My Cold and Its Cure
Molly Laich

Tyson brings this other guy with him when he picks me up for our date. The other guy is sitting in the backseat drinking PBR's out of a 12 pack one after the other, like someone eating popcorn.

"I hope you don't mind if Daniel comes along with us," Tyson says, but it's already done, so what would it matter if I minded? The deal is that Daniel is suicidal. It will be good for him to get out of the city in the fresh air, with friends. Tyson tells me all this as though the patient isn't sitting right there. I think this is just his style.

We're going way the fuck out of town to this saloon-style bar that is also a hotel. They tell me that interesting things have happened there. I'm Meghan, and this is mine and Tyson's third time out.

Daniel doesn't seem so sad, and I tell him so. He's got a patchy half beard and unblinking, unmoving features, like he has a concussion maybe and he's tired. "I have addictions," he says. "I've slept with over a thousand women."

"You must stay up very late," I tell him. I think I'm funny but no one laughs.

He looks out the window at pine trees blurring past. "It doesn't make me happy."

I tell them all about my cold and its cure. I took 5,000mg of Vitamin C and drank three glasses of vegetable juice, plus a shitload of hot tea with honey and lemon, and I used the Nettie pot about 20 goddamn times.

"What's a Nettie pot?" Tyson wants to know.

"It's like this thing. It's for irrigating the sinuses. Mine is made of porcelain but they make other kinds. It looks like a genie's lamp."

"I've made a woman believe I was a genie," Daniel says.

"Really?" Tyson says.

And Daniel looks at me now from the back seat. He sort of winks without actually winking and I understand the challenges ahead and feel exhilarated.

At the hotel bar when everyone is drunk and Tyson has his back to us at the jukebox, Daniel reaches under the table and puts his hand between my legs and it's expert. "I have a cure for your cold," he says. I'm prepared for him to say something stupid like, "my cock," or "my semen," but he says, "love."

"What about Tyson?" I ask, although I'd have done things with Daniel if he'd answered, "my semen" or "my cock" because I was still seduced from before.

After a night of stolen looks and placating the other one, we are back in our room, the one big room for 50 dollars we're splitting three ways. Tyson falls into a loud snore, but not before whispering, "Sorry we can't fuck. I forgot about Daniel being here."

"Come sit on my lap," Daniel says in the dark. He's in the corner and the light from outside gives him a silver lining. Otherwise he is all black. Daniel is cut out of felt and I go sit on him, expecting the lap to be fuzzy, two-dimensional.

There's just a hard on there. There's no magic. I thought I drank a lot but I wish then I'd had a lot more. He puts his hands in my hair and his eyes look like blinking buttons in the center, except for the terrible white that surrounds them. Still I'm smitten by the dry, quiet joke about genies and I still hate Tyson for not getting it.

He touches my hair and breathes loudly. "Shh," I plead, but Tyson's snoring only gets louder. Daniel breaks open the front of his pants like they're Velcro and there it is. I think: a sword, a carrot. I make my face an exclamation and do my best.

But my cold makes it difficult. My eyes water and I can't breathe. He pushes down on my head harder and I gag and choke a little until I see colored balloon animals floating in my vision. In the drunk of it I don't panic; I feel like I'll be able to breathe any second now. I cough and bite down. He pulls my hair back, slaps me and then pushes me down on it again. "That's it," he says, tenderly. I don't know if I'm being raped or not. If I choose to be okay with it I'm not one of those girls with naïve notions of "I'm going to change him." If I'm cool with this, I'm liberated. It would be better if I could breathe through my nose and he didn't have large, snarled hands on my head.

I notice that Tyson isn't snoring. "Meghan," he says, as clear as a bell. Daniel takes his hands away and I turn around to see him sitting up in bed, staring at nothing. Tyson doesn't say anything else. I have a thought about miscalculation that I can't put my finger on. I just know that I've done it.

And I know now about the interesting things that have happened in this hotel, are happening still, and have yet to happen, and how much it will mean later when my head is clear and I can think about it, and how often and sad and all the things I should have done differently but didn't.

Molly Laich has stories in or coming from Meridian, PANK, NANO Ficiton, Monkeybicycle and others.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Brett Lider.

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