show your work

Marcela Sulak

When the clinical psychologist sent me his webpage and resume, and suggested we explore a relationship potential, it reminded me of my sixth grade algebra teacher, who used to deduct points from my grade for not showing my work. Were I to show you my work just now, for example, I’d tell you I’d just finished Carmen Boullasa’s novella Before and had begun Mary Ruefle’s My Private Property, which I read with half my brain still in Before. Though two weeks ago I’d read Ruefle’s On Imagination with such delight that everything I thought for a week after was phrased in her syntax. And this, I’d imagine, is how I would approach the meeting with the clinical psychologist. With half a brain in the last story. For, indeed, I’d begun Before last month in order to test out F’s new beanbag for reading. Earlier that afternoon Amalia and I had blown enormous soap bubbles, played dominoes and badminton in the Park with Sebastian and Delfine and their four daughters, Lana, Mia, Or, and the third one whose name I can’t remember just because it’s indecent to be able to remember all four every time you run into them, whom we’d met by chance. After Shabbat I watched Maleficent again with my daughter (the last time we watched it the battle scenes traumatized her). And all morning I was thinking of red lipstick. In between F phoned; when I told him not to come over. When I said wow you must really hate talking on the phone if you’d rather jump on your bike and ride it here and then go back and it’s now 10:20pm, he said that phones were for Haifa and Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, not for Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv. But then again, I thought, as I am showing my work, they are for covering the distance also between inside a bar and outside, between two blocks, if you’ve passed something. I’ve also looked up the words badminton, which I always spell badmitten to myself, Maleficent, and I double checked to make sure I was spelling Boullasa and Ruefle correctly, which I was. In sixth grade algebra, Ms. Lili (we didn’t know what to call her as she’d just gotten divorced) would deduct 20 points from my grade. It wasn’t that the answer came to me in a dream or by intuition. It’s just that I preferred to do it in my head because I was always out of erasers. And one day I told her, look, you’ve been giving me 80s all year for not showing my work, and I’ve still got the highest grade in class. Who do you think I might be cheating from? Which may be why, instinctively, I don’t want to get to know any clinical psychologists in an intimate manner. After that Ms. Lili began to give me full marks, and also, I began to show my work.


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