Sunday, April 6, 2014

Escapism

We, Devi and I, were chatting and sipping coffee and whiskey (with ice cubes) in her kitchen. We were waiting for our sweet potatoes to finish baking. The rice sat, slowly cooling in its stainless steel pot. Outside, her dogs barked at a jogger.


We were both sweating like our mason jars. The air was still, despite the open doors, despite the open windows. We leaned against the ancient Formica countertops. The salad --chopped kale, red pepper, cucumber-- smelled strongly; the vinegar dressing shone on the crushed peanuts.


The living room was oppressively bright --bleached pale, washed out, the sun breaking across the bay windows. But, the kitchen. The kitchen faced north into a forest. The verdant trees meant that at dusk, noon, or nine the kitchen was pleasantly dim.


She said, “Look,” while staring into her coffee cup. Devi bounced an ice cube with a long finger. “I’ve got my student loans, and we don’t need passports to go to Puerto Rico. Let’s just go. Let’s go. To the airport, now. Let’s just leave for a while. Just a week. I don’t care. Only if there’s a flight today. Or not. We can eat dinner. Whatever you want.”


I swallowed coffee-whiskey for a long time. I looked at her and I said, “I don’t.” but then I stopped.


And Devi looked at me and said, “You don’t what?” Her blue eyes caught the light of a passing car, all the way from the street, through the living room, into the kitchen. Devi blinked, her eyes suddenly wet. “What ever you want, alright?”


There was a moment of emptiness while I tried to fish something out of my memory, but couldn’t. “I don’t know” I said. “Will your roommate drive us?” I smiled.


“Probably. Or Samantha.” she said.


A breeze stirred. Our mouths were wide as our eyes as she texted her roommate. The timer on the oven beeped. We reached out and turned the stove off at the same time, our fingers twined.

Devi's phone beeped. "We're good." She whispered. She rolled and lit a joint, her brass zippo was dull, dented, nicked. "What am I going to pack in ten minutes?" She asked.

"Nothing." I said. "I'm not packing anything."

"You're bringing your laptop, though."

I nodded.

Devi nodded. She tapped her chin."Then you're packing. Don't worry, I'll buy you clothes."

I smiled. I shrugged. "Puerto Rico?" I asked. "Just a bathing suit will be fine."

"We'll see." Devi narrowed her eyes at me. "We can't spend the entire time on the beach, we could do that here."

I shrugged.

"I'm gonna," Devi pointed. I nodded.

While she was gone I took out the sweet potatoes and sliced, buttered, salted, mashed them. I carefully spooned starchy, waning moons into bowls, then slid spoons down their rim. I swirled my coffee and wiped the mason jar against my forehead. I stared out the window, palms flat against countertop, fingers enjoying the cool of the black porcelain sink.

"Miss me?" She asked, coming back, wiping her hands on her black cotton dress. Some of the seams were frayed where the swathes of more black cotton were sewn in, like a loose toga, swirling, covering her breasts and hips. The grey stitching looked like halogen contrails under a midnight Caribbean sky. Devi's smile was wan, her eyes cagey.


I shrugged.

Devi's brow furrowed.

I smirked and reached toward her left cheek with my right knuckles.

"You guys ready?" Her roommate shouted. The garage door slammed.

I laughed.

Devi yelled, "Almost! One second!" Then, "Buy clothes when we get there?"

I said, "Cool."

We stumbled, weak knees, green pallor, down the stairs of the small airplane, warm rain pelting us like a monstrous, warm massage shower.

I stopped at the stairs into the airport and finished emptying my stomach. Thunder rolled over us, sending a wave of goosebumps up my spine while I spat, hands on knees. Devi firmly rubbed my back with her finger tips and whispered encouraging, soothing words to me.

I stood. I smiled. We stared at each other and, simultaneously, grinned, nodded.

Taking my hand Devi pulled us through the airport.


Later, I sprawled on a towel, propped on my elbows and watched Devi kick and splash in the ocean. Behind her, the setting sun was red and small. Above us, the edge of a storm rolled toward the sun. Devi wasn't getting rained on yet, the roar of the ocean hiding the pelting, clicking and putting sound of the huge, warm raindrops.

I turned my head up and closed my eyes. I could still see Devi in her black cotton sun dress, an arc of ocean bubbles spiraling from her foot.

Thunder rumbled. I smiled. I stood up, slowly, stretching my arms over my head, then down to my toes. I yawned. I shouted to her, but the ocean and the storm stifled me.

I followed the edge of the storm toward the sunset, toward Devi, never taking my eyes off her. She turned while I was a goodly distance away and I stopped, the rain rushed ahead and a moment later I could barely see Devi through the veil of water.

Devi turned just before the edge of the storm caught her, soaked her warmly. I heard her startled laugh through the pitter and the patter. Behind us, lightning cracked the air, then thunder. I ran to her and wrapped my hands around her waist and picked her up and twirled her and the tide went out and the sand went out from under my feet and we crashed into the white muck, laughing, drenched, warm and a wave crashed hard over us and knocked her forehead onto my nose and I laughed and said, "Bonk!"

And Devi said, "You're bleeding!" and thunder rolled, and