[BIO]: Lauren received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco and currently works as a TV producer in Philadelphia.
Do It Herself
Samantha said she’d pick up the keg herself.
Because lord knows Tom wouldn’t do it; he’d be asleep ‘til three. The bathroom had grown hair, the windows wool. Maybe he’d surprise her and clean it like he promised he would. And then, Samantha thought, what a day—the first warm breeze of spring, a whisper from summer, a note it’d be coming soon.
What an asshole. This party was for him and he didn’t even care; he’d done nothing but tell her he liked the idea. He never cleaned the bathroom, and the windows would still be dirty when she returned with the keg that he wouldn’t help her carry up the four flights of stairs to the tiny brown apartment that she couldn’t afford, but he loved, because the windows faced the river. How quiet, how clean the streets were on a Saturday morning, like a white room waiting to be filled. Anxious and excited, feeling as Samantha did, standing there at the corner of 6th and Bleeker, that today would be unusual. She watched the shaking trees and listened to the crackle of dry tires on asphalt. She was never up and out this early—all those mornings lying in bed, rolling, thinking, waiting for him to wake up, wondering what he’d want to do with his day, how the day would fade to night and what time she’d return to bed, rolling, thinking, waiting, again, for sleep. Shit. Chains. The store wasn’t even open yet.
“Boozing before noon?” or “It must be noon somewhere?” or something like the things that Crawford Beech would say, “Smuggling peas?” or “Can I get some cheese with that whine?” Three years of mindless jokes and tired quips that young girls thought were charming until they were no longer young. Luckily for Crawford, new girls were always young, as Samantha had been when she was new, laughing at his smile, as if he had been the first to uncover the secret she’d always hoped she held. She’d forgotten he was back—she’d stopped returning his emails; she failed to see the point. He’d go on about her as if he didn’t used to go on about Samantha—how they’d travelled through Europe, saw stupid things like Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower and things look the same in books and on TV as they do in real life. Samantha had no interest in these things. How strange it was to be standing on 6th and Bleeker in front of a closed liquor store with Crawford Beech, the first man with whom she ever took a drink.
“Must be five o’clock somewhere, right?” Crawford asked cracking his tanned knuckles, cocking his sandy spirals to the side. Samantha hugged him loosely, smiled, and stared at the cloudless sky over his shoulder. Days and nights of laughter, lying, loving, kissing in his small blue bed in his dark green room, snow falling outside, days completely unlike the one they found themselves standing in. He was still with her, she could tell by his hug. A loving but scared question and answer wrapped around her, asking her what she was open to, telling her what he was. Oh, today.
“I’m picking up a keg for Tom’s party tonight. You and Catherine should come!”
Crawford kicked a pebble on the curb into Samantha’s toe, smiling his crooked smile she hadn’t seen in how many years now? Five? Ten? Had it been ten years? Could she have been with Tom that long? Had it been ten years of walks through the village, the Food Network, bottles of wine and tears in the shower? Touching and talking, saying nothing, sitting next to each other, living miles away. Metal crashed upon metal, chain dragged along chain to raise the gate and open the liquor store. It must be ten now.
“Catherine isn’t feeling so well,” he told her. “But maybe I’ll stop by?”
Samantha’s heart sank, as she had never wanted him to attend the party at all. Maybe he wouldn’t come. Maybe these were just street pleasantries exchanged between old friends, one of whom has a long history of saying things he doesn’t mean. She felt a sadness come over her, nostalgia, pain from an old wound, dull but familiar, almost comforting in nature. Her eyes softened and his, blue as the blankets they used to tangle in, locked for a moment in the warm New York breeze.
“I hope you do,” she said.
He smiled, gave her a second wilted hug and trotted away down the sidewalk. His steps quicker, less graceful and confident than they once were, she thought. Samantha smoothed her hair and turned into the liquor store, the heavy door ringing the bell that announced her arrival and pleaded for help and attention from the cashier. She’d get two kegs; Tom will want two kegs.