Franca’s son had killed himself that spring. He was twenty-one years old, two years older than me, and a lieutenant in the navy. Her husband was abroad selling soles—I mean actual soles, to cordovan shoe manufacturers in Spain. I didn’t do much that summer. I’d come home from college and was washing my hands two hundred times a day, flicking light switches on and off so compulsively that once I started an electrical fire in my father’s garage.

I don’t know why Franca picked me. I am of average height, five-foot-ten or so, and have a somewhat handsome smile. But one of my ears sticks obnoxiously farther out than the other, and at the time, I’d sprouted a paunch and my cheeks were puffy from the Prozac. Then again, Franca and I didn’t have sex. This wasn’t a love affair at all. Not that appearances are everything when it comes to sex, I don’t want you to think I’m shallow, but whatever. She hired me to help with her yard. Afterward, we swam in her pool and floated for a while. As the sun bore down on us we had established a playful, almost adolescent rapport.

People on couch
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