I am married to a woman who came home from work and fixed a Diet Coke and champagne. No announcement or explanation—I watched her crack open the can, pop the cork, and pour.
“Twenty years together,” I said, “and I never really knew you.”
“You’re so traditional,” she said. “And, in that sense, neophobic.”
I once worked with a woman who claimed to be the heiress of the Dr. Pepper fortune. Some ancestor of hers had invented the recipe and sold it to the great Coca-Cola company. She told me this while folding t-shirts, which is also what I was doing.
“Peach,” she said. “That’s the secret.”
She was probably twenty-five at the time, a retail dinosaur to my mind. Her name escapes me, as does her face, and the name of the store where we worked, and the reason she eventually got in a fist fight with another employee and lost her job.
I once drank with a woman named Taffy in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Eventually, she said, “Do you want to go up to my room?”
“No,” I said. “I’m with my friends.”
Ricky had discovered that if you sat at a poker slot machine, the waitress would bring you gin and tonics. By then, my full psychology and physiology was dedicated to bourbon, but free is free. Taffy left. I started talking to this grizzly bear in a V-neck sweater instead, but he didn’t want to be new friends, he wanted to sell me drugs. I still entertain the idea that Taffy was actually a murderess. I still entertain the idea that luck and intuition are fundamental forces.
I once blacked out holding hands with a woman in the hospital. If you’ve ever had surgery, you’ve met her too. We had a very intense relationship that lasted ten minutes. She saw me half naked, then sensed that I was nervous. She put something yellow in the IV, which was really great. I felt emotional. I was in love.
She didn’t tell me her name. She covered my mouth and flipped me over.
Each day at school, I speak with a young woman who is unmotivatable. Privilege is not her issue, nor is a lack of God-given talent. Cruel, vertiginous migraines might be. She is not in love with money, not even in love with life. She arrives late and leaves early.
Today I find her in the Quiet Room. She did not ask permission. She is curled on the couch, back to the door. Her mother on speakerphone, chanting a pep talk. But another voice comes from the far, upper corner. It’s not the air conditioning bumping through the vent. It sounds like her father–a wheezy fiend who can throw his voice everywhere.
Every year, I eat brunch with two young women, my nieces. Sriracha honey fried chicken and waffles with pepper jelly. Heirloom grits with goat cheese, chorizo with scrambled eggs, fruit cups with mango, dragon fruit and melon. Iced-down orange juice with a pull-top. Mugs of black, Kona coffee, and there’s my wife splashing Diet Coke into her Prosecco.
It’s always so cold, even though it is Spring Break. We take in the art in the hotel lobby and ride the glass elevator. We cross the bridge by the waterfall. It’s possible that this will be the extent of our relationship going forward—there is no blood between us. But still, I have an unexaggerated sense that should they need me, for whatever, I would try to provide.
Sean Ennis is the author of CUNNING, BAFFLING, POWERFUL (Thirty West) and his fiction has recently appeared in Pithead Chapel, Fatal Flaw, Autofocus, and New World Writing. More of his work can be found at seanennis.net
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