The Lost Kids
“Gretchen. Gretchen. Wake up!”
“What are you doing out here?” I look up, and Vanessa is looking down at me, expression both concerned and annoyed. I look around, and I am in fetal position in the corner outside the door to our apartment.
“I couldn’t get in last night.”
“Do you have your keys?”
“Yeah, but I think I lost the one to our door.”
“Alright. Well I can make you a copy later. Come inside. Jeez! I can’t believe you slept out here all night. Like, someone could have hurt you out there. I don’t understand why you didn’t just call me or something.” By the time I got home, she probably was already up eating her oatmeal with banana and flax before the gym, but who’s to say for sure. I walk into the apartment and sit in my chair, dazed. I mindlessly thumb through my bag to take inventory of my belongings. Cards, keys, phone, shamrock…Where is my shamrock?
Earlier in the year, an old lady in the park came over to me and my friend and gave us each a four leaf clover that she had mounted on card stock with Scotch tape, each with the date of the find on the back. I wouldn’t say I had any great luck since then, but I believe in a self fulfilling prophecy, and if I felt lucky, maybe I was projecting luck on my own life. Well, now it’s all up to chance again. Maybe it’s better that way. Keep the superstition to a minimum; take no scapegoats. “I would totally stay and listen to whatever crazy stories you have from last night, but I’m running late for the gym. Want to do lunch sometime this week? We really need to catch up.”
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah…I’m like totally great,” I respond, making a mild effort to communicate in her basic tongue.
“OK, bye!” She leaves, and I am relieved of her frantic energy. If I were her, I probably wouldn’t have to go to the gym. Just burn off all the calories with my nervous energy. I feel better after sleeping a few hours, but I still have a creeped out vibe from what happened with Izzy. Oh well. The clock says it’s eleven. Not bad for my Saturday; I still have a full weekend ahead of me. I reach for Vanessa’s copy of the Times, but then I remember that it’s Tuesday, and the food section won’t be out until tomorrow. My brain is running at half speed, but I don’t feel like going back to sleep. Still, I retreat to my room and lay on top of my unmade bed.
I text Hem, Hey dude. where are you? brunch? do you have work shit today? i’m back at home now. I get up and shower, dropping my razor, the soap, the shampoo bottle…basically everything as I attempt to clean up my hair, body, and conscience. You can’t unsmudge a conscience with soap. It takes tougher stuff. Turpentine, maybe. I think to myself. I laugh. So funny. Not so funny…
When I get out of the shower, I check my phone. Hem responded, back at my hotel in soho. the boss has a crush on me. i don’t have to work this trip lol. i’ll come to queens if you make eggs. I text him back, cool. bring eggs. i have bread. wait, it’s moldy. bring bread.
Hem buzzes in an hour later, and by then, I’ve composed myself a little and put on my favorite slippers—fuzzy, evil, cyclops bunny slippers—and my raggedy flannel bathrobe I found at a flea market. I’m only allowed to wear the robe when Vanessa isn’t home, because otherwise she breaks into impassioned soliloquies about the dangers of bedbugs passed on through old clothing and how girls our age shouldn’t succumb to the trend of looking homeless for the sake of fashion, because we have standards to uphold, and all the rest. It’s really just super comfortable, and I can’t see how some silk kimono bullshit could hold a candle to it, but whatever. I think her mom used to put her in pageants as a child or something. It’s unclear. I open the door, and he’s there, looking disheveled but also mildly refreshed.
“So you and Izzy, huh!” He grins, elbowing me in the ribs. “Girl, what is this robe? I love it. It’s like classic grandpa.”
“Thanks, I know. It’s the best. And…um…no, nothing happened.”
“I thought you went back to her place!”
“I called her Jenna.”
“I see.” He places his grocery bag of breakfast items on our kitchen table. “Well if it makes you feel any better, after Hannah and I did some more coke, I shit my pants a little and had to go home.” I laugh and almost choke on the water I’m trying to drink. “It was my fucking unicorn boxers, too. I just threw them out. I’m so disappointed.”
“It’s ok; we’ll find you some new boxers. It won’t be the same, but life goes like that. I lost my shamrock last night.”
“Yeah.” I open the plastic bag, and take out the eggs. “Dude, why did you get a baguette instead of like white, wheat, or rye bread or something?”
“Please. I can’t eat that crap anymore.” Oh, OK.
“Well excuse me for living in America. Alright, fine.” I toast pieces of baguette and drizzle them with some of Vanessa’s expensive olive oil. Hopefully she didn’t weigh this on her psychotic gram scale before leaving, because I don’t feel like getting into that battle. I make a soft scramble with six of the eggs. Although I’m more of a fried eggs person, the idea of a runny yoke does not sound nice right now. We eat in silence, for all of the two minutes it takes us to scarf up our breakfast.
“Let’s go spoon in your bed. I just want to lay down. I can’t do it today.”
“Fine.” We go into my room and snuggle under my itchy blankets, which I also got at a flea market. “Are you a horse? Like why are these blankets so itchy?”
“They’re nice blankets!”
“So are you OK, Gretch? I thought you were over Jenna…It’s been like over a year already.”
“Yeah…I thought I was over it too, but I still have these flashbacks, and I think sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have cut her out of my life. I kind of feel like when you’re so close with someone like that, you exchange parts of yourselves. I know that sounds so fucking cheesy. But like when you lose them, it takes a long time to repair or find the half of yourself you gave up. I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m kind of delirious.”
“I get you though. But maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. You never know if maybe your new path in life will bring you something better or put you on the right path to your destiny.”
“But I don’t believe in that, dude. Wait take your hands off my stomach…No, that’s my boob. What are you doing!”
“Sorry! You know I like boobs,” he giggles. “But continue.”
“Well I just don’t think things are just meant to be. Or that everything happens for a reason. That’s such a bad excuse.”
“What about God or religion? You must have some belief system…”
“Pff…no way. To me, that’s the ultimate sham. Something good happens, it’s because of God. Something bad happens, it’s because of God. God is the ultimate scapegoat that humans created to explain the inexplicable. Heaven is the coping mechanism to counter the possibility of eternal nothingness. Hell is the fable to keep humans in check. To me, everything is a matter of chance. You and I are a cluster of cells, just like anything else. Our intelligence allows us to think otherwise. But to me, it’s more likely that each of us is a cell in a greater body than that each of us is a person placed on earth by God, and that if we do good, we go to a cooler place, and if we do bad, we go to a shitty place. That’s the most basic idea I’ve ever heard.”
“Jesus Christ…I don’t even think my brain can get on that level right now. Ratchet it down a bit, OK there, Socrates?”
“You’ve really never believed in God?”
“I used to. I used to go to Church. But when I was twelve, I decided that God must be a dude sitting on a couch, watching us all on TV and just kinda laughing and drinking white Russians. Like The Big Lebowski.”
“What the fuck, girl?”
“My friends were really awkward, and we got bullied a lot, and my parents were gonna get a divorce, and all this shit. It was a strange time. And then, when I was in high school, I decided that God must be a dominatrix. Because everything about those four years was just painful. And I felt like the faithful sub of the universe. I was a dramatic kid, not gonna lie.”
“No shit… I can’t believe we’ve never been over this topic. You’re ridiculous.”
“Well, by the time I turned seventeen, I realized that the God thing was not for me. So there you have it.”
“Want to make some whiskey-coffees and watch a movie or something?”
“Yes.” I brew a pot of coffee with the last grounds that I have. “What about tequila? The only whiskey I have is the last of this Pappy Van Winkle that I’ll probably never get my hands on again.”
“Tequila is fine.”
“You know what, though?”
“Let’s fucking do the Pappy. Tomorrow is never certain.”
“You want to put Pappy Van Winkle in your coffee? That’s sacrilege.”
“It’s healthy to act old money sometimes, in the height of your poverty, dude. And like, what if every time we go to sleep, we wake up in a new body? And life is just like a bunch of souls playing musical chairs in all the bodies? I want to be the one to drink the Pappy.”
“Whatever you need to postulate, as long as I’m drinking Pappy Van Winkle in the morning with my best friend.”