This morning my throat hurt. I drank cold water and hot tea and nothing helped.

“Gargle with saltwater,” my mother would say, and a curl would fall down from her carefully placed hair, half up, half down. She would hand me the glass and I could feel her finger accidentally graze mine in a more loving manner than when I was a girl and she went to hold my hand to cross the street.

That didn’t help either, but it made me think of my mother. And that caused a stinging in my face that made my throat hurt more.

I sat on the bed, staring at my phone. I don’t know who I was expecting to call. Perhaps Johnny to tell me it had all been a hoax; perhaps Drew to propose marriage, perhaps Rabbit to confide that he’d decided to leave his fiancé after all, and run away with me to a seedy motel where we would drink and write and he would make money playing pool and poker with men with few teeth and bad hygiene.

I would write the great American novel, or at least make an honest living selling hardcore erotica to men with large trucks and small penises. I would do something that was worthwhile, I was certain of that.

The phone didn’t ring. I sat up and paced around the room. It was a day I had off and there was nothing to do. In most cases, I would sit down and write something, anything; make myself a stiff drink, perhaps spend two hours in the bath carefully shaving. But nothing sang to me. I thought about relieving the other bartender of his duties for the day, just chalking it up to money that I needed. But I didn’t need any money.

Most of my money was spent on booze and I often bought that in bulk anyway. Plus, when you work at a bar four or five days a week you don’t often have to make your own drinks. I thought about going through my closet, preparing an outfit that I would never wear.

In the depths of a trunk of mine, I found a pink polo shirt. A khaki skirt. I clothed myself in them both, regardless of the musty smell. I put on the radio (jesus, how long had it been?!) and danced around, thinking of strawberry daiquiris and hot fudge sundaes.

I thought of two bodies jostling around in Johnny’s SUV, her feet on the dashboard, bright pink toenails, his grimace at her audacity.

How to cook, for me meant a day’s worth of preparation—fresh herbs, vegetables, ingredients. Imagination. Inspiration. Love, almost. I imagined her rosy hands massaging chicken with oil and garlic, throwing it in the oven with some potatoes, doing a victory dance. It would be like breathing in and out, whereas I would sing.

It was official. Johnny had fucked with me on purpose. And I despised him for it. There had not been any reason to make such a huge deal of his moving in with this new girl, when we hadn’t even spoken more than a few words in forever. I would have rather never known, and just had my chuckles upon seeing them together in public. It amused me to imagine their arguments, upon her getting drunk in a matter of minutes, embarrassing him in front of (our!) alcohol-minded friends, having to hold her hair, put her to bed.

I ripped the clothes from my body like they had been on fire, and fired one of the worry balls at my small radio like I was a pitcher for the Yankees. It made a loud cracking noise, began to spark and smoke and the problem had been solved.

I had to get out. But it was too hot to do anything. And now the smell of old, angry smoke was filling the apartment. I picked it up and set it outside.

The hot sun beat down upon my face, and I looked up into that blue infinity, thinking of Hawaiian water; that catamaran Johnny and I rode far into the ocean on Waikiki, where we discovered fish and dolphins and sea turtles nearly as big as us.

Neither the sky nor that ocean was as clean and pure as we thought they were.

Beads of sweat begun to build at my temples. I walked back inside, closed the screen door behind me morosely, like it was my prison cell.

I wanted to call Vincent over to make everything better. But it had turned out that Camille had been positively miserable without him, and had come crawling back to him in the past week. And although they weren’t a perfect match, some part of her apparently made him happy. Sadly enough, it was more than the lay. So he was with her now, probably discussing some vintage of wine or Beatles song, noses upturned. I imagined him staring at the pearls around her neck, thinking of me and my fingers, wrapping around it, choking her. I imagined him giggling, her asking what was so funny and him not being able to respond.

For a moment, my fingers wanted to dial Jack or Daniel’s number. I was horrified by my own desperation. Boredom was one thing. This was quite another.

Feeling rather defeated, I went to the kitchen and made a drink. I took my time for once; muddled the mint, crushed the ice, preparing a beverage suitable for triple digit temperatures. I sat down in Vincent’s chair and took a sip. It was bright and smooth and cold and started to soothe the pain still dancing in my throat.

It was just then that my phone rang. Johnny.

I set the drink down and stared at the backlighting until it turned off.


4 Responses to “mirage”

  1. 1 Kismet
    May 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    ‘All human beings carry about a set of words which they employ to justify their actions, their beliefs, and their lives. These are the words in which we formulate praise of our friends and contempt for our enemies, our long-term projects, our deepest self-doubts, and our highest hopes. They are the words in which we tell sometimes retrospectively, the story of our own lives. I shall call these words a person’s “final vocabulary”‘ (Rorty, 1989: 73)

  2. 3 b-town
    May 21, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    hurry up, already.

  3. 4 Alexandra MacArthur
    May 28, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    My lady,

    We are myspace friends, and you recently commented on my profile showing your preference for pizza with cherry tomatoes. I now have a personal blog too, and a food blog (http://romancingthestrawberry.com)

    Next time a hot day like this happens again, I think you should come to San Francisco…or invite me over there. I have never been.

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