The Widening
Etruscan Press, 2008

The Widening's self-contained, cut-to-the quick vignettes add up to an intimate and haunting portrait of a 1970s girl on the cusp of womanhood. While her parents' generation taboos sexual exploration, the protagonist embraces it with both passivity and wildness. As she travels from boarding school to Spain to college, she accumulates sexual experiences that range from the mundane to the horrific, the comic to the sublime. Told from close range, with precision and nuance, this is an edgily erotic novel, darkly comedic, alienated, melancholy, depicting a girl on her way to self-discovery.


Three excerpts:

I, One

At the crucial moment she said yes. His hand in the back pocket of her jeans had made her wet but nothing and no one had prepared her. They were on her bed, at boarding school. Naked she was self-conscious, and self-conscious she was timid. He would know what to do if only she let him. She remembered letting herself be kissed when she was twelve, pulled into the bushes by a classmate, happily ambushed, titillated, but sure right up until the moment his lips pressed hers that she would not be kissed, no matter how long they sat nested in the shrubs, because it was forbidden. He dug in, the sharp pain snapping her out of her reverie, and knowing she could not bear it if she conceived, she said no, pushing his shoulders hard with her hands. At once he was out, up, and through the door. Why had he left? In the bathroom, she looked and saw what she'd heard she'd find: blood. Her body pounded and throbbed, with the widening had come a great unremitting pressure on her bones and she ached inside. And that was it, she'd lost something she'd not examined having, something that until then had seemed irrelevant, illusory.

I, Twenty-Two

She was sleeping with the older brother now, she had been sleeping with the younger one before. She liked the younger one better, but now he was sleeping with her friend. The night their train from Barcelona arrived in Valencia after 2:00 A.M. all four of them slept jammed against each other, on a sofa bed in the apartment of a cab driver who had been idling near the station. It was too late to find a regular pensione, and he charged them very little. Although she balked at first, it suited her to be communally pressed together, as if the bond of camaraderie was stronger than their frayed sexual bond. But lying on her side, she had no room for her arms, she had to keep them above her head, and then they tingled; when she nestled them around the older brother's waist, he flung them off. So she shifted to her back, and then she shifted toward her friend, each shift setting off the bedsprings and groans and her self-conscious mortification. She hadn't thought how both brothers might dislike her until that night, one for sleeping with the other, the other because he hadn't liked her to begin with, only wanting to spite his brother and get laid.

II, Twenty-Two

With an orange leotard, he drew stares as he walked through the Union, and low murmured jeers, too soft to carry above the din, but spreading like a fungus just below it. Still, he would saunter in, as though equally oblivious to the attention he soaked up as to the derision he shrugged off. She never said so aloud, but she admired his cool. When, sitting not quite directly across from each other, they started talking at lunch one day, it came out that he wrote poetry. And, despite all the snickers, had a girlfriend which didn't stop him from inviting her to his room to share poems, or her from saying yes. But it really must be her room, she thought hazily, propped on her elbow on the futon, eye level with a row of wedges, heels, boots, and fuzzy slippers lining one wall. As they passed poems and a jay back and forth, she found herself determining which shoes she would keep and which discard, had they been hers. She particularly admired a pair of black suede stack-heeled boots. How could the same girl own bunny slippers, she wondered, as he lazily slid his hand up and down her arm, telling her that he and his girlfriend had an agreement about extra friends before finally lowering her bra strap and turning to kiss the smoke off her mouth. How pleasant an arrangement, she thought, taking him at his word. With their clothes piled on the floor, she stopped imagining herself in the other girls shoes; it was enough to borrow her boyfriend.

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