Conversations between places

Fiction from this morning (practicing dialogue, if you couldn’t tell)

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It was the only real conversation I ever had with Josie, even though she was my roommate Arnie’s girlfriend and I’d seen her sitting on our couch almost every day since I’d moved in. I didn’t count my parents’ only visit, when I ran inside moments before they did to give her a warning.

She was in the living room, the space I told my parents I used as an office, sitting on the couch wearing only Arnie’s yellow moose t-shirt and purple underwear and drinking beer from a can.

“My parents are here,” I said before I ran back outside to stall them.

When I returned with my parents shuffling in behind me, eager to see evidence of the magical life they envisioned for me, Josie was standing by the refrigerator in the kitchen, her arms piled with beers. Her purple ass was bright and distracting as a baboon’s backside.

“Had to stock up!” she said with a grin before slinking into Arnie’s room.

I was angry enough that I thought those were the last words we’d ever say to each other. Not that she’d notice. Maybe they would’ve been the last if I hadn’t had such a hellish day, if I hadn’t trekked into the apartment with feet so heavy they couldn’t carry me to my bedroom, only dumped me off beside Josie on the soft blue couch.

We sat at first in silence. I watched her frowning from beneath her long light brown bangs as she dug at her fingernails. That was one of the reasons I never spoke to her, because she was usually concentrating on something like her nails or a magazine with such intensity that you’d get the feeling distracting her might pull her away from her entire life’s purpose.

Minutes went by before she looked up at me and blinked, as if she only just noticed I was there. She looked around the room, as if she’d only just noticed it too. It was bland and undecorated except for what I’d added, the photographs on the wall from San Francisco, and shot glasses, clean and collecting dust, sitting on the mantel beaming rainbow flags and smiley faces.

“Is one of your roommates a lesbian or something?” Josie asked.

The apartment was small, the kitchen and living room sharing one cramped common space between the two bedrooms. How many people did she think we fit into this place?

“That’d be me,” I said.

Her light eyes widened, dancing across my face as she stared at me.

“You? No!” she said. “But you’re so pretty and girly. My friend Pete told me how to look out for lesbians, he said to look for short hair and man-hands.”

I pulled at my ponytail.

“Yeah, the long hair is all just part of my disguise,” I said. I was trying to make a joke, I guess, but she nodded and continued staring with those wide eyes, as if I was saying something profound.

She kept nodding as I shifted and coughed.

“Am I the first one you met or something?” I asked.

“The first what? Black person?”

I paused.

“No. The first lesbian.”

“Oh.” Josie shook her head. She went back to staring at her hands, only at her palms this time. “No. I didn’t meet a black person until I was twelve, I’d never thought about it, just thought I’d seen them in person ‘cause I’d seen them on TV, but no, Myra was the first. She cleaned my father’s house. She was nice.”

Now I was staring at her, and the way she was peering into her palms had me leaning forward to look at them, too.

“You’re the first person like you that I’ve ever met,” I said.

This delighted Josie. “Really?” she said with a grin, looking up at me. “Thanks.”

I nodded. “I mean it.”

“Why did you sit next to me today?” she asked.

I thought of work, the layoffs that seemed to be creeping toward my position, the possibility that I’d have to move. Again.

“I was tired,” I said. “Needed to rest.”

“Oh. I’m leaving today. I thought maybe you knew or something.”

She was sitting on the couch, like she always did. There were no packed bags around her. She didn’t even have any shoes on, her pink toes wiggling above the coffee table.

“Leaving?” I asked.

“I’m going away to San Francisco. Haven’t told anyone.”

“Josie. You know that’s where I’m from, right? Why haven’t you asked me anything about it?”

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I just gotta do it on my own.”

“Should I tell Arnie?”

“You don’t have to. He’ll figure it out.”

I bit my lip, unsure if I should ask my next questions. But when I thought of our conversation I felt like I needed to. “Are you sure you’re ready to go, Josie? Are you… are you gonna wear shoes, at least?”

Josie laughed. “Of course I’m gonna wear shoes, silly.”

She stood up and stretched her arms backwards, curving her body down. She looked like an acrobat and for a moment I thought she’d keep going and fold her body into itself in a way I never thought possible. But she righted herself and put her hands on her hips like a superhero.

“Of course I’m ready,” she said.

I nodded. Once I had that look about me. Once I was sure I could do something that sounded crazy to everyone else. Who was I to doubt her? Now it seemed like she’d been sitting on that couch preparing for this day since before I was born.

“Of course you are,” I said.

It felt like her questions were answered so I began to think of my own. I opened my palms and looked to them for the answers.

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Published in: on June 12, 2010 at 1:26 PM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You write well


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