What appears at Litsnack is actually an early version I sent out shortly after I wrote it. I later revised the story to read more fluidly and to deepen its implications, but when the original version was accepted by Litsnack, I was thrilled. And I still am. Below is part of the revision I was toying with just before the initial version was accepted:
"I feel his eyes again, and I look back at him with impulsive boldness, a daring I do not recognize as my own. I have not received this kind of attention before. It chases away my headache and causes me to sit up straighter, to feel slightly more alive. His gaze appears level, earnest, if somewhat cloudy and unfocused. He looks down in the direction of my parents. My mother has her chin on her hand, listening to something said by someone at the end of the table. My father is equally absorbed in the conversation and notices none of what is happening where I sit, none of the intent gazing, which brings the blood rushing up to my face. The men beside me continue talking and have turned towards the subject of work, while the man named Peter leans forward and asks in a low voice, “What room are you in? Or are you with them?” He nods sideways in the direction of my parents. I smell the alcohol on him, which wafts towards me in a volatile billow as he speaks.
I shake my head. I tell him I have my own room. He nods, smiling. “What’s the number?” he asks, his left hand still resting against his face. “Tell me the number,” he whispers again. “Please.”
I glance quickly at my parents once more. “215,” I answer, looking down at the table cloth as I say it.
He nods. Fear is rising in me, but excitement, too. I do not yet really understand the power I seem to have at this moment, or even that it is a kind of power. And I am certainly too young to recognize that it will end up being weakness, too...."
And so, you ask, it's written in the first person. Is it true?
What is true is that in 1989, I was 14. But it wasn't until 1990 that I was in Zurich, a temporary stop between Milan and a smaller town in Austria, whose name I no longer remember. By the time I sat at the table described in the story, I was 15. And what's true is that there is a red haired salesman named Peter, who (along with so many of these hardware and machinery salesmen I met during these business trips) got outrageously drunk each night at the semi-formal dinners. Another thing that's true is that Peter was apparently having trouble with his wife. But Peter never laid a hand on me. Frankly, if he had, my mother would have disembowled him with the fish knife mentioned in the story.
No, what actually did happen to me was more meancing, something I was saved from (actually, by my mother). It was a rescue for which I am grateful and still consider myself very lucky. It occurred in Rapallo, Italy at the Grand Hotel Bristol (a picture of their swimming pool, where I swam in the spring of 1990, appears above). There, I had a room adjoining a stranger's, with only a flimsy locked door between us. And, after a brief interaction with the man who occupied that adjoining room while I was heading to the elevator, the menacing began. But that is a story for another time, maybe even for another piece of flash fiction.