Natalie D. Benson is a Professional and Creative writing graduate from Central Washington University.as of December 2017. She has multiple poems and an essay published in the 2017 issue of the Manastash Literary Journal. She is a freelance editor and writer. she was born and raised in Utah, but currently calls Washington state her home and place of inspiration.
Scott plops two heavy grocery bags onto the counter and pulls out a gallon of orange juice, two Redbulls, and a fifth of Smirnoff vodka. “Gonna’ kill all the sickies inside of you?” I joke. Scott has the belief that colds can be killed with liquor. He tosses the plastic bags to the side, one floats down to the ground where an excited retriever puppy sniffs it.
“It’s tried and true,” Scott replies.
I watch him make his cocktail in a large glass with a peeling picture of Kermit the Frog on it and with what looks to be about four shots of liquor.
“Whoooa,” I chuckle.
“Miss Judgy Judgerson,” he pulls his glass close to his chest in defense.
“No, no,” I assure him, “it just looked liked you poured a lot of vodka there.”
“That’s the ice.”
Scott and my roommate lounge on the couch watching the show Rick and Morty as I sit at the kitchen table finishing my homework. I jackhammer the eraser of my mechanical pencil on my notebook, trying to come up with the non-fiction story pitch due before midnight. Scott turns up the TV volume slightly to drown out my “thinking” noise.
I hate that I have to do school work while he is here. Most of the nights that he comes over, he’s forced to entertain himself for an hour or two. But I am so close to finishing my English degree with only one semester left. Still, most nights I skip a reading chapter to finish homework quicker. Somehow, the thought of making him wait on me an extra chapter puts a quiver in my heart, thinking that those ten minutes might send him storming out the door, hands above his head in an “I knew this wasn’t worth it” sort of way. A week ago, he caught me cutting my homework short and told me that school was a priority, and that he didn’t mind waiting for me to finish. But I know from the past that he isn’t the kind that waits. He is the kind that tolerates.
Scott starts on his third cocktail. He catches me watching him. He shoots me a look of “So?” and I shoot him a crazy-eye, tongue-out one to cover my nervous one. I tell myself that it’s not that weird for a person to drink an entire bottle of vodka on a weekday. I tell myself to shut up when I wonder if maybe he’s really drinking because of her.
Today, she posted a picture on social media. She was posed with two friends, and beaming. Her chestnut hair was curled, she wore a chic beige sweater and on her feet were what looked to be new expensive heels. She was radiating confidence. She was at some sort of fancy event or restaurant, and the caption she wrote to accompany the picture suggested that she was ecstatic with her new single life. I’m sure it is a picture Scott would have seen. As a result of some shameful secretive digging on my part, I know he still follows her social activity. Perhaps her “happiness” without him bothers him. Stop it. She was the Band-Aid for you. I remind myself.
Something crude and clever happens with Rick or Morty, causing the couch loungers to guffaw. Scott then whispers mischievously over to me that he is drunk. I pretend to be surprised, and he believes me and promises me in an overly serious tone that he is definitely, without-a-doubt drunk, and when did that happen? I tell him about four drinks ago. He chuckles with his head on his knees and says that he needs to go to bed. I decide a half-ass pitch idea is good enough and press “Submit.”
In bed, I’m wearing little shorts and stretching my legs one at a time toward the ceiling. Scott tells me he wants to give me a villainous nickname. “When did you decide I was a villain?” I inquire, poking his side.
“You’re an evil seductress,” he informs me, “so evil. Showing me your long, long legs.” He names me Madam Long-Legs and sloppily strokes my raised thigh. “No, that’s not right. I’ll think of a better one.” He pauses for a while, squints his eyes in concentration. He has paused so long I think he may be falling asleep. He has always been a cute drunk. Dorky, not afraid to be silly. I hold back the emotions bubbling in my throat to allow him to finish his thought. “I’ve got nothing.” He surrenders.
“That’s okay. I don’t want a villain name!” my voice is light, but inside I cry, I want to be the hero.
He doesn’t hear me. “I’m so boring,” He says. It’s not the first time he’s thought this, I know that, but the first time in the five years I’ve known him that he’s said it out loud. I knew Scott was afraid he was boring five years ago when we met, and a year ago when we broke up the first time.
One evening, a little over a year ago, he and I sat at the island counter eating a quick macaroni dinner, and he asked me, “Do you feel like I hold you back?”
“Yes.” I was blunt. I was angry at what the last seven months between us had produced. We were going nowhere. And he wasn’t helping.
“Do you love me?”
“Yes.” I did.
“Is love enough?”
I shook my head. I was blunt. I was wrong. Six months later, I realized this and begged him to give “us” another shot. Twice. He refused me each time. When he contacted me after his breakup with her, he told me it was because he realized he still had feelings for me. I chose to believe him.
Maybe this time I was the Band-Aid. Maybe he had found this other amazing girl and the fear of being dull had crept back into his mind, and that’s why he left, before she could discover his dullness and leave first. Like I had. Maybe he didn’t, and doesn’t, care what she thinks. And I tell myself to shut up again.
“Well, if you’re boring, I’m boring.” I pinch him playfully—a playful plea for him to believe me.
“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” he mocks me. I caw like a seagull in his ear. We both burst into laughter.
“I wish I was a seagull,” he whispers. I begin to say something, but he hushes me, “shh, shh, I’m in seagull brain right now.”
He closes his eyes. “I’m a seagull. Watch me soar.”
I study him. His features are so soft; I want to hold his face in my hands.
“I’m gliding over the water, waves under me. The sky is so blue.”
I’ve never experienced him day-dreaming, at least, not that I can remember. There is peace in his expression and a steadiness in his breathing. I can picture the flutter of his impressive wingspan and the light, wet spots on the tips of his feathers from when he floats too close to the sea spray. I want to imagine my own wings, gliding along with him. But I know I am merely an observer, holding binoculars and watching a beautiful bird enjoy his freedom.
“…Wait what’s that?” he continues, “a man holding french fries? I dive down—I snatch up a bunch of them with my beak, and gobble them up.” He makes pleased munching noises with his lips. “Ah, but alas. They are poison fries. I try to flap my wings, but then I fall out of the sky, to my death.” His hand makes a nose-diving gesture onto the bed where his hand crashes and remains lifeless. He begins to giggle uncontrollably, and soon it turns into side-grip worthy bellows. I can’t help but join him.
We laugh in giant waves, to the point of tears, to the point of hysteria, until the swells calm and stillness finds us—a dead seagull and a bird watcher that smells of french fries.