The Prompt – What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?
Oh dear… My loving family, of course. My dear, dear friends. My loyal dog. My dead parents. Oh God, all the arts. Puppies and butterflies and the smell of fresh-baked cookies. Walks on the beach and sunsets. Grandchildren and kittens an – SKKKKKRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAK
Breathing. Without that, not much else will happen. So I’d hate to give that up right now. A good poop comes in a close second. Remember that old joke about all the body parts arguing about which was the most important?
There. That’s taken care of. I’m reading several things, editorial hat on, and all that. Some of it’s mine. I came across the only time I’ve used a deep cliché backstory device. That’s right, the dreaded picture frame. I’ll fix it, turn into a conversation backstory drop, but for now, it ties last week’s theme to this one. Humor. In a potty vein. Here’s Deanna’s first morning in Cambridge. Or – skip to the top or bottom, click the Open Book link to see what others can’t do without!
Deanna’s flat, Cambridge U.K. / Saturday morning January 13, 1979
Deanna’s first morning in Cambridge so far had consisted of Merriam’s nasty black tea and a warm toilet seat over water cold enough to put off ripe refrigerated air, no air freshener in sight. Now she eyed her shoulder high dresser with marked contempt. Like the flat, it had to be over a hundred years old. It smelled like disinfectant, dirty underwear and mold, and was bolted to the floor just enough off level so that anything round rolled off the top.
Her bed frame was bolted to the floor as well, not close enough to the wall to keep her from getting wedged between it and the wall, and not far enough to walk behind. The mattress, on slats with no box spring, was slightly smaller than a twin. In width, not length. Cat said it had been new when she’d brought it down with her and it “hadn’t seen even the shadow of a shag,” so Deanna was free to break it in as soon, and often, as she pleased. So long as she kept her volume down and told her roomies all about it, in great detail. The bed came with two sets of cream-colored sheets, a tiny lumpy pillow, a maroon, satin-look nylon comforter. Her own pillows, too-big sheets and the double comforter Jackson had given her as a gift her freshman year were in one of the boxes already in her room. She knew half of her clothes would never get worn, her sheets would never fit, or fit in the dresser or the wardrobe. At least the comforter could be folded for double warmth. She repacked a ship-home box from her excess. A process that would eventually result in a joyous conversation with mom about head-in-the-clouds lack of preparation ending in another expense.
She unpacked her few kitchen items from box number 2, found where things like them were stored, and emptied most of her cosmetic case on the dresser and the attached-to-the-floor nightstand. As a final decorating touch she placed a three-year-old picture of Jackson on top of her dresser with what was left of the perfume he’d bought her back when he surprised her with girly gifts. Back before she started building her wall. She picked up the picture, taken on a road trip to the Texas State Fair their freshman year, ran her thumbs down the side of the frame. A trip they’d taken just to prove they could disappear for a weekend. “Let’s go somewhere,” he’d said. “Spend the night in a LaQuinta, bone like bunny rabbits and give our parents the finger.”
Their romantic teenage getaway careened downhill after they’d both barfed out their respective windows of his car. Payback for eating greasy fair food all day and chasing it with trunk-of-the-car temperature liquor store beer they’d bought on the way in. By the time they’d gotten to their motel room, they both had the trots. By midnight he’d had to make a toilet paper run because they were too embarrassed to call the front desk again. In the bag with the ten pack of toilet paper was a can of Lysol air freshener. Jax didn’t say anything but used half the can. The next morning they were over it, took a long, soapy shower together, and made love until checkout time.
Pulling out of the motel parking lot he’d said, “You know, before last night, I backed off laying cable until you were out of my apartment. Like you weren’t supposed to know I took a dump or something. Well, that’s over and now we know more than we ever wanted to about each other’s plumbing. We catch the flu together and we can tell everybody we’ve been to for real live-together boot camp, huh?”
This morning there was no air freshener, no Jackson, no hot soapy shower. Definitely not sex. But she’d made it to Cambridge. Maybe she could relax, be herself again, knew that wasn’t happening. She set the picture back, wanted to cry, and scream, and kick the dresser. Goddammit, he should be here.
“Shit.” She looked around the gloomy room. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Merriam popped her head in the door. “All’s right, love?”
“Yeah, I… No.” She held her hands out, fingers spread, interlocked them. “Is there ever a time,” she moved her locked hands in and away, slowly, “when it all just fucking works and makes sense?”
“I’m chemistry. That sounds like physics. Or Theology. Eggs’re up.”
“In a minute.” Deanna touched the glass that separated her from what she’d been. “Just wait,” she whispered. “I’ll be back.”
She had no idea that by the time she’d boarded her plane yesterday “wait” was the last thing on Jackson’s mind. He was wandering the northern New Mexico desert outside of Taos, his brain somewhere out on the rings of Saturn, the rest of him on the way to dying of exposure. Jackson, along with the promise, the future, the hope of her and everything she’d been since she was seventeen was canceled, boxed, sealed, and archived before she’d even left the country.