"You tie your shoes wrong, you know that?" he said. "That's why they always come untied."

I was putting on my basketball shoes. He hated those shoes. I told people I went to Caltech on a basketball scholarship. That I played center. Rick was never a smart-ass like that.

"I know I tie them wrong," I said. "I know that."

"You're not supposed to make the lace loop all the way around." His tone was guiding, sympathetic.

His eyes were dilated, as if he were completely engaged by my minor deficiency. They were always dilated. It was a permanent condition, an irresistible permanent condition. His breath had a pleasant solventy smell, like a magic marker. I should have left years before I did, but those eyes, that breath, his soft Texas accent made it quite impossible.

The laces felt like ropes in my hands. I finished an awkward lumpy bow.

"See, that's just going to come undone," he said.

"Why don't you show me how to do it right." I offered him the untied shoe.


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