MacKenzie calls to say this girl we used to know is missing, but more than likely she’s dead. They found the girl’s car on fire in a field somewhere. MacKenzie says the worst part is people back home think she’ll turn up alive, not broken and blue.
She says you don’t light a car on fire unless there’s trouble in it. Trouble that stains the upholstery.
I say, shits getting crazy back home.
She says, yes it is, but this was in Tennessee.
I ask if they’ve found the girl’s teeth.
MacKenzie says what for.
At the liquor store, men are very helpful. I ask if they have corkscrews for sale and the stock boy scoffs, says no, Sugar, hand me that bottle. Says follow me and I do and he jimmies out the cork at the counter and I pay for an opened bottle. I am hesitant as I wedge the wine between the seat and console. I thought it was illegal to drive with opened bottles.
It was when I was seventeen.
I Google writers instead of writing. Seems every time I open a book I get a paper cut.
Maybe I need to change my routine. Like, I should really start at it right when I wake up. Some people say that, they say it’s best to write when your head is murky and your face is pillow-marked. They say it’s best to begin a routine and stick to it. Time yourself, restrict yourself, work for ten minutes, work for an hour. Drink some whiskey, leave the house, sit at a bar, don’t bring a book. They say take a shower when you get stuck. It will refresh you, it will refresh ideas. Throw out your television, I say that.
I order Chinese take-out. The fortunes have been exceedingly disappointing. Nonetheless, I am drunk and, therefore curious and hopeful. I break the cookie. The fortune reads,
eat more Chinese food.
And then, I am fired. I am watching her lips move, watching her eyes move from the money she is counting, to my forehead, to my feet. She doesn’t look me in the eye. I am fired for not being ‘zesty’ enough. ZESTY. I imagine myself, a juiceless lemon, drowning in a glass of ice water, bobbing every now and then, a fruitless cry for help. The drinker terribly unsatisfied, motions a complaint to the server.
Without warning, the songs I memorized in elementary school take on sub-textual significance, with one exception. A list forms.
This Land is Your Land (Woody Guthrie)—America
Alphabetical state song (unofficial name)—America
Country Roads (John Denver)—Rural America
The Star Spangled Banner—America
When you are out of work, you’re more aware of time and how quickly it moves. There is nothing to occupy the mind. No menial tasks, no dictation. You consider how you spent your day at five. You woke at ten, neglected to stretch, slouched your way through the house. Drank coffee, pet your pets, watered your plants, spoke of regret to no one in particular. You read a sad thing, saw a sad thing, something made you laugh around noon. Your memory fails you. And each day is like this. You are punching the clock of real life each time you slide out of bed.
Before, you assumed you weren’t the type of person to let your job, or lack of one, define you. But now that you’re not making money, you do feel a sense of worthlessness, like a bent nail or a declawed cat. Who are you if not a worker? Years of being a servant and being served, day in, day out. One for the first half of the day, then off to dinner, where the waitresses are nice to you, flushed and panting, and then they go home. The next morning they buy coffee with their tips, slip whiskey in their cups, say thanks to the barista, keep the change.
At the party, we talk until our throats are sore and our ears are full of water. We talk until we have no idea what we’re talking about and soon I’m saying dumb things, wordless things, things that call attention to my youth and age simultaneously. Things like “where’d that bong disappear to?” followed by, seconds later, “What I really need now is a new dust ruffle.”
There’s this girl I sort of know who breaks through the noise and calls me ‘animated’. I think this is just a polite way of saying annoying.
I say I sort of know her because while I’d pick her up if she was bleeding to death by the side of the road, I wouldn’t buy her a cup of coffee.
I find out a teenage boy lives next door to me. It’s alarming. It’s like realizing there really is a God and he’s my neighbor and he does see all. He sees me doing dishes topless, tonelessly singing Fiona Apple. But instead of judging me or asking me to atone, he beats off and tells his friends about it later.
Tonight miss the weight of hair. Hair heavy on your back, hair that kept you warm in the winter, hair you flipped when dancing, hair you hid behind when cameras flashed and at parties when you crouched, afraid to speak. Hair you braided nervously when talking to boys, hair you held back when drinking from a fountain and when kneeling over your own damn puke.
Taylor Grieshober is a writer living in Wilkinsburg, PA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Voices from the Attic and The New Yinzer. She co-directs The New Yinzer Presents, a monthly Pittsburgh reading series. Taylor lives in a purple house where she watches a stupid amount of movies.