608 WORDS | 4-MINUTE READ
And this is just a get-together. The bottle of whiskey gets passed around and we take it straight. We are on winter break from our liberal arts colleges, except for Josie, who goes to a public university in the Florida panhandle. Nobody holds it against Josie because she got a soccer scholarship.
Peter holds Josie against the side of the fridge. We walk past them because we truly don’t care. Ronnie pretends he has never seen me naked and asks how classes are going. I tell him I’m screwing the rugby team. He knows I’m lying, looks to my older brother standing in the doorway. Ronnie knows I hate my brother. My brother knows I hate Ronnie. They are best friends, which is how it always goes.
Somebody slurs, “Truth or dare” and Josie tears away from Peter, shouts, “Truth!”
My brother laughs, “We already know you’re screwing the rugby team.”
He’s right. I am blushing because I tried to steal Josie’s truth, so I move to sit next to Wayne, my first crush, whose mother died from pancreatic cancer in second grade. I ask him, “When was the last time you had fun?” He is watching Ronnie catch Josie before she falls over the pool table. “You don’t have to lie to me,” I add. “Okay,” he says. Then Wayne and I remember in our separate minds the kindergarten bake sale where his long-gone mother let me lick the whisk dripping brownie batter instead of him.
I thrifted my most coveted possession from an upper-crust garage sale— a neon sign that glows an unforgiving magenta, buzzes in all caps
Peter slurs loudly, “Let it chill” as he teaches our Junior year Homecoming Princess, Maggie, about the eleven minute rule. Beers bob for caps in an iced bucket while we experience waves of heat, a sensation in the vein of what we imagine menopausal hot flashes to be. We tug at shirt collars to conduct air like our mothers do in the middle of the grocery store, hand basket dropped to the ground, tearing at their blouses like witches on fire.
Maggie collapses on the couch next to Wayne and me as a bundle of limbs. She confesses she’s always loved… I laugh because every emotion is forced up like a tooth tearing through layers and layers of resistant flesh, like vomit after bottles and bottles of beer.
This get-together is entirely brunette and liquid and will pass right through us like bright lights or cheap liquor. We will go back to our collegiate fish bowls and act like we know everything. I am sorry if you have ever been a classmate of ours. The parents raised us so much better, goddammit if we haven’t always known it. We were supposed to age smoother and have natural highlights in our hair from being out in the world. The expectations were never much. Still, my brother decides to kiss Maggie to feel something. Josie, Peter, and Ronnie look at the coffee table imagining ways to break it and build a tree house for all their suspended, big ideas. I am watered down benevolence, a faux-leather garage band daydream.
Wayne is still trying not to think about his dead mother so much. This piss-drunk party is the worst kind of get-together. We have been avoiding each other for years.
Tennessee Hill was featured in Best New Poets 2018 and is an MFA candidate at North Carolina State University. She was a finalist for the 2017 Dan Veach Younger Poets Prize, with work in Indiana Review, Crab Orchard Review, and The Boiler.
Photo by Yuta