his new girlfriend – his first girlfriend, at 47 years old – not to murder him, but imagine all the damage she can still do: love somebody else more, get bored of him, be disgusted by his flabby arms. She could hurt herself, or be hurt—lose a parent, have to put down one of her dogs, a woman she works with could have a stroke, she could lose her job or sew through her finger or be in a car accident in the mountains or get a scary diagnosis or get stung by a bee, or somebody in the wrong bar could see them kissing and yell at them or beat them for being dykes or she could read an article about dogs drowning in post-hurricane flood and cry. Flat Stanley—who is clearly not a little paper boy here, but the narrator, the author even maybe—could fail to make her come, or happy, or her adult children could want too much or they could get sick or not be able to afford what should not cost money or her dad’s Seahawks could have a bad season. She is not Flat Stanley’s first crush on a woman, on a friend, not his first make-out. Once he had a two-week fling with a wild German woman who drank and threw darts hard, but this is the first woman he’s introduced to his mom. His mom was cool enough, invited them over for breakfast, even tried her best to cook vegan (is the margarine already in her fridge vegan?). Sure, she called her “your friend,” like she did with Cousin Chris’ decades-long partner, but his nieces were entranced by her short haircut. “Your hair,” they said, aswoon, “matches your face.” His sister was readier than most of the family. Years ago, when he had called with bad news and stumbled on the phone, and said “I just need you to know…” about some dumb choice, his sister was like: Jesus Christ, come out to me already. The danger is not everybody else. The danger is with loving in general. Flat Stanley is not afraid for his own fragile paper body, which he may have been, he was, with men, but for the moment, which will come, and soon: when she stops looking at him like she looks at him now, eyes all big and surprised at the find, at this new laugh.
Flat Stanley trusts
Art by Maureen Mcdonagh