It’s three in the morning, and the unthinkable has happened — we have run out of booze. That’s the downside of spontaneity; when we left the bar and impulsively decided to continue the night at your apartment, we underestimated our own staying power. We underestimated our anger, and our indulgent misery.
We are both nursing fresh wounds of the romantic variety. Each of us has just experienced the unambiguous conclusion of a love affair that, from its inception, was plotted out in junior high school doodles — a plump, curvy valentine heart, scored pitilessly through the middle by a jagged lightning bolt, like a neatly delineated road map — here the beginning, and there the end. This far, and no farther, and that’s what we get, I suppose, for deciding to fuck married men, and foreseen, forewarned, forearmed and all, you can never quite forebreak a heart in such a way that precludes bleeding.
It doesn’t help that we’ve both just been laid off from work. The firm where we met and worked for the past two years has downsized. Misfortunes come in threes, and maybe we are just trying to hasten the third one along, hoping that tomorrow’s vicious hangover will be it.
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In any event, yes, we are out of booze and neither of us is drunk or tired enough to call it a night. We are chain-smoking to beat the band, and then there are only two cigarettes left in your yellow pack of American Spirits — just enough to fuel our trip to the little bodega on your corner, the only open storefront we’ve seen tonight between your building and the Bedford Avenue subway station.
We totter into the shop, suppressing perverse giggles, trying to muster up some semblance of decorum for the benefit of the only other person in the store [- a slight Pakistani man who smiles politely at us from behind bulletproof glass. He has no need for our dissembling, he has had our number since the moment we walked in, all weaving skinny jeans and messed eyeliner, but it’s fun to pretend like hey, we’d better keep it together before we get the cops called on us. Because two tipsy white chicks really inspire such panicked protective measures.
We’re getting rather hungry as well; dinner was eight hours ago, and we grab sustenance at random — granola bars, bananas, and finally, giving up all pretense to healthy living, a box of Nilla wafers and a jar of Nutella. In the back of the store, we spy a display of bottles and let out a barely stifled whoop — it’s wine! Well, kind of. Chateau Diana Wine Product is what the label says, but it will do until the liquor stores open up, or we finally collapse.
Back in your apartment, the wine product is thin, meek and sweet. It goes down easy like a juice box on the playground on a hot day, and a quick inspection of the label tells us it is only 5 percent alcohol. Stronger stuff than this came out of the faucet in Soviet Russia. We slurp it down like water, sprawled out on the unmade futon in your living room.
We plug in your laptop and take turns looking up music tracks to play. We rotate through selections by Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Lou Reed; by Two Gallants, Blair Harvey, and the Pogues; Gram Parsons, Uncle Tupelo, and Tom Waits. Whenever you especially like a track, you insist on playing it several times in a row. We float through atmospheres — dive bar, opium den, downhome hootenanny. We linger on “Pale Blue Eyes,” for obvious reasons. We dance to “Take This Waltz” until it almost stops being sad.
We talk ceaselessly of our disappointments. Sometime before dawn, we admit that our egos probably hurt more than our hearts. We were never in love with the men, but with the selves that they brought out in us. Still, a loss is a loss. We hate them. We want them. We want to murder them. We wish we could speak to them. It occurs to us that the loss of our jobs inspires strangely parallel emotions.
It is morning, and there are Nilla crumbs everywhere. The refrigerator in the corner issues vaguely threatening grunts not unlike what you’d hear on the subway just before you notice the derelict playing with himself. The air in your apartment has gone blue with cigarette smoke. My eyes hurt. My mouth has grown fur, and I wash it out with a swig of wine product. You play “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” on an endless loop. The lyrics of the song are falling apart into individual phrases, almost meaningless sounds. You are the only one with whom I ever care to be this miserable.
It is, somehow, noon. We are, again, out of wine. Many Nutella-Nilla sandwiches notwithstanding, we are hungry. We go to the Mexican diner on your block and gorge ourselves on huevos rancheros, washed down with tall Bloody Marys. On the way back to your apartment, we see that the liquor store is open. In a fit of perversity, we decide to return to the bodega for more wine product. The proprietor greets us merrily. We love him.
Back in your apartment, we light cigarettes, pour glasses and play more songs. We put together a perfect playlist, and fall asleep immediately. When we wake up, it is just past eight o’clock. I call a cab and gather my stuff. I leave you with six cigarettes and half a bottle of Chateau Diana. Watching me leave from the futon, you fall asleep before I’ve closed the door.
There are many evenings in our future, and even more long conversations. We will enjoy many more glasses together, none of which will ever contain Chateau Diana wine product. But every time we see it, discreetly displayed in a store where almost nothing costs more than five dollars, we will exchange a smile, because even the shittiest wine goes well with friendship.
Renata Sokol once threw up in the Coney Island of the mind. She lives in Brooklyn, grudgingly.
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