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.

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.

drunk man vs. light bulb

“Just because you can reach the light bulbs with ease doesn’t make you into some sort of superior human,” I told him. He cocked an eyebrow at me. “Just leave them alone, Paco,” I wondered which tone of petulance was the right one to use, which one would remind him of his mother –

Right, I reminded myself. He never had one. Mostly.

“Your light,” he started, looking up at the ceiling fixture, “it wants to smash me in the head, and also I think it is dying.” I sighed. He thought everything was after him once he started drinking. My cheap light fixture? Murderous. His wife? Homicidal. The cows on the side of the road? Obviously plotting his doom.

“Come here!” he yelled suddenly, grasping the light bulb, then recoiling and sitting on the ground immediately. “Did you – did you burn yourself?” I asked, my mind jumping between Serves you right – I hope he’s okay! – What are the repercussions to a burned dad? quickly and repetitively. He wiggled his fingers. “Good thing I have this ice-cold beer!” he was cheerful again. I could relax. Mostly.

“Like I told you, Lola,” his grandiloquence – or imitation of it – was returning, “cold beer cures a multitude of sivels.”

“Are you trying to say ‘sins’ or ‘evils’?

“Yes.”

Paco

The first time I saw him I thought only that he was very tall. I didn’t feel like meeting new parents – I had the most epically skinned knees from some good idea turned bad, had just returned from the doctor who had stopped just short of pronouncing me the most unmarriageable girl possible, and I don’t like it when only one parent shows up to the interview, especially sans children. They can tell you all they want about their kids as a description, but at the end of the day it can range anywhere from accurate to bullshit to complete delusion.

Anyway, he was tall, and he smiled at me as if we knew each other, so much so that I said “Do I know you?” just as the director asked him “Do you know our Lola?” and he shook his head. No, he didn’t know me, hadn’t met me, mouthed my name like I was a rare fruit. I sighed. I wanted no part of this. He came towards me with his brilliant smile – and neglected to see the plastic ‘gym’ at his feet. He fell head first, completely unprepared, and some little voice began yelling “Splat! Splat!”

I slipped out, still limping slightly. Like I said – I wanted no part of any of it, whatever it was.

whore

I was always told that women who had indiscriminate sex would get labeled and spoken of with malicious winks. Labeled ‘whore’ and – you know all the epithets. As for the women I’ve heard about mentioned that way, I never felt one way or another towards them: I didn’t know them.

I don’t think about people or things I don’t know.

(Do you know where this drift is headed? Maybe you do.) I always assumed that as a preschool teacher who doesn’t wear makeup and doesn’t even know how to flirt I would be firmly relegated to the land of ‘women who are never talked about one way or another’. Sometimes I’d watch a movie with a really sexy woman in it and think Wow! It must be kind of amazing to be sexy. She looks as different from me as a pheasant does from, I don’t know – a mailbox. But that was it. I wish I could say I don’t think about my looks because I am awesome, but really it’s just that I’m surviving. I feel like some sort of arctic explorer jumping from one ill-advised melting floe to another and trying not to count the cost.

I think every time I don’t sleep with a guy he calls me a whore.

I felt the wall move against my back, and I realized that whatever I’ve ever felt, I’d never felt the peculiar stab of finding out that people are literally talking about me, like some kind of nightmare of whispers and dismissive glances. I hugged my knees and felt myself folding up inwardly and outwardly, like human origami.

‘always’

“Isolde, what the hell is that?” I pointed at the white bag on my bed. “What’s what?” She answered cheerfully, coming in to look at whatever it was. She was wearing one of my hats and pulling on a pair of my gloves. She followed my gaze. “What? Afraid I’ll stretch them?”
“I am and you will. Please take them off before it takes and remove your parcel from my bed.” She snorted. “You’re so uptight. You could buy more gloves.” Not really, I thought.

“Anyway it’s not my ‘parcel’, it’s your bag. Your present,” she said with a smile. This will either be terribly good or terribly bad. Wait, what’s the etymology on terrible again? Ran briefly through my mind. I opened the bag. “What did you fit in an iPad box, Isolde?” I secretly felt a little bitter. I don’t even go to that store – what would the point be? “An iPad . . . ” she twisted her head sideways, widened her eyes. There’s a catch, there’s some horrible catch –

There it lay, brand new and shiny. “This looks like yours,” I said at length, and she turned away slightly. “And that’s because it is yours, isn’t it? Isolde, why would you do that? Are you giving it to me, is it beyond repair, what are you doing?” She rolled her eyes, walked up to me, and flipped it over. “Read it,” she said flatly.

‘RJ, Isolde, Always’

“Oh shit,” I groaned.