Morning is a long way away, eyes fluttering open, skin hot and prickly, head spinning sick, black thoughts feeding a growing anxiety.
You get to know the shape of darkness when sleep is evasive, the tilt of shadows, the hourly shift change outside the windows from nocturnal creatures to early risers.
Before birds stir, surfers pass by the bungalow, indistinguishable shadows against the dark, epoxy crescents glowing beneath sheathed arms.
It’s not warm enough to trunk it in the Pacific, not yet.
Sometimes I can smell their neoprene suits, musty dampness layered with the pungent odor of youth, can hear them comparing yesterday’s waves like pilots do landings.
But morning is a long way away.
CHAPTER 1: Alex
A weight shifted on the bed that was not my own and I stirred, then blinked, my lashes thick with medicated sleep.
Dark eyes peered down at me, a cigarette dipped lazily between full lips. The girl contemplated me as if considering whether to mark my forehead with a kiss or the cherry of her cigarette Ash Wednesday style.
But this place is far from holy grounds and this girl could make a priest blush.
She dragged on her cigarette, removed it and leaned down, full lips trailing smoke against my ear, “Welcome to Dysfunction Junction.”
I blink again and the girl is gone. Maybe she was never even there.
The dim memories of yesterday rose like a minnow on a lake surface, setting off a ripple that stretched back decades. I feel it coming and press it back into the deep pool of my mind from whence it came until it drifted and divided into ebony eyes, taunting me down into nothingness.
CHAPTER 2: Tanya
Tanya watched the new girl sleep– What was her name? She looked so peaceful. Of course, who wouldn’t after the valium cocktail they give in detox.
Perhaps because her own dreams are filled with the waking nightmares of crack addiction, Tanya does not sleep.
She took a drag on her cigarette and stared into a past only she could see. Trunks stacked with Rodeo Drive treasures stood like sentinels against the stained walls of rehab, all that remained to bear witness to the stark reality of a life gone horribly awry.
The former wife of a famed singer, Tanya was squatting a foreclosed mansion she had long lost the right to live in with a handful of homeless hangers-on who were prostituting her any way they could to get what needed to be gotten.
A deal was struck with the now former husband’s manager to get them out and get her help. The whole troupe was generously dumped at the rehab center. Within a matter of weeks all were reabsorbed by the streets that birthed them, save Tanya.
She never talks about those days and it would be easy to believe it‘s all a fabrication of bored addicts craving fantastical lives–
She can‘t possibly be that Tanya.
Oh yes, that Tanya who breathed rock star status, kidnapped a doe-eyed college student with her famous husband, kept her shackled in the master walk-in and pumped her full of drugs and sexual fantasies.
She gathered her legs beneath her and crossed the distance to Alex’ bed in two strides, moving with the easy grace of a chestnut filly.
Tanya fingered the tag on her suitcase, the one dropped off yesterday.
She’s asleep again, her lashes curving delicately against lightly freckled cheeks.
Arrived in a limo, they said. Tanya doesn’t really give two shits how Miss Thing here fell from grace.
They all did eventually.
Yet, looking at her she felt a twinge, something she hadn’t felt for so long she can’t even begin to define it. Later, she’d discuss it with her therapist and be surprised at what she discovered but now all she can say for certain is, this girl has never seen the streets.
It has a way of marking you.
Even if your clothes came from Rodeo Drive or the Neiman Marcus fall line up, it had a way of creeping up beneath like rotten vegetables under Chanel #5. It’s stamped all over Sam, she can smell it on Cat, but Elise and Beth don’t have it.
Neither does this girl.
Never seen the streets.
“Yea,” she said softly, unaware she’s even speaking out loud. “I never thought I would either…”
Tanya considered her the way one might a painting in a museum exhibit, unsure what exactly to make of it. She reached over and traced Alex’ lips softly with her fingertips, allowing them to linger…
“What the hell are you doing?”
Sam stood in the doorway, a cherub faced former crack addict with a shock of white blond hair surfboard waxed into a pixie. She wore a tight black t-shirt with Make Me scrawled across it.
Her arms are laced with cutting scars and various tattoos of scriptural quotes as if just maybe she could instill self-love through yet another needle, so out of place with her soft features it gave her the look of a fallen angel.
“I’m not sleeping next to a corpse tonight,” Tanya said, straightening. “As if…” she granted Sam an icy stare, “It’s any of your fucking business.”
Sam’s face tightened. “I’ll be downstairs,” she said, leaving abruptly.
Tanya smiled. She scooped up a worn leather satchel draped on the shared desk and left the room in the manner she was accustomed, like silk moving across bare skin.
Dysfunction Junction © 2020 Valerie Heidt
All rights reserved