07 Aug Jessica Magonet
Alcohol loosened her lips – lubricated them like bicycle oil. Its delicate fingers undid the thread that stitched her pert mouth closed. Between sips of Bacardi, words tripped over the tip of her tongue and tumbled into the rainstorm.
There were too many people in the hot tub. Eight too many, to be precise. Beyond five, it became a hot mess of wet limbs and dazed eyes. Which is exactly how she experienced it. The people occurred to her not as individuals composing a number, but as elbows and ankles and wrists and thighs.
“I love having an IUD.”
They were only five left now. She didn’t know where the others had gone. Alcohol made transitions difficult. Later, as she attempted to unfold the memory of the night in her mind, she would see bright, riveting moments that faded out into darkness. No staircases, hallways, or awkward silences connected one moment to another. All she could gather were pinpricks of intensity.
“But it was fucking painful when they put it in. Fucking painful.”
She was vaguely aware of the guys in the hot tub – two of them – circling it, quietly, steadily, absorbing themselves in movement so they could remain present but unseen. She spoke covertly to them, asserting herself as a sexual being. Overtly, she spoke to the girls.
“Worth it to be off hormones though.”
She was surprised to learn that Isabel had a consultation next week. And Jen also had an IUD.
As the guys circled around them, the girls drew close together to share the secrets of their sex.
The water pulsed with energy. Like the pulse of the ocean before coral spawns.
Isabel invited her to that brunch she had wanted to ask about, had been about to ask about at the barbeque last night. Four times she had formed the words with her lips. Four times she had swallowed them with bits of tough meat. Now she lay in the waves, basking in the unfamiliar heat of belonging.
The pool was frigid.
“So what’s your girlfriend like?”
Up and down. She and Graham hopped up and down around the pool. As they approached the hot tub, they raised their arms high in the air and then crashed them against the water’s skin.
Screams echoed from the hot tub as the cold wave fell upon it. Her hands stung.
The girlfriend had a name (Melanie), a major (music), and a summer job in Florence. The first two facts she already knew from a casual Facebook investigation. There, she had also learned that the girlfriend had biked across Portugal with Graham and was at least two cup sizes larger than her.
“I would love to meet her someday.”
She dove underwater and opened her eyes. She could just make out the blur of Graham’s long, pale legs through the opalescent waves. The Bacardi kept the memory of the night she asked him out, eight hours before he moved to London, far from the reaches of her mind. The memory of his smile cracking, and those long arms pulling his front door closed. It lay somewhere in the distance, with the hot tub, the house, and the city alight with festivities.
“Why is your waist on your face and your face on your waist?”
Adam answered, something witty, but she wasn’t listening. She sat down next to him on the damp patio bench. Her mind was enveloped in a deep fog now, and all she wanted was the warmth of a body and the words that would bring one close to her. Her experience shrunk to sensations – the heat of his shoulder, the cool water on her lips. Colors and sounds became muted.
“But honestly! A waist is misplaced on a face! And a face lacks grace on a waist!”
The lip of the Solo cup rubbed against hers. He held it there steadily as she rocked slowly and closed her eyes. He always did.
“You’re always defending analytic philosophy! When will you give up this obsession and embrace phenomenological hermeneutics?”
They were all in the basement now, piled between pillows. Her words were deliberately abstruse and perfectly pronounced. An outsider might have thought she was full of shit, but they knew she was lucid and dead serious. Sober, she knew how to win an argument. Drunk, she dared to.
Her intricate rhetoric drew their gazes toward her. She had no sense of her voice’s volume as it engulfed the room.
“You place science in far too high esteem. Its truths are no less contingent than those of theater or poetry.”
She wanted them to watch her and want her. She was so brilliant and unusual and sexy and sleeping.
The room was dark at four am when she sat up abruptly.
Breath and beating hearts murmured.
She could make out the outline of Isabel and Christophe cuddled near the staircase. Pedro sprawled out on the couch. Graham and Jen on opposite ends of the room (a safe choice for exes).
In the morning, they would sit around the kitchen table laughing. Eating eggs, drinking coffee, laughing. They would exchange high school memories like trading cards, attempting to conjure the closeness and pubescent energy of that time together. Their laughter would ring off the linoleum floor, and spill out the open windows.
During the drive home, Isabel would remind Graham about the brunch next week.
Am I still invited? Can I bring anything?
The words would catch in her throat like a fishbone, brittle and sharp. No matter how much coffee she sipped, they wouldn’t dissolve.