Baby’s House of Missed Connections
by Morgan Victoria
J is convinced I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but when I start bleeding out on the Williamsburg sidewalk, she shapes up a bit.
Oh god, she stops midstep, do you need to do something about that?
I elevate my foot and cradle the soft arc of my sandal in my hand. Years of yoga seem to be on my side at this moment. It’s fine, I reassure, despite being the one whose sandal has become slippery and leaving brushstrokes of red behind me. I just need to apply pressure.
J sighs, you can’t go into Baby’s like that.
She has a point, so we shuffle ourselves into the nearest bodega. I try my best not to look too much like a walking, talking biohazard before a nearby customer asks me to get out if I’m gonna bleed everywhere, for Christ’s sake. Outside, I balance with one elbow on a trashcan and my left leg raised so it’s pushed up against my right thigh. I somewhat blindly slick Neosporin across my toes and it reminds me of sunscreen, of that chemical laden, greasy coconut smell that stays with you all day. A vacation away from infection. I use two Band Aids wrapped on top of each other because it seems more responsible than just one.
I have this weird blood thing where my blood doesn’t clot properly, I say as I straighten myself back to a proper stand. You apply pressure and wait for it to knock it off eventually.
I find myself explaining this again at the bar we’re headed to. This time to J’s date while she’s away in the bathroom. He’s nice enough to pretend that he cares about his date’s friend’s health problems. That sucks, he affirms, eyes scanning around the room for an out.
I’ve had a few drinks, so I want to keep talking, but the downside of a few drinks means that I’m in my own head even worse than usual. I can’t close my mouth, but I don’t want to keep it open either. I’m becoming too aware of my own heartbeat.
Maybe you should cut it out of you and hold it for a little while, J’s date says. He leans forward and taps the exposed skin from the low neckline of my shirt. Right between my ribs. Have you ever tried to hold your own heart before? he asks.
And it’s weird, but I used to have these recurring fantasies about what it would feel like to hold my heart in my hands. My anxiety manifests in differing levels of intrusive thoughts, but this one is comforting. Would it feel like touching someone’s pruney fingers fresh from the bath? Or like just laid cement? What about the intricacies of the veins and arteries? I know that I could buy a pig heart or something at a butcher and lay this to rest, but it wouldn’t be the same as my specific heart. It wouldn’t be the one that seized up two months ago when I Facetimed Alison for the first time in awhile. When I looked into the rectangle of the Facetime window, she shone bathed in the light of her lamp and looked so beautiful, so exquisite in that little box. My heart, the disgusting and obscene thing that I imagine it to be, a monster gorged on too thin blood and this feeling I couldn’t swallow, pounded its little fists against my rib cage. I stared, unable to speak until she asked me what was wrong in a voice that knew, but wanted to hear it from me.
I try to respond, but the bar is Matisse red like we’re in someone’s sick throat and I have a hard time focusing on J’s date because of it. I’ve uh, I’ve given myself a hug before, I say. What are you asking me?
J pushes a drink into my hands, a sudden appearance. One moment in a different universe, the next in front of me and holding two whiskey sours. And I guess she’s forgotten the last time we went out with her friends and I swore to never have another. I drank five whiskey sours in quick succession that night. Everyone was too busy having their own conversations and ignored me while I had to orbit them all, waiting for an in. Then, each pair or trio bought me a drink because they felt bad for excluding me. All the while, I kept thinking about the last time I was at a party where I didn’t know anyone. Even though it was all Alison’s friends, she didn’t know how to talk to them either. Instead, we held onto each other and pretended like we were going to try and break into a little group’s conversation at any moment, but then never did.
I liked her best when she didn’t have any other option but me.
I don’t want to be out anymore, but I don’t want to go back to my hotel either. I hate nights like this where the only options are ones you choose for yourself. It always feels like you’re doing something wrong. I take a sip of my whiskey sour and pretend it’s good for me. I pretend it’s vitamins or a green juice or a lie I can repeat without it hurting me too much. I keep having this feeling like I’m waiting for someone to pick me up, like the expectation is warranted and I am right to wait. I have to wait a little bit longer. A little bit more.
Morgan Victoria is a barista and writer. Their work was awarded Third Place in the Mainstream/Literary Short Story category of the 91st Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition and has been published in Penumbra Online, Chaotic Merge Magazine, and Horned Things Journal. Find them on Twitter @mvcgan or on their website morganthewriter.com.
Image: Fiona Murray/Unsplash