Douglas W. Milliken

Over beers and apple pie, it was settled. We were all moving to New Mexico. We were done with this city and this scene. Done with these bars. This is what we said. We were going somewhere new. “We’ll stitch gum wrappers over our hearts as a badge of solidarity!” Michael was always making proclamations like this. “They’ll see us coming for miles!” I had no idea what he was talking about. Under the diner’s yellow lights, ice cream melted off our pies. White rivers and tawny hills. Afterward, on the street, we all shook hands on it—Michael and Andy and I—and promised we’d recruit as many of our friends as possible. We parted ways with this as our goal. But I forgot all about it as soon as I walked away.

Later, I went over the David’s place to borrow back my electric saw, but when I pressed the button to be let in, it was his wife’s voice that came through the intercom. David wasn’t home, she said, but then Lisa buzzed me in anyway and when I went upstairs to their third-floor apartment, she greeted me at the door with a shout and a big hug. “We’re going to New Mexico!” It’s like she didn’t even know she wasn’t wearing a shirt. She led me into the living room where her sewing kit was spilled out on the coffee table, then sat me down on the couch. “Michael just called to tell us the plan,” she explained, running a thread through the eye of a needle. “David’s out selling our records right now.” Somehow, her saying that, I knew I’d never see my saw again. I really needed to cut some wood.

Lisa’s breasts did this lovely bouncing thing when she bent down to fish a gum wrapper from the mess on the coffee table. Then she knelt between my legs. Her hair smelled like something more than shampoo, a musky thing that’d grow in the woods. Her nipples looked pink and sweet.

“I hate to say it,” I told her then, “but I’m not going to New Mexico.”

She’d just poked the needle through the fabric of my shirt. The gum wrapper was pinned there like some helpless little flag. She paused a long time before she spoke.

“Really?”

“Really.” I liked where I lived. All these people and the ways they behaved. Why would I want to leave this?

“Oh.” Her hands dropped into her lap. “That changes things.” The needle was still pinning the wrapper to my shirt. What a pitiful badge it should be. I cupped my hands around her shoulders and she slid her hands into my lap. She wouldn’t look at me. She kept her eyes low.

You spend your whole life waiting for something. Then it comes and you think, That’s it? Or maybe: Okay, what next? No amount of desert will ever make that stop.

In a minute, Lisa said my name. But then she didn’t say anything. Like I didn’t know. Beneath my hands, her skin was cool and smooth. Hair like honey. She didn’t say a word.

 
 
 


Douglas W. Milliken is the author of the codex White Horses, available through Nada Publishing. Other work also appears in McSweeney’s, Slice, and The Believer. “Pink and Sweet” was written as part of a fellowship with the I-Park Foundation. www.douglaswmilliken.com.