0.8

The sharp edge of wing-tipped masks lurk around every corner as Andy darts through a maze of strangers. Their eyes glowing red, gold, black behind the oval cutouts. Andy feels a scream in her throat, but the sound never reaches her lips. The claustrophobia settles in to her pores as her elbows brush against black satin, her knees pressing up against yards of tulle, her feet tripping over spiked heels matted in gold leaf. Red lips opening and closing as if urged to say something to Andy, but remembering last minute that she’s not worthy of the energy. Not worthy. 

Andy feels her feet moving, but looking around her surroundings never change. The concrete walls seem to be tumbling in towards her as the same masked strangers circle around her. A tongue drags across a pair of red lips, someone breathes against Andy’s neck, the sound of teeth cracking against bones. Andy shivers violently and feels warm blood being to drip from her elbow. She looks and sees no wound, but the warm dribble of slow-moving blood still tingles through her body.

“Andy” a voice seems to fill the entire space with its desperation. Her eyes dart from stranger to stranger, but none seem filled with the desperation her name had echoed with. “Andy” again the voice comes desperately, urging something from Andy. What? Andy finds her voice still stuck deep in her throat. What do you want? She spirals and screams as the world around her begins to shake. The vibrations seem to shatter through the concrete walls, cracking across the hungry eyes surrounding Andy.

Andy wakes with a start, gasping for air, as Jasper maintains a firm grasp on her shoulders. The room spins into a tilted focus: peeling wallpaper dotted with sunflowers and water stains, cracked wood frames on angled windows, the modern and out of place bed frame surrounding her own naked body. Jasper hovers over her, confident in his nudity, relief filling his eyes as Andy meets his stare.

His hands linger trailing across her shoulder blades briefly before he stands up and gathers the scattered pieces of his evening attire. Andy lays speechless on the bed, taking in her naked form, attempting to connect the image at hand to her memories from the art show. New bruises pop out from her long, thin legs, and she feels an ache spreading from her right elbow.

Jasper slowly gathers his scattered attire and redresses in his black dress pants and pressed button down shirt; both crinkled with the memories of all the drinks, kisses, conversations held last night. Andy tries desperately to connect the dots of her path last night. From the floor of the concrete art room, her head spinning, her elbow jamming into a crack low on the wall slowly rubbing a wound open to this room covered in peeled wallpaper and unfamiliar furniture. Jasper remains the one constant.

Andy sits up, rubbing her palm against her forehead and delicately peers at the wound on her elbow. Dried blood spreads from her elbow to the back of her wrist. Nausea comes over Andy like a wave and her hands bolt to her mouth as she lays back down urging her body to calm down. As her head tilts to the side she sees Jasper disappear out the door. He leaves the door ajar, letting in the echoes of the hallway and beyond: bare feet against the old hardwood, the sound heels clicking the staccato rhythm of a hangover, a soprano giggle, the rustle of clothing being removed or returned, and the movement of brushes, canvasses, charcoal.

The more Andy heard, the more certain she was this house wasn’t abandoned as she had originally thought late last night. Is this some sort of artist colony? Is this where Jasper has been living? She urges herself to sit up and gaze around the room once more. Her eyesight falters between the blur of still being drunk and the clarity of being painful hungover. She swings her feet over the side of the bed and fights the nausea in her stomach as she pushes herself forward to standing. She waddles like a newborn baby around the room looking for some clue as to what this place truly was. The peeling wall paper and faded appearance of the furniture only reiterates the age of this house. She runs her finger across dusty window ledges, stubs her toe against an ancient metal bed frame, before finally finding what she’s been looking for. A fresh set of paints and blanched canvases sit tucked just underneath the head of the bed. Andy tugs them free of their prison and rolls the horse-hair brushes between her fingertips. These are gorgeous. These are fuckin expensive brushes. How did Jasper afford these? She trails her fingers across the canvasses: hand-stretched oil-primed linen.

The sound of firm footsteps in the hallway startle Andy, she clumsily pushes the paints and canvasses back underneath the head of the bed and jumps under the covers. The footsteps pass, Andy’s heart is in her throat, though she can’t quite pinpoint why she’s so nervous. She crawls back out of bed, her head beginning to spin with each sudden movement, and sits on the floor to stare at the paints and canvasses. How the hell did he get these nice supplies? Is he really making that much money off his work? 

Andy grabs out one of the linen canvasses, staring at the blank space begging to be a creation. It’s a sort of ritual for Andy, losing herself in the canvas before she even smells freshly splattered paint or brushes her fingertips across the edge of her paintbrushes or smears untouched charcoal between her thumb or forefinger. As she sits and stares at the canvas the bustle in the house grows louder, more masked faces awake from their slumber and pull out canvases of their own. The hum reverberates through the floorboards and Andy snaps back to the old, abandoned house. What the fuck is going on here? She slams the canvas to the floor and shakes the metal bed frame out of place as she tries jamming the canvas back into its hiding place.

As she yanks the metal bed frame away from the wall she finds not plaster or peeling wallpaper, but a square package taped firmly in a hollowed out nook. The package runs the length of the bed and is wrapped in the same wallpaper the room is slowly shedding. To a passing glance, it wouldn’t be noticeable. It’s not often someone sits on these wood floors and examines what’s behind the headboard.

Advertisements

0.7

The room below glows with gold sequins, silver glitter dust, and black silk. Everywhere Andy looks she is greeted with grins on bright red lips and question marks in the multi-colored eyes behind black masks. One woman, perhaps the woman Andy had seen diving in through the black door beneath the blue light, licks her lips with a giggle as she meets Andy’s gaze. Andy feels ridiculously out of place, yet it seems that she was who everyone was waiting for. Every stranger she passes spreads a toothy grin in her direction, an unusual hunger coming from behind their eyes. Andy wonders if this is what a helpless, injured animal feels like as coyotes and vultures circle around them.

Fresh-pressed ebony suits, skinny ties in a variety of colors, elegant black masks on every face, elegant gowns in every jewel tone imaginable brushing against the concrete floor. The masks range from a simple black superhero-style mask to extravagant pieces of artwork with horns, halos, and feathers. The women in the room were clearly dressed to reflect their own individual sensibility, while it seemed the men all melded together in the same mysteriously alluring combination of black suit and mask.

“This isn’t what I expected” Andy turns to face Jasper, but finds he’s been lost in the ever-going current of the party. She searches over all the heads in the tiny space, but can’t locate Jasper’s fiery head of hair. As she glances around Andy takes in her surroundings for the first time, finally seeing past the out of the ordinary garb of the partygoers. The entire room is grey concrete decorated with ink stains, shoe scuffs, and what appears to be bleach stains dripping from the wooden ceiling. The walls are covered with pieces of artwork, all Jasper’s. This is the first show solely dedicated to Jasper’s work and Andy knows how thrilled he’s been about this evening. Still this isn’t the crowd she’d expected. She was used to art shows in local bars, people milling about in ripped jeans amidst a few art buyers pretentiously discussing the pencil marks of a piece over glasses of champagne. She was accustomed to art shows filled with the smell of stale cigarettes and weed with hip-hop music blaring in the background.

Andy pushes her way to the walls of the space, losing herself in Jasper’s work and burying the feelings churning in her stomach. I wish I hadn’t finished off my whiskey. She fingers the flask in her back pocket as she takes in a charcoal drawing Jasper had started one night when Molly was out of town. ‘

Wine Wench by Jasper Greenwood’ typed in neat block-lettering hung beneath the linen canvas. Andy knew the drawing was of her. Jasper had gotten up from bed abruptly after sex, leaving Andy’s naked form half-draped in sweaty cotton sheets. “What are you doing?” Andy began laughing as Jasper, naked in the moonlight, started scrambling through his backpack, pulling out piles of books, old pieces of paper, cigarette packages, and his pipe until finally he pulled out his set of charcoals and a small linen canvas. He brushed delicately at the layer of charcoal dust and eraser pieces littered across the canvas from living too long in the bottom of his bag. As he slide the charcoal pieces neatly out of their casing, lining them up on Andy’s bedroom floor, he met Andy’s bemused eyes. His hands stop moving, he smiled, and without a word handed Andy a wine bottle, half-full of day old wine. “Drink this” he kissed her right ear lobe and sat down against her bedroom door, propping the canvas up against his knees.

Jasper sat, completely silent, sketching with charcoal for an hour as Andy drank the day old wine. She let the silence hang in the air. Andy remembered the feeling of warmth both from the wine and the way Jasper’s eyes had glazed up and down her body. Every glance had felt intimate and yet distant. This had been the first night Andy had wondered if she was falling in love. This had been the first night Jasper had ever showed any signs of affection outside of their normal sexual play.

When he had finished the piece, he propped it up on the coffee table and scrutinized it in the moonlight. Andy had rushed behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist to stare at the piece over his shoulder. Though she knew the piece was of her there was nothing specifically “Andy” about the woman he had drawn. The piece was vague, Andy’s tattoos had been left out, her hair had been changed, all she had been was a basic female form for Jasper to build a piece around. His affection had never been genuine, never would be genuine. He didn’t see her. Jasper saw a woman. A woman he could use. A form he could build upon. Jasper never talked about the piece with her. Andy pulled away as he analyzed his artwork, dressed herself, and fell asleep. Jasper and the piece were gone before she woke up.

Tonight, amidst all these bizarre, giggling, shiny people Andy was seeing the piece for the first time under lights. The charcoal had blurred since that night, having probably been shoved into his backpack quickly as he fled the apartment. Yet the female form remained intact. Andy leans in, carefully noticing every curve and arch Jasper’s hand had created while his eyes fell across her naked form. Is any part of this part of me? She stands searching for some familiar body part, some individualistic indentation of the ribcage or collarbones, her nose a mere inch away from the canvas.

“Not really a fan of my work are you?” the grin clear in his voice as Jasper places his hand on the small of her back and bites at her ear. Andy pushes him away with fervor as she backs away from the Wine Wench, shaking off the memory of that evening.

“What the fuck is going on Jasper?” she motions around at the masked guests: the men and women beginning to pair off, nibbling secrets in each other’s ears, the women tugging at ties, the men grasping at asses and pulled-in waists.

“Do you like it?” that malicious grin on Jasper’s face has Andy’s stomach doing somersaults. He pulls her in by his waist and presses his lips to hers firmly.

“Jasper” she fights against his strong hold on her body, “What the hell is going on? You didn’t prepare me for this. I’m way under-dressed. Who are all these people? Why am I even here? Does Molly know about this?” Andy’s voice rings over the crowded room, echoing off the concrete walls. The women giggle as the men whisper in their ears. Probably talking about what a freak I am. Andy pushes past Jasper, heading for the stairs.

“Andy, calm down” Jasper wraps his fingers around her wrist before she can step out of his reach. His eyes lock on hers and her breath catches in her throat. He grabs a glass filled with some form of alcohol and passes it to Andy. “Drink this.” Andy hesitates, still staring at the eyes behind the black mask taking in this look of hunger she’s never noticed before. “Drink.” Jasper insists, pushing at the bottom of her glass. She presses her lips to the edge and drinks obediently, letting the cool liquid slither down her throat and warm her from the inside-out. “Good girl” Jasper kisses one of her collarbones and takes the glass from her hand. “I will explain. I promise. Tonight all you need to do is enjoy yourself” He starts to leave, sharply over his shoulder “Don’t. Leave.”

With that he disappears into the crowd. The alcohol settles into Andy’s chest. Dizzily she notices the room, it feels more crowded then she remembers. The masks and dresses and suits seem to have multiplied. The giggles and clinks of glasses echo loudly in her ears as she leans against one of the cold concrete wall. Her head resting between two of Jasper’s larger, more abstract pieces. Andy notices no one is aware of her, no one’s eyes are following her. They aren’t even looking at the artwork. Just each other. Just masks. Andy slumps to the ground. Just masks. 

Just masks. 

0.6

Downtown vibrates with the echoes of dance clubs, the bass beats filling the weave of streets, and the smell of beer permeates the walls of bars around every corner. Cigarette butts litter the sidewalks, illuminated in a flash with each passing car filled to the brim with passengers – some coming to enjoy the buzzing night life, others cursing every stranger who darts across the street slowing traffic to a crawl. The autumn air has girls tugging at the bottom of the their short skirts and shivering in their metallic heels as they bustle from bar to bar looking for Mr. Right (for right now).

Andy stands under a streetlight in black skinny jeans, lace up boots, and a leather jacket. She watches girls in short sequined dresses shiver by and sips from her pocket flask as her phone vibrates against her jacket lining. Everett has been calling since Andy ran out of the coffee shop. Every voicemail and text message Andy has quickly deleted without a second glance.

She drinks the rest of her flask with a flourish, wiping at the corners of her mouth with the edge of her jacket sleeve, and begins walking the last block to the address Jasper sent her once she agreed to attend his art show. The moon plays hide-and-seek amongst the tall downtown buildings and the whiskey from Andy’s flask warms her body with every step. She smiles. The nighttime air is her element, this is the time when she comes alive: shadows lurk and creep around every corner coming alive with electric eyes, secrets run rampant and draw passing strangers into amorous entanglements.

Andy finds herself facing a old brick house, mossy shutters cover the few visible windows, and vines race towards the caving roof. The streetlights on this block flicker incessantly, like a strobe light at a rave, and despite being technically downtown the world seems quieter.

There’s no sign of an Art Show: no poster, no “enter here”, no sounds of pretentious art buyers drinking champagne, not even the sound of Jasper’s voice ringing out as he woefully describes the hardships that inspired his magnificent masterpieces. Andy glances up and down the block searching for any familiar faces under the flashing streetlights, but she finds herself entirely alone.

What the hell? A strange churning fills Andy’s stomach, she nervously fidgets from foot to foot as she pulls her phone from her pocket. Before she can open her text messages a giggle pulls her focus to a tiny alley between the buildings in front of her. Glancing around the corner she sees the glint of a gold heel before the girl disappears into a black, unlabeled door under a haze of blue light.

Andy grasps for the door handle and stops at the feeling of the cold metal against her palm. What the hell is going on? What am I getting myself into? But the thought fades as Andy flings open the door and dives headfirst into the dark atmosphere of the old building. She listens intently for the clicking of the girl with the gold heels and intuitively wanders through the abandoned home.

The darkness of the night seems to press in from all sides, the only light coming from the cracks in the shutters she had seen outside. Slivers of moonlight illuminate stranded pieces of upholstered furniture, covered in a thick coat of dust. The walls appear barren from the glimpses Andy manages as she chases the ever-fading sound of the mystery woman.

Everything feels hazy. Andy’s mind whirls with wonderment. Am I even in the right place? Who was that woman? Should I turn around and leave? Call Jasper later? 

The next moment Andy finds herself at the top of a long, narrow staircase. She stares down where the clicking heels have faded away, feeling a hum from beneath the floorboards. A glow appears to be reflecting off the walls in whatever room awaits below, but Andy can’t be certain with the whiskey still warming her body and blurring her mind. She glances behind herself and realizes she has no recollection of the trail she took to get here. Go downstairs and try to find that woman, go back and try to find my way out. Fuck. Fuckin Jasper. 

She glances back one last time, attempting to draw a map in her head to the unlabeled black door beneath the blue light, before she finally descends the narrow stairs. She balances herself by placing each hand on the encroaching walls, attempting to keep her approach secret to whoever that gold-heeled woman may be and whoever she may be meeting.

The hum grows louder, the reflected light becomes clearer. Andy begins hearing muffled laughter, the slightest sound of clinking glasses, and finally the sound of Jasper’s confident, pretentious voice. At the bottom of the stairs Andy pinpoints the origin of the light: a trapdoor in the floor, barely visible in the old wood flooring were it not outlined by the floodlights below. The sounds remain faint glimmers of what Andy knew them to be. The flooring must be thick….or soundproof…..who the hell would have a soundproof room under their basement. Andy stands directly above the trapdoor, uncertain of the protocol for entry.

She fingers the edge of her phone in her pocket before simply deciding to knock. Delicately at first, then her irritation at Jasper takes over and she pounds her first firmly against the floor three times. The slight sounds pause and Andy finds her heart in her throat as the trapdoor begins to vibrate at someone’s touch. In a flurry the trapdoor opens and Jasper’s familiar head of red hair pops through. His eyes land on Andy from behind an elegant black mask. Andy’s head tilts in confusion as she gazes from the black mask to Jasper’s ebony silk tie tucked neatly in a perfectly tailored suit.

“What’s with the get up Jasper?” Andy blurts out with a laugh. Jasper remains silent, but a mischievous grin that turns Andy’s stomach spreads across his face.

“Andy…” Jasper’s voice seems to slither across the floor towards her feet, “I’m so glad you could make it.” He reaches out his hand, Andy takes it gingerly allowing Jasper to present her to the room of strangers below. “Welcome” Jasper whispers against her neck, kissing her delicately, before pulling Andy to the party below.

0.5

Mismatched chairs, distressed wood, bright colorful patio furniture, and the smell of well-roasted coffee beans. Andy inhales the space as she swings open the door in one jolted tug. Her body abuzz with the nerves of seeing an ex-lover and the floating euphoria that drinking whiskey always gave her. Her eyes dart immediately around the interior of the cafe searching for Everett’s strong silhouette. Her heart stops as her eyes find Everett tucked in the furthest corner of the cafe, his eyes lost in the pages of “The Portrait of Dorian Grey.” Andy breathes in deep, letting the air hiss slowly out of her cracked lips as she tugs at the straps of her dress. She brushes back the dripping wet tangles of her hair, hiding dark strands deeper beneath her white beanie, and quickly orders a double espresso without making eye contact with the pierced and tattooed teenager behind the cash register.

Armed with the tiny ceramic cup filled to the brim with espresso, Andy weaves her way between chairs and scattered purses to the corner where Everett sits oblivious and unfazed by the hum of his surroundings. His eyes don’t even seem to dart in her direction until Andy drops her purse to the ground and scrapes the chair across the wood flooring. Everett’s warm embracing smile is dizzying as Andy shakily sets down the ceramic demitasse and slides into her designated seat.

She stares at Everett’s strong hands as his places the book delicately in the center of the table, a clear division arising between them, and leans back into his chair. “It’s great to see you.” the words lumber smoothly from his lips.

“You too” Andy’s words sounding hesitant, like a stutter, compared to Everett’s. He merely smiles in response, picking up his coffee cup. The silence hovers over the novel at the center of the table. Andy’s foot vibrates against one of her chair legs, urging herself to not make direct eye contact for too long.

“How have you been?” Everett asks with a warmth reserved for old friends you’ve lost touch with over the years or family members you haven’t seen since they got married and moved out of state.

“Fine. Just….fine, yeah….” the stuttering of her own voice brings a flush to Andy’s face. She stirs her espresso mindlessly without bringing the cup to her lips, spilling it’s contents every few stirs. “How about you?”

Everett laughs; its a strong, rolling sound, honest in quality. The laughter jolts Andy, she drops the silver spoon directly into her demitasse and feels the warmth of her cheeks multiply. For the first time since she walked in, for the first time since her and Everett broke up, Andy’s eyes lock on his. The smile melts from Andy’s face and tears burn at the corner of her eyes. She can’t mutter a word, though she feels every question she’s had since Everett walked out buzzing on her lips.

“I’m sorry.” Everett fidgets with the handle of his coffee cups, glancing between the table and Andy’s pained expression. “This is strange, isn’t it?” gently Everett chuckles and despite the tears slowly trickling through her fresh eye-liner Andy grins. This is the Everett she remembers, straightforward and heartwarming even in the most unfortunate of situations. “But….I did ask to meet for a reason…” Everett straightens in his chair and moves the book from the table. Though the clear division of space has been removed, Everett’s face hardens, the chuckle disappears.

Andy feels her face falling and new tears forming. What could possibly be worse than telling me you didn’t love me? What could be worse than you leaving? 

I wanted to meet to tell you something, something important. I know I left in a flurry. I know I didn’t go about the breakup in the best way. I know how hard it was for you.” Andy’s scoff stops Everett short.

“You have no idea” Andy mutters, bringing her espresso to her lips and blinking the hot tears from her eyes. He’s not worth it. Her mind cries over and over again.

“….I guess I don’t.” Everett crosses his hands on top of the table, taking a deep breath as he observes Andy. As her observes this new version of Andy. “I truly am sorry.” The words hang pathetically in the air, though genuine in his delivery, Andy finds no solace in Everett’s words. She avoids his eye contact, instead she counts the bubbles in his coffee, stirs her espresso obsessively, counts the lines in the wood laminate on the table.

“Andy…..” slight desperation creeps in at the corners of Everett’s voice. “Andy……..

I’m getting married.”

Andy feels the world slide out from under her feet, her silver spoon clatters against the saucer and espresso splatters across the table. The tears are at her chin before she even realizes she’s crying. Her hands shake against the table, her feet tangle around the legs of her chair, and her chest shutters as shocked gasp escapes her lips.

“I’m getting married,” Everett continues, his voice seeming to be the background noise to this attack Andy feels on her body. “married……I wanted you to know. I don’t really know why, but I thought it was something I should tell you. Her name is…..well, I guess you probably don’t want to know who she is. I don’t know. Do you? Andy?”

Andy feels her heart in her throat. I can’t breathe. I can’t see. It’s too damn hot in here. Andy grabs her purse from the ground beside her chair and stands so fast she starts seeing the room tilt and spin.

“I’ve got to go” she spits out as she spins away, knocking the table they had shared and spilling the remnants of her espresso before bolting for the door. Andy finds herself at the bus stop before she looks back at the coffee shop. She didn’t find Everett following after her, she merely met the stares of a few strangers who could clearly care less about the girl whose face was tear-stained and dripping with mascara.

Getting married. Married. The word echoed in Andy’s ears. Over and over again Everett’s voice rang strong and clear. The sight of him in a black tuxedo, that warm, welcoming smile, the rolling laughter. It had always been her in the wedding dress at the other end of the aisle. A fresh wave of tears fell down Andy’s face, gathering in a puddle above her collarbones.

As she walks to the last seat in the back of the bus Andy grows aware of her surroundings. With no clear destination and no desire to get off the bus and potentially cross paths with Everett, she collapsed in the furthest seat. Wiping at her face with a napkin handed silently to her from the woman a few seats in front of her Andy pulls her phone from her purse.

4:00 pm Text from: Jasper

Are you coming to my art show? Don’t give me some lame ass excuse. And don’t worry – Molly won’t be able to stay late – we can have some fun if you’re up to it 😉

0.4

Downtown Milwaukee hums with the buzz of a workday winding down. Food trucks begin closing their awnings and coffee vendors serve the last few tired workers before the lunch rush ends. The air is crisp, yet warm with the thoughts of fall leaves, apple cider, and pumpkin patches. This time of year never ceases to make Andy smile, though today a small grin is all she can manage before the reality of the last half an hour crashes down on her. 
Uncertain of her next destination Andy finds her way to lean against the gigantic public art installation in O’Donnell Park, just steps outside the entrance to the Art Museum. For Andy the art piece has always been this marker, this landmark she associated with Milwaukee. A huge orange asterisk right off the lakefront. A symbol of correction or censorship.
Andy presses her body against the bright orange steel of one of the asterisk’s many legs, slowly sliding to sit beneath its gargantuan shadow.
“I want you to go see a doctor” Hilda’s shrill voice echoes on repeat in Andy’s head, “No doctor’s note, no job.”
Why would she do that? What does she care about me for? No doctor’s note, no job. What the hell is a doctor going to tell me anyways? I drink too much? I know that already. I’m depressed? I mean maybe that’s true, but….who isn’t depressed at this stage in their life? I mean…come on. 

Andy’s iPhone vibrates loudly against the leather of her purse, to Andy it seems to shake the whole orange asterisk. 

Text from: E

Are you working today? I was thinking of stopping in. Maybe we could have coffee on your break? I’m free until about 6 tonight. Give me a call. 

Andy stares in a stunned silence at the text message, rereading every word. It has been almost a year since their breakup, Everett made it clear there was no need for communication. Andy had called, texted, practically sent carrier pigeons for months. Everett had never said a word. Andy assumed she would never hear from him again, and yet somehow she couldn’t find the nerve to delete his number entirely. “E”. Enough for Andy to remember whose number it was, but not enough for anyone else to understand.
Two texts in one day. The seeming urgency of it all rattled Andy’s mind with a million different scenarios.

Does he want to get back together? Maybe he’s finally realized he never stopped loving me. It was just a lapse in judgement….

Is he dying? Does he have cancer or something?

Is he moving? Maybe he’s moving to Europe. He did talk about Italy a lot. 

Maybe he wrote a play and it’s getting published on broadway and……

Andy’s thoughts stop short as a thick, gooey liquid begins dripping down her right arm. High above on the asterisk sits an aging pigeon glaring down at Andy with lemon eyes.
“God damn it” Andy shouts, shaking her arm of any loose excrement, managing only to make herself appear like that token crazy person of downtown. “Fuck, fuck, fuck” she cries as she searches for a napkin or kleenex in her purse to no avail. With a deep sigh she pulls her yellow beanie down further over her head and begins the walk home, carefully slinging her purse over her left shoulder. Her iPhone remain open to Everett’s text and between disgusted shakings of her right arm Andy rereads the message. 

Outgoing text to: E

I’m actually not working today. Coffee sounds great. 3:30 at Colectivo work for you?

With held breath Andy presses send and shoves her phone in her back pocket. Every few steps she pulls it from her pocket, certain the volume has gotten turned down and she felt the vibration of an incoming message. Finally, as she turns the key in her front door her iPhone chimes.

Text from: E

Sure! I’ll see you there. 

Excitement, anxiety, nausea, and absolute fear rush through Andy’s body.

“Everett….” his name tickles her tongue and turns up the corners of her lips. With just his name she can hear the strong timber of his voice, like the deep rumbling of thunder bouncing around the trees of a forest. She remembers the harsh scruff of his facial hair against the delicate layer of skin beneath her jawline, and the stiff curl of his ebony hair. The way he looked like a rough and tumble kind of guy, but kissed like a teddy bear.
Yet in a flash it had all disappeared. A dark cloud hung over the rest of their memories, his voice grew harsh and scratchy, his touch firm, yet passive. The meaning, the passion had drained from their relationship and Andy had never understood why. He had never given a reason.

Is that what you want to tell me? Have you finally fabricated a good enough reason? 

Andy slams the apartment door behind her, without removing a single piece of clothing she jumps into the shower and lets ice cold water wash away every aspect of the day’s beginning. Her skinny jeans and white t-shirt cling to her boney frame, her yellow beanie slowly slides off her head. Andy peels away the sopping wet layers, shuts off the shower, and ambles naked across the hardwood floor to her bedroom. The cold water seeps onto her comforter as she pours the last bit of whiskey out of one of the many bottles covering her floor. She throws the shot back and winces as it slides, hot, down her throat.
Shuttering from the cold shower and the shot of whiskey Andy searches through the back of her closet until she emerges with a simple, red cotton dress decorated from head to toe with tiny, white horses. The dress floats just slightly away from her body bringing awareness to the amount of weight she’d lost she since last wore the dress. The red seems to reflect in her face and for a moment she appears healthy, like a faint glimmer of the doll-like woman she once was. The flare of the skirt, the cut of the neckline, the delicate white horses: it no longer felt suitable for the woman she had become.
Andy slides on soft grey flats and covers her wet hair with a white, knitted hat. She lathers her face in another layer of makeup and takes a single second to glance in a mirror. Despite the events of this morning and the amount of alcohol still coursing through her blood Andy manages to appear put together. She grimaces at herself in the mirror and rushes to gather all her things. Her skinny jeans, yellow beanie, and white t-shirt sit abandoned in the shower, a trail of water leading from the bathroom to her bedroom, and still her room appears to be a sad excuse for a recycling bin. Andy leaves the disarray and fakes a smile, preparing to face the one man she ever truly loved. 

0.3

Andy arrives out of breath to the Art Museum. Her hair frizzes out on the sides of her head where she had attempted to flatten it out. Her heavy makeup has since started to melt down her face and her eye liner appear crooked in the glaring light of the open-space museum. Despite the fall season, Andy is covered in sweat causing her white t-shirt to appear slightly see-through. Upon seeing herself in the slight reflection of the glass doors she realizes she forgot to put on a bra.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK. Andy hears the word resonate with every footstep against the marble floors as she walks straight past the front desks and the glares of her coworkers. She knew Hilda would be waiting, buried deep in some project or another for the museum, but Hilda would be waiting for her to turn the corner and prove how much of a disappointment she had become.

Hilda didn’t look up from her work as Andy stepped into her office. Hilda sat pouring over piles of papers, her blonde hair pulled tight in a ballerina-style bun just above the nape of her neck. Her manicured nails tapped at the desk rhythmically as her silver eyes rushed over the documents neatly organized on the face of her desk. Hilda was the picture of organization. Andy couldn’t help but think of Hilda as a well manicured landscape – always neat and tidy with the bright gleam of something not actually real. Hilda didn’t live in a world of reality, Hilda lived in a world of well thought out art.

Andy silently sits in a sky blue chair just opposite Hilda and carefully sets her vintage purse on the ground. She tries desperately to make as little noise as possible, barely moving her body despite her intense urge to bolt out the door and never come back.

Hilda remains motionless except for her tapping fingernails and analytical eyes. The silence in the room suffocating Andy bit by bit as she ponders what to say, where to begin, if it’s even worth trying at all.

I could pick up my purse and leave. Just leave. But what if she tries to stop me? How do I explain why I even came at all? I just have to face it, I’m a failure. Even with the easiest job, I’m a failure. I could apologize to Hilda……..for the millionth time. I don’t even like working with her. It’s not like this place has any super exciting new artists in it. It’s all the textbook art shit. Just leave. I should just leave. Forget this fuckin place….

Andy….” Hilda had glanced up from her work, her silver eyes now analyzing Andy’s exhausted face. She notes the smeared makeup, the frazzled hair, the disarray of Andy’s clothing. Andy braces herself. Just say it. Tell me I’m fired so I can leave, go home, go back to bed. “You look terrible.” The look of concern in Hilda’s eyes stops Andy short.

“uhh…..”

“Is everything all right?” Andy had never heard this voice from Hilda, this voice of a mother, this voice of someone who cares about other people. Andy leans back in her seat, afraid Hilda might reach out and try to comfort her.

“Everything’s fine. I’m just….I just haven’t been sleeping well.” Despite the fact that Andy has barely slept in weeks the words still come out sounding like a lie. It seems to hover between the two women as they both ponder whether to make the lie clear or move forward with the conversation.

“Well, we all have times like that in our lives. Perhaps you should go see a doctor about the issue. You have been late for almost a month now.” The maternal tone becomes more subtle as Hilda straightens the piles on her desks and continues the conversation without making eye contact with Andy.

“Right.”

“I want you to go see a doctor. Today. Bring me the doctor’s note tomorrow and we can discuss a sort of probation here at work. No doctor’s note, no job. Is that understood?”

Andy sits absolutely shocked at the turn of events. Hilda was not an understanding human being. She was not even considered a kind person by the employees she favored. What the hell is going on? 

“Is that understood? I don’t do this for everyone. Actually I never do this sort of thing. I think you know that. Andrea, please…just take care of yourself. I don’t know what’s going on, but this is not the girl I hired. Go home. Put a bra on. Then go to the doctor.” Hilda picks up a pen and resumes her statuesque way of working, head bent, nothing moving except her tapping fingertips and scouring eyes.

Andy sits with her mouth open, staring at the Hilda she’s familiar with while attempting to understand the Hilda she just spoke with. I’m not fired? 

You’re concerned about me?

 Hilda gives a slight cough, urging Andy to get up and leave before the agreement established in the meeting is reconsidered. Andy quickly gathers up her purse, slides her sunglasses on her face, and leaves the museum with her arms crossed over her slightly see-through white t-shirt.

0.2

Andy wakes up shivering despite the burning ray of sunlight coming in from the tiny bathroom window. Her hair has dried matted to the back of her head where she lay pressed to the cool tile of the wall and her eye liner and mascara managed to remain despite the hot shower. She runs her fingers through her hair until she can’t handle the pain of detangling and finds an old yellow beanie to hide the ratted mess. She applies a fresh layer of foundation and setting powder without looking in the mirror. She only glances at her reflection long enough to apply a thick layer of eye liner and attempt to cover some of the bruises around her chin and above her collarbones. Her head throbs with every motion and soon she’s doubled over the toilet vomiting up a mixture of alcohol from the past 12 hours.

It’s 1:30 by the time she’s dressed and found her phone amidst the army of empty bottles in her bedroom. 3 text messages and 5 voicemails on top of an absurd number of other notifications. She had long ago quit updating her Facebook, yet still people tagged her in photos and commented on things she wished to have no part in. Old friends sent her long messages that she never opened, and random people she met at art shows sent her friend requests. Andy wanted nothing to do with any of them. At night she was anyone’s friend, anyone’s lover. By the morning after she’d forgotten all of their names. I don’t need other people. What good are friends anyways? They only abandon you. 

12:30 a.m. Text from: Molly

Are you coming home tonight? If you are, just be quiet coming in. Jasper is staying the night and he has an exam early in the morning. And don’t forget to lock the door. Please.

4:45 a.m. Text from: Unknown number

Hey sexy u lookin 4 trouble tonight? I got just wat you need.

9:00 a.m. Text from: E

Hey! Do you want to get coffee sometime? I think I’m ready to sit down and talk with you. Maybe we could try being friends? I don’t know. Let me know, ok? I miss you A. I hope you’re doing all right.

11:55 a.m. Voicemail from: Molly

1:00 a.m. Voicemail from: Unknown number

8:00 a.m. Voicemail from: Mom

9:30 a.m. Voicemail from: Milwaukee Art Museum

10:00 a.m. Voicemail from: Milwaukee Art Museum

Shit.” Andy could hear the high-pitched voice of her boss Hilda without even listening to the voicemails.

“Andy, this is your last chance. If you are not here by the time the Museum opens we will be having a serious discussion about your career here. I don’t know what’s been going on with you, but if you want to seriously cultivate your art career I suggest you get yourself in gear.”

“God fuckin damn it” Andy mutters to herself, shoving her phone in her vintage brown leather purse and grabbing her keys from the corner of her bedroom where she tossed them early this morning (or late last night depending on your perspective). Scrambling through the pile of her clothes and the remains of whatever sexual exploits she’s had in the last week Andy manages to find the one accessory she refuses to leave without: her cheap tortoise shell sunglasses. Andy had bought them on a trip with her mother to Boston where they drank espresso all day and explored musty bookshops until closing time. Andy had dropped her old pair of sunglasses as they were climbing bunker hill and the aged frames hadn’t survived the 253-step fall. Andy hadn’t cared much about the loss of those sunglasses, but finding the tortoise shell sunglasses she now owned in a small shop down a cobblestone alley with her mother was enough to make those sunglasses one of her prized possessions.

Keys. Wallet. Journal. No time for coffee. Phone. Sunglasses. Andy bolts out the door, tripping down the stairs to the main floor of her apartment. With a flourish she swings the front door open and steps into the glaring late afternoon light. Her iPhone buzzes in her purse. The screen seems to scream, “Milwaukee Art Museum.” Andy cringes as she ignores the call and heads off down the street: 20 minutes until she arrives as the museum. 20 minutes until I’m back at square one in this god damn city. 

0.1

Andy’s grey panties have found their way to the floor and she sits with one foot pressed at a high angle against the fridge when a key begins to rattle in the front door. Andy jumps from the counter, knocking over the remnants of her breakfast beer, and is bent over ass to the door when Jasper walks in.

Jasper is Molly’s boyfriend. Recently he reached the “here’s a key to my place” level with Molly and since then has been known to make frequent unannounced visits. Andy peers between her legs to see his tall and lanky silhouette topped with a tousle of bright ginger hair.

“Well goodmorning to you too Andy” Jasper laughs as he spanks her bare ass and snatches her panties from the floor, “we’ve clearly been making the most of our morning.”

“Fuck off Jasper.” Andy begins cleaning up the spilled beer, feeling Jasper’s eyes run up and down her half naked frame with every move. The kitchen remains silent as Andy scrubs at the beer nervously with a single paper towel. She never should have given you that stupid key. You don’t love her. 

“So…” Jasper mutters under his breath as Andy stands up and finds her face inches away from his. He smells like a fresh cigarette and a hot cup of coffee. His green eyes have the mischievous glint Andy remembers from the first night she met him. That Wednesday night at the Art Bar in town.

She was on her sixth glass of wine, stumbling through the place looking at the art on the walls over and over again. She had been muttering to herself about one piece in particular when Jasper had walked up. “Don’t like my art much, do you?” he laughed as he gently pushed away the hair from his eyes. “I…ddidn’t rrealize it was yours…but….” Andy mumbled and drank wine between each syllable until Jasper cut her off with the tip of fingertip pressed firmly to her lips. “Shhh…it’s all right sweetheart.” Andy can’t recall much else about that night. She remembers flashes of Jasper’s paintings and flashes of others. She knew she had spent the night in the Art Bar, though her memories place her in some room she’s never been able to find again. I was too drunk to realize who I was talking too, I definitely was too drunk to really notice my surroundings. She had woken up naked in bed with Jasper. As she gathered her clothes and readied herself for another long, stumbled walk home she had noticed a picture on his dresser half-covered in the remnants of last nights exploits. Once she brushed everything she aside she realized who she had just slept with. Though she wasn’t living with Molly at the time, she knew who she was. Jasper was fast asleep on the bed, his freckled chest bathed in the early morning sunlight. Molly and Jasper. What a fucking joke. 

“What is going on in that drunk little mind of yours?” the lilt of Jasper’s voice brings Andy back to her kitchen, back to her half naked body, back to his hand on her ass.

“Don’t.” Andy smacks his hand away and goes to the fridge for another beer. When she turns Jasper pins her to the fridge door and shoves his hand up her plaid shirt feeling around, finding the exact places that give Andy the most pleasure. Jasper slides the beer out of Andy’s hand and places Andy back on the kitchen counter. “I’m assuming this is where you got started this morning” he whispers into her neck. With that, Andy quits fighting and lets herself indulge in these moments of feeling worthy. Jasper knew all of her weakness after the number of drunk nights he’d stumbled into her bedroom instead of Molly’s. He had the most delicate kiss while everything else he did was rough and passionate. Andy didn’t have to think with Jasper, it was better if she didn’t. He took control, he seemed to care just enough to keep Andy thinking sleeping with him would be worth it.

It never was. As quickly as Jasper walked in the door, he was back digging through his pockets for his keys to leave.

“But you just got here.” Andy found herself disgusted by the desperation in her voice, by the strong urge to cling to his body and kiss him goodbye.

“Andy” Jasper sighs, “You do this every time. Just drink some more, you won’t care so much.” He quickly straightens the zipper on his jeans, runs his gaunt hands through his hair, and tosses Andy her grey panties. “Remember tonight is my big art show, I know how much you love to critique my work” with a wink he slides out the front door.

Just drink some more. That’s everyone’s advice. Andy finds her beer, lukewarm on the kitchen floor, and drinks half of it as she locks the front door behind Jasper. The lukewarm beer makes her want to gag, but the memory of just seconds before makes her want to curl up in bed and die. She drinks the rest of the beer and tosses it in the recycling bin before she grabs another and repeats the process.

Another fucking day. Andy tosses the plaid shirt in the garbage unable to remember who it belongs too. She struggles back into her grey lace panties, bouncing around the kitchen floor on one foot and then the other. Grabbing a pair of old, ratted skinny jeans and a see-through white t-shirt she trips over her own feet to the bathroom. She runs the shower water as hot it can go and watches her reflection in the mirror disappear quickly behind a layer of steam. Her face looks as sickly as her stomach feels. Dark circles run around her eyes melting with old trails of eye liner and mascara that’s run down her face. Her cheeks appear deflated and long ago lost the rosy blush her mother always told her was so beautiful. Bruises decorate her chin and the crook of her neck, trickling down to her collarbones and towards her sternum before the trail disappears. Andy doesn’t remember what she looked like before this. She refuses to look at old photographers because she doesn’t recognize the doll-like woman everyone is convinced represents Andy only a few years ago. I’m a skeleton. Nothing but skin and bones. Why is everyone so obsessed with what I looked like? That wasn’t really me. This is who I really am. Fucked up. 

Andy jumps in the shower and lets the burn of hot water numb the painful thoughts that always arise when she peeks in a mirror. Skin burning red she turns the water off and stands as her three breakfast beers rush through her blood stream. Her breathing becomes heavy as she slides to sit on the floor of the shower. Her head falls in her hands, “fuck”, she whispers to herself as she dozes off sprawled across the tile like a broken rag-doll.

Another fucking day.

0.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Fall 2015.

The weather remains surprisingly warm, but despite the sunshine leaking in through her bent shades Andy remains cocooned in her bed. Covered in old quilted blankets her mother made when she was a baby, Andy shuts her eyes against the impeding warmth of the outdoors. Empty bottles of wine and brandy line her floor like soldiers guarding her from sobriety. The mattress sags toward the ground at an awkward ankle from recent sexual exploits and one pale, boney foot rests on the hardwood.

The only other piece of furniture in the darkened room is a coffee table, painted with a chalkboard paint and covered in strange, demonic scribblings. On top of the artwork of Andy and her friends sits: a wine bottle made into a bong, remnants of weed, half sharpened pencils, chunks of charcoal, a tattered planner, Andy’s beloved and cracked iPhone, and half-started stories or poems.

Andy had always considered herself an artist, but it was clear by her living quarters she wasn’t quite sure what type of artist.

With no warning, her iPhone buzzes loudly against the wood of her coffee table, playing a song she had set as her alarm years ago. “No one, no one can get in the way of what I’m feeling” her phone croons as she reaches with one arm, eyes still closed, attempting to swipe at her screen.

Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. She moans to herself or thinks to herself. These days she has a hard time distinguishing from the words in her head and the words that come tumbling out of her mouth. Walking her fingers across the coffee table she manages to knock the phone just out of reach with her pinky finger forcing her to sit up.

The world spins and her body seems to ooze in every direction as gravity begins to move the alcohol settled into her blood stream. She had long ago stopped caring about the amount she drank. It had been months since she last tried to convince herself to stop drinking, it had been weeks since she had a sober morning.

9:30 am. She knew the time not because she could read the blurry numbers, but merely because she never changed her alarm. The world spun slowly, hazily around her. Her stomach constantly felt like an empty balloon filled with water left out in the summer heat. Every morning she relearned how to walk, her bones and muscles constantly sore from the rag-doll she turned into each night after her 8th or 9th shot of brandy, bourbon, or whiskey.

Standing up from her bed, the blankets fall away to reveal a pale, gaunt body. Tattoos litter her ribcage, hip bones, and thighs. One underneath her right breast has the faint red burn of being only a week or so old. She grabs an oversized plaid shirt from the corner of her room, a shirt clearly left by some conquest or another, and buttons it up to just between her breasts. As she pulls on a pair grey lace panties her bedroom door rattles as the front door slams shut.

Thank god, Molly’s left. Andy forgoes pants and wanders into the chilly living area of their loft apartment. Not much in the apartment belongs to Andy, actually nothing besides an old record player and stash of records. Molly needed a roommate and Andy needed a place to live after breaking up with her longtime boyfriend and roommate, Everett. Molly and Andy were similar in artistic nature, similar in their level of emotional trauma and drama, and both apt to come home and close their bedroom door to the world. They passed each other at night, taking turns showering, or as one was leaving for a party and the other was returning to sleep. Their conversations were short and to the point. Often about bills or art shows around town.

Andy grabs a beer from the fridge and hops onto the kitchen counter to drink. In a daze she sits stroking her own hair, feeling the different lengths in her asymmetrical haircut, poking at her chin finding strange bruises and emerging pimples, caressing down her own body noticing the ins and outs around her ribcage and her hips. She trails her hand between her legs and tries hard to picture the one thing, the one person who would make her happy.

Nothing comes to mind.

Chapter 1: first love

The story of how you meet the love of your life is highly regarded. We ask without thinking, “How did you guys meet?” expecting the most adorable story ever imagined. Movies are dedicated to creating the perfectly magical tales of how two people see each other across a crowded room, their hands touch without meaning to, their eyes lock on the subway, they bump into each other and drop their groceries, they’re reunited after years apart, etc. The story is important.

I met the first man I ever loved in high school. The moment I remember when suddenly our story seemed to have just begun was at a football game. I was with my friends, he was with his, and our two groups seemed to meld.

He threw loose change at me from two bleachers back.

No, I did not write that incorrectly nor did you read that wrong. He stood laughing as he threw pennies and dimes at me during the game. Perhaps it was half-time. I don’t really remember. But I do remember being pelted with change and wondering to myself, “Who the hell is this attractive man?”

I began to notice him everywhere. In the mornings he was just on the outskirts of the group that gathered near my locker. In the afternoons when I returned from an arts program across town I often bumped into him running through the halls by the theatre’s green room. He was attractive, but I was certain he was way out of my league. I wasn’t pretty enough or funny enough or really enough of anything for a guy like him. I just assumed I would harbor this crush on him for the rest of senior year.

One afternoon, sitting in my theatre class at the arts school across town, there was a knock on the theatre doors. A secretary from the office entered closely followed by none other than the penny-pelter himself. He wore a long (and I mean floor-length long) trench coat, a beautiful Indiana Jones type hat, shiny black shoes reserved for men much older than him, and had flowers in his hands. I don’t remember another time in my life where I’ve been quite so embarrassed and covered head to toe in the most intense blush a girl could experience.

So of course when this man asked me if I would attend homecoming with him I said yes. “Yes” in front of my entire class who was waiting patiently to get back to our work on Romeo and Juliet. Before he left we hugged for the first time, flowers awkwardly in my hands, my face flushed from the ridiculous nature of the entire moment, and my head spinning wondering why in the hell this guy had asked me to homecoming.

This guy, the penny-pelter, was suddenly my homecoming date.

I wore a neon blue dress made out of this crinkled fabric which looked like crumpled up paper, but in a pretty way (I swear). It was the most unique dress I had ever seen and looking back I realize it was the perfect dress for my personality. I was never your classic beauty and neither was that dress, but I guess one could say both the dress and I were pretty in our own way.

The penny-pelter, Vince, picked me up from my house. I was wearing a small heel and realized I was awkwardly taller than my date. All of the cheesy photos the parents wanted to take involved me popping my hip as I attempted to make Vince appear at least the same height as his date.

We barely knew each other. I had never spoken to him alone. Yet here we were arm in arm. We went with a group of friends, we went somewhere to eat (I can’t remember where) and started being in photos taken by friends – the photos that are always a truer representation of the evening than the awkward posed photos parents insist upon.

There’s one photo we took together that night, the iconic photo that began our relationship, where we are both making ridiculous faces and filled with this unmistakeable joy. Its easy to see how the two of us ended up together for almost a year. We were both weirdos, despite the fact that his level of attractiveness seemed to me to be way above my own.

By the end of the night we had kissed on the dance floor. I wish I could say I remember the amazing wonder of that kiss, but I don’t. This was 7 years ago. The magic memory has dulled over time, but the kiss stuck with me long after that homecoming dance.

Some time after homecoming we started officially dating. Vince dyed his hair green. I was in rehearsals every night. I spent any spare moment on Vince’s lap and any free night making out on basement couch’s.

I fell in love hard and fast, that terrible way most teenager girl’s do when they meet a guy like Vince. He wasn’t my first kiss, but he holds a lot of firsts. I know, of course, your mind goes straight to sex. To this day Vince and I have never slept together. There have been attempts later on in life, bizarre drunk evenings, but it never happened. I don’t know if it ever will – but that’s not part of this portion of the story.

Vince was the first person who ever made me realize how sheltered and innocent of a life I led. Not to say that’s a bad way to live, but he made me realize how guarded I was, how afraid of intimacy, how self-conscious I was. He changed a lot of those things (and did some damage as well). I found myself absolutely convinced that I loved him.

I don’t remember who said I love you first, I don’t even remember when it happened. I do know we broke up for awhile. Vince was well-aware of who he was (still is) and wasn’t sure he was ready for the serious feelings forming between us. He broke up with me over lunch, when we had gone back to his place to cuddle and talk, and I came back to school running straight to my best friend and breaking down in the hallway. She literally held me in her arms by the theatre green room and stroked my hair as I cried until the bell for our next class rang.

I went into my theatre class with red puffy eyes, sniffling like I had a cold, and was immediately met with concern from my director/teacher. I assured everyone I was fine, but this was the biggest heartbreak of my life (at that point) and still remains one of the worst I’ve experienced.

I don’t know how long we were broken up. Weeks is my guess. I cried a lot, I saw him every day, and no matter how hard I tried we made eye-contact frequently. Needless to say we got back together. He asked me to talk with him in one of the band practice rooms. I sat on top of the piano as he said whatever he needed to in order to get me back.

I didn’t need much convincing. I was young and foolishly in love with him. I don’t even know what he said to me, but we got back together and were together until the end of our senior year.

We spent our days being weird together, laughing at stupid jokes, holding hands, making out (lots of making out). We were the classic “young and horny” couple. I stole his hats and sweaters and wore them with not much else on. He made me homemade earrings for Valentine’s day and white chocolate which he colored blue (since blue food was one of my strange obsessions). I wore the same scent almost every day, ‘sensual amber’, and still to this day it brings both of us back to our high school days.

He didn’t ask me to prom, until the day before the dance. I remember being furious as I saw all the adorable proposals around the school. I took it upon myself to ask him and covered his car in drawings done with window markers and in gigantic letters over his front windshield, “Prom?”.

I heard he was angry about the amount of cleaning he had to do that day after school (apparently the marker didn’t come off quite so easily), but soon he was on my front porch with flowers in hand. Behind him was an attempt to spell out “Prom?” with gasoline and have it light on fire. His idea didn’t work, but of course I was his prom date.

We had the perfect prom together. I had a gown in emerald green, mermaid-style, that fit me to a tee. It made me look long and lean and allowed him to actually dance with me without a pile of tulle between us. He wore a gorgeous suit with a vest in the exact same shade of emerald. We were a gorgeous couple and we made the most of our evening.

Again we went to dinner with a group of friends. Some bizarre greek restaurant that wasn’t quite my type of cuisine. I barely ate. The food was far too expensive for high school students and far too complex for my child-like palate. Vince had stated that he would pay, or maybe he didn’t and I just assumed, but regardless when the waitress came to dole out the checks Vince was in the bathroom. The waitress merely kept the check and said she would return when Vince came back to the table. By the time he came to sit back down everyone else had paid and the checks had been taken away. We all stood up to leave.

Vince and I dined and dashed.

Without meaning to, but we took it as a sign that tonight was going to be a great night.

We danced. We took too many photos. We attended the school sanctioned “after party”. We drove around and parked his car behind an abandoned warehouse to makeout and basically make the most of how gorgeous we both were. Eventually Vince’s parked car was noticed by a police officer making his rounds and we awkwardly were jolted out of our teenage revelry by a flashlight through the car window. We drove away rattled by the officer’s interruption and ended up sleeping curled up on a friend’s couch.

I spent the next day pulling bobby pins out of my hair and reveling in my prom experience. I always strive to have a life full of stories worth telling. Prom definitely lived up to that standard.

After that Vince and I continued dating, but graduation loomed over us. As excited as I was to go off to college, I could feel the question every time Vince and I were together – “would this last?”

I would subtly hint I wanted to stay with him, I loved him, I was willing to make this work. And he subtly began to pull away.

One night after a show or a rehearsal I got him on the phone. I can’t remember if I called him or vice versa. It was raining hard outside as I sat in my car talking with him. The year had not yet ended. We still had a few weeks of school.

He told me, “I’m going away to camp this summer (like he did every year) and….I want to be single.” In other words he explained that he wanted the freedom to makeout with other people.

Once again I found myself running into the school and crumpling into someone’s arms.

We dealt with each other awkwardly for the rest of the school year. I tried desperately to get him to reconsider.

We would come back to each other for a night here and there over the next few years, but we would never be the “young and horny” couple we were in high school.

That phone call was the end of my first love. A god damn phone call.

And it began my long trail of lovers.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.