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|Andy Loves You, by Christina Louise Smith|
You and Andy sit at a table with some remnants of fried rice stuck to its surface. The vinyl seat is still warm when he lowers himself into it. You know it comforts him to know that it has been so recently vacated by another, the non-stop thrum of life radiating through the seat of his slacks. Everywhere, noise, a cafeteria din. You are in your mauve velvet jacket that is much too big for your tilting frame. You glare at him through the smile so often mistaken as kindness with an intensity that strips the iron from blood, leaves a flaccid sack of plasma, expressionless and too tired to inflect. As you pick at your warm lamb bruleé, the latest McDonald’s creation, Andy instructs you in the art of cruelty. You can't be mean without feeling guilty, you say, looking sideways at the table beside you. He says, First, stop thinking in those terms. Think of it as a heart-lamination. You must prevent the conflict from occurring, Andy says. Here is how you do it. You learn to say no so you don't have to be angry, reacting to others when things fail. You anticipate your limits. This is kindness, he says, and softly pats at some wisps of his hair that cast a distracting shadow on the table. A tall hard man from Angola, skin so brilliant he looks cast of silver, sees Andy and flashes his bone white teeth at him. A miracle of human genetics, this man is a hologram—you almost can’t bring your eyes into focus. Andy waves. Your glare shifts to the man. Andy says, he will be my best yet, and he is only fifteen. You grin like a terrier, your own bone-whites so delicate in your fine slim jaw. You don't know yet know that you are alive, burning like a sore, resilient and eternal.