by Clint Walker
She follows him through the drugstore, late at night, hovering over his shoulder while he tries to find his brand of condom. He’s too embarrassed to buy them by himself. His excuse is, “I can’t take those up there. They’re going to know what I’m going to do with them.” “Yes,” she says. “That’s the point. That’s why you shouldn’t feel embarrassed. They’ll know you’re getting laid.” He ignores everything she says while he starts to pace. She asks which kind he’s looking for, and he says, “The green box. It should say ‘large.’” When she laughs, he responds that he’s not trying to show off. He tries to explain that “large” doesn’t really mean “large” anymore. It really means “medium.” Since you can’t order a small soda with your two-cheeseburger meal, just like you can’t really buy “Trojan small” either. She laughs again and helps him look. She even goes to the drug counter to ask if they have his brand. They mutually decide on a suitable replacement.
They reach the parking lot and walk to separate cars and he thanks her for the help. “You saved the day,” he says. “She’d kill me if I got off the plane and I didn’t have these.” She asks when he’s coming back. He says a month or so. She asks if he’ll be back in time for a mutual friend’s wedding. He says he will be, but he won’t. She will attend with a third-tier friend she scrounges up at the last second. He hugs her goodbye and drives off. His flight leaves early in the morning. She stands alone on the cold asphalt and looks up and down at the franchises on Restaurant Row: An entire street of backlit logos, all with black plastic letters affixed to bright yellow message boards, each and every one exhorting her to eat shit.
CLINT WALKER is a lifelong resident of Central Illinois. He has spent time as an English teacher and has also just completed his graduate studies at Eastern Illinois University. It’s there that he won the James K. Johnson Creative Writing Award in 2010. His work has been published at Carte Blanche, Mary Magazine, and Work Magazine.