You’re sitting in your car in the driveway around back,
on the phone with your dad
because the seventy dollars in cash
wasn’t enough to cover the copay for PEP
and you need more money in your account
to pick up the remaining twenty-eight days
from the pharmacist who looked at your eyes
and pulled you aside to let you know she would break
the rules and advance you two days’ worth because
timing is so important with this.
You hear yourself tell your dad you slept with a girl
last night at a party and that only afterwards
did she tell you she may have been recently exposed
to HIV (you’re careful to say may have been)
but everything will for sure be fine—it’s just to be sure.
Your dad, in the gentle way he diverts the topic
when he’s not quite sure what to say, asks
what she was dressed as for Halloween.
The specificity of the question throws you,
as you haven’t envisioned your lie beyond words alone.
Andrés comes to mind first, disrobing the gold chains
from his Cambodian prince costume in your room,
but you soon recall the girl in a cheetah print jumpsuit
you two encountered on the way home,
complaining to anyone who would listen
about how no one came to her party.
Cheetah, you say, and afterwards you imagine you hear
simmering in your dad’s nervous laugh
the question he really has in mind.
Then you think about how you’d slept with Andrés before,
about how you didn’t expect him to want to top this time,
about wanting your body to catch up to your mind already,
about pain, and how it collects in jars made of silence.
Your dad says he’ll transfer the money and that he loves you,
and you feel as though you’re standing outside in the rain
looking at a curly-haired boy sitting in his Ford Escape
with headphones in—talking, it seems, to himself.

Evan Bauer