I wonder how I got here, secluded in a grimy apartment filled with smoke. We drink gin and tonics with mint like it’s the ‘20s; we sit and talk pop culture because we know. Taj has somehow become the effective authority on all of these things, paid to social network and connected to Hollywood; he’s very skilled at playing to people’s wants. My Cadillac sits intent next to me markering in a recent drawing for his newest class. He’s already famous for his graffiti, one day I’ll bet you this extra credit project will be worth money. He drew me a fox for Christmas. Valentines day is coming up. He never tells me he loves me. Jack is watching me watch him out of the corner of his eye while putting on a new remix of an old song. He leans over and asks if I like it and I nod. I feel bubbled up with *** smoke, frozen in time and vaguely uncomfortable. I’d guess this is what it’s like to be “too high.” I want Caddy to notice, but it’s Jack that’s pushing my hair back and telling me to drink more water. It’s sweet. Despite his need to be seen as a womanizer, Jack respects Caddy too much to even try with me, he looks but he doesn’t put on any faces for me. Everyone thinks so hard about how they’re seen.
Jack says his New Year’s resolution is to do less *******, even though no one asked. Everyone hears but no one reacts. I try to keep moving my toes and stop shivering. Across from me Ky and Nate are reading the encyclopedia in open-mouthed awe. In a room full of intellectual up and comers I feel like Hemmingway did when he was my age, how all the minds gravitate to each other and sit in a ***** room by the beach and let the creativity go. Like Mary Shelly and the whole gang writing Frankenstein and Dracula in the same trip. After a while I think Taj is going to make it, Jack will be a politician and Caddy will be lost and with another woman. Ky and Nate will still be smoking and reading the encyclopedia, all the way down to ‘z’. I am like my mother: attracting the company of smart successful men who pay her selective attention.
The door burst open and the cold air stayed in my pores after it was closed. Rodger invited himself over. It would have been all right but when Rodger is wasted he forgets his manners. In his animated state he managed to kick over Caddy’s favorite smoking piece, insult Jack and look at me a little too hard. His girlfriend had immediately passed out on the couch, but she never smiled or spoke to me anyway. Her head was cradled in the lap of a girl I hadn’t noticed. Her hair was perfect and her eyes shadowed, the liner and mascara smudging its way slowly onto her high cheekbones. She stared at me but didn’t speak. I tried to smile, but didn’t want to give away the champagne sensation covering my skin, still too up to speak. She had already formed her opinion of me, some young ******* the arm of an older boy. She was once in my position, I’m sure of it, we are the same kind of beautiful and empty eyed. That doesn’t stop her from judging, in the total of 15 seconds she looked at me. Her self is tamed and mine is wild still. Unintroduced and unnoticed by the men in the room, we have an understanding and a mutual dislike of each other, only to defend ourselves.
The room takes time to settle, a bowl has been packed for an entitled Rodger, and now that everyone is calm, Cad sits back down and puts his arm around me again. I lean into him, protected and anchored, whereas I had been floating or about to puke a minute ago. I don’t know what I said but Caddy seemed annoyed when he said “Just let it happen, embrace the feeling,” and so I kept quiet for ten minutes or so. The high was infected with guilt. Next time he looked at me-- it could have been an hour—I whispered, “I can’t” and finally he heard me, and stood up.
Cad came back into my vision with a glass of water and turned on Drive, prompting Rodger, Mrs. Rodger and my pretty enemy to leave. Ky and Nate had gone long before I could focus on noticing. Taj left for trivia night down at the bar and no doubt some girl; wrapped up in a cashmere scarf and cardigan he kissed my cheek before he went. Jack also took his graceful leave with the Rodger group to woo some girl who knew exactly what she was doing to herself. He did have a straight nosed charm, Jack. I could not blame this girl, one of many (I am embarrassed for her; I have been like this ******* many occasions).
Taj had been sent the advanced copy of Drive in blu-ray, so we snuck it from his room and watched it that way (the only way Taj would see movies now, it is the future (for now)). Kavinsky came through Cad’s new speakers the boys had spent half an hour trying to wire earlier in the night. “They’re taking about you boy/but you’re still the same” crooned Lovefoxxx as Ryan Gosling cruised down a street, ****** intense in driving gloves. Gears shifting and motors growling are very ****, I tell Cadillac so into his ear, as he pulls me into his arms and covers me up with a blanket.
The movie was perfect, maybe because it made me feel less dizzy and sickguilty (Cad knew it would) and maybe because Ryan Gosling can wear a white satin jacket. I loved it, hardly noticing when the absent roommate Travis strolled in with Taj and tacos somewhere around 2am. Colder as Caddy got up for a burrito, left me alone on the couch for the kitchen table. Registering Taj taking his place, playing with my curls and talking Hollywood to me. I’m staring over at Cad in his chair, he makes eye contact once or twice and I blow him a kiss before Taj repositions my head toward the television and my ear back where he can speak into it.
Eventually Cadillac taps Taj on the shoulder and motions for him to get up. With Cad back I can relax and I fall into sleep just as the movie ends. Taj and Trav have gone to their own beds and Cad leans over me, picks me up and takes me to bed knocking my elbow on the doorframe along the way. He apologizes and kisses my head but I am too tired to care. He lays me down on the bed with crimson sheets and takes off my boots but then sternly says, “Mimi, you are not a child.” and so I must get up and undress myself. He wraps me in a duvet missing its cover and his arms. I trust him long enough to fall asleep.
Standing in front of the stove it was hot, but I am easily overheated. He came up behind me and said in my ear, “you’re lovely” watching me put the last piece of French toast on the large stack, getting ready to scramble eggs. He kissed my cheek. Then my neck and then my lips, taking me away from my cooking to be pulled against him, for a sweet short minute and went back to the living room with his friends. Jack had mysteriously reappeared in the night; he said he locked himself out of his apartment after leaving to see one of his girls. Taj just sat and blasted Radiohead over the new speakers, shouting something relevant at me. I scramble the eggs and make up plates, two pieces of toast each and a nice healthy pile of eggs. It is gone very quickly and no one says thank you, except for a smile from Caddy and a kiss on the forehead. It’s usually enough for me, knowing he likes to show me off to his friends. I sit down with my cup of coffee and plate, within a few minutes Cad suggests he takes me home. I resentfully take time to finish my coffee. But we are both busy and he is right, so I say goodbye to the boys and gather my things. We drive with the “best MC on the game these days” (so I am told) over the weak speakers of the car. Cad drives with his arm around me always. Cruising into my building’s parking lot I lean over for a kiss on my forehead, nose, lips. He says go, but his hand still sits on my shoulder so I stay for a little longer. “You’ll probably have to let go of me if it’s time for me to go Cad,” I say quietly, with a tentative smile on my face. He grins back and lifts his arm. I slide out of the suicide seat and smile at him, but he’s looking at the radio dials. Then my face. His eyes give him away, softened around the edges with affection. Maybe love, but he’d never say it and I refuse to say it until he does. I try not to think about it much as he drives away to smoke up again with his friends. I wonder if this is how it will always be, but then I realize our kind of “always” is only the next few months. I turned unsteadily and walked up the stairs to my empty room—dark and overheated smelling heavily of sugar and spice candles-- with the geese outside my window for company. I haven’t slept here for days.