Howard Beach, 1983: Liz fumbled across the night table until her index finger was strumming the snooze option on the alarm clock radio. She lay still as the dead, as if by doing so she might stave off the day that was dripping into her brain like tiny beads of water from a faucet. She rose when the morning news broke through the darkness and switched off the alarm clock before moving into the bathroom.
“Fuck . . ” She said, examining the tiny shadow of a curl on her face. A virgin wrinkle. Her mother had taught her the value of pretty faces and gin martinis; a disharmonious combination that would end up stealing the elasticity of Mary Austin’s youth until she concluded that life was no longer worth living, and promptly moved to Long Island.
The chime of the rotary phone in the living room brought Liz back to present day. She ran to its bleating hum like a lovesick Lizzy Borden, craving that melodic timbre that was silk to her senses, even if she wanted to murder the sweet talking sonofabitch.
“Hey funny face,” Danny said. He lifted the moniker from an Audrey Hepburn flick they’d taken in at the Regent Theater in Soho on the day they fell in love.
“A Saturday, Danny? The fuck . . ”
“Half a day, and then we have a hot date at Don Peppe,”
“I wanted a hot date this morning and I got the fucking cat, okay?”
“Okay, forget Don Peppe. Makeup sex, pizza and beer,”
“Uh, no . . you don’t get to cheap out after standing me up. And morning sex beats makeup sex, every day of the week,”
“No, what’s debatable is whether you’re getting any tonight,”
“It’s why you love me. Get me some cheesecake from Eileen’s on your way home,”
“Done. I’ll be home by three,”
“That’s a half day?”
“Yanno, some day when we’re summering in the Hamptons and you’re drinking gin martinis at noon and having sex on a king sized hammock, you’re going to look back on this time and wonder what all the bitching was about,”
“Well now, that depends on the gardener . . .”
“Cheesecake as per your wish good looking,” Danny said.
“I hate you,” Liz replied.
“Hate you more, see you at three,”
Liz turned to find her black cat, Thin Lizzy, tossing daggers at her.
“I don’t need your shit right now sister, so you go tell it to the old man when he gets home,”
She moved to the kitchen and cranked up her coffee maker before delivering up some Al Green on her turntable as the intercom came to life.
“Buzz me in! Buzz me in!” It was her best friend Maria. Liz unlocked the door and poured two cups of coffee, fixing hers up the way the old Cubans did, with enough sugar to send her into a diabetic coma.
“I hate my fucking life! More later . . I gotta piss!”
Maria was what happened when sound got pregnant with fury’s baby. The two of them had been friends since grade school, and Liz was thankful for the fact every single day. To know there was someone in the world more fucked up than her, it was a priceless thing.
“Coffee . .”
“Kitchen, I didn’t add anything to it since I don’t know what your mood is,”
“Bitch knows me!”
“So why does life suck today?”
“Never mind, but okay. Remember Richie Mancuso from high school?”
“Sweet black Riv? We went double dating after ditching the prom? You passed out in the front seat and he banged me in the back seat?”
“Oh shit, the guy I thought was too good looking to be straight!”
“Him. Well, we went out last night. He’s a used car salesman now,”
“God, I am so proud of you for moving on,”
“So we’ve gone out twice, he’s banged me twice,”
“When’s the wedding?”
“That’s just it, the fucking guy’s married!”
“It’s just so strange, Mar. A used car salesman . . . who lies,”
“I know! How did you get so lucky, meeting a handsome guy with money?”
“Easy. His childhood was as messed up as mine, Get this, his mother confessed to me that Danny’s father? Ain’t his father,”
“Get the fuck out!”
“Yeah, she pulled me aside at her birthday party last week to tell me this. She was totally wasted so of course I had to confirm it by calling her a couple days later. Turns out, she was messing with a family friend and the next thing she knew . .”
“Yep. And it makes sense. They’re blonds, can’t grow facial hair to save their lives. I saw pictures of this guy . . has a Robert Redford thing going on. So no complaints on my end,”
“Do you have any weed?”
“Utensils drawer in the kitchen . . .”
“How’s the painting going by the way?”
“Eh, I sold a couple pieces last month at that art gallery in Brooklyn,”
“Maybe. But it was to the same guy, and I think he only bought them because he wants to sleep with me, so there’s that,”
“Does he look like Robert Redford?”
“More like Robert Redford’s accountant. Toke, por favor,” Liz said.
“Does Danny know? About his old men?”
“Are you nuts? He still thinks his mom was a virgin when she met his . . . when she met Carl,”
“Well when I have kids, they’re gonna know their mother had a good time when she was younger. Lying about your past bites you in the ass, always,” Maria said.
“I’ll make sure to remind you of this when you’re boring the shit out of them with stories of your time in the convent,” Liz smiled.
“Why does love have to suck so much Liz?”
“Because it knows we’ll keep coming back for more . . .”