The Girl through the Glass

The Iowa Review - - FRONT PAGE - Joseph fazio

When I was eleven, I spent the sum­mer in­doors. Nor­mally, I would have passed the days by rid­ing my bi­cy­cle in a lonely loop around the neigh­bor­hood, lis­ten­ing to other kids splash about in back­yard pools while se­cretly hat­ing my one friend for spend­ing the sea­son at camp. Then I would have gone home and waited for my par­ents to close their diner and re­turn for the evening, se­cretly hat­ing them for not giv­ing me a sib­ling. It was un­pro­duc­tive. So that year—and if I’m be­ing hon­est, it was the same year I dis­cov­ered mas­tur­ba­tion—i de­cided to in­su­late my­self from dis­ap­point­ment by re­main­ing in­side. I had video games, the prim­i­tive, blow­ing-things-up-in-outer-space type. I had ac­tion fig­ures that I was be­gin­ning to feel too old to play with. There were comic books (my one al­lowed trip out­side each day was to get the mail, and what a thrill to dis­cover a comic wrapped in brown pa­per among the bills). And my pe­nis, of course, which I both­ered un­til it swelled up like a co­bra. But gen­er­ally I oc­cu­pied my­self by tak­ing things apart and putting them back to­gether. It started with a bro­ken cas­sette recorder that had been on the top shelf of the coat closet for years. Be­fore it stopped work­ing, I had used it to tape songs off the ra­dio. Tak­ing it apart was a no-risk job—i just un­screwed any­thing I could, us­ing my fa­ther’s Phillips-head. A mess of plas­tic, wires, and sol­der spread over the car­pet as I worked cross-legged on the floor. Re­assem­bly was a chal­lenge; I had to force the in­sides back into the recorder, break­ing off a piece of green cir­cuit board in the process. There were screws left over. From then on, I care­fully di­a­grammed my dis­sec­tions, in pen­cil on graph pa­per, and putting things back to­gether be­came much eas­ier. When, in July, I ran out of bro­ken or un­wanted things to take apart, I de­cided to test my skills on the coun­ter­top ra­dio in the kitchen. I worked de­lib­er­ately, fin­ish­ing just be­fore my par­ents came home that night. It was play­ing when they walked in, both of them tired and smelling like greasy aprons. My fa­ther, who cooked at the diner, went straight to the re­frig­er­a­tor for a can of Miller be­fore his shower. My mother, as she al­ways did, put off wash­ing un­til after din­ner, which she now be­gan to pre­pare. “Isn’t that a lit­tle loud?” she said, mean­ing the ra­dio. She closed a cup­board lined with boxes of pasta and low­ered the vol­ume. The dial

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