By Denis Bell
One spoon of instant and two spoons of sugar in the Disney mug with the broken handle. The best way to start your day.
Garbage spilling out of a plastic trash bag. Empty beer cans. Bags and rags all over the place. Her things. The makeup case with the broken mirror. The purple dress lying crumpled up in a heap by the bedroom door. A stack of romance books and one about a new type of meditation. She’ll be back for it all sometime this afternoon.
Will you be here then?
Dump the newspaper down on the floor. Flop down on the couch. Snatch up the remote. One click and there. Reruns of Bonanza. Costume jewelry half price for the next 150 callers. Soap operas and talk shows with slutty housewives. The Weather Channel. Weather girl Jane all sunny and bright.
Depression moving in. Calm now but severe storms with flash floods expected later on in the day.
All hell in the offing.
Back in the kitchen, her plates and bowls ambush you. Call you a fool and ask what you will do when they’re gone. The milk is sour and the happy pills are almost out. The carving knife on the counter top is winking at you in the sunlight. Beckoning, like a clean male lover.
Bubbling and popping. Pour it in and there you go, Folger’s in your cup.
Icky combo of coffee and pills makes you gag but you keep it down. Necessity is the mother (the last two).
Soon it all seems vaguely funny.
Met her in a hostel in a bad part of LA one Tuesday afternoon years ago. Pleasantly plump and paranoid. You remember like it was yesterday. The contours of every blemish, every last sore. The lines of demarcation between pleasure and pain.
Said waddup or words to that effect. She told you not to speak to her, she doesn’t speak to men in places like this. Like was scared you were some kind of homicidal conversationalist.
Does she speak to women, then? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
You’re a queer one, she said.
Helped her out in a fracas outside some thirty minutes later. Bought her a hot meal. When you got back to the hostel, the place was deserted. She told you she’s the kind of girl who likes to pay her debts and if you put on a raincoat she would bend over. You said that it wasn’t necessary but if that’s what she wanted then you preferred a more intimate style.
Afterwards she spoke a LOT. Wondered what you’d gotten yourself into. Her real name is Gwendolyn though people all call her Wendy. Restless curious type, likes to live life on the edge. Gets around the country on busses, bums rides when she can. Has been out of circulation for a while (??).
Recently Jewish. Daddy trades futures, Mommy drinks and doesn’t have one. Hasn’t seen either one of them in ten years. Serially monogamous equal opportunity lover (likes both men and women, one at a time). Loves animals. Gave birth once. Used to be an Egyptian princess. Has a Native American spirit guide named Greywolf that watches out for her.
You remember things she said when she was happy, when she was sad.
She’ll wear you like a coat. Eat you alive if you let her, chew up your heart and stomp on your bones.
Such silly sounding words. Playing Goth, you assumed. When you asked why, she shrugged and said it has a tendency to happen with the people in her life.
Getting wasted together on the road back from the Grand Canyon in the old Buick you fixed up. The birthplace of humanity, no less.
One fucked up hole, you remarked in typical fashion.
She must have misconstrued your entendre. Not all of it, she said. There is so much beauty in the world, only we cover it up with our hatred and our lies. People and places. Colors so bright it will make you cry. Stay with me and I’ll show you.
Whether visionary or crazy bitch, you could never quite decide. All the same, you replay this over and over in your head. It feels like probing an exposed nerve with your tongue.
Huddling together on a park bench on a day in January that was all black and white. The two of you had been kicked out of your apartment and had nowhere else to go. Pitching snowballs at each other. She called you a wuss.
Pitching home truths following a dust-up in March. You had a better throwing arm that day.
Holding you nights when you had the shakes.
Told her once following a rage of passion she has the greenest eyes ever. She got them from the princess she said, and you and she are kindred spirits. Soul mates. Her BFF where the first F stands for friend. Now she has wild unprotected cybersex with balding virtual husband boris8u. Writes poetry to herself in the dead of night that she burns in the light of day. Maintains a website devoted to the inner lives of past creatures Mr. Chuckles and Dreamboat that she updates every two weeks. Goes wherever she chooses, does whoever she wants.
Throws out what she no longer needs.
You pick the dress up off the floor, fold it neatly over a chair. Survey the landscape one last time before returning to the kitchen. She told you once that the two of you knew each other in a past life, that she’ll look for you in the next. Perhaps she’ll find you there.
Denis Bell, PhD. is a professor of mathematics at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and notable author of several scientific research works. He writes short stories which have been published in numerous literary magazines. To learn more, please visit https://www.unf.edu/~dbell/