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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.