Denise Duhamel


When we were babysitting, Georgette and I found her cousin’s Playboy—the shock of all that skin airbrushed into gorgeous forgery, oiled until it was ice-shiny. The cool detachment of the pages, the warmth between our legs as we stared. Would our breasts ever grow as big as theirs? Our pencil eraser nipples smudged away what our minds scribbled. Silence, giggles, silence again. We gorged on pie left in the fridge unable to speak about what we had seen, except for one crude “orgy” cartoon, a circle of earthworms, crotch to mouth, end to end, like an ouroboros, the vocabulary word that looked plural but was singular, the snake that ate its own tail.

Georgette’s cousin and his wife came back from their date tipsy, but we got into the backseat of his car anyway. He asked if pretty girls like us had boyfriends yet, his eyes filling the rearview mirror. I wondered if the woman who nursed and burped her daughter at home knew about the Playboy stashed behind the record albums. I wondered if he’d throw the magazine away when their baby started to walk. The cousin began to sing with the radio, and we did too, as though we were catching his drunkenness the same way we’d catch a cold. “I want to kiss him,” Georgette whispered in my ear. “That would be incest,” I whispered back. Georgette said, “Not if I kissed you first. Then it would be an orgy.”

A former contributor to The Journal, Denise Duhamel is the author, most recently, of Ka-Ching! (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009) and Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). She is a professor at Florida International University in Miami.
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