squeezed John’s arm. “I have never seen this piece before,” she whispered, “but I feel like it has made me happy my whole life.” John tried to return her touch, but the glass above him was too low, and he could not move.

At Laura’s place, the land was covered with tall green trees. Walking up her driveway, John felt relaxed, and not self-conscious about his body. In a clearing covered in fallen leaves were a coffee table, some chairs, a stove top, a kitchen table, some cabinets, a toilet, a bathtub, a bed and a dresser. Leaves fell down onto the tables and the bed, and late afternoon light played through the trees onto the smooth surfaces of the stove and the dresser. Laura walked up to the dresser and took off her string of apples. John sat down on the bed, and removed the bananas from his head, placing them on the comforter next to him.

“I like your place,” John said. “Are we really in the county?”

“Really,” she said, and sat down next to him. They both laid their heads down on the large pillows and looked above them at the trees and the light.

“You know,” she said, “I don’t think I could ever have sex with a man so uncomfortable with spending money.”

“But if I spend my money, won’t I be right back where I started?”

“No, you won’t. Before, you had never had money. After you spend your money, you will have had money, which is different. Before you were a prisoner of not having money, now you are a prisoner of having money. In losing your money, you will become free.”

John thought about this.

“Will I ever get it back?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “Money is like the chicken pox. Once you get it and then lose it, you will never get it again.”

Which is true.