Paula Mendoza

Making New Friends

I think of a joke and devise contexts to precipitate my telling this joke. I think of the person I will tell it to. I rehearse the telling, run a hand through hair, contort into good angles. Everyday entire conversations play in my head that render the person superfluous. I make them a stage, a pool of light to cross into. The joke I think of is not a laugh out loud kind of joke. It’s more the kind that will turn up the corners of your mouth in a wry, half-smile. A wry, half-smile is something I read in a novel once, or several times, when I used to read novels. It communicates a level of intimacy between two people but not one of any shared pain or struggle. Not even the sort arriving at the end of desire or some such conflict. It’s like how people say simpatico or talk of energies and frequencies and really getting somebody. The expression suggests closeness without all that mess. Instantaneous, clean as spark. In a wrist’s stroke across that rough pad I trick you lit. I handle all variant afters. Any joke has taught me best to fold in ways that catch the light. Any telling tilts the head, arcs a spine. I know when to lower and slow—voice and limb—the better to turn up the corners of your mouth. To turn up anything. And when I draw up close I will your smile broken wide, bright, full-throated laugh I make, I made you and you are thinking now of taking off all my clothes.

Paula Mendoza's work has appeared in Seneca Review, Bennington Review, Cream City Review, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from the University of Michigan and is currently a PhD candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Utah. She lives and writes in Salt Lake City.