>They Can Touch The Heart Only By Bruising It


You might be wondering what Dela was thinking about when she saw me. She knew Buckley and I were great friends, and that my family didn’t have the kind of money her ex-boyfriend had, that any kind of interaction with me besides a purely friendly one would never behoove her because though her family didn’t have money either, she had the breeding that allows one to move up in the world  – she was exceptionally beautiful for a girl of just more than middle height, with eyes that shone like sapphires, almost purple, and which glistened as you moved around her, her swanlike neck cocked deep in concentration as she studied differential equations; she was a math major, a very intelligent girl. Dela saw me as a young man of simple means; she never saw me without thinking to herself: poor guy, how can he manage? He works hard at that market, his mom is crazy, dad’s never there, and he has to take care of his sister. Gradually she came to feel pity instead of shock at all of the things I lacked.
Dela was one of those city girls you might take for a fool for the first two weeks of your acquaintance. She had no experience of life and made no attempt at small talk. Since she was gifted with a delicate and lofty soul, her instinct for happiness which is natural to all living creatures, provided that she paid attention to the behavior of the gross creatures amid whom fortune had thrust her.
 She would not have ventured to say a harsh word to anyone and the most trivial cough from Little Buckley could send her running to nurture and care. A burst of crude laughter and a shrug of the shoulders was all she ever received from her Stanford boyfriend whenever she attempted to open her heart about matters not including academia and politics. His variety of humor, especially where regarding feelings and sentiments, twisted the knife in Dela’s heart, ultimately causing her regret, but not an open disavowal of a wounded relationship. Too proud to discuss matters of this sort, she approached her one friend, a Jackie Franzinnini, with the attitutude that all men are the same – coarseness and brutal indifference to everything that was not money, study or women; a blind hatred that went against feminine interests; these qualities seemed to her as natural to the male sex as wearing suits and ties.
Hence the success of Gabriel. When he entered the room, little Dela’s brow just containing the slightest hint of a furrow as she waded through her homework, lightened, as if she sensed the passing of a cloud over the sun, only to reveal ample light and warmth. She found that he was worth listening to, even when talk concerned the most ordinary and wretched subjects: on one occasion, there was a cat that was seen run over on First Street, and eavesdropping with ears and sidelong glances, she noticed that the fine arches over Gabriel’s eyes contracted and loosened in sympathy. Gradually, it seemed to her that the nobility of spirit which she had hoped for in her boyfriend was indeed apparent in this friend of her younger brother’s, two years her junior.
On reality television, this relationship would blossom after two or three dates, giving forth to a drama-sparked breakdown between the love of either Stanford ex, or the newcomer Gabriel, resulting in personal astonishment on the part of more than one member of the triangle d’amour, and possibly, hopefully, even violence. Television would outline the roles for them to play, as if they were simply stereotypes, or imitators of love. Yet because Gabriel and Dela happened to be intellectuals, at least to have had the capability to reason and understand the conventions imposed upon them by societal standards of heartbreak and courtship, and because they were city children, used to things happening quickly, and therefore all the more apprehensive about the speed of events taking form to which they were unaccustomed, they slowed their behavior, and acted all the more naturally.
When Gabriel attempted to speak to Dela in more than inchoate stutters and nods, he had to gather his courage every time he opened the Buckley’s door, because after years of being friendly, he not only text messaged Buckley to plan and alert him to his imminent arrival, but told him not to bother getting up from masturbating to open the door for him, he could just as easily enter himself, in hopes of seeing beautiful Dela sitting at table working slavishly in her three inch thick volumes, quietly scribbling and that soft brow just beginning to squirm in thought – just the notion of this neighborly beauty in proximity made his palms sweat and his heart patter. On a Thursday evening, after dinner, when parents are watching television or reading, or doing whatever it is elderly people do in those soft and quiet post prandial moments, there she was, lucubrating at the table. Surprised, he seemed not to want to distract her but carefully and curiously made his way over to Dela, who sensing his presence hovering closer and closer and not drifting towards Buckley’s corner, was preparing herself for more than just the customary hello and broad smile she was so used to affecting for him.
“Hey, whatcha working on?”
Sigh. “Just some Diff E.Q.”
“Cool.” Three seconds of silence. “I’m taking some calculus right now, but it looks like algebra compared to this stuff. Is that a triple integral?”
“What’s it mean?”
“Well, you know how the integral is used to find the area under a curve?
“Well, the triple integral is used to find the area of a three dimensional object, like a box.”
“Cool.” I hover and bob my head in appreciation.
She smiles, shakes her head slowly, I’m in, yes. “Nah, it’s kinda tedious.” God those, teeth, they’re perfect rectangles, I would live in those teeth, make them my windows, and look out of them, how are they so white… She recognizes my silence and fawning appreciation, but isn’t sure whether it’s over her breasts or her knowledge of integrals in cylindrical coordinates. I pause, embarassed, not sure what to do.
“Well, guess I’m gonna see what ol’ Buckley’s doing.”
“K. You have fun, be safe.”
Be safe? Be safe? Like what are we going to be doing? And who does she think she is telling me what to do? She’s not my mom. I mean, sure she’s a bit older, but come on. It’s not like I wouldn’t listen to her, though. And we should be safe. Safety comes first. She’s so caring, loving, always looking out for us… “Sup Buck.”

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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