When You Love Somebody
Sarah Norek

He blushed each time he spoke with her and in any instance they became near enough to touch. She wasn't called attractive but caused him to react as though she were. Just her in his periphery ruined his throat.

He knew her title and place but little else. They and those around them arrived in the morning and in the evening exited while the company for which they poked keyboards and followed protocols made money as a well crafted motor might cycle through its revolutions, body carving beautifully forward.

Many days she appeared nearly unkempt, her dress sufficiently pressed and cuffs creased professionally atop her pumps but her hair wild in an un-deliberate way, taken by the weather, spun and further unaddressed. He took comfort in this, her collision with the world.

At the day's beginning she placed things in a cubby as did he, belongings deposited as they'd've been in kindergarten when he'd arrive thick in winter clothing with his boxed lunch and put each unneeded layer away in an assigned cube to inevitably be fondled by someone who shouldn't, who took liberties he wouldn't.

In her cubby one morning were a brown velvet hard-hat which he had to resist knocking, a set of mud-covered jodhpur boots, and a pair of gear which made him think of his own shins guarded for summer night games when he worked as a forward to kick the ball toward its goal.

Her storage space, as was everyone's, was small, but each item fit and also her bag, her raincoat, her insulated foods. In a back corner he saw a short stick that he knew was a whip, leaned and black and gleaming.

His brother had shown horses and he might tell her this, though not his distrust of the animals: their quick yellow teeth and prominent veins.

His brother had been the prettiest man he knew and for this this man was prideful, them sharing blood and so, he hoped, some form of elegance, too. Inside himself, somewhere, he kept a gorgeous animal.

At the zoo, when he'd visited with a niece, he'd been smitten with the ocelot and in the gift shop selected an expensive amber marble to remind himself of the cat's keen unblinking eyes.

Your eyes were this color, he said to his niece and pointed to a picture of a cub's in newborn blue.

My eyes are green, she said.

But, he insisted, first they came in blue. All babies' do. Even these.

I don't like cats, said his niece.

I never did, either, he said.


One afternoon he went for water and so had the woman, them simultaneously at the kitchen sink. There'd been no helmet or whip since the once but still he hurriedly began: My brother showed horses, recalling that sibling draped theatrically around an animal's wet neck, the boy having been called champion.

Each horse had been more exorbitantly priced than the last.

She said nothing and he wondered had he spoken or had this urge towards her only further entrapped his senses, ears feigning sounds and his tongue consumed.

He'd been known those long years as "his brother" while his brother was clapped and congratulated and requested and this brother was asked by their mother who looked while she did so regretful to please shine L—'s boots before he got a leg up to the saddle, at last his final, best animal heaving around them.

His brother didn't jump or rope cows but wore a derby and three-piece suit whose pants flared at their bottoms. His ties were showily bright and he taped gloves' wrists closed around his own. At the end of his career, at the world's championships, his brother asked him to help line his eyes lightly in their mother's kohl. 

I'm shaking, his brother said, trembling there in his dress shirt, cufflinks rustling, his narrow, looming frame belted into its fitted thighs and waist. His suit was dark and in the left side of his hat was a speckled feather tucked into the band and fanned against the felt.

Birds are filthy, this then-boy had replied, him only the youngest and annoyed, aping their mother's menacing tone from when he'd once bent to nurse a hatchling jay and been made to leave it.

His brother stomped childishly and said: I mean it! I can't do this myself!

His brother was eighteen while he'd turn twelve the Tuesday following their return home from this show. The sister between them was underdeveloped and remained in the care of an unmarried aunt. When shown pictures of her brother exiting rings with tri-colored ribbons pinned to his horse's headstall, mare's nostrils flared and front hooves lifting even higher than the trainers had hoped for or boasted was possible, as if, this youngest brother thought, to kick her face free of its fuss, their sister grabbed her cheeks too near her eyes and craned her head back and womped elbows together and squealed at the ceiling.

It's too much, his brother said, and their father said: She's fine. She's cheering you on.


Soon at the sink both their glasses were filled, the water fast and cold still, neither cranking it off.

We should go, she said softly.

I'd rather not, he said, then laughed like a gasp and leaned heavily, hot and damp, against the counter. She didn't leave but leaned there, too.


His brother before his class knelt upon the turf of the dressing room and looked up as they'd seen their mother at her mirror do.

Does she know? asked the youngest, and his brother said: She won't mind.

You'll look like a girl, said the youngest.

Just go easy, his brother warned.

He exhaled and bent towards and held that boy's face in his fingertips, not having known his sibling's age before like this, skin to skin, his conspicuous heart.

Steady now, said his brother, and he began carefully to draw.

Sarah Norek lives in Oregon. She has work in or coming from The Collagist, Caketrain, Keyhole Magazine and others.

Read SN's postcard.

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