Nicolle Elizabeth

They Do and They Don't

Margo went and met her father. She’s talking about it, but I’m not listening. I’m thinking about the recon mission. I’m here on a recon because I fucked up. Last winter, before she and Jon broke up, in an effort to save their relationship, Jon asked me if I would have a three way with them.

“She just, like…I can't be what she needs. She really is gay.” He shoved a fry in his mouth, chewed.

“Okay,” I had said, knowing my friend wasn't going to save his relationship.

It was sexy, sort of like I was offered. I was an offering on a mattress moonlighting as an altar. For hours this room became a prayer booth and I elevated and watched us from the ceiling. This was also my fuck-up: I'd gotten too involved in somebody else's relationship.

Now, the day before Christmas, the first Christmas Margo and Jon will spend apart in seven years, she has asked me to come visit her. I’m taking this as an opportunity for recon, to tell her to make up with her ex-boyfriend.

“My father sent me this package.” She points from under her covers to a package unopened on her mattress.

Margo and I don't know each other all that well. She’s been my friend's girlfriend all these years, and I had ended up sleeping with her in an effort to save my friend’s relationship. This has been how I’ve thought of her.

“Well, how'd he get your address?” I ask her.

“I gave it to him,” she says, pulling the blanket closer to her cheek.

“When was that?” I peruse her bookshelf, now listening.

“When I went to see him,” she says.

“I thought you didn't know him,” I say.

“Right,” she says.

She has mostly art textbooks. I should have mentioned that she's a painter. A really good one. She has some poets. MacNeice.

“I literally found him on Facebook,” she says.

“And then you met up with him?” I ask her.

“I flew to Kentucky.” She reaches for water on her nightstand.

“Does Jon know about this?” I ask her.

“No, it was during our break-up. Actually, he thinks I was at, like, a dude's place.” She sips water.

“Wow,” I answer, thinking about my friend, boiling in jealousy, melting into a puddle of soup and draining into the ocean, over this woman going to meet her father.

“He like, can't be convinced otherwise. Which is like, I mean, how can I explain that? I found my father on Facebook and flew to Kentucky to stay the weekend.” She rolls over.

“During like, your break-up,” I say to her.

“Let's cuddle,” she says to me.

“I can't,” I sit on her bed.


“Because you just broke up with one of my best friends,” I say to her. Coldly.

“Then like why are you here?” She sits up, sips more water, answers me cold right back.

“You told me to come here,” I say, looking at her bookshelf.

“My father sent me this package,” she says.

“Should we open it?” I ask her.

“I can't,” she says to me.

“Did you, like, tell him about your life?” I ask her.

“I stayed in a hotel. We met in a parking lot. We had lunch. He has an accent like from New Orleans. He has a woman he calls his partner. She's sick. It's why they're in Kentucky. She has an actual iron lung.” Margo wipes under her eyes.

“She lives in a compression chamber?” I look at the package.

“She goes in it six hours a day. It's in their house.” She reaches for a tissue, blows her nose.

“What's it look like?” I ask her. “Jon doesn't know about any of this?” I suddenly do have an urge to hold her, but refrain from it.

“She carves jewelry out of stones when she's not in the iron lung. She turns quartz into crosses.” She runs her hand through her hair.

“Are you sending it back?” I gesture toward the package.

“Spoon with me,” she says.

“No,” I tell her again.

The point of my coming, from my perspective, is a recon mission. The plan is to tell her that Jon still loves her, and to possibly slip out quietly. But now I’m opening packages from a father found on Facebook.

“I need a drink,” I tell her.

She drags herself out of bed, slumps into her boots. I throw water on my face in the bathroom.

The bar is packed. It’s a Friday night in Fort Green, and the entire Pratt campus is out to get wasted and rub up on each other. We sit on stools at the far end of the countertop, and I order a beer. She gets something fruity. I hate that I have slept with a woman who orders fruity drinks. Get bourbon, be someone else.

We sit and all I can smell is snow sweeping in and out of the closing and opening door and the carved wooden benches in the walls. My cell phone is glowing on the bar because it’s Jon calling, probably wanting to know if we can get fries so that he can talk about how much he misses her, and here she is, surrounded by strangers, asking a bartender to open a package from her father she’s pulling out of her purse.


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