Sunday, September 8, 2013

Double-barrel tragedy

'He got each of them a dark chocolate-red velvet cupcake and a caramel ice cream sundae. Calisto didn't even know that they served ice cream sundaes there. If the intention was to give the impromptu date some kind of official feel, it was working. Monte had played it smart. She had felt like her mouth was hot-glued shut ever since the weed had run out, and he had taken her to familiar surroundings (thus taking the pressure off of the interaction, as if implicitly saying: we can just be ourselves here) and bought her something sweet and cold. They had broken the ice by getting stoned together, and now they could ignore each other for a few moments and focus on their desserts, which they both attacked with gusto, sitting at a two-chair table near an open-air restaurant.
"This is so fucking good," Calisto said.
Monte nodded. "I am really, really high."
She suppressed a giggle, as if the cop might reappear at any moment and piece together what had happened. "This was a good idea," she said. "Thanks for the treat."
"You know what's sad? This has been my after-hours ritual every day for the last month, and up until now I've been doing it all alone."
"This is your idea of sad? That's your real problem right there."
"If you were by yourself right now, you'd see it. It's just craven indulgence. But I'm giving it up after tonight. I have to re-learn how to be alone again."
"I don't like hearing that."
"It doesn't give me much hope. It says, once something is over it stays that way."
"But that's how things are."
"It's like this. I picture myself, going through life, little pieces falling off of me, some important, some not. Like I'm a boat in a storm and shit keeps falling overboard. And all I can do is keep moving forward, because that's all there is to do. And eventually there will be nothing left and my life will have amounted to this, this trail of debris that went missing. Irretrievable."
Monte laughed in a way that attempted to convey incredulity and empathy at the same time. "We can't return, we can only look. Behind from where we came. You don't know that song?"
"No. You know what's really sad? My ritual these days is the opposite of yours. Instead of indulging, I deprive. I don't eat, I stay awake, not because I'm not hungry or tired, but just to see how much I can go without, or how little I can survive on."
"You have an eating disorder."
She waved a spoon of ice cream and pointedly stuck it in her mouth. "Look. It's not an eating disorder, it's a fulfillment disorder. I won't let myself enjoy anything, I sit in a dark room, I try not to think about anything nice. I hate knitting, so I sit around knitting in the dark!"
"Nice hat, by the way. I meant to point it out before."
She took off the aquamarine wool-knit cap she'd been wearing and set it down on the table. "This is the disorder. No wonder we got ditched."
"Eric is a dick, so I'm fine with it."
"She said he was your friend."
"I can't stand him. You can?"
"It's different with us." This was tricky territory for Calisto to navigate, even now. She had been convinced that it was never truly possible to fully approve of your boyfriend's best friend; the best relationship you could hope for was a friendly rivalry, since you would always be in competition with each other. But after her double-barrel tragedy of losing her mother and being dumped by James, Eric had been there for her, right there with Naomi, as much as if he'd been her best friend all along. They'd stay in with her when things were rough, bring her little presents and treats (no boy had ever bought her flowers before; even while consciously thinking she should not attach this much meaning to it, she could not keep her eyes from welling up gratefully at the gesture), and now they had brought her out and introduced her to this guy -- not her type at all, but she couldn't remember the last time she got on so well with someone after having just met them. Maybe, she thought, we don't know our own type as well as we think we do. "Eric has been really sweet to me, but I think it's because he knows he has to win me over if I'm gonna let him marry my roommate."
"Fuck him. Your roommate seems nice, I don't want to say anything bad about her, but why the fuck is she with a piece of shit like that?"
"What do you find so hateful about him, exactly?"
"I don't know, I just want to punch his fucking face every time I see him. It's an irrational hate, but so what? Nobody said hate had to make any sense."
She wouldn't have said so out loud, but she knew where he was coming from. The first time Naomi had brought him around was privately one of the few serious tests of their friendship. She knew what kind of guy would be right for her -- tall, piercing eyes, a smile that radiated warmth and humor, and most of all, dressed to kill. So seeing her with this stoic, withdrawn, shorter-than-her, hair already thinning, eyesore of a person felt not only wrong, but traitorous. She remembered feeling like the mother whose little girl had brought home the baddest boy she could find, specifically because she knew she would hate him. It had taken a lot of effort from both of them to bring her around. "I know you have reasons. Are you an anesthesiologist too?"
"I'm training to be a male nurse. I have to say male. Everybody says it."
"I don't know what he's like to work with, but I think you're being unfair."
"What he's like to work with is, he's there and I have to work with him. That's bad enough. If he wasn't, I wouldn't care."
"Well, he brought us out tonight. And then he left us alone, you have to give him that."
"Tell him thanks for me later."
They ate in silence, their sundaes already sinking into puddles of ice milk at the bottom of their paper cups. The sun had long since gone down, but the heat of its rays would linger well into the night. Young people shuffled past their table, dressed in pastels and whites that glimmered faintly in the dark. Tourists checking out the nightlife, gabbing on cell phones to arrange meet ups or just making a racket for no apparent reason, as if even the prospect of future intoxication was enough to facilitate wild behavior. In this impending party atmosphere, Calisto now felt nervous and out of place. All the good will from the joint and the treats was fading, and she now felt abandoned with a guy she hardly knew, in the last place she wanted to be. Monte caught her clutching her coat around her, though it was not for he reason he thought.
"Cold? You downed that ice cream pretty fast."
"The wind is starting to get to me. I'm too fucked up to be here. Can we leave?"
He got up, pushing his chair back and gathering up all the trash. "I'll walk you home. Where do you live?"
"It's ok. It's just a few blocks." She said this even though she wanted the company.
"Come on, I'm not your roommate."
"Kaka'ako. What about you?"
"I live down Kalihi side."
"That's the opposite direction! Don't bother, I'll be fine."
"Please, there's a bus that goes through there all hours. There pretty much has to be. Motherfuckers use public transit as their mobile homes out there. Come on, we're doing this."
They got up from their table and immediately went for their cigarettes. A passing dude with either too much or not enough facial hair, it was hard to tell, stopped and asked Monte for one. This time, he pulled out the pack he'd been smoking out of earlier and found it truly was empty. He looked over at Calisto with a shrug as half-beard walked off. Calisto held his gaze, then produced her pack and pulled out two of her own.

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