Jonathan Harper Excerpt, Spring 2010
From "The Cake is a Lie"
Since I first moved in with Lloyd, I knew about his children from his previous marriage. A son and a daughter. They sat around our apartment in scattered photos, always peering out as if looking for an exit. In the three years of our relationship, I have only asked about them once or twice. The girl was in college; the boy was in the army. Beyond that, we never discuss them.
There are nights when I still creep out of our bed to be alone in the apartment, when I sit up in front of a movie, eat ramen and chain smoke cigarettes. And there is the urge to rummage through Lloyd's files and knick-knacks, as if trying to answer all the questions I don't know to ask, to discover a secret, any secret possible. I didn't need to know about Lloyd's previous life and family, but I wanted to know of them. The pictures of his son always captivated me the most: a perturbed looking child with dark bowl-cut hair, a pale face and consistent frown. Eternally ten or eleven, captured in the same poses. And in the present, I was the surrogate child whom Lloyd loved and disciplined. I cooked our meals, played housekeeper, rummaged through his private things until half-asleep, he'd call out, "Frankie, come back to bed!" And I would obey, crawl in under the covers, gently brush my knuckles against his spine and think, daddy. Like son.