Savannah Lamb is originally from Western Massachusetts, and currently lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with her fiancé. She works in academic publishing.
You wouldn’t have known there was a methadone clinic around the other side of Cammy’s office building, unless you needed to use the smoking area. Cammy did (on occasion) need to use the smoking area. It was a hot summer morning, and her hair was straightened into a tight ponytail. Her face was soft and lunar, even though she had just turned 31. She wore a black blazer, black pants and black loafers without socks. She looked like an exclamation mark. She lit a cigarette and scrolled Twitter on her iPhone, stopping to look across the empty parking lot at an overgrown thicket of trees. “Cammy?” It was Josh, her ex-boyfriend from high school. Fuck. She hadn’t seen him in years. “Josh – I can’t believe it’s you!” He went in for a hug. It was a weak one. He was wearing a white tee shirt splattered with paint, and jeans with work boots, with the shoelaces purposely untied and tucked in under the tongue. “Do you work here?” he waved a hand-rolled cigarette towards the glass entryway behind them which was painted with blue text: New Horizons Treatment Services. “Yeah…not here, but in the building. The community coalition. We’re on the third floor.” “Very cool. What do you do there?” “Client relationship manager.” “I don’t know what that means.” “Me neither!” He laughed at her little joke. “What are you up to these days?” “Working for my dad, painting houses.” “That must be worse in the summer.” She didn’t know what else to say. “You got that right. Speaking of which, aren’t you boiling in that?” Again, pointing with his cigarette. Sweat pooled up beneath her arms, as if summoned. “They keep our office fucking freezing all year round. It’s awful.” “I guess you have a lot of men in suits, huh?” “Exactly.” “Let me give you my new number.” She handed him her phone, and he typed it in. This is his old number, she thought, embarrassed that she remembered it so clearly. He must have deleted hers. “I have to run back inside,” she said. “It was nice to see you.” Another hug and she went back inside the building. She walked through the methadone clinic, then through the DMV to the third floor. She was sad to have seen him there. But heroin use was so pervasive around Pittsfield that she wasn’t surprised anymore. In the past decade or so, it wasn’t uncommon for her to see a Facebook post from an old classmate like Kayla Lankler announcing she was going to rehab (“Have sum shit to work on, thx to my friends and family”) or Dominic Rankin announcing he was going to jail for possession (“I’ve made mistakes”). She’d begun to make a habit of reading the local obituaries. “You’ve been awfully quiet today.” Andy was standing over her desk. She was Cammy’s closest friend in the office, and about her age. “We’re planning on going out for happy hour tomorrow. Are you down?” “Sure. It sounds fun.” During the drive home, she couldn’t stop wondering how Josh starting using heroin. Was it at their old friend Chris’s house? With his father, who’d had his own struggles? These thoughts were interspersed with memories that made her blush: the drunk, giggly things they did to each other after prom, his hand over her mouth at his mom’s house so that they wouldn’t get caught. Don’t text him, she thought. Her studio apartment on the third floor of a turn-of-century farmhouse, which had been the attic of the building. It was retrofitted with a bathroom and a kitchenette in the Seventies. In lieu of a kitchen counter, a wooden table had been bolted to the wall in-between the refrigerator and a teal stove with two burners. It was the first place she’d ever lived alone: in college and for all the years afterwards, it had been one awful roommate after another. She loved the studio apartment: it was only big enough for one person to be there at a time comfortably, as if it had been built exclusively for her. She knew she was going to text him, but first, she smoked weed out of a bowl that she had left, with the lighter, on the bedside table. Then she made her bed, which seemed like more work than necessary, but the apartment was so claustrophobic with an unmade bed. hi, it’s Cammy, she texted. it was great to see you today. Text bubble ellipses. He was typing. Hey! So good to see you too! it’s been so long. i can’t believe it. glad to see that you’re doing well for yourself. It HAS been so long! I would love to meet up and catch up sometime! By then, she could feel the weed rushing to her head and making her sentimental. She sprung off her bed and picked up a Lemon Verbana candle. She saw her phone light up again but instead got her Macbook and opened Facebook to do some necessary research. She typed up his name into the search bar and went to his profile pages. There weren’t a lot of recent tagged photos of Josh, which was not atypical of acquaintances who were on drugs. Her own tagged Facebook photos were mostly unflattering shots of her at birthday parties and baby showers. There was a photo of Josh at the Dead & Co. show at Citi Field the summer before: a group of men with no women in sight. Another photo showed him splitting wood for his mom’s woodstove last spring. This told her nothing. Then a couple of group party shots where Josh’s arm was around a small brunette, but the photo was nearly two years old. She laid on stomach on her bed and opened up Josh’s text on her phone: are you seeing anyone? Nope, single. You? me too. She went to take a shower to fully appreciate this moment and stave off the desire to text him back right away. She stood in the steamy heat with her eyes closed for a long time, having fantasies about their upcoming date. The next morning, she slept through her alarm and rushed out of the house to get to work. She walked over to the front entrance to the building and was stopped by a huge padlock with chains and a note taped to the glass: “The Pittsfield DMV is currently closed for construction. For access to the building, please enter through the New Horizons Treatment Services.” She was going to be even later! She walked around to the other side of the building, entered New Horizons. Of course she didn’t have a problem with walking through the methadone clinic, but her coworkers would. At least Andy was later than she was; she came storming in and slammed her purse on her desk. “I can’t believe we have to walk through a fucking methadone clinic to get into work.” “I know, right?” Cammy pretended to do work for as long as possible, but she was starving and un-caffeinated, so she went downstairs to the snack kiosk and bought a cup of black coffee and a donut. When she got back to her desk, it was already 10:15 AM. She had successfully wasted a lot of time. She was looking forward to happy hour, after all. Around lunchtime, she went down for a cigarette. “Hey, Cammy!” It was Josh. Fuck. She was surprised to see him, but of course you had to go to the methadone clinic every day. She flushed in the face, having been caught with ratty un-brushed hair. “So when are we going to have our date?” “I’m so sorry I didn’t text you back last night! I completely fell asleep.” “Oh sure, sure,” he said. “I have heard that excuse before.” “No, it’s true! I do still want to go out and catch up.” “What about tonight?” “I can’t tonight. Office Happy Hour. What about this weekend?” “This weekend. We’ll do dinner. Do you still like Mario’s?” “Mario’s would be great. Thank you for understanding. I’m looking forward to it.” Godammit, I sound like an email signature, she thought. She and her coworkers went to an Irish pub called Waterloo Sunset, a five-minute walk. “Can I ask you something?” Andy said. “Did you meet a guy down there today at the methadone clinic? I saw you talking to someone when I went out for lunch.” “Oh, I already know him. I mean, we went to high school together. He’s my ex-boyfriend.” “Wow. That’s even worse. I mean…no judgement. I was just confused.” What did she mean by that? Cammy thought, face flushed with embarrassment. Waterloo Sunset had room after room of shouting men watching sports and women Cammy recognized from the other businesses, decked out in Marc Jacobs flats. The floor was sticky with spilled beer. In the backroom, her coworkers were drinking vodka sodas and IPAs, talking about their summer vacations and traffic. “This year has been terrible,” Her coworker Greg said to her. “And everyone in there is acting like it’s all fine. What a joke!” He was already trashed and in a bad mood. “I guess so but I can never tell.” Her job title as client relationship manager was essentially a sales position, cloaked in community-focused nonprofit jargon. The product she was selling was the opportunity for other businesses to sponsor the community coalition’s events or attach their name to specific scholarships etc. In the past year or so, the company had also decided to restructure the team so that there was more oversight over customer meetings and phone calls from the top down. Her coworkers hated that, but she didn’t see any problem in it. Most companies have complete oversight over sales activities. But people hate change. “You’ll see soon enough, Cammy. And now – on top of all of this, we have to walk past a bunch of junkies on our way into the office? That’s rich!” She had been working there for five years. Was she wasting her youth at this company? Were these people not even really her friends? She had learned the hard way that the answers to these questions could not be “Yes” or “No,” and they changed depending on any given situation. Their significance depended on the consequences of an unpredictable future. She thought of it like the crystal that hung on a string in her apartment window which when hit by the sunlight in a specific, brief way, would project a rainbow onto the wall. Her manager Glenda bought a round of tequila shots for everyone and yelled, “To Waterloo Sunset!” Cammy waked outside by herself and lit a cigarette. She was crying. She wiped away snot from her nose with the back of her hand. Fuck. what are you up to? She texted Josh. Just hanging out, watching the ball game. I thought you were having drinks? its boring. Come hang out. I’m at Waterloo Sunset. Figured he’d be here. Cammy found him at the bar, where he was looking behind him for her. She put her arms around his shoulders from behind. “Miss, do you want anything?” “A Guinness, please. Thank you.” Josh had a cloudy pink beverage in a martini glass in front of him. “A cosmopolitan?” she said. “Are you serious?” “I only like girly drinks now. I think it’s the sugar.” “You’re funny.” “So you like Guinness?” “Yeah, I guess I don’t want to take a chance on anything new and liquor goes straight to my head.” “Oh, I remember.” “Please, we were teenagers!” “So you still drink?” She hadn’t meant it to come out like that. “Oh yeah, I do – not too, too much though. I probably overdo it once a year or so. I smoke weed, too. That’s okay you asked. I’m not using anymore, and I’m not planning to any time soon.” “I was wondering. I’m not judging you. How long was it?” “You mean like when did I start? It wasn’t when I was with you, if that’s what you were worried about. A lot has happened in the last couple of years.” “It has for me, too,” she said. They fell silent and she heard men yelling at the TV, a dropped glass breaking on the floor, and “Hey, should we get another shot?” “So happy hour was boring?” he said. “That’s too bad.” “Yeah. They were kind of being assholes, too.” “Being an asshole to you? I can’t imagine.” “When you know people for long enough, sometimes they get too comfortable around you.” “I have a couple of those in my life. You go out trying to have a good time and your friends are…being themselves.” “To assholes being themselves,” she said and they clinked glasses. “Wait. Are you with anyone? I don’t want to take you away from whoever you were hanging out with.” “No, not tonight.” “I’m surprised I haven’t seen you here before. I come here a lot with my coworkers. I guess it can get pretty crowded.” “Well, I actually just moved back to Pittsfield last year. I was living in Lake Tahoe for a couple of years.” “That must be so different.” “It’s similar to the Berkshires in certain ways. I followed a friend out there after college and just stuck around. Good hiking, nice people, and great weed. But anything can get old after a while.” “Do you want to go have a cigarette?” “Yeah, let’s go.” He put coasters on top of their glasses, and they walked out of the bar. It was dark outside, and the air was hot and still. There was a fresh patch of vomit by the ashtray and angry Uber drivers waiting in their Subarus. When she lit up her cigarette, tears welled up in her eyes. She reminisced about similar summer nights in the past and how hard she had worked the last couple of years. The crying jag earlier had an uncorked effect on her. Once she started crying, it was easier to start again. She wiped the tears away, and now they were gone. “Do you want to head over to my place for a bit?” he said. “Just to listen to some music and talk.” “That sounds great.” It was a short drive and too dark to see anything. He parked in the driveway of a small yellow house with a front porch. “Oh, this is so nice,” Cammy said. “You live here by yourself?” “I share it with my brother, but he’s out of town.” The front door opened up to the brick fireplace, a leather couch and a large TV and shelves full of books. To the left of the fireplace, there was a clean but empty kitchen. “Do you want anything to drink?” “I’m okay,” she said, standing but the door. She looked at her iPhone. It was already one in the morning.” “Let’s go to my room. I have something in there I want to show you.” She followed him into a room behind the kitchen: a big wooden bed with a Mexican blanket, a bedside table with an empty pack of Marlboros and an alarm clock, a half-empty bookshelf, a desk and chair, a stereo, and some clothes on the floor. She sat on the bed and swung her feet like a kid. There was a photo on the bedside table of a toddler with blonde curly hair, wearing a gingham shirt. “Who’s that?” “That’s my daughter, Elise.” “I didn’t know you had a daughter.” “Yeah, sorry – I thought I had mentioned it. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.” “That’s great. I love that. I saw a photo of you and a woman on Facebook. Brown hair? Really small? Is she the mother? They kind of look alike.” “Ah, yes, yes she is. Her name’s Destiny.” “I thought she was just a friend by the photo.” “Well, we are friends.” “What did you want to show me?” She felt sober by now but she knew she’d had enough beer to have a headache tomorrow. She opened the drawer of the bedside table, and pulled out a piece of notebook paper with a big coffee stain on it. “I guess I just carry around those boxes of miscellaneous paper with me. And most of it’s junk – but this, I just found it recently and it was nice to read.”
Josh, When I met you, I was so happy because I found someone who is like me! We are both pretty peculiar, I would say. But I mean it in a good way. You always make me laugh with your weird expressions! I literally sometimes don’t even know what you’re talking about. But sometimes it makes me sad that I know you, too. Because I love you, and if we for some reason can’t be together, I will go my whole life missing you and I could never love anyone else. It’s true. <3, Cammy “Well. I was certainly dramatic.” “Weren’t we all at that age?” “I was crazy about you.” “I was crazy about you, too.” He sat next to her on the bed and touched her hair. They kissed. He shut off the light and locked the door, even though they were alone in the house. “You can sleep over if you want,” he said when they were done, and smoking cigarettes in bed. She hadn’t smoked inside since high school and it had a decadent feeling to it. “I think I’m going to go home.” She put out her cigarette, sick of it already, stood up and found her pants on the floor. He sat up in bed. “This isn’t because of Elise, is it? I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” “No, I had a lovely time. I just want to sleep in my own bed.” “I get that.” “She’s really beautiful,” Cammy said. Outside, she called an Uber. Her driver didn’t say a word – not even “Hello,” which she was grateful for. She woke up feeling good, with no headache. It was Saturday morning. She would have to take a bus to pick up her car at her office but other than that, she had no plans. She opened the window to hear birds chirping and feel a cool breeze on her face. The crystal swayed gently, and the metal clasps hit the window – clang clang clang, like knocks on the door.