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.