We’ve spoken before. We two. So many times. And it is always a struggle. I desperately try to slow the movement of her lips, to create in my mind a kind of stop motion animation of the constant tumble of vowels and consonants and the words they birth. There is never a give and take with her. Just a barrage of words that are hurled from her mouth. It is painful at times. I’ve even developed a conditioned response which causes me to break into a sweat the minute I hear her voice. Even if it is coming from a telephone pressed against someone else’s ear. Sweat. Anticipation. That voice. The painful pelting of her words against my brain.
The woman never shuts up.
And I don’t recall a single thing of value that has ever fallen from her face.
Oh, and a woman she is. With her “me’s” and “my’s” and “I’s.” Her and her and HER.
But there are times. Events. Gatherings. When avoiding her is futile. When I find myself sitting across a table from her, trapped, an unwilling receptacle for the garbage chute that is her face.
Her fingernails fascinate me. I try focusing on them to dull the noise. The tips of them are strangely white, stark white, like when I’d paint my nails with Wite-Out when I was a kid. I think she might have actually paid someone to make her nails look like that. I glance down at my own nails. The tips of them are kind of yellowed, a little dirt maybe, a jagged edge here and there. They look like perfectly functional fingernails to me.
I’ll glance at her face every now and then under the guise of paying attention. It satisfies her. The word pelting continues. I hear something about husbands and car payment. “Why doesn’t he just do what I tell him to do and shut the fuck up about it?”
I hope she doesn’t expect me to answer that.
“One day he’s going to be sorry.”
I doubt it.
“How do you do it, Aimee? You guys never argue.”
I hear my name. Snatch my eyes away from the most gargantuan, over-stuffed purse I’ve seen in all my years. Half smile. Shoulder shrug. How much shit does a woman really need?
“......what the hell did he expect me to say?”
Clearly she’d moved on to the next topic. Half smile. Shoulder shrug. That always seems to do the trick.
I begin to mentally survey the contents of my purse. It’s small, black with some hand-sewn embroidery. It smells like the bottle of patchouli that lives in the bottom of it. There’s some gum. Loose change. A picture of my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Letlow. She used to whack my legs with her yardstick because I talked too much. There’s a card from the dentist with my next appointment written on it. Chapstick. A crumpled dollar bill. My car keys.
I rest my chin on the palm of my hand.
“…..I want to go to the Virgin Islands, but he said…..”
I suddenly get a vision in my head of Charlie Brown sitting at his desk at school. A kind of spontaneous giggle rises up and breaks rank. It appears to work in my favor, though.
“I know, right!? The whole thing is just fucking ridiculous!”
Oh, I know. Trust me, I know. Fucking. Ridiculous.
“How the hell do you do it? Running every damn morning like you do? Goddamn! My body is just....”
Bouncy? Oh, I hope I didn’t say that out loud.
Bouncy. Like her mouth. And her tits. And her ass. And her hair- A Dyed. Blow dried. Hairsprayed. Death trap.
I sit back in my chair. The backs of my thighs are sweating. I feel a trickle on my forehead and wipe it off with the sleeve of my shirt. The once full bottle of grocery store wine on the table in front of me is almost empty. I’ve had none.
“What the hell? Are you too good for cheap wine all of a sudden? Don’t make me have to remind you of Boone’s Farm and frat party Fridays.”
Her laugh is a guttural thing. Loud and low and husky. There is spit involved. She squeezes her eyes shut so tightly that it leaves little dots of mascara underneath them. A caricature. Is what my eyes see. What my ears hear. It is alive, but not. There are the tell-tale signs of 21st century femininity, of a humanoid type creature, a sad evolutionary detour into painted, life-jacking, male-hating madness. To say that we were once friends pains me. Her voice pains me.
I glance at the clock. It’s been an hour and 47 minutes since she has taken an audible break between sentences. The bottle of wine is empty.
I’ve had none.
She turns her glass up one last time. Swallows. Smiles.
“What the fuck happened to you? You used to laugh. I’m not even sure you’re conscious.”
I pull my legs up into the chair. Fold them underneath me. Stab the corkscrew into the second bottle of cheap grocery store wine. Fill the glass in front of me to the rim. Sigh. A long, deep, emptying sigh. And begin.