White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
WHITE WHALE REVIEW
RACHEL COYE
Rachel Coye is from western New York but currently lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She attends Hunter College and will be studying for her MFA in fiction at Cornell University in Fall 2009.

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SUMMER

Rachel Coye

The day started with the sun very high.  I was up, smashing avocados on too hard bread, cracking black pepper all over.  Little pieces of peppercorn fell into the space between the counter and the refrigerator.  I sipped watered-down orange juice over ice and I looked in the mirror for an hour.  To practice, I smiled a lot.  I took tweezers out of the cupboard and pulled out five white hairs from my crown.  I inspected: one was very long, and the rest were short, dry, all of them with waxy roots. 

My face was red so I didn’t put blush on, but I did brush translucent powder on my nose and forehead.  Then I combed my eyelashes with mascara and put on lipstick called desert rose.  You called; I held the phone for two rings.  My hand shook as the phone shook as the small weak-wooded side table underneath shook.  I answered and you said you were ten blocks away.  I said I’d be there and you said you’d be waiting.

You were bigger than I remember.  A little fatter, but mostly your hands and face: they had

turned from 20 to 30.  I was a little horrified.  I thought maybe I was turned off.

But you were the same, really, you were as funny as I remembered and we spent the afternoon walking around.  I was a terrible tour guide, I really was, I got lost countless times on streets I had walked more than twice.  I was embarrassed.

It was hot and I was trying to pretend that I wasn’t sweating but I could see your forehead bead up, so I suggested we go into a bar and you said yes and I knew you would because you were trying to get me into bed, but I didn’t mind.  My blouse stuck in patches on my back.

I ordered a white wine and you ordered a beer and I watched you take the slowest, willful sips that I had ever seen.  There were fans directing coolness through doorways, shaving off slivers of thick air.  Some of your words were eaten by the noise.  I thought about us being in bed together years before and couldn’t remember what you looked like.  I wondered if you could remember what I looked like.  I was embarrassed again.

It seems like the city changes when it is being


shown. I had never been in that bar and I probably would never go there again.  The wood was deep and black, the kind that’s hard to see detail in.  My eyes got lost in the shadows. The bathroom was clean enough and it wasn’t too depressing for the afternoon.  The bartender kept a perfect distance and I was wondering how long he had been keeping his distance for couples getting drunk in the afternoon.

You laughed and put your hand on my back and I thought, here we go.  I had had three and you had had four.  You were probably less drunk than me.  I started to feel guilty like I was a nonbeing. Like I was less than my mind or just my body.

We took a shot.

There was a backroom that you noticed and we went back there. It smelled a little stale but there was a burgundy leather couch, a pool table and a jukebox.

You touched the green felt and asked if I played.

I said, “Do I look like I play?  It’s too sexy, it makes me feel uncomfortable.”

You laughed at me and I thought you thought I was a yuppie now.  I thought about you thinking that you’d always had wanted to come to New York and get into bed with a slightly snobbish drunk girl. Does it count that you knew me before?  I didn’t think so.

“I always remember you had good taste in music,” you said.

“Yeah, I’ll play some music,” I said.

I was too drunk to remember what songs that I really liked and I wanted you to think that I picked the best songs, ones you had forgotten you’d liked.  You were setting up the pool table and I was laughing to myself.  My shoulders hurt and jerked.

You said, “Why are you laughing?”

I said, “Because of this, this is strange isn’t it?  I feel like time is running through me, I feel like the day is a movie that I am watching and I feel like you're a figment.  Do you feel like I’m a figment?”

You said, “A figment? No, I don’t think you’re a figment. I don’t even know what that means.”

 


I played all doo-wop.  I didn’t care about the pool game, I let you take most of my turns while I let my hips twist and my skirt twirl around and skim my knees.  I had forgotten about dancing; it felt good to move around in the corner. There was more space there than in my apartment. My breath got deeper and the air scooped further in my chest, using parts of my lungs that had been ignored. The sweat sat on the top of my lip and I could taste the salt. It was heavy and sharp, right out of the ocean.

I said, “Dance,” and snapped my finger and pointed at you.

I put my arms over your shoulders and we twisted and laughed for a few minutes until we were hotter and redder. The back door was ajar and the sharp infinite afternoon sun sent out a beam that lit a part of the floor. I wilted on the couch and watched you and the faces of a few Midtown ladies that walked by, a flash of beige and jewelry.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t love anything. I couldn’t feel the warmth tucked in small things. It lasted for years. Maybe I was like that when I met you. You said we had something special but I wasn’t there then. I didn’t think anything was

special. I would hang out here or there; I took drives with people that I was making friends with, share French fries at bowling alleys or late night diners.  I sat on grass in groups and leaned back on my hands, not outwardly introspective, looking at the sky or the pattern of a sock or a sweater.  I laughed then.  I woke up and went to my classes, stayed up and read all those books until my eyes dried out.

I didn’t like you then.  Secretly, I thought that maybe you were a jerk.  I saw you with that girl you dated, Greta or Gretel or some such name and I pretended to be nice to her but I thought her pastel lipstick was cheap and greasy.  I heard you talk about her behind her back and I thought you were a shit.  I heard you call her stupid to a group of people as you laughed without a glint of guilt.  The smile you had was wet and wide.

When I broke up with Ed, everyone hated me.  It was fine though; I had never really fit in anyway.  Then when I invited you to come over I didn’t think what happened would happen.  I said that I liked your tattoo but I didn’t.  But I liked when we sat by the opened window and whispered and smoked. 


Our mouths swollen and purple in the lighting of the living room. What did I say to you? What did yousay back?  I can see our lips moving but no words coming out.

I thought of you after then.  I asked about you casually.  You were nowhere.  I didn’t think you thought of me.  Then you called, all of a sudden, out of nowhere and we were on different coasts talking about anything we could talk about on the telephone and it was nice.  I could hear you smoking and I told you I had quit.  But it was also nice to think about myself standing on dark and blue streets and sitting on brown and gold couches with people I didn’t know anymore and smoking. What are they all doing now?

I told you that I smoked because of the perfect cigarette.  It came about twice in a pack.  The greatest five minutes, the lack of emotional agitation.  But I forgot to tell you about driving around by myself and feeling the summer heat cling to the inside of my mouth.  It would hang there until I forced it out.  That was good too.  The weather didn’t matter: in summer I’d rolled down

 

the windows and let the wet heat stick. In the winter, my fingers were dry and numb against the steering wheel. I thought about her, your wife, with her straight hair. It’s the kind I’ve always dreamed about: heavy, smooth, solid, and cylindrical. You don’t know this, but I pick my at my split ends. Shamelessly, even on the subway. They are pulled out or snapped. Sometimes I peel the layers, separating the cuticle from the cortex, or just look at the most damaged ones with back lighting, amazed at their deformation. Once I found one that had split eleven times. It was hard to believe that something could be so damaged but still manage to exist.

I would never tell you how much I spend on conditioners. There are several home remedies, I’ve tried olive oil and mayonnaise but I was dissatisfied with their results. Once a week, I wash it and put on the conditioner. I let it sit for a good half an hour or so and while it’s rinsing out in the shower I can feel it pressing, flat, orderly and detangled on my back. I want it to be soft and straight. I want it to bounce when I moved my head. I pictured the two of you sitting in front of the


TV and watching it very civilly. You might have potato chips or popcorn in a bowl. You might have a side table light on that gives off a pink glow. You put ice in your glasses. You mute the commercials. You wear glasses and she puts her hair in a bun.  Do you hold hands?

We were in this bar and we were drunk.  I let you kiss me; you were married and I didn’t care.  I never thought I would do that, but I did.  My front teeth hit yours and your spit was cool and thin.  Later, in the bathroom, I smiled at myself in the mirror; my eyes were sharp, my cheeks dark pink and warm.  I could see myself at nineteen with no money and I thought of the awful food I ate then, the dried noodles, sugar cereals, and the metallic taste of convenience store coffee.  I looked in the mirror again and felt a sharp pain at the bottom of my stomach.  Water rose up in my eyes.  I looked at the floor, at my feet and at the black and white tiles that were arranged to look like goldfish.  They were all swimming in the same direction.

 

Copyright © Rachel Coye. White Whale Review, issue 1.1


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