Michele Finn Johnson
The doorbell rings and it is Pete. As far as you can tell, Pete + 5
years = Pete. Same close-cropped hair, same plaid shirt, same full
lower lip. But when he speaks, you know that some things are not the
same; some things likely left a dent, like your five-year-ago hook-up
with that co-worker at your company Christmas party in the Sheraton
coat closet while Pete waited and waited at his Camry until, finally,
he came to find you, your back enveloped by a camel-haired trench coat
that smelled of cigars and malt; that co-worker Mach-3 bolting from
that coat closet murmuring Sorry dude
to Pete, who, in turn, drove you home and left-left-left you. Now, Pete
sits on your couch (same) and eats a dollop of homemade hummus (new)
and drinks red wine (same). His legs are crossed (same) and he chews
open-mouthed (same). Pete smells like apothecary cologne (new), and you
can’t help but notice that his nails are buffed, his teeth
whiter, his shoes unscuffed (new new new). You wouldn’t
believe it, Pete says. That move to Boston ended
up being the catalyst. You
know and he knows that his move to Boston, January minus 5 years ago,
was the result of an open-bar, top shelf, Absolut and tonic with lemon
(corporate-appropriate quantity +3) Christmas party. Neither of you say
this; Pete dips and dips into the hummus while he uses words like success, millions, Europe.
You think that the word millions
should make you moist; should fill you with regret, like the blood
sugar crash after another top ramen dinner for one. You can tell that
Pete is waiting for it too—your reaction to his words,
something more than a Wow
or a head nod. But the sight of Pete on your tired Ikea couch, his
open mouth coated with caramel-colored chickpeas, instantly wears you
out, like the way you can only get three-quarters of the way through
“Pretty Woman,” can’t ever get to the
part where Richard Gere stands under the fire escape to rescue Julia
Roberts from her no-doubt-miserable-can’t-make-it-without-you
life, before you have to turn the whole damned thing off.
Michele Finn Johnson has work in or coming from Split Lip, SmokeLong, Necessary Fiction, Mid-American Review
and others. She lives in Tucson.
Read her postcard.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Darwin Bell.
Read her postcard.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Darwin Bell.