by Charlotte Sorock
Gina has her tits in my face again.
“Come on,” I say. “I’m trying to take it easy.” I push her away with a combat boot to the crotch, but she just steps back until my leg drops.
It’s Friday night — we have the booze, the drugs, and we all chipped in for a room at the Red Roof. I want to chill, but Gina just won’t quit. Ever since she got the surgery a few months ago, a Christmas present from her mother, she’s been busting them out like party favors every time we get drunk.
Gina straddles my legs and starts doing her stripper dance. I fall back on the bed. She lifts her tits in her tank top and squishes them together, making them look even bigger.
I shove her off. “Would you get the fuck out of here with those things?”
She prances around the motel room barefoot–––the shoes were the first to go when we got here an hour ago, and knocks into the rickety TV stand making the whole thing wobble like its going to come crashing down. She doesn’t even notice; she just keeps going.
We’re both 23, but the amount of energy Gina has astounds me and she hasn’t even hit the coke yet. I feel tired all the time, like an old fucking woman, but with Gina it’s like no one can stomp out her light. Sometimes I wonder if she’s just clueless or whether she’s figured out something I don’t know.
She swoops in again. “Come on, Tammy, just feel them. Tell me they don’t look real to you.”
“No. I already felt them like a million times.”
“Feel them again. You know you want to.”
I groan. It’s the last thing I want to do. But she’s looking at me with that happy-
dog grin that she’s been laying on me for years, and there’s no way I can say no.
“All right, Gina. I’ll feel them if you get me a beer.”
She laughs at me. “Stupid,” she says and points. “You already got one.”
Now she’s calling me stupid? But sure enough there’s a Bud crushed between my legs. How long had that been there? I rattle the can. It’s the ass end. When I take a sip, it’s piss-warm.
“Come on, get me a fresh one.”
“Got to feel ‘em first.”
I laugh. “You don’t give up, do you?”
Gina smiles. “Nope.”
She lifts up her tank top and her tits bounce out, the nipples staring straight at me. I look down, feeling nauseous. A roll of fat flops over the top of her jeans. She has a dangling belly button piercing with a green star hanging at the end of the chain. I keep my eyes on the star, swinging back and forth. They’re hard, like two punching bags. Aren’t these things supposed to squish?
“Feels great, Gina.”
She’s got a huge smile now as she pulls down her tank top. Her thumbs are in her belt loops as she leans back on her heels. “Worth every penny.”
“How much did your mom pay, again?” I call out, but distracted by the coke, Gina wanders off. She’s already cozying up to Mike when I remember my beer.
Mike is hunched over the table in front of the curtained window, cutting up lines. He is wearing his backwards Red Sox hat and a black Tool shirt. Gina poses in front of him, hanging on the heavy curtains with one hand, the other on her hip, but Mike doesn’t take his eyes off the coke. She’s moves in closer––––squeezes his tribal-tattooed bicep, puts her arm around his broad shoulders.
“Hey Mikey, want to feel my tits?”
Mike raises his arm, like he’s going to backslap her away. “Get the fuck out of here.”
Gina starts rubbing his neck and squishing her tits against his back. “Can I get one of those lines?”
He shrugs her off, turns around and shouts, “Tammy, will you get your friend away from me?”
Funny how he says my friend even though we’ve both known Gina since middle school and he was the one who fucked her under the bleachers back in ninth grade.
“Gina, leave him alone and go get my beer.”
Gina mock-pouts, swiping his hat and putting it on her head. Mike swivels around, yanks it off, along with some strands of light brown hair.
“Owww.” Gina grabs her scalp. “You’re a dick.”
“That’s what happens when you touch what ain’t yours to touch.” He puts his hat back on his head. “Ya get hurt.”
Gina sucks her teeth, “Whatever,” and heads for the two thirties of Bud on the sink outside the bathroom. Cans are already starting to pile up. She knocks a few onto the carpet when she pulls the fresh ones from the box.
“Yo, grab me one?” Mike yells.
“Fuck you, Mikey. Get your own damn beer.”
Gina hands me a Bud. “Where did Joey and Christine go? Did they leave?”
I crack the beer. “Maybe they’re in the bathroom?”
Gina puts her ear against the bathroom door and knocks loudly. “Y’all fuckin’ in there?”
Just then the door flings open and Joey’s standing there, buckling his pants and smoothing down his thinning ponytail with both hands. Christine, a good few inches taller, is standing behind him, struggling to get her shirt on. Her neck and face are red and blotchy and her eyes are all puffed out.
“All yours.” Joey pushes past Gina and swaggers over to Mike.
Christine glances at Gina and me, trying to get our attention. She looks like she’s been left out on the porch all night. I really don’t want to hear what she’s got to say, probably some bullshit women stuff that I don’t give a rat’s ass about. But I heave myself off the bed. What the hell else am I going to do?
I follow Gina into the bathroom and shut the door.
Christine takes a seat on the edge of the tub, her knees splayed open and picking at her blue nail polish. Her mascara is smudged and her hair is sweaty and tangled. I hate seeing her like this. Makes me want to beat it out of her.
I sit on the toilet; Gina crosses her arms, stands guard against the door. There’s a faint odor of piss and ammonia.
“So what happened?” Gina asks while fluffing her hair in the mirror and making her sexy face.
“Can one of you grab me a beer?” Christine whispers.
Feeling bad about hating on her–––she’s just a kid, I go out and get her one. Mike and Joey are sitting at the table, talking. They see me and stop mid-sentence. I look at them. What?
I shut the bathroom door and hand her the beer.
“Thanks,” she sniffles.
Christine still goes to Framingham High. I met her a few months ago when she started coming around Ming Dynasty, where they take her fake ID. Most times she annoys the fuck out of me––––always yapping about her family. There’s no way in hell you’d ever catch me talking about my family–––fuck those losers, but she’s only 17, so I cut her a break. It redeems her a little that she’s having sex with Joey–––she’s not all goody two-shoes doing a guy twenty years her senior, although why she would want to have sex with someone like Joey is beyond me.
Christine takes a tiny sip of beer and coughs. I look away, embarrassed. Girl
still can’t drink.
She bends the pop top on her beer back and forth till it snaps off. “My niece’s first communion is this Sunday and Joey promised he would go.”
At the mention of communion I’m already bored.
“My whole family is going to be there and I told them he was coming. But now he says he’s not going. That he wouldn’t go if his life depended on it.”
She’s on the verge of losing it. More than anything I can’t stand to see people cry. It’s weak. I have to pinch myself hard to get through it. But at the last minute she pulls herself together and I chug my beer.
“I think he’s mad because he got fired from his job yesterday and doesn’t want to buy a gift.”
“He got canned?” Gina asks.
“He says the boss is an asshole, but I think it’s because he hasn’t been showing up. He drops me off at school in the morning, but then I think he goes and gets drunk because when he picks me up in the afternoon he’s wasted.”
Gina uses her pinky nail to dig something out from her teeth. “So what’s his dick like?”
I laugh. Fucking Gina.
“What do you mean?” Christine asks, looking confused.
Gina leans in, opens her eyes wide. “I mean, it is like all shriveled and shit?”
“He’s not that old.” She is quiet for a second then says, “But sometimes he can’t get it up.”
I take a gulp of beer. “Wait a second. You’re telling me you’re having sex with Joey but he can’t even get it up?”
“It doesn’t happen all the time.”
“Still, what’s the point of being with him then?”
“I love him.”
“Love him? Joey? Newsflash, Christine. He’s almost forty and lives in his mom’s basement. What good is a guy like that if he can’t get it up?”
Christine looks hurt. “What do you got against, Joey?”
Remembering the coke on the table, I stand up. “Listen. I don’t hate him. All I’m saying is you could do better.”
Back in the room I grab another beer from the sink and stack it under the open one. I walk over to the table, trying to act like I’m not thinking about a line. I stop at the mirror above the dresser and pretend to fix my hair but all I see is the stuff I hate. Eyes too squinty, nose too big. Instead, I stare at Mike and Joey in the reflection.
Joey is sprawled out on the bed closest to Mike with a beer in his hand. He puts his beer on the nightstand between the two queen beds and sits up against the headboard. His upper body is muscular but his legs are skinny, swimming in his black jeans. I imagine having sex with him, his little legs kicking as he heaves and groans then goes soft.
Above his head, hanging on the wall, is a crappy rendition of a flower painted in pastel colors bordered by a pink frame. All the rooms have them. The flower painting above the other bed is on the table. Mike took it off the wall when we got here, so he could use the glass to cut up lines on.
When Joey notices me watching him in the mirror, he shoots a look like, What has she been telling you? And you better not believe it, especially the part about me not able to get it up, because it’s all bullshit.
While looking at me, he puts a hand down his pants, scratches. “Mikey, you working tomorrow?”
Mike is sitting at the table, flipping through a phone book in his lap. “All weekend. We’re at this office in Revere, but we can’t be there during business hours––––too much noise and dust and shit.”
“Fuck yeah. Time and a half tomorrow. Double time on Sunday.”
“Shit. What do you do again?”
“You need a license to do it?”
Mike laughs. “Yeah, man, you need a license. You can’t just bust in there and start installing shit.”
I finish my beer and start in on the next one. That’s it. I can’t hold out a second longer. I walk to the table and look over Mike’s shoulder. The phone book is open to Asian call girls.
“Hey, Mike, can I get a line?”
Mike slams the phone book shut and tosses it on the floor. “Those three are for you girls.”
The pastel swatches are covered in crisscrossing lines of white residue from the razor. A cut straw rests near the coke. Gina comes up from behind me and tries to grab the straw, but Mike snatches it away.
“You never got me a beer, so you go last.”
He hands me the straw and gives one of his crooked-tooth half-smiles.
I bend down and hover the straw above the line. I run the length of it, suctioning up the little white particles, feeling a sense of accomplishment from where there used to be coke and now there is none. At the half way mark my nose starts to burn and then I feel it––––I’m alive, awake. I can do this life. Everything is okay. I don’t even mind Mike’s hand resting on the small of my back.
“Good shit, right?”
I try to hand the straw off to Christine but she’s lying on top of Joey. They’re looking into each other’s eyes, saying how much they love one another. Makes me want barf.
“Christine.” But she doesn’t respond. And this image of her getting butt-raped by Joey in the bathroom pops into my head and it makes me happy. I’m seconds away from doing Christine’s line. But when Gina comes back with a beer for Mike, I hand her the straw, trying not to be greedy even though everything in my body wants it. I ask for a smoke instead.
Before Gina can say something, there’s a knock on the door. Mike stands up. There’s another knock, this time louder. Gina bends down and snorts hers. Mike pushes her out of the way.
“Fucking move.” He does Christine’s line and I get jealous. He brushes the glass off with his forearm.
Joey shoves Christine off of him and sits up. She looks rejected and I hide a smile. While everyone is quiet, listening, I pull a cigarette out of Gina’s open purse on the dresser.
Mike goes to the door, muscles tense. He looks in the peephole. His shoulders relax and he opens the door. It’s the crew from Ming’s–––four guys with two young drunk chicks in tow. I recognize the faces but forgot the names. The guys are carrying a thirty rack of Bud Light, two bottles in brown paper bags, and a radio. At least they have enough sense to come prepared. The guy with the shaved head and goatee shakes hands with Mike.
“What’s up, dude? What’s going on?”
“Tommy. You’re looking at it, man. Just hanging out. How was Ming’s?”
“Dead.” He slaps Mike on the shoulder. “Thanks for letting us know about this.”
“Yeah, no worries.” Mike lifts his chin. “Whatcha got in the bag?”
Tommy turns around to find one of the bottles missing already. “What the?” He scans the room for it and sees Gina, Christine, and the two girls doing shots of Barcardi near the bathroom. He shakes his head. “Fucking broads.”
I glare at Tommy. Why shouldn’t they have it?
He pulls out the other bottle and shows it to Mike.
Mike takes it from him. “Can’t go wrong with Jack. You mind?”
“All you, brother.”
Mike cracks it and guzzles from the bottle.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, I finger a cigarette burn in the comforter while smoking. I’m glad to see the bottles and the extra thirty rack, but I’m worried about there being enough coke. The last thing I want to do is share. The guy in the black hoodie sets up the radio on the dresser and turns on the classic rock station.
In between sips of beer and drags of a cigarette, I tap my foot and hum along to Black Sabbath. The other two guys start arguing about who owes who what for the booze, standing on either side of me and talking above my head. I’m trying to take it easy here, people, go bicker somewhere else. But then Mike asks the guys if they want to go in on an eight ball and I perk up. There’s more bitching about money but the wallets come out. They hand him the cash and he makes a call to the dealer.
All I can think about is getting another line in me. I listen to Mike on the phone, relieved when he says everything is good to go. Since there’s more coming, no harm in asking for more now.
I walk over to Mike, standing near the door. “Hey, you want to go outside for a sec?”
He looks at me, wraps his silver chain around his finger while he thinks about it. I didn’t chip in for the coke, but this is where being a girl works in my favor. I smile at him and put my hand on his shoulder.
He grabs his jacket from the back of the chair.
“Hey bro,” Tommy yells, “where you going? I thought the guy was coming.”
“Should we stay?” I ask. Mike shakes his head, tells me it’s cool.
“The guy said fifteen.”
I catch Tommy making a face that what Mike and I’d be doing might take more than fifteen minutes. Makes me want to smash his stupid face.
“Chill,” Mike says. “I’ll keep an eye out.”
I pocket a Bud and shut the door behind us. We walk to Mike’s black pick up, parked a couple rooms down.
Beyond the parking lot is the on-ramp for the Mass Pike and the toll booths all lit up. Across the street, there’s a row of dark storefronts–––M and M Liquors, a tanning salon, and a tropical fish supply store. I look up into the sky, trying to find stars. But the light from the Mass Pike and the Red Roof Inn make it hard to see anything except the big dipper.
“Fuckin’ a. It’s freezing.” He tugs on my flannel shirt. “You didn’t want your jacket?”
I’m cold, but it feels good after being in that hot, stuffy motel room. Mike opens the passenger side and lets me in then goes around to open his side. He turns on the car and turns up the heat. The radio is tuned to the Boston rock station. Alice In Chains is on the radio.
“Here.” He takes off his jacket.
“Really, I’m fine,” trying to push it back towards him.
“Will you just take it and stop being so stubborn?”
“I’m not being stubborn. I don’t need it.” But once he puts it around my shoulders, I shut up. I slide my beer into the cup holder. Mike reaches behind me and I think he’s going to put his arm around me and I brace myself, but then he pulls a clipboard from the backseat. He sets it up on his lap and pours out some coke from a little pink baggie. He slides a razor from the cellophane around his Newports and starts breaking it up.
I turn up “Man in the Box” and stare out the window. A car with its engine running and its headlights off is parked in front of the liquor store.
I turn around. “What?”
“I said, you working tomorrow?”
“Yeah, at night.”
“I was going to come by around six, maybe stop in with some of the guys from work. Sit at your table.”
“Saturday night. Might be pretty busy. Probably won’t be able to hang out.”
“I know. I–––”
I wait for him to say more, but he hands me a rolled up One instead. He lifts the clipboard with two huge rails. I got to give it to him–––Mike doesn’t skimp; he knows how to party. My heart is going to race like a motherfucker, but I’ve got enough of a beer base to keep it in check. I snort my line then return the favor, holding the clipboard for him.
Tasting the bitter drip, I reach for my beer. Mike leans down and pulls out a pint of Jack from under his seat. I put the beer down and wait for the whiskey to take the edge off. He has a sip and I snatch the pint before he can offer it.
Mike drums the wheel with his fingers and coughs. “What are you doing next week? You’re off Tuesdays, right? Want to go to the movies?”
I chug, bubbles rising.
When he looks over at me, he reaches for the Jack, but I take another pull before handing it back.
“Damn, girl. Don’t kill it.”
I wipe my mouth with my sleeve.
“I’m trying to ask you out.”
I grab my beer. “I know.”
“We’re friends, Mike.”
“Friends can’t date?”
“You don’t want to go out with me.”
“You just don’t, okay?”
“Come on, Tammy. You don’t like me? Cause you act like you do.”
“I don’t like anybody.”
“What’s up with you? Why do you always got to play hard?” Mike reaches out to grab my hand, but I pull it away.
“I’m fucked up, Mike.”
“So am I.”
“I don’t mean wasted, I mean fucked up.”
“Look at me.” He moves my chin to face him. It’s too much. I turn my eyes away.
“I don’t think you’re fucked up. I think you’re pretty.”
“No I’m not.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re gorgeous.” He smiles. “Even though you hide under those boy’s clothes.”
I cross my arms over my chest. “I don’t hide.”
He puts his hand on my thigh.
“Come on, Tammy give me a chance.” Mike leans over to kiss me.
I reach for the handle and jump out, leaving the door open and him holding onto the jacket instead of me.
“Tammy? What the fuck?”
“I need some air.”
I expect him to get out and follow me–––part of me wants him to, but he lets me go. I walk around the motel to the parking lot that faces the 24 hour Dunkin Donuts.
I kick a Natty Ice can in the parking lot and stare at Dunks until my heart stops going so fast. The tables by the windows are crammed with teenagers, kids Christine’s age. Old enough to drive but too young for the bars without fake IDs. Our crew never did Dunks. Maybe the 24 hour BK in a pinch, but if it wasn’t too cold we partied at the rope swing, the sand pits or the trestle. That all stopped when we got old enough for the bars. Sometimes when I’m off from work, I go back to those places during the day, drink by myself, see the crushed beer cans and dirty underwear from the new generation of fuck-ups. Back in high school, those nights were an adventure; never knowing when the cops would show up or what would go down. Now it’s boring as shit going to the same old bars over and over again. The only thing we have to mix it up is getting a room at the Red Roof.
I start to feel the cold and think about going inside, but at the edge of the lot by an open dumpster, I see a woman. She’s dressed in snakeskin stretch pants, black heels, a leather fringe jacket, hugging herself and smoking a cigarette, pacing back and forth. Thinking about the old days, I walk over to her and ask if I can bum a smoke.
She looks at me with vacant, bloodshot eyes lined in black. Her face reminds me a little of Stevie Nicks. I’m guessing she’s in her early forties, but there’s something ancient in her stare. Despite the wrinkles, I can tell she used to be banging. I bet in the right light, with enough make up she still pulls it off.
“What a fucking asshole. The bastard locked me out. Can you believe it? Thinks I’ll steal something when he’s not there.” She takes a drag of the cigarette, the cherry crackling and the lines around her mouth tightening.
I ask again.
She digs in her purse, taps a Misty out of the pack.
“Got a light?”
She flips open a leopard-print Zippo. I’ve got the same one in Zebra-print. I stole it from Spencer’s at the Natick Mall, but it’s been out of fluid for months. The flame whooshes up and I feel for my eyelashes after the cigarette gets going.
We smoke silently. Cars full of drunk kids roll in and out of Dunks. I think about how we used to drive around drunk. We still do, but it’s not the same. I got a beater now–––this old Camry from Pop, but back in high school I had this 1987 grey Monte Carlo with red interior. I busted my ass waitressing at Friendly’s two years for that car. The thing was a fucking tank. For fun, we’d ram it into shopping carts in the Natick Mall parking lot after hours. We’d drive around Framingham, drinking, smoking weed, listening to music. I kept a cooler on the floor of the backseat stocked with Red Dogs, a permanent mold spot growing underneath. Back in those days I got away with everything. Even the cops were cool and I could weasel my way out of anything with my “get-some” pants and a smile.
A Jeep pulls into Dunks. A girl gets out of the driver’s seat and throws up in the bushes separating the two lots. I’ve had many of those–––what we call a cleansing barf. Drink, barf, drink some more. I glance over at Stevie Nicks to see if she caught the chick throwing up, but what she’s staring at isn’t in front of her. I know that look–––she’s somewhere else, reliving a moment over and over again.
By the time I’m down to the filter, I’m wishing I had taken Mike’s jacket with me. I shift from foot to foot. “Cold.”
“I’m going in. You want to come to our room while you wait for him?”
She stares at me like she didn’t hear what I said, but then says, “Okay.”
I put my hand out. “Tammy.”
She sees my hand but doesn’t shake. “Wendy.”
Her heels clack across the pavement and her bracelets jangle with every step. I lead her to the other side of the building and knock on number 202. I can hear the party raging inside. I knock again. Still no answer.
“Fucking morons.” I kick the door with my boot until it swings open.
Joey is standing there with his fly down, chewing on a toothpick. His eyes are bugged out of his head. “Jesus, Tammy.”
I push past him into the room, clouded with cigarette smoke and stinking like old Doritos. Mike is at the table cutting up lines in front of a small mountain of coke. He doesn’t look up when I come in. He’s sweating and smoking, his hat is off and he’s wearing his black bandana tied around his head–––a signal that now he’s intent on getting fucked up. He’s down to his wife beater, the top of a Celtic cross jutting up above the neckline.
On the bed closest to the table, Christine is chewing her nails, picking her toes and talking about her niece’s communion to one of the girls.
The four guys are standing in a circle around the other bed, cheering. I’m about to go over and check it out, when I hear Joey say, “Long time no see,” and turn around.
Wendy is still in the doorway and Joey is leaning against the edge of the door with his hand on his hip.
She cackles and the sound of all the cigarettes she’s ever smoked rises in her
throat. “Yeah, it’s been a long time, baby.” Her hand grabs his balls. “How’s it hanging?”
It’s the first time I’ve seen Joey blush.
“Jo-ey? Who you talking to?” Christine cranes her neck to see who’s in the doorway.
“Yo, dipshit,” Mike says, “Shut the fucking door. You want the whole world to know what’s going on in here?”
Joey shuts the door and Wendy walks into the room. She’s moving her snakeskin hips like a leopard moving through the jungle and Joey can’t keep his eyes off of them. She helps herself to a beer and pushes into the circle. I’m right behind.
On the other side of the wall of guys–––I should have known––––Gina and one of the chicks from Ming’s buck-naked on the bed. It smells of booze and sweat, pussy and perfume. They’re locked in 69 and the guys are laughing, pointing. Tommy tries to shove the empty bottle of Barcardi up Gina’s ass and she swats him away with her hand. He tries again and I shoot him a death stare. Faggot. Who is he to fuck with Gina? He doesn’t even know her. I’d like to ram it up his ass, see how tough he is then.
Wendy and I back out of the circle.
“I got to take a piss.” She follows me into the bathroom and locks the door.
I sit down on the toilet while she digs in her studded purse, pulls out a plastic bag and glass stem.
It’s been a while, but the body doesn’t forget. My stomach anticipates the high. I used to hit it hard before I moved out of my parents’ house. Three, four nights a week in my bedroom, blowing the smoke through these toilet paper rolls crammed with dryer sheets and afterwards, lying in the tub all tweaked out, waiting for my mother’s Clonazepams to kick in and ease the comedown. The highest highs, but the lowest lows, wanting to die every time I ran out––––makes the coke comedown a cakewalk. Recently I’ve been keeping it to just coke, trying to get my shit together, but since it’s here and I’m drunk and already high, I think what the fuck? Might as well.
Wendy’s long black nails pack the stem, her silver bracelets cold-clanging down her arm. She’s got a Bic for the rock, skims the flame over it, sucking the hit into her lungs. When I see her inhale, I get all tingly between my legs. Her back slides against the wall and she’s on the floor, knees in her chest, legs slowly unfolding in a V around the toilet.
Her eyes are closed and I slip the stem from her fingers. But when I spark it, there’s barely anything left.
I hold out the stem. “It’s cashed.”
With one eye open she shoves a huge one in. Thick white, almost yellow smoke clouds the stem. I hyperventilate the hit to get the biggest buzz, a trick some guy taught me. In and out, in and out. My face locks, my eyes strain in the sockets. I lean back against the toilet tank and stare at where the wall meets the ceiling. I breathe for a while. I haven’t felt this good in a long time and I think, how can I hold onto this feeling? From far away I can hear the guys cheer and I think about Gina’s green star swinging.
After a few minutes the panic starts–––knowing I’ll need more as soon as this wears off. I hate it. Can’t even enjoy the high because I’m worrying about the next hit. But I can’t show how much I want it. I have to be chill. Make small talk and keep her here.
“How do you know Joey?” I hear myself say, the words hanging in space then dissolving.
“Joey.” She laughs that million cigarette laugh and it shoots off the walls like an arcade game. There’s a flash of pretty in her face when she smiles. “Popped his cherry back in high school.”
I fall forward on my legs and for a second I forget about the next hit. “You took Joey’s virginity?”
“Bet your ass I did. High School–––anyone I wanted I could have. Everyone was on my tail. Chicks too. I was a senior; he was a freshman. As soon as I saw him, I said to myself–––self I’m going to make him mine. I fell for his swagger. But that macho shit fell away when I walked up to him. After that, all puppy dog. And I got to give it to him. He had balls. I told him where it was going to go down––––I said Dope Alley, three o’clock, be there, and sure enough, he was there waiting. Mr. Cool smoking, leaning against a tree, like it was no big deal.
“I told him to strip and we got naked in the leaves. You should have seen him. All wet behind the ears. He didn’t know what to put where. Shot his load in two minutes. Made all sorts of excuses–––high, drunk, stupid, just jerked off, before finally ‘fessing up and telling me it was his first time. Honey, I knew it was. I could smell it on him. He wanted to go again to make it up to me. But I had to go. He told me come back tomorrow. He’ll be waiting.”
“Dope Alley was Dope Alley when you were there too, huh?”
Wendy packs the stem again, and is about to light it when she stops and says, “One time I was down there and there was this little baby turtle crawling around.”
Her gaze drops from my face to my knees, through them, beyond them, and she’s gone, not seeing anything except what’s in her head.
“These guys were throwing rocks at it. I screamed, ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ but they didn’t. It was like they didn’t even see me. They kept going, pelting it with rocks. I was crying and screaming and they were laughing. They were laughing! One of the rocks hit the turtle’s shell and cracked it and the pink part was exposed. The turtle was scared and it tried to get away but every time it tried to escape they hit it with another rock. Over and over again. Until it stopped moving.”
With shaky hands she takes a hit and exhales.
I reach for the stem. “That’s fucked up.”
Wendy grabs my hand instead. She flips it over so the palm is up. Her nail traces the lines then she looks at me, narrowing her eyes.
“What the fuck do you know? Huh? You weren’t there. You don’t know how it was.” Her mouth twists like she’s tasting something awful. “I know your type. You think you’re some tough bitch. But it’s all a front. I can see right through you. You hate your fucking guts. You’re scared shitless, hiding from all the stuff you don’t want to face. Man, I know you better than you know yourself and I’m telling you–––this shit will eat you alive.”
“Look who’s talking.” I try to yank my hand back, but she squeezes my wrist even harder.
“Listen, you little bitch.” She points her nail in my face. “Maybe you didn’t hear me, so I’m telling you again. If you don’t cut this shit out you’re gonna die.”
Someone bangs on the door and I jump. “Just a second!”
Mike yells, “Tammy, get the fuck out here.”
“You with some chick in there?”
Wendy’s face falls. She drops my hand like it’s a snake.
“Some dude is looking for her. He’s real pissed.”
Wendy hurries to stands up. She hits her head on the towel rack and kicks her purse, sending the contents all over the floor. Frantically she starts shoving things back in. I see the baggie of rock and cover it with my foot while she’s looking the other way. I help her pick up the tubes of lipstick with no caps and the unwrapped tampons, the rounded cotton tips dirty from being open in her bag.
Once the baggie is in my pocket, I follow her out of the bathroom. I touch it again to make sure.
A short, balding man in a brown suit and glasses is standing in the room. Everyone is watching. Even Gina and the other naked chick are sitting up on the bed.
His face is a bright red knot. “Come on!” he shouts. “I’ve been looking for your ass all over the goddamn place.” He grabs Wendy by the arm and starts to pull.
Joey frees himself from Christine and scoots off the bed. He takes hold Wendy’s
“She don’t have to go if she don’t want to.”
Wendy pulls away from him. “Joey,” she says then softer, “He already paid.”
Joey tries to meet her eyes, but she looks down and doesn’t look back. Deflated,
Joey drops her arm and watches as the man drags her out of the room and slams the door.
Everyone stands around not knowing what to do.
I go over to the dresser and turn up the radio. Slowly the room goes back to the way it was.
Mike takes a seat at the table and I join him.
“What a fucking trip, huh?” Mike says, unwrapping a fresh box of Newports and offering me one.
I take a cigarette and let him light it for me. I inhale, remembering the way Wendy’s mouth tightened around the stem, the lines drawn down like she was sucking the life out of it.
“Who was she?”
I touch the rock in my pocket and look over at Joey sitting on the bed, staring off into space.
“No one.” I exhale. “Just another fucked up chick going nowhere.”
Charlotte Sorock has lived in Brooklyn for the past 7 years. She has worked as a union carpenter in a factory in Maspeth and has done construction in the city. Currently, she is getting her MFA in fiction at Columbia University. “Dope Alley” is part of a short story collection about her experiences growing up in Massachusetts.
Art by Margarita Korol.