The Pleasures of Television

We call it Watching TV. We say to each other, you want to Watch some TV later? And the other one says sure, and then we both laugh because it’s only us that knows what we’re talking about. Me and Beau, we’re the only ones who know what we mean. And that’s what makes it funny, and also, I’d say, what makes it special.

I like that it’s special. That it’s something just for me and Beau to share. Like twins. Like two birds on a wire that fly off at the same second like they planned it or something, and you’re just standing below, looking up, hoping they don’t shit on you as you watch them rise into the sky.

Beau’s real name is Landon, but we both think Landon doesn’t fit. When Beau’s boss at Krystal’s calls him back to the office, it’s like Lan-dumb, and he says it makes him feel like some kind of hick or dummy, so we decided Beau was a better fit because it’s simple, but it’s elegant.

I say, Beau, you want to Watch some TV later? And he says, Sandy, I thought you’d never ask, and we decide to meet at Ricky’s. Ricky’s is a video store, but also, it’s a tanning salon, and it’s where we like to go sometimes to relax and to get us in the mood for our Watching.

Neither of us, not me or Beau, care for Ricky, but me and Beau both like to tan on occasion, even though me? I can only tan my legs, and even though we have both figured it might give us cancer one of these days. We know this because of the signs on the walls, and because of what happened to Jadine, Ricky’s wife, who near everyone in town says used to be the most beautiful girl back twenty years ago, but now she’s pretty much an old shriveled carrot with only one boob.

Beau and I are not in sexual love, and I know it’s because he’s queer, but we haven’t talked about it, and I think he’ll say something when he wants to say something. Our favorite movie, both of ours, is To Wong Foo, and it’s the one we rent most often from Ricky’s when it’s not checked out by someone else.

The first time me and Beau Watched TV it was on the Saturday after our high school graduation, which was almost three years ago now. We had gone to take his Mom’s Chevy to get its oil changed down at the AAMCO, and when we were waiting in the bays, I looked over and saw a blond lady I’d never seen before. I watched her sitting in her car, and for some reason, the position of the cars or how it was, she didn’t see me, and so I watched her for a good five minutes. The way she smiled at Davis who was working her bay and this little sigh she gave when she thought no one was looking—the way it moved across her whole face down to her shoulders like a wave of sadness was passing right through her—and it was a grave and important feeling I had in knowing that I was seeing something honest. I told Beau about it right away, right there, and he said, Sandy, it’s like you were watching reality TV, and I said, yeah, Beau, that’s exactly like what it was. But here I was an audience of one and this lady, she was the real real thing.

At the time, I don’t know that I thought about it like voyeurism, seeing folks in their so-called naked states, but that was what came out later when me and Beau made the mistake of telling his older brother one night over a case of Ice on Beau’s dad’s front porch.

By that point we’d Watched TV maybe five or six times, mostly sitting in the car in the Winn-Dixie parking lot and watching the little old ladies push their carts. The way their faces, some of them, look real determined whereas others of them look mostly lost or confused. And then one time at the Sonic when we reclined back real far in our seats and watched Tiffany Moses and Andy Smith on what we decided had to be a date, even though Tiffany, last we knew, was dating Zack Mason of Mason Auto Repair. Beau said this was what in-love looked like, and I thought maybe or maybe it was just desire. All big lipped and uneven and desperate.

When we told Beau’s brother about it, he said we were people watching, and it was disgusting, like we were a couple of voyeurs, and Beau told him to go to hell, but I realized he was maybe probably right. I have always respected the opinion of Beau’s brother because he was one of the only men I’d met, besides Beau of course, who was kind to all the girls no matter how they looked on the outside.

From then on, me and Beau decided this was a secret thing we were doing, and because it was secret we should not tell anybody. This was also good thinking because pretty soon on, Beau and I realized it wasn’t so easy watching people without them knowing it. People are like animals in that way. Most of the time they don’t have much sense, but then, when they’re being watched, all of a sudden, their hair stands up and their nose gets cold and they know, even if they don’t know, that they’re prey. That someone out there is ready to eat them up. That someone out there is ready to get them good.

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Most people would not say that Beau and I are of the popular sort, and we would say to most people that for this we’re glad. In this town, Beau jokes, popular seems to mean pregnant, and I laugh though I also feel a little badly because being pregnant seems like not the worst thing that could happen to a woman.

When I was little, I used to like to dream about a houseful of babies, all the rooms soft with that good, thick carpet and those little legs and feet everywhere just crawling around and being nosy and being loved and loving back.

If Beau liked ladies, I once thought I might ask him to give me a little baby, but chances are things are for the best in that regard. I love Beau, and I hate the thought that anything could come between us, even a little tiny person, all round-cheeked and rosy. And besides, not all babies are easy, some of them they mostly cry and fuss and grow up to be people who you can no longer put your finger on, even though once you rocked them in your arms the whole night through and you two were the only things that mattered to each other.

Beau and I think that Watching TV is a lot like being a scientist or a doctor because it lets us see how people really are when they think they’re alone, and they think they can be their most honest self.

It’s refreshing, I think, because it seems like so much of the time you’re just seeing people acting how they think they’re supposed to act and not like how they would really be acting if they weren’t afraid of being judged or being hated or being found out for all the craziness they’re hiding inside.

At first me and Beau would Watch TV in public, in almost plain sight, and so we had the tricky idea of getting sunglasses to help us avoid being noticed. We got these big old sunglasses down at the Goodwill, and they must have belonged to some blind folks because they take up most of the face and they’re dark as heck. We would go to the park, and we’d sit with these big shades on, or else we’d go to the mall the next town over, and just sit there at the food court like a couple of blind kids, only we were actually seeing things as they were.

Once or twice someone would come up to us out at the park or by the Dairy Queen and say, Sandy and Lan-dumb, what are you losers doing, and on those occasions, Beau and I would just start to laugh until whoever was bothering us took their leave because it was secret after all and because who has time for people like that in the end.

Then Beau had the idea that because the people we were watching were still mostly in public, that maybe we weren’t even really seeing the good stuff yet, the dark and the honest, he called it. And so that’s when we started to get serious, and that’s when we came up with the System.

The System involves a little bit of creeping and a little bit of luck. It came to Beau one time when he was driving to pick me up, and he got stopped at the four-way stop on Elm. He got stopped because Lucinda Jones was walking her pack of dogs, and those dogs are always getting all tangled up in each other’s leashes.

As Beau was waiting for Lucinda to cross, he saw that he could see right inside the Matthews house, right through their big old bay window, and he saw Mrs. Matthews at the piano by herself, and he said he could see so clear he could see the muscles in her shoulders moving as she cranked out some song like the ones we used to hear her play in church.

Beau does exaggerate from time to time, so I don’t know about the muscles and all, but it did tell us that hey, maybe people’s own windows are the best way to see through to their lives, so that’s the first part of the System.

The second part of the System has to do with my job at Maid to Win which is a local maid service which I work at. They have two cars that say the name of the service on them, and on my days that I work I show up and get the car and then I drive to my houses that I clean. The business we do is only okay because mostly there’s not enough people who can afford us, but my boss, Miss Emma, she likes to think big so that’s how we got our start.

What my job does is it gives us some cover for being in these neighborhoods where we mostly probably do not belong, the two of us. What’ll happen is I’ll be cleaning a house and I’ll be almost finished, and so I’ll call Beau who will come and meet me, and he’ll bring some of those little burgers which we’ll eat out in the car. Then I’ll say, Beau, you want to take a walk because of having eaten all those burgers? And he’ll say, yeah, Sandy, I could use a stretch, and then we’ll walk around the block pretending to be regular folk admiring the architectures, but really, we’re looking for a good window. When we find a good one, something big and wide, we remember it, and the next time I’m out that way, we make a point to go by it again.

All of this has let us see some pretty interesting Television, and it has only led to us being seen once or maybe twice, if you believe according to Beau or according to me.

Beau’s favorite piece of TV was when we saw Mr. Handler, who teaches math at the high school, training his dog, Princess Jasmine, without a shirt on. At first, we didn’t realize that training a dog was what he was doing. He was standing and then clapping his hands and then he’d be walking out of the room and back into it. But eventually we worked it out that he was leaving the room to get a dog bone which he’d balance on his shoulder, and so he’d sort of squat down a little and say, Jasmine, in this real high voice, and then that dog would jump up there on that shoulder to get that bone. Beau and I did not have the right kind of words for this one at the time, but I will say it has given both of us something of a new type of respect for Mr. Handler, who always had seemed rather single-minded about the business of algebra up till then. People have got a specialness, says Beau, and I agree, but I say Beau, what’s strange to me is how they seem to keep the good stuff, the most interesting stuff, all to themselves.

Beau will say to me, Sandy, you want to watch a rerun? And I’ll say, Beau, let’s get us down to Ricky’s before they close, and what this means is that we’re going to get a video and a tan and then talk on things we have seen that week whether we were together or we were apart.

Sometimes it’s the case that we’ve seen a lot of things, and other times it’s the case that we haven’t. Every once in a while, when we first started out, one or the other of us would say, what if it was that we saw something truly that we should not have seen? And then the one of us would pat the other one of us on the shoulder and say, maybe tonight is a night we watch that Swayze and that Snipes and that Julie Newmar and leave the real people to let themselves be.

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Something to know about me is that when I was four years old, my momma was so tired she accidentally dropped boiling water all over my face and my neck and my chest. What this means is that I have scars, red patches, that some people think make me ugly or a freak but not Beau, he loves me for what matters, which is what’s on the inside.

If a regular person sees me, someone I don’t already know, I see how they look and then look away and then look back, and Beau calls it the trinity of seeing because it’s three times that it takes for them to understand me and my beauty and my worth, according to Beau. This is a time when I don’t know that Beau is being all the way honest, but I do know that it must mean he loves me, and I figure that is what matters most of all. Even in broad daylight, Beau can see what’s real, what’s underneath.

On television, the real kind with a plug, me and Beau’s favorite show is Friends, and we like it because everyone on it, the ladies at least, are beautiful, and yet they are also finding life to be something complex and not just an easy place to be all of the time. My favorite is Phoebe and Beau says he’s probably a Rachel, and then we laugh, and we feel like if we knew those ladies in real life, they might understand how it is that we Watch TV, and sometimes, Phoebe at least, she might want to join us.

Because those ladies you know even when things get tough, they’re still there for each other, and that’s like me and Beau and I don’t need to hope it’s that way because it couldn’t be any other. Even when we disagree, we still love each other. I mean, what other way?

Which is to say that there was a time when me and Beau didn’t talk for almost a whole month and in the middle of that was when I had a strange experience only I had no one to tell it to at the time. If we had of been speaking I would have told Beau everything but because we weren’t it wasn’t something I ever said it just sat inside me. Not that it was anything too special but maybe like one of those episodes that airs that doesn’t do so good and so they take it off the air forever just like that. Only me I remember it because I was there.

It was around Christmas, which is a real busy time for us at Maid to Win, and when I showed up that day Miss Emma, the owner, she said Sandy, we got us a new client, which didn’t happen so often, and I was to go over there ASAP because they were having a party that very night and so they needed their place spick-and-span.

The Allens was the name of the family, and as I drove over, I thought do I know of any Allens from school, but I couldn’t think that I ever did so I figured they must have been new to town. The house was on what Beau and I call Movie Star Row, which is to say there are only five houses on the block, and they’re bigger and nicer than any of the other houses in town. This house was made of red brick, all wreathed up like a house from a Christmas card with just a bit of that green ivy creeping up the sides, making its way.

When I rang the bell, first there was a whole lot of scrambling sounds, and then the door creaked open, and it was a small, old-looking woman wearing what looked to me like a black and white maid’s uniform, and was I even in the right place I remember thinking.

“Are you from the maid service?” The woman’s voice sounded real light like music, but also like it had an accent, maybe Spanish.

I nodded, and she stepped back and looked at me real quick and cold, like she was expecting some other girl, but then she pulled me forward by the arm, so I grabbed my equipment, my mop and buckets and my upright vacuum, and I went into that house.

To me, the house looked already pretty clean, which is often how these houses look the more money the people have got. She pointed me up a staircase and said there were two bathrooms up there, and I should clean each one and come downstairs and clean the ones on the first floor and the one in the basement.

Beau asks me sometimes if cleaning other people’s houses isn’t kind of like doing the sets for Watching TV because it’s me somewhere most other people don’t get to go and by myself and everything. I tell him I guess this is true, but most of the time there’s no time to be gawking or snooping and you’re never sure if they’re somehow seeing you when you don’t know it, and besides, I don’t want to lose the job because Miss Emma has always been real kind to me, especially since I’ve been living on my own.

I found the first bathroom pretty easy, and I started on the toilet, then the shower. As I was wiping the mirror, thinking my own thoughts, was when I heard what sounded like a little cough, so I looked around, but I didn’t see anything, so I kept on wiping away until I heard it again.

“Hello?” I said it nice, friendly-like.

I heard nothing back, so I started on the counters till I heard another kind of sound sort of a wet mouth breathing heavy, and I felt the little hairs on my arm all tingly. I turned slow-like, and through the cracked door there was what looked like an eyeball, and I watched the door open and it was a kid, only this kid I knew didn’t look all the way right, like her eyes were too far apart and her parts didn’t look even, her arms not matching and her neck all bent. I remember thinking had this child been hidden away, and on purpose? But I smiled, and went back to what I was doing because what else do you do in that kind of moment.

On occasion, when I clean a home, I will see a child or sometimes a grandma or grandpa, someone who is home in the day same time as me and mostly we go our separate ways. They’ll look at me a little and be surprised, but then they’ll realize that we are not so different, and we both will go ahead and move on to what it is we need to do.

As I cleaned the counter, I tried not to watch the girl in the mirror, but she was staring at me something dedicated and it was hard not to feel like I should let her know I saw her too.

I got out the shower scrubber, and remember feeling like if I turned my back to the child I was leaving myself vulnerable, but I told myself that was craziness, and instead I said something to stop the quiet.

“What’s your name?”

I could hear the girl breathing like it was not the easiest thing for her to be doing, like all the spit in her mouth was getting in the way.

“What’s your name, honey?” I asked it again, making me wonder if I’d babysat more or had any brothers or sisters, if I might have been better at this.

I leaned into the tub trying to scrub a real resistant little stain in the enamel because if she weren’t going to respond, what else could I do. And then not a minute later I felt something on the back of my head. I turned real quick and it was the child, patting my head with her little strange hands, her fingers were on my face, touching my cheeks and my nose, and I knew in my heart that I should be sweet to this child, but I couldn’t stop my body from feeling like it was going to be sick.

“Marjorie!” The little old lady from downstairs was all a sudden in the doorway, hustling into the bathroom and pulling the girl away from me. “I’m sorry, I thought she was napping.”

I shook my head like it was nothing, and I watched as the lady pulled the girl back from where she came and slammed the door behind her and so the two of them were gone and I was alone. The room smelled clean like bleach and like cleaner, and I breathed it in, and I thought about Beau and his handsome face, his teeth which were white from whitening strips and baking soda, and I smiled, I remember smiling, even though what it was I was feeling inside was not the happiest feeling I’d ever felt and worse I had no one to tell to it since I knew Beau was taking his time on loving me again.

Sometimes, when Beau has had a bad day, which is usually when someone has treated him unkind and called him a slur, he’ll say, Sandy, you think we could change the channel? And what this means is that we are going to do something different that evening, but what it really means is that Beau does not want to live here anymore, that he is wanting to leave this town, and he is wanting to start a new life, and this is one of those times when I feel that little knot in my belly, and I take Beau’s hand in mine, and I say, yes, Beau, but not yet. Please, Beau. Just not yet.

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There was only one time that me and Beau saw something Watching TV that I decided it might have been better if we hadn’t of seen it, not only cause of what it was we saw, but because of how it made me and Beau have what I called later a misunderstanding, which is what led us to not talking for that month back last Christmas. It all started one of the times Beau met me after cleaning a house, only this time it was later in the afternoon, close to five as I remember it.

I had been cleaning the Jackson’s house who are a really nice family, where Mr. Jackson is a lawyer in town who always takes on cases for free when someone can’t pay but has been wronged by something or other. I like to clean their house because it always feels so bright and so safe inside, and it always smells like apples and cake even if the oven is what I’m cleaning, so I know there’s nothing baking.

After I cleaned the house and Beau met me and we ate some burgers, me and Beau took a walk down the block as we do. Our plan was that we were going to check out the McGruder’s, as they have a great big window into their kitchen and once or twice before Beau and I have watched Mrs. McGruder and one time their son, Michael, make a smoothie or a milkshake, we couldn’t tell which.

Me and Beau were standing by this big oak tree and looking in the window, which is easy to do because of the cover the oak gives when we’re tucked up against it, and then we saw something strange happen. It was one of those things where at first you don’t know if you’re seeing something or not, but inside your stomach you feel a little uneasy like you’ve just eaten something not all the way cooked. Or like you’ve bit into a peach and it is just the slightest bit mealy.

All that we saw at first was Mr. McGruder and his daughter, Tammy, who we know not personally but because we know she sings in the church choir, and even though she’s in middle school, they give her a solo almost once a month, so we’ve heard. The two of them were standing real close together, and what it looked like was that they were in a fight, only it looked like Tammy was the angry one, and Mr. McGruder was saying he was sorry or that’s how his face looked. Then Mr. McGruder put his hand on Tammy’s belly, only it was lower than that, it was like he was touching her where he should not have been touching her, and then he bent down, and he kissed her, only this was not the kind of kiss that you see from a daddy to his daughter. It was a kiss that had passion to it, the kind you see between two lovers, and it just kept on going for what felt to us like the longest time. And afterwards when Mr. McGruder pulled away, so he wasn’t touching her anymore, Tammy’s face looked sort of strange, like she was angry and then she wasn’t so angry, but she looked sad kind of, like sick almost, and that’s when Beau grabbed me and sort of pulled me away, so as we wouldn’t get caught seeing what we’d seen.

When we were walking back to our cars, neither of us said anything, which for us was something, and even though Beau and I had sometimes talked about would we do something if we saw something terrible, I think in seeing something, to me, it was hard to know what to do. Then we were at the car, and Beau said, Sandy, I think maybe it’s time we write us a review, and what he meant is that this is the kind of TV that cannot be just for us. We have got to tell somebody.

Only I don’t know that I felt the same way as him, and this is how me and Beau got into the only real fight that we have ever had. It lasted us almost a whole month, like I said, and in the end, I don’t know that either of us, me or Beau, came out just the way we went in.

It started with neither of us knowing exactly what it was we should do, but Beau saying maybe we should go to the police and me saying I wasn’t sure that that was the best of ideas.

And why not, Sandy, he asked me, and he was sucking at his teeth like he does when he’s worried and he doesn’t know what else it is to do.

And I said I didn’t know but that would anyone believe us? And he blinked at me, big eyed, and said, Sandy, who else do we tell? And I said to him, Beau, let’s wait a day and see what makes sense tomorrow because we both know that sometimes time is the thing that heals, that makes things unright right.

Only the next day we still weren’t sure what to do, so I said why don’t we try and talk to him first, that Mr. McGruder, and see if it was what we thought it was? And where would we talk to him? Beau asked me, and I could tell he was worried, and also he was a little scared, and so I said, why don’t we do it at church? Because being in church might make him want to be honest? And besides Mrs. McGruder will be there too, and if we need to maybe we could talk to her also? And I could tell Beau still wasn’t sure on account of how he knows how the church feels about people like him, which is most of why we stopped going a few years back, but he said, okay Sandy, and I could tell he trusted me then, and it wasn’t that I ever wanted to let him down.

On Sunday morning we got there just before the service started and sat in the back row, and mostly I tried to ignore the sermon which was about sin and the blackness in our hearts, and other things I’d heard about before, things me and Beau used to roll our eyes about when we were little, but now we had to keep it hid because church is one place where you know everyone is watching someone else.

And then that’s when we saw Mr. McGruder come in late to join his wife and son, and Tammy who was on the stage with the other choir folks, and Beau pushed his elbow into me, and we watched Mr. McGruder sit down next to his wife, her scooting over to make room and how he kissed her on the cheek, and squeezed Michael’s shoulder, and how we could see this family, how they acted like a family, but we knew their ugliness, and it was up to me and Beau to set it right, to find out what was what and to help this child out if that’s what needed doing and be the good and righteous ones in place of everyone else.

The service lasted what felt like forever, us not being used to it, and during it I just tried my best to keep my eye on Tammy who did sing so beautiful and even though I couldn’t see Mr. McGruder’s face, I could see his shoulders rise a little like he knew it was an angel’s voice he was hearing, and how his wife would lean against him like all they were feeling was joy in what they’d been able to make.

After the service, me and Beau went outside to wait and I could feel a nervousness in my belly like being on the top of a roller coaster, and Beau was tucked close beside me and smiling like he was just waiting for this to be over with, and meantime it was all these people we knew surrounding us, people we’d grown up with and their parents, and our neighbors, and everyone in their pastel best and stopping to say hello to me and Beau and how nice it was to see us after so long a time away and did this mean we were recommitting ourselves to Christ? And then Mr. McGruder slipped out, his wife smiling big beside him and Tammy and Michael trailing behind laughing with one another, and it made me sick to see it, but it also made me confused, if I’m honest. How happy they looked and how normal and maybe this was my first little bit of doubt.

But then Beau was pushing at me, because someone had pulled away Mrs. McGruder and left Mr. McGruder standing all alone and this was our chance. And then Beau was taking me by the arm, dragging me along, and then we were in front of Mr. McGruder. Beau was shaking his hand and turning to me, and Mr. McGruder looked my way, but it was like he didn’t see me or he didn’t want to, the way his eyes went right over my face like I wasn’t there, like I didn’t even exist. And Beau was saying, sorry to bother you, and Mr. McGruder was looking over our heads at his wife and his daughter and his son, and Beau said, me and Sandy were hoping to talk to you, and Beau looked at me, and I opened my mouth like I was going to say something to this man, to put it right, and Mr. McGruder looked at me and this time he didn’t look away, he stared at me, his eyes gawking, his lips turned down like he was disgusted at what he was seeing, and instead of saying something, I swallowed and I said nothing. I just shook my head, like there weren’t any words in me, and there were always words, except for right then. And then Mr. McGruder was giving us a funny look, and shaking his head like we were losers and we were wasting his time, and he slapped Beau on the back, not friendly-like, but like he wanted it to sting, and he said to us, I need to get to my family, and I’ll bet, said Beau, and Mr. McGruder frowned at him, but then shook his head again, like what do you know, you fag, and you freak, and then he was gone and it was me and Beau alone in front of the church we used to go to as kids.

Sandy, what happened, Beau said to me, and his eyes were round and wet and white, like two saucers filled with milk. And I felt something like shame welling up in me, and I said, Beau, what if it isn’t our place to say something after all, and what do you know that he would have even heard us, let us say it?

But we have to try, Beau said to me, if not with him, then with someone, and I looked down at my shoes, which were white sandals and all marked up with smudges, and I said, Beau, I don’t know if there’d be any TV again, say the review were to come out, and they figure out what it is we’ve been doing.

And Beau gave me a look like I had never seen before, like a lovely thing made ugly, the way that frown took over his cheeks and his eyes and his big old mouth, and he said to me, he said, Sandy, if somebody had been watching you and your momma, back when you were little, don’t you would have wished for them to say something? Don’t you know what could have been stopped if somebody had been looking?

And what I thought was how could you, Beau? How dare you. But what I said was something else.

Maybe that was love, I said. Maybe that was love, and we are not people who can understand what a thing like that is to other people.

And even though I knew I was wrong, I could not help but feel the strangest, loneliest thing, like what if my own daddy had cared for me like that. What if anyone had? What would I be like then?

And that’s when I realized that it’s not too easy to understand other peoples’ lives, even when you’re seeing them honest and all. It’s not so easy to know what to do. Beau, don’t you see?

But Beau he just shook his head and he got that faraway look in his eye like he does when he’s dreaming of anywhere but here, and he put his lips together like he was going to say, Sandy, but then he didn’t, and he was quiet and we both were. And it was a month before Beau wanted to talk to me again, and then when he did, it was because he knew how sad I was to lose him, and it’s important to have a friend like that, someone who is there for you no matter what because not everyone has that and I am the first to know it.

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When I was little, just after my accident and back when my momma and my daddy were still in love, and we were a family, and taking care of me and making me better was the most important thing, I remember thinking that if I could grow up to be anything, the thing I’d like most to be was a cartoon. One day I’d wake up, and I’d get out of bed and my hair and my hands and my nose and everything would be just like Disney or like Roger Rabbit, meaning I would be drawn but the real world would stay normal and like it is. Me as a cartoon would mean that any time there was danger, I could just jump away at the last second and I could do anything, and everyone would love me because I was goofy and silly, but also I was kind and easy to know. Beau is the only one I ever told about this idea, and I think the reason we became such good friends is because when I did tell him, when he and his family moved to town and he was in my fifth grade class, I told him and he said to me that he understood because he had always wanted to be a transformer, so that he could do anything and help anyone who ever needed help, and that if his mom needed to go to the store but she didn’t have a car, he could transform and be the car that got her where she needed to go.

Sometimes I’ll say, Beau, you know what the pleasure in Watching Television is? And he’ll say, Sandy, what is the pleasure? And I’ll say, Beau, the pleasure is knowing that all the time you’re being you, there are all these other people being themselves, and they can’t help it, so neither can we. And we’ll nod at one another, like it’s the truth, because it is. Sometimes, afterwards though, Beau will give me a look that says, Sandy, you know there are things we should have said we never did. Things we do that we could also not be doing. And so I’ll say, Beau, you mind if we go ahead and unplug? And then we’ll laugh, both of us, because it’s true, sometimes you just don’t want to know. Sometimes you just don’t want to feel a thing.

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On the Tuesday before the Fourth of July, me and Beau both have the day off from work, so we meet at Beau’s to make to-go margaritas. Even though I’m the one that lives alone, we meet at Beau’s because that’s where we can get the tequila because his daddy always has some extra lying around the house, and neither Beau nor I have yet turned twenty-one.

We make the drinks big and strong with lots of ice and triple sec, and then we take our walk downtown, and it’s a secret that we’re drinking them because you are not allowed to drink in public where we live or most places. This is a hot day, and we are wearing hats and shorts and our big blind-folk sunglasses because it’s been a while since we Watched TV in public like we used to do, on account of Beau’s new schedule as assistant manager and him not having as much free time these days or that’s what he says.

We find ourselves a good spot on the bench right between the playground where the kids go and the statue of Robert H. Hatton which right now is covered in a heck of a lot of bird shit. We sip our drinks and I feel the sweat drip down the backs of my knees, and I imagine it is a comfortable silence between the two of us. Sometimes Beau will say, Sandy, you want to press mute? And I’ll say, yeah, Beau, and we’ll just the two of us be quiet and think about what it is we have to be grateful for in this world.

I watch as two little kids from the neighborhood take turns pushing each other on the merry-go-round. Then Beau nudges me, and I look over and there’s a couple walking through the park. The guy is tall and skinny, and he’s got red hair, and the girl he’s with is real beautiful, I can tell even from far away, and she’s wearing a sundress with tiny yellow flowers on it and the dress itself is purple and it’s hazy or that’s the sweetness of the drink.

The two of them, they’re holding hands, and they’re smiling in that way that it doesn’t matter if someone is looking or isn’t, if someone sees them in their private moment or doesn’t, they’re just the two of them and they know it and it’s all that matters, it’s all that’s true and all that’s good and right. And then as we keep looking at them, we see the man stop, and me and Beau watch as he puts his hand on the woman’s back, the small of her back, and she just so barely leans into him, and it’s nothing big and it’s not like he’s even thinking about it or what it means, but I can see it, Beau, and it just about breaks my heart, and I don’t know why except for the fact that there is so much loveliness around us, Beau, despite anything else there is so much something to be felt, like a great big chandelier with each little light coming on. You know what I mean, Beau. Please tell me you know what I mean.

Rebecca Bernard’s work appears or is forthcoming in Southwest Review, J Journal, Colorado Review, and Pleiades among other places. Her debut collection of stories, Our Sister Who Will Not Die, was selected by Nick White as the winner of the 2021 Non/Fiction Collection Prize held by The Journal and is forthcoming from Mad Creek Books in August 2022. She is an Assistant Professor at Angelo State University and serves as a fiction editor for The Boiler.