Stories

Homesick – Ly Villmann

Mary wakes up in her bed with a start. She is certain there is something she is forgetting, or maybe it was just another drunk nightmare. The digital clock on the bedside table that once belonged to her grandmother is buzzing big and bright red, 4:47 PM. Her head feels like it’s stuffed full of sand. She reaches for the glass next to her bed, smells it. Tepid lite beer. She takes a drink anyways.
        Angeline is asleep on the couch in the living room, one tit hanging out of her camisole, drool pooling beneath her on the ratty brown cushion. The smell circulating the room is something like longing and rot, sweet and sickly at once. The old flickering tube tv is playing some kind of basic cable daytime talk show and the host is telling the disgruntled man sitting next to him that he cannot, should not be having sex with his aunt. Mary chuckles. She loves this shit. She turns it up and lights a cigarette, sits in between Angeline’s splayed legs, shakes the couch with her body until Angeline grumbles, “you motherfucker,” and pulls the crocheted throw pillow, turning yellow at the edges, over her head in protest.
        “Made you a white trash mimosa,” Mary says. “Hair of the dog,” and takes a long drink of her own.
        Angeline struggles to turn her body over with Mary sitting in between her legs. She accidentally kicks Mary in the face. “God damn you,” Mary shoots up so quickly the cherry of her cigarette falls off and lands on the tender meat of Angeline’s inner thigh, burning a hole before they can swipe it off into the couch that Mary has now realized is saturated with Angeline’s piss. Mary laughs, a loud cackling cough, but Angeline is scowling. She locks herself in the bathroom and Mary throws the wet cushions onto the little decrepit patio. The rain will come and wash them clean soon enough. She piles her grandmother’s quilts into the empty frame of the couch and resumes her seat. The tv host is explaining to the man the science behind not fucking your aunt and Mary is laughing, the sand in her held melting away into sugar clouds as she finishes her first screwdriver.
        Angeline comes out in a bathrobe, freshly showered. She sits next to Mary and lights up a cigarette herself. “You didn’t have to sit on me.”
        “You don’t have to sleep on my couch,” Mary countered. “You can go home to that husband of yours.”
        Angeline takes a long drink of her screwdriver, and then her face twists up into a smile, “yeah fucking right,” she snorts. Mary starts laughing too and they are soon a giggling heap of girls, one naked, one not. Angeline smells like coconut shampoo and cigarette smoke, it reminds Mary of her grandmother. Of home. They unscrew themselves from each other, huffing, and Mary hoists herself up from the cavern of the skeletal couch to make more screwdrivers. The sun has set now. Early evening pads the trailer park like chiffon and it sets Mary’s hangover anxiety at ease. She smiles out the little kitchen window and decides to bring the whole bottle to the living room. Angeline is sitting with her knees up and spread, bare pussy exposed to the tv through her bathrobe.
        “You slut,” Mary laughs and throws the blanket playfully over her.
        “You gotta air it out!” Angeline tosses the blanket off, waggles her hips at Mary, then puts her legs down and takes the bottle from her.
        “What’s tonight?” Mary asks.

By the time they’re headed downtown on the bus, Angeline is looking pallid, eyes drooping, head flopping towards the vibrating window, a line of drool stretching from her chin. She is already shitfaced, such a lightweight. But Mary needs her alert so she does a quick scan around them. There is no one else on the bus but an old lady up front with a rolling cart full of plastic bags filled with cans and bottles. The night is sliding past the bus windows, oily and thick and completely, resoundingly empty. So she reaches into her bag, fishes for the tiny baggie, sticks her finger in her mouth, and then dips it into the baggie. She sticks her white coated finger into Angeline’s mouth and runs it along her gums. She thinks of the brightly colored Fun Dip she used to eat as a child, eating the candy stick in two bites and then using her finger to scoop out the powder and deposit it into her gaping green mouth. Those days feel too far away now, like a wound that has never quite closed up. Mary squeezes her eyes shut until the image dissipates. Angeline opens her eyes wide, glassy black pupils staring into Mary’s own. “Shit,” she giggles, wiping the drool from her chin. They take turns pouring tiny mounds onto the backs of their hands and snorting them, heads bowed low, until the baggie is empty.

The Steam Room is a trashy nightclub inside an innocuous brick building tucked in between other innocuous brick buildings on factory row. The buildings, which were once abandoned and filled with squatters, have been bought for millions of dollars by rich white tech guys who moved here from California. They were converted into venues, galleries, and even lofts, and the homeless encampment has shifted to the edge of the block where the freeway runs overhead. The smell of piss intermingles with the smell of new bark chips. Sometimes Mary and Angeline score there before they go inside, but tonight, they don’t have any money. They like The Steam Room in particular because girls get in free before 11. This means the club will be full of women waiting for the men. The men will come looking for the women soon enough. They will come with wallets hung open, a gaping maw for the women to pluck from in exchange for a pound of flesh. A kind of violent, necessary symbiosis.

At 10:57 PM, the club is relatively empty. So the girls make a beeline for the green room. It is a small room that was once probably a storage room with a slanted ceiling and unfinished concrete floor. Mary can smell the Clorox and mildew beneath the Dragon’s Blood incense burning low in the corner. In an attempt to make it more glamorous, it is outfitted with a large Persian rug and two mismatched leather couches facing each other across a black Ikea coffee table. Vintage Playboy posters line the walls, unframed, edges curling from the damp. The room is bathed in pink light that softens the harsh corners of the room. Mary suddenly, almost violently remembers her preschool teacher, Miss Bean, who decorated her classroom like a fairy garden with pink light bulbs in all of the lamps. The image festers for a moment before she blinks it away. There is a small round table in the corner with bottles and plastic cups stacked on it. The girls help themselves to drinks and sit down on each couch, facing each other across the coffee table. A man wearing expensive sneakers designed to look perfectly worn-in wanders in. He scans the girls, sitting loosely in the couches as if they’re bored. “Who are you?” He asks, more curious than threatening. His voice isn’t tinged with the cotton of a good fade yet, but they can work with this. “Angel,” Angeline points to herself. “Mary,” she points to Mary across from her.
        “Pretty biblical,” the man guffaws and then takes his place next to Angeline, throwing an arm over her shoulders. The girls laugh too, like it’s the funniest joke they’ve ever heard, like they haven’t heard it every time they’ve met a new man to suck dry.

As the club is closing, the girls are out front sharing a cigarette before the lights come on, the mystery of the night sharply unveiled. They don’t like to witness it. The man with the sneakers comes out with a friend. His name is Mike and he introduces his friend as Phil. “Ready?” Mike asks. The girls nod and trail behind them, skipping and holding hands and giggling. This is part of their gimmick. Rain has started to mist overhead as they follow the boys into a parking garage. Phil has an immaculately white Range Rover with windows tinted so dark it feels like a cave inside. Before they set off, Mike hands them each clear capsules filled with dirty white crystals. They open the caps and put the crystals under their tongues, shiver at the bitterness until Mike hands them a bottle of sweet rum. The drive feels endless, the streetlamps on the freeway pass in meteor blips, pulsing in and out as the drugs begin to kick in. Mary thinks that she would rather stay in this car on the road forever than go to wherever they’re headed next. She thinks of sitting in the back of her grandmother’s old station wagon on rainy evenings after Bingo at the church. The car humming across town, smelling of Palo Santo and tobacco. Angeline is leaning her head on Mary’s shoulder, her jaw tensing and untensing as she grinds her teeth. Mary sticks a piece of gum in her mouth and they laugh, laugh, laugh. The boys are laughing too. Everybody knows what’s coming and everybody is ready.

The apartment is a high-rise on the other side of the river with a concierge who calls them sir and ma’am and unlocks the elevator with a golden key so they can go up. It is so gaudy it almost makes Mary gag, but she masks it by smacking her gum and smiling wide, her perfect teeth with the tiny white fangs boys love to tease her about until she draws blood. They can see all of downtown from the balcony windows which reach from floor to ceiling and side to side. The city twinkles and spins tight spirals and Mary takes her time there, looking for home. Her grandmother took her to places like this all the time. “It’s good to feel small,” she had told her. There isn’t much inside the apartment but a couch, a dirty glass-top coffee table, and an extremely large television mounted on the wall. Before long, the buzzer is singing a high-pitched wail and Phil runs downstairs to greet whoever’s at the door. Mike is cutting lines across the top of the coffee table, rolling up a hundred dollar bill. Angeline is sitting with one arm resting on his shoulder, breathing at the soft spot where the back of his ear and neck meet.

Sometime just after 3 AM, Mary is letting Phil finger her on the balcony while she smokes a cigarette, his hand slipped up her skirt as she sits on his lap. It doesn’t feel like much of anything but she can feel his nails, untrimmed, scraping inside of her slightly. The city spins and spins and distorts through the smoke from her cigarette and if she weren’t so high, she’d be bored out of her goddamn mind. A man stands over them in the darkness and she pulls her skirt down. The man says, “I think your sister needs you, she’s in the bathroom.” Sister? Mary wonders and saunters over to the bathroom which feels more like swimming upright, she lets her arms float out around her. She is warm and soft and still somehow impenetrable. She knocks on the bathroom door and she can hear a gulping that jolts her out of the water of her high. She opens the door to find Angeline plastered against the wall as if pinned there, arms bent unnaturally at the elbows, knees jutting up and out like wayward roots, underwear a shock of neon pink against the black of her tube skirt, riding up her waist. Mouth opening and closing wordlessly like a fish out of water. Her eyes are bulging as they search, wildly, around the bathroom. “Jesus,” Mary gasps and slams the door behind her. “What the fuck did you take?” But Angeline doesn’t see her. She is twisting her head left to right, left to right, eyes overtaken by oily black pupils, unseeing but still searching. Mary unscrews Angeline’s arms from the wall, holds them at her side, lowers her face to meet hers, “what. Did. You. Take,” she asks again, desperate. Angeline makes eye contact with her for a brief moment, frowns, and then takes a big, shuddering breath before searching over, around, behind Mary’s head again.
        Mary tears out of the bathroom, looks for Mike. He is sitting on the couch, now occupied by an unnatural redhead who has her hand on his cock. Mary can see the hard ridge of it against his pants. “What did you give her?” She demands to know.
        It takes Mike a second to register her standing there, caught up in the ecstasy of the redhead and the drugs. “What?”
        “Angel. What did you give her?”
        “What she wanted, sweetpea” he shrugs the redhead off and stands to meet Mary’s eyes, a sneer lights across his face. “A real high.”
        Mary is vibrating, with fear or anger, she isn’t sure. They taste the same in her mouth. Before she understands what is happening to her body, the water of her high is rushing in and her fist is slicing a hole through it, making contact with Mike’s face. He is falling back onto the couch and the redhead is screaming and scuttling backwards against the arm of the couch. She looks like a crab, seeking solace against a rock face. She feels a pressure at the back of her head. Phil has her hair in a knot in his fist. “Cunt,” he snarls. The room has gone quiet, like all the air has been sucked out of it. Mary can’t even hear the music over the blood in her ears. “Get your sloppy friend and get the fuck out.”

Outside the high rise, the concierge gives Mary a pitying look as he locks the door behind them. Angeline is slumped against Mary as she tries to make out exactly where they are. They don’t spend much time across the river. Her phone is dead and Angeline’s is password protected. Stupid, she thinks to herself. She knows better than this. The only thing she can do now is start walking. The sky is lighter now, the color of soot. Angeline is missing a shoe so her pale bare foot drags across fresh puddles as Mary hobbles under her weight. Even with Angeline draped over her, Mary is cold as fuck. Her fake leather jacket barely holds up against the predawn chill of October. She finds the I-5 South entrance and drags Angeline down it, making sure to stay on the wide shoulder.
        On the side of the freeway, sitting in the patch of wet grass next to where she dropped a now-fully unconscious Angeline, shivering as the dawn pools in, Angeline’s phone is buzzing in her pocket. Mary pulls it out, hoping against hope that it’s someone she knows. Scott. Scott is calling. She has a maximum of 8 seconds to decide what to do. Angeline would be pissed if she knew Mary was considering taking his call, asking him for help. But it has to be something like 38 degrees and they are miles from home and Angeline is passed out and Mary’s high is fading fast, giving way to the bite of a hangover, vicious and total.
        20 minutes later, Scott pulls up in his old pickup truck. Its rumbling is so familiar to Mary that she feels like crying. Inside the cab it is warm and smells like fresh-cut cedar and Old Spice. Scott has brought blankets and paper cups of hot black coffee for them. He lifts Angeline in one fell-swoop and lays her across the back bench as Mary settles into the passenger seat, wrapped in a blanket and shoving her face into the open mouth of the coffee, willing its heat into her.
        “How long?” Scott asks quietly as they are gliding down the freeway. The day has lightened to a soft shade of gray. “How long is this going to go on?”
        “What do you mean?” Mary asks him, but she knows what he means. The shame hangs so heavy in her she can’t bear it. The tendons in his arm tense as he grips the wheel tighter, his jaw clicks softly as he grinds his teeth against each other. This is the only violence Scott is capable of and Mary thinks of it in contrast to the raised fists and ugly words from the men she has loved.
        When Scott drops her off at her trailer, the couch cushions are soaked from the night’s rain. Still, the whole porch smells faintly of Angeline’s piss. Mary thanks him and slides inside, turning the radiator on high, falling asleep in the skeletal crook of the couch as the host on the tv tells the disgruntled man sitting next to him that he is the father.