The woman across the desk gave me the old evil eye. Years with the Santa Clara Department of Social Services had instilled in her a bureaucrat's well-founded suspicion that rules important rules, rules to protect children and idiots were being broken as we spoke.

"What exactly is your relationship to the boy's foster father?"

I said, "I'm just his roommate."

She asked again.

I felt like telling her that I listened to him and his real girlfriend hump twice a week and it drove me nuts. And that made me a roommate in every sense of the word. My god: I could even hear them shift around into new positions and erotic configurations; I took her every moan personally. Like the good son, Tony slept like a stone.

"We're friends. I moved up here because I got a job in Cupertino."

Did her nose actually flare? Or do I reconstruct our interview as more dramatic than it was? Perhaps she was just stifling a yawn.

"You'll need to get a tuberculin test. There's a public health office in Sunnyvale."

I pictured Tony at 13, huffing glue, hanging out
on the cement benches at the corner shopping plaza,
horny from the toluene, saying rude things
to the young girls passing by with their moms
on the way to Safeway to pick up some chicken for dinner.

"I have to get a tuberculin test?"

She didn't answer. She just handed me a three-part form with the address of a clinic in Sunnyvale.

I didn't think I wanted to have a child.

forward          anywhere         lines