by Holly Iglesias

Processed Cheese

Student to his professor, I knew no response to you’re quite lovely besides oh and that vague nod with which the young surrender control over their bodies. He fed me kumquats and Dubonnet, recounting his time overseas in the service, springtime of the Cold War, when crew-cuts and confessional poets were in vogue. He had returned home with three children and a French wife who divorced him after the birth of three more, a woman whose life inside a lime-green shotgun house near the Plum Street Snowball stand seemed full of charm. I envied her alien status, her facility with garlic, her French-speaking children who stayed with their father every other weekend, eating peaches in heavy syrup as he tapped at the typewriter, tipsy. He heaped gifts upon me—pocket dictionaries, amphetamines, paperback editions of Rimbaud and Valéry—until I had the vocabulary of a budding symboliste, a satchel of words I would carry onto the trains of Europe, roaming with yet another of the century’s lost generations. He released me after graduation into the world, insisting I see France, subsist on Médoc reds and foil-wrapped wedges of La Vache qui Rit, read Le Fleurs du Mal on a bench by the Tuileries basin until I too swooned in poetry’s drunken boat. It was difficult to say if he lost me or I lost him, but torrid verse continued to haunt my chastened life as did the cheese, which I tucked each day into my daughter’s Star Wars lunch box, the red cow with the gypsy earrings still laughing.

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