Jefferson Navicky

Matt Parker Brain

Navicky flash (Blog only)
Collage by Martha Winterhalter

I heard the story about Matt Parker and how he’d run off to Vermont with our French teacher. He was sixteen and she was thirty-six, married with two kids. He’d dropped out of school, and she’d been abandoned by the administration, and nobody talked about them anymore, but everybody thought about them. I suppose the strangest thing was not that it happened, but that it happened in plain sight. I used to see them talking after class and to my untrained eye, it seemed like they were conjugating verbs, or maybe they’d have lunch together, but we all had lunch together. We all laughed, but we didn’t all run off together. “Run off” – it sounds so spontaneous, hand in hand, but also so casually disastrous like “run off from the factory poisoned the river.”

I would like to say my river of Matt Parker had been poisoned by his disappearance, but instead I found myself lying awake at nights wondering what were they doing in Vermont, right now, right now, I mean I knew what they were probably doing, but what were the particulars? Where did they live? Did the town know? Did they subscribe to a local newspaper? Would he shovel the front walk come winter like my father did for us? Did she make him pancakes? Did she still give him French lessons? I lost so much sleep that summer that I had to learn to turn off my Matt Parker brain, stop with the wondering and count sheep or count my blessings, which never seemed all that many.

I suppose it was more than chance that I ran into him in a health food store in Monterrey. I’d heard from friends that he was out in California. Still with Mrs. Whittlesey? I’d asked. No, on his own. I may not like to admit this, but when I moved to California, and not just any part of California, it was with the chance thought, Matt Parker is here somewhere. I was surprised that he remembered me. Astounded is more like it, tickled pink, flattered. He was in massage school, he didn’t know if he’d finish, we should keep in touch, and we did. Though not well. His emails were brief, he wasn’t much of a correspondent, he admitted; he liked to live life. My emails were restrained and terrible. I tried to make myself sound interesting, and I was actually interesting, but I never thought I sounded that way.

He moved to Toronto, back to California, and then to Amsterdam. His home base, he said. I heard he’d gotten a woman pregnant and she had the baby and they lived together when he was in Amsterdam, but he never told me that. He would tell me briefly where he was, had been, and where he was going, his itinerary, like I was his travel log. For my part, I got married, moved from California back home, raised our daughter, taught at a school, didn’t make enough money, my husband was difficult, I was difficult, our child was beautiful but

difficult, our life was difficult. And then I’d get a brief email from Matt, usually of a photo, a resort in the Bahamas, a friend’s villa, the guest house in the south of France. I would look at his photos and start to feel a gentle clenching in my throat like I was as allergic to beauty as I was to shellfish. My husband and I took to bonding over late night sessions, sitting up in bed, scrolling through Matt’s photos, making fun of them, speculating about who he was sleeping with to get that gig, and things like that. It felt good like addiction, like doing something you shouldn’t be doing and you knew it and it felt all the better.

Then I got an email from Matt saying that he’d be in the area in two days, staying at some “cottage,” and he wanted to know if I wanted to get together. That’s the language he used, “if I wanted to get together.” I had diarrhea all next day. My husband thought I had malaria. My daughter tried to feed me ice cubes. Then I said, sure, as casual as I could, let’s get together (assuming I’m not still shitting my insides out). But I didn’t say that last part. Instead, I sent my daughter to a friend’s and I invited Matt Parker to my house for lunch.

I have a nice car; it’s old but it’s even a little fancy. I have a good haircut. I have nice clothes, they’re simple, but they look good on me. I am still, generally and not too biasedly, a fairly attractive person. People think I have my life together, and it looks like a good life, I make sure it looks like a good life. But I am not proud about what I did with Matt Parker. But I did it. But I don’t think I’d do it again. I don’t think I would, no.


About the writer:
Jefferson Navicky was born in Chicago, and grew up in Southeastern Ohio. He is the author of the story collection, The Paper Coast (forthcoming Spuyten Duyvil), and the chapbook, Uses of a Library (Ravenna Press). His work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, apt, The Conium Review, Tarpaulin Sky, and Fairy Tale Review. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, teaches English at Southern Maine Community College, and lives in Freeport, Maine with his wife, Sarah, and their puppy, Olive. He has received a Maine Arts Commission Good Idea Grant and a Maine Literary Award for Drama.

Image: Collage by Martha Winterhalter. Mixed media. No size specified. By 2018. By permission