Stories

1-800-LYF-LINE – Vivi Hayes

Sera is a textbook wet blanket, the dull and uninspiring type, a moment in her company grating as a seventeen-year-old crust punk’s Bandcamp-exclusive debut EP. No, uninspiring is the wrong word, she inspires pity and nausea. She’s the embodiment of the hours the competent high school kids waste meekly in wait as the less adept complete their SAT exams. Itching to kill the dimwits so they can go home and sleep. C’s the one who invites her out to Girls’ Night, Sera doesn’t understand why she even goes. The crucial inquiries have always evaded her grasp, skipping like a schoolgirl far beyond her cognitive reach. Yo Sera’s so stupid she doesn’t even notice that the important questions are always floating far away. 
        Every night is Girls’ Night. A hates this bar, she’d prefer something more daring and risque, Moscow mules by candlelight. She yearns for somewhere edgier, but she’d even settle for the kind of place that torches dessert at your table, crème brûlée. Her two sisters dig the spot, an unsexy cocktail bar called Sunny’s, she’s outnumbered. Sunny’s is the kind of brightly lit yuppie joint that emphasizes the perpetual detachment she feels in every place. Every time she crosses the threshold, past the door guy, she wants nothing more than to keel over and die. Just when she thinks that the evening couldn’t possibly get worse, the song “Helena Beat” comes on. Before you know it, it’s gone and you’re dead again. Sera comments that she loves this song, of course. This moment aside, A’s the most indifferent about Sera’s frequent presence. The sisters are to blame for Sera’s shit life and her vexing ways. It feels like just yesterday they spun Sera’s coil, measuring out a thread as long as theirs in an impish experiment. Although she doesn’t feel the same sympathy or culpability her sisters do, A’s got a great command of social decorum. C was thinking she’d set her guilt aside, that they’d hold the next Girls’ Night sans Sera, but A mandates that Sera’s invitation remain. The lab rat stays. A is permanently cloaked in a veil of politesse; she is both The Perfect Hostess and The Judge. Someone more vapid might dub it Older Sister Syndrome. 
        L’s got the most time on her hands, so despite her left-brain antics, she’s always setting the agenda, bringing every point of contention in a spiral notebook. They haven’t told A yet but they’ve got a wild project in the works, one so daring they cannot discuss it on their podcast, 1-800-LYF-LINE, like they typically would. Everyone listens to 1-800-LYF-LINE. It’s the most streamed podcast in the city, even though no one understands what it’s about. Even Sera listens to it. Ask anyone what it’s about and they throw around trite explanations, “It’s performance art,” “It’s a creative force,” “It navigates the intricacies of the young professional experience,” “It’s new age comedy,” “IDK but the one with the raspy voice sounds hot AF.” 
        The podcast was L’s idea.  She revels in the sound of her own voice. Endowed with the most free time, she spends her days resenting her role, believing it to be the least important. She couldn’t give the slightest shit about how many trials you face in life, nor its length, often she decides with a Hey Siri. Pick a number between one and one hundred. She eagerly anticipates Singularity. She imagines at that point, their respective roles would converge in insignificance. The podcast, on the other hand, is something she handles with gravitas. Fuck the ramblings on Cybertrucks and lab-grown meats. Her ideas are far more important than any current headline. She’s been thinking of recruiting guests. She thought Dr. Fauci on the show could be funny, but his representatives never got back to her. She’s currently gunning for Sam Bankman-Fried, incarcerated. He’s another project that stemmed from their ennui. Finding guests remains a fruitless effort- no one will ever be a guest because no one understands 1-800-LYF-LINE. Anyone who aims to get on the show, under whatever meaning they assign to it, could only be the worst type of person: The pseudo-intellectual. 
        C is the weak stomach of the bunch. Although she’s the coddled and inexperienced little sister, her contribution is as crucial as the rest. She holds great pride in her work, albeit her spacey nature, often she’s tormented by the fraying threads of the world. It’s only easy to forget about the fraying bunch if you distract yourself with the winners. She watches Entertainment Tonight whenever she’s at her work desk- a shag carpet where she spends countless hours hunched over her loom. Look at Jennifer Connelly. A strong and shiny thread of silk. This sort of perfection pacifies her inner turmoil about the lesser bobbins.
        A baby was born two days ago at Mount Sinai. Although no longer coated in vernix he is still too fresh and pink, it takes a trained eye to spot his supremacy. C knows immediately that she’s spun a good one. Seeing him in the hospital, she feels pride in her work, he’s going to be a total Smokeshow one day. C and L decide he will be the next Jim Morrison, although his looks will lean more toward Gavin Rossdale’s. His fleeting strain of beauty earns him a page in the notebook, titled Jim Morrison 2.0. L flips to the page she worked on with C pre-Girls’ Night. 
        C’s quieter than normal, plagued by a headache from staying up late, spinning. She’s known to procrastinate. Thankfully, she’s already written out the basics for Baby Jim some months ago. 
        “Rockstar, sex god, tortured artist. Anything missing?”
        “Sounds great”, says L. “I’m soaked already.”
        “Have some couth L,” A implores through her vocal fry, “the next time you get aroused by a project I’m leaving.” 
        L suggests they put him in the Twenty-seven Club.
        “No. He’s gotta go earlier. Before twenty-five. Think James Dean. He’s forever beautiful right? You don’t want him to look like Jim at the end.”
        “I don’t want that mental image. I need another drink.” C heads for the bar. This part doesn’t fall under her jurisdiction. 
        “He is Baby Jim though.”
        A is frustrated by L’s sloth. “He’s supposed to be inspired by Jim. He’s not Jim. He’s a different guy. New.”
        “Noted. How are you cutting this one?”
        “OD.”
        “I’ll measure it to twenty-four, just promise me no alcohol, no Lean. I want him to die toned and perfect.” C returns and she’s the first to notice Sera’s pale, bewildered expression.
        “Wait. What? You guys are gonna kill Jim Morrison?”
        “Jim Morrison’s been dead for a minute, Sera.”
        “I mean, you guys are gonna kill some guy?”
        “Obviously not, Sera. The drugs are gonna kill him.”
        “Wait. I’m confused, are you giving him the drugs?”
        “Do you really think we’re going to start dope dealing in twenty-four years? We’ll still be busy with the podcast.” 
        “Wait. Are you guys fucking with me?” They don’t feel the need to fuck with Sera. They’ve fucked her over enough as is. Mocking her is devoid of entertainment, it’s only bleak. 
        “No, Sera. This is for the pod.”
        “Oh sorry, right. So this is all just a story for the pod?”
        “Sure”, “Yeah”, “Exactly.” 
        “Wow, that’s something. Wow. Imaginative.” 
        At this point an incredibly pregnant woman waddles over, clutching an overpriced mocktail between her swollen fingers. A feels sickened by the sight of pregnant women, they are worse to her than the yuppies. She cannot place why. 
        “Hi. I wanted to say hi. I won’t talk your head off for too long. I love the pod. I’m having a baby girl, maybe you could line up something cool for her, for me. If you haven’t already. I’m a Tier One patron. Not to imply you owe me anything, I just really admire you all. Have a nice night girls. Amor Fati.” 
        Their collective minds spin turbulently to comprehend this encounter, like a spool on a sewing machine. 1-800-LYF-LINE has been on for years. This woman is, as far as they know, the first to understand it. Did they weave this moment? They don’t recall. Maybe her baby should be Audrey Hepburn 2.0. No. A decides she can’t be. 
        “No one with poise would come up to us and plead like that. I see past her niceties, that was an effort reeking of desperation. Totally gauche move. Plus, she hangs out here. God-awful place. She’s bursting at the seams.” L agrees. With a mother like that, the baby won’t have a lick of grace. She’s fucked. She’s going to be the next JWoww. 
        Miles away from Girls’ Night, Jim Morrison 2.0 squirms against his mother’s chest. Her skin is garnished with goosebumps from the brisk and aseptic hospital air. A tickling loose thread on his left sock makes it impossible for him to fall asleep.