She was never good in groups. She was always too much or not enough,
although it was easier when she drank to get along.
The office went out on Tuesdays for karaoke and happy hour. You could
make a dinner out of the nachos, have three or four frozen margaritas,
get someone to drive you home. Temporary data entry, customer service
representative, phone survey center. Summer season she packed strappy
silver sandals in her purse on happy hour days; wintertime, she wore
whiskey boots. She was twenty-something then thirty-something, living
in different cities, always starting over again. Tampa, Baltimore,
Mobile, Albany. In Mobile and Albany, she was married.
When her husband left her he took all the vodka, the nice wine, the
gouda. He left everything else. He wouldn't give her a divorce, but he
moved out, took off his ring.
A boy at the data entry job named Zeldon said he would give her a ride
home from karaoke at the Crystal Pistol. She didn't tell him her
husband wasn't there. She was drunk, the boy was not. He drove her to a
parking lot at the mall, and they sat looking over the lovely hill.
"They built this mall over a graveyard," he said. She wasn't sure
whether she believed him. She didn't know why he'd brought her there. She
was too old for him.
His hair was shiny as shellacked wood. He told her his parents had
moved him to that city to follow an atheist. "Are you an atheist?" she
He told her he was, but not like they were.
"They are like, practicing atheists."
She wanted another drink. The boy wanted something, she didn't know
what. She asked him to take her home.
"I'm lonely," she told him, and many other things. She was too drunk
now to know what she was saying. When they got back they sat in the
driveway for awhile. The boy wanted to help her inside, but she said
no, her husband would help her.
"He doesn't," the boy said.
He waited and watched, but she didn't drop the keys. Inside, she turned
on the lights. The boy seemed to know her husband wasn't there. He left
the headlights on, waiting.
She went to her bedroom. The house felt strange, like a humming inside
her. Inside the closet were many dresses her husband had ordered from
catalogs. She had big breasts, and he had told her she should change
her way of dressing. He said this after he told her he had no love for
her. The clothes she had worn mostly came from a catalog called Newport
News. They had built-in bras and spangles.
It had been cold and she was wearing a coat her husband had not bought
her. She'd bought it long before she met the husband. Camel colored,
warm, with little brass buttons, found at a church rummage sale. She
sat on the edge of the bed, looking at the clothes, stuffing her hands
deep in her pockets. She had been crying, mascara running down her
face, and she only just noticed. She would need to drink some water,
set the alarm, shower before work. Inside the pocket was a pretty
little yellow umbrella, taken from one of the cocktails. She pressed
the toothpick into her finger, felt the pinch. She remembered, now,
telling the boy about the time she was pregnant and her D and C. She'd
kept saying, what does D and C stand for? And she had said she had a
She was not too drunk to brush her teeth, splash her face, set the
alarm. She was too drunk to take off her clothes, but she took off the
coat and spread it over her body, a blanket.