crouch

He crouched to look at the guinea pig. “So that’s Baxter, huh?” I tried to conceal the quick look of shock, but he saw it anyway. “Yes, Lola, some dads can actually still squat,” he smiled. “No, not that, I’m just surprised you know his name,” I said, feeling the colour creeping into my face, starting at my cheekbones. He noticed the blush, motioned towards the cage. “You have a tiny wooden sign with ‘Baxter’ written on it right next to the cage, Lola. I’d have to be much more tired, stressed and old than I actually am to not see it.” I nodded, in the usual way, where more of my head than my face is visual.

Sometimes I think it’s almost like a bow.

youth

The director rubbed her temples, looked off into the distance. The middle distance? I don’t know. She stopped rubbing her temples and looked at her hands. “You’re only young for a moment, Lola,” she said quietly. “You should make the most of your life.”

I nodded. It isn’t anything anyone doesn’t tell me all the time.

panda face

Sometimes I stay up too late, writing. I tell myself at least it’s not Facebook and that gives me a righteous few minutes but it is late at night and my face will bear testimony to it tomorrow. And what can I tell my co-workers? “Yeah, stayed up real late. Writing and shit, you know. Real cool stuff.” No, I mean – no.

Ever stay up way too late and look like a panda the next day? I texted Elsa.

Ya. She replied. I waited a moment.

Why? What doing? I asked.

Facebook haha she replied.

new spam is the curse of this town

My spam folder isn’t the cheerfully sodden corner it used to be – I am, although it would have previously defied all belief, actually nostalgic thinking of it. The new spam is far too long-winded, definitely rated-G and severely lacking in the ‘dirty imagination’ department. It should probably be styled as new spam! because it’s so terribly positive.

I don’t know if I can adequately convey the completely oppressive nature of it’s technical positivity – well, once when I’d stayed up all night I entertained the director and her accountant with an impromptu sketch of ‘when Mormons go bad’. There was even a dance (energetic but not sexy).

coffee hugs

I sighed, looked at and in my change purse again. How much change can I use before I look poor? I wondered. Who cares? It’s not like I’ll return to this or any other Starbuck’s for the remainder of the summer. Maybe I have more money in the fall or maybe the falling leaves just kick my brain into some heightened level of excitement –

And suddenly my thoughts stopped, because I felt hot breath on the back of my neck. “Guess who?” a voice was asking, and I was pulling in my shoulders and jumping forward before I actually understood someone had been hugging me from behind. “Lola!” laughed Aviva, behind me, all teeth on display again, “Why are you so uptight?” I rubbed my shoulders, shivered a little. “Oh, hi, Aviva, hi,” I said, not knowing what to say – whatever the right thing to say was, it probably wasn’t ‘hi’.

“She’s my child’s teacher,” she waved at the barista, who was looking at both of us with extreme apprehension.

This was supposed to be the highlight of my day, I thought, and now all I want is to run screaming from this place.

tall drink of water

“That’s one tall drink of water,” she said under her breath. I looked up from the toothbrushes I was labeling. The director’s accountant looked as she always had; sort of school marm-y, eyes always on the page. I’d heard her voice but she gave no indication of having spoken. “Excuse me?” I whispered, assuring myself if she doesn’t seem to know what you’re referring to you can just say did you hear something? and then that will be it.

“You must not know the expression,” she answered, adding figures in some dark corner of her brain, pen moving continuously, eyes still down. “I’m saying that’s a damn good-looking man, Lola.” Her eyes met mine, narrowed slightly. “Haven’t you noticed?”

I shrugged a little. “He’s a dad, Darla, a dad . . . ”

“A hot dad,” she muttered, resuming her additions.

to need a man

“I need a man in my life,” I told Vicki, poking at the green foam in my glass with my straw. Green. Inventive. Her eyes widened. “Oh come on,” I told her, “a guy. You know?”

“You need a man?! Like,” she leaned in closer, “Like your body needs a man? Or like, marriage?”

“Oh my – ” I choked before I could finish. Maybe green was not an indicator of potability. “Is that all that men are good for? I mean, I clarified, I said a ‘guy’, and that’s what I mean – a guy. A friend.” She seemed confused. “To fall in love with slowly?”

“No, when I say a guy I mean just a friend, a dude, a bro. I’m just tired of talking to girls right now.”

“That means me too, doesn’t it?” She frowned. “Did you just drink that whole thing?”

“That’s what I’m talking about! Every time I go out with you and your friends,” I sighed, rephrased. “It just seems whenever I go out with girls I’m told how inadequate I am, we all are, and I’m sick of it because the minute I challenge any of it I’m told I just don’t understand yet, or accused of being anti-girl.”

“What?” She was completely still, watching me.

“I’m tired of hearing about diets, and surgeries, and body modifications, and what this or that article says about when you should biologically reproduce. I don’t want to make the point of my life – why did any of us go to school or do anything other than embroider if it all leads up to this? I don’t want my life to be this one huge search for a ‘wonderful man’ with the right lifestyle it’s just sickening it just . . . My life needs to mean more than a huge diamond one day.”

Vicki looked at me steadily. I was looking down at my folded hands but I could feel her eyes pass over the bridge of my nose, my glasses, the top of my head like a hot searchlight. “You can get a sapphire, you know. They’re beginning to be in style so if you wait to get married it’ll most likely be in vogue by whenever that is. Sapphires are really pretty so you shouldn’t feel badly about not wanting a diamond – ”

“Was there some poisoned well I neglected to drink out of?” I interjected, even though I knew there was no stopping her description of wedding trends.

Or reaching her.

envelop

All the feelings I have about him are protective. From there you already know where I’m going: warm, tender, emotions that envelop like arms.

Sometimes, very late nights, I worry about him. I do not want him to disappear one day and come back, three days later, a changed man. So I put it out of my mind very quickly and think about something else.

everything

Everything he says sounds like the right thing, I thought, up to my elbows in sudsy water. I thought of his face. He looks earnest when he’s talking to me. I guess he just looks earnest all the time. I guess . . . I need more coffee. It’s the afternoon, I don’t need coffee. I’ll just be up until 4 again.

I don’t know why it’s 4 – the magic hour when I suddenly fall asleep no matter what.

Late night/early morning is the loneliest time imaginable to be awake. Sometimes I feel like the last person alive, and I wonder how many other people are feeling like that, like me, just like me, and are only a few yards away.