Excerpt from Cheese Grater
by Paige Spangenthal
I sip my beer and shift from foot to foot as I watch the band at the bar. The voice of the balding
lead singer blares through the speakers at an uncomfortable volume. I resist the urge to cover
my ears with my hands.
I lock eyes with a boy in a pastel purple button-down and mint-green pants. I guess Easter
came early this year, I think. He pushes his way through the crowd to me.
“What’s up?” he says. “I’m Brent.”
“Hey,” I say. I don’t give him my name. He doesn’t ask for it.
“What do you think of the band?” he asks.
“They’re okay, I guess,” I say.
“Yeah,” he retorts, “If you’re into middle-aged clowns. My band could school them.”
“Cool,” I say. I turn my eyes to the stage and fix them on the quivering paunch that rests
above the lead singer’s belt.
“I play bass,” Brent says.
He launches into a soliloquy about the experimental indie-electronic-pop music that his band
makes. I survey the room as he talks. The crowd tonight is a strange mixture of college stu-
dents with Tinder profiles looking to get laid and 30-year-olds with eHarmony accounts look-
ing for life-partners. I am gazing blankly into a corner of the room when I spot her.
A purple ray of light flashes from the ceiling, illuminating the thick mound of white-blond curls
on her head for just a moment. She stands in a circle of girls, idly stirring the ice in her drink
with a straw and smiling wryly at something someone has just said.
Every Monday and Wednesday she sits across from me in a circle of seventeen students
during a seminar on the works of Jane Austen. As our professor speaks about women in eigh-
teenth century British society, I note the tiny details of her existence. The mole on her neck
that sits just below her jawline. Her pointy, elflike ears. Her sleepy gray eyes. The soft puddle
of flesh that her thighs form on her plastic seat.
“I went on a trip to Peru for a week last summer, which really influenced the tribal aspects of
my sound,” Brent is saying. I focus my eyes back on his face, nodding.