by Beth Fernandez
Dale is sitting up reading the news when I wake.
“All discipline is self-discipline,” he tells me over his reading glasses when I moan I drank too much the night before. My head feels like something too large is growing under my skull and can’t get out. I want to tell him to fuck off, but the act of dying makes me horny so I wake him up with my hands instead.
The painkiller kicks in while I sip my coffee, but I can still feel a throb parallel to my left temple. I mix myself a Bloody Mary. It’s Sunday. Fun day. What I really need is brunch.
I call Andrea, but her kid has a soccer game. Wendy is on a diet so she doesn’t want to drink or eat. She invites me on a hike with her and Alison, which pisses me off because they didn’t invite me in the first place (even though I would have declined).
The French Door has crab Benedict and celery-infused Bloody Marys, which is what I am craving. Parker is always up for fun, but he’s eighty-sixed from the French Door for mistaking a storage room for the toilet. I begrudgingly agree to meet him at Steel House for bottomless mimosas.
“What happened to working in the yard?” Dale asks as I put on my jacket.
“I forgot I had plans with Parker,” I lie. “It’s just brunch. I won’t be long.”
Parker is already at the bar when I arrive. He tries to kiss me with his thick stubble but I pull away because he smells worse than the beer soaked wood floors.
“Did you sleep here last night?” I ask.
He laughs, takes a sip of his half-empty mimosa, and asks me when I became such a C-yoU-Next-Tuesday.
“Where’s Stale?” Parker asks.
“He’d prefers the gym to brunch,” I say.
We both roll our eyes and toast.
“I want to dance. Let’s go dancing,” I plead. “I want to raise my arms in the air and dance so hard the back of my hair gets sweaty.”
“Not on a Sunday afternoon, honey,” he says. “Not even the gay bars have dancing on Sunday afternoons.”
“The modern gay man is a bore,” I say. “You included.”
A group sits down at the table behind us in a blur of black clothes and kohl eyeliner. A young blond in skinny jeans catches both of our eyes. His ponytail is a mess and his pale face is as pretty as it gets without being too feminine. He sees me see him.
“I think I love him,” I whisper to his face.
He reads my lips and smiles.
“Honestly, Parker,” I say when I turn around to the bar. “I love him.” I drink my mimosa down and he pours me another from the rapidly disappearing pitcher.
“Dream on, old lady,” Parker sighs.
I look back again. A girl with pink hair and multiple piercings paws at him. I imagine them naked and twisted up together like a churro. I despise her. He watches me watch her with his big blue eyes and his granite face. Wisps of soft hair fall from his ponytail. I regret not wearing sexier shoes.
“I wish I had the money to buy him,” I say when I turn back to the bar. “I want to own him.”
“You can’t own a butterfly, my dear,” Parker says.
“It’s one o’clock and you already have a fat tongue,” I say out of revenge.
“Don’t be bitter,” he chides. “Have another drink.”
There is no way back to my youth. It’s a lost piece of jewelry that I keep hoping will show up again. Someone else wears it now.
“I’ll bet no one asked him to stay home and pick weeds,” I say, thinking of Dale on a treadmill, reading the Wall Street Journal on his phone.
Drinking makes me want to smoke. On the way out the door I flash a joint toward the blond. He flashes his white teeth when he smiles.
I’ve already had two hits when he appears. I pass the joint and he leans against the wall and takes a hit.
“Thanks for sharing,” he says with a smile.
“I grew it myself,” I say. “It’s organic.”
It sounded so stupid. Like the time I met Bono and could only manage to say, “You’re awesome.”
“Are you a grower?” he asks with real curiosity.
“Yes,” I lie, “I have a small farm.” He’s so young and beautiful, and I say so. The last few words get tangled up in my inebriated tongue and I giggle.
“I’m twenty-seven,” he says smiling. “I used to be quite the pretty boy, but I’ve lost my glow.”
“You think twenty-seven is old?” I laugh.
“Well it’s almost thirty,” he says.
I’m almost forty. Not in three years either. More like three months. I drink to find my glow.
The pawing girl comes out of the bar. She smiles sweetly at me as he hands her the joint. Her face is creamy and she has a voice like cotton candy.
“She’s a grower,” he tells her. I still don’t know his name.
“Cool,” she says.
Her skin is polished marble, her stomach flat in low-rise jeans.
“Organic,” I tell her.
“I hear it’s hard to get into the business,” she says. “How did you do it?”
“All discipline is self-discipline,” I say.
He watches me look her over and maybe he thinks I’m jealous, but I’m not. They stand against the heavy door of time, while I’ve already moved through it.
My eyes are heavy and I don’t feel like dancing anymore. There’s another, full pitcher at the bar when I return.
“I still love him,” I say.
“You know what your problem is?” Parker asks and then answers his own questions. “You’re addicted to youth.”
We toast to thick hair and smooth thighs.