“Look at you hiding,” I said. “Too many women?”
“There can never be too many women,” he smiled, tiredly.
I suddenly felt sorry for him. He worked all day listening to people, having their burdens thrown on his back, only to come home to a house full of obnoxious, drunken housewives. Poor guy. He probably just wanted a quiet date night with his wife or to sit in front of the TV.
“What are you drinking?” I asked, eyeing his almost empty glass. “I’ll get you another.”
“You’re going to get me a drink in my own house?” He leaned back in his chair to look up at me, and I shrugged.
“Sure, why not?”
When he laughed he laughed deep in the back of his throat. Can you call a laugh cynical?
“Gin and tonic.”
I took his glass and walked back inside. No one noticed me as I made his drink; they were spread out all over the living room furniture. Every few seconds there would be an explosion of laughter and I would flinch, wondering how it was that Mercy wasn’t waking up. I dropped a slice of lime into the glass, and when I looked up Jolene was watching me.
I think I’ll go with the cancer thing again, I thought, stepping through the back door. It added just enough vulnerability.
I had a headache when I woke up. The kind that clawed behind your eyes making you wince every time you heard even the smallest noise. I pulled my laptop into bed with me and settled down to search the web, typing in things like: brain tumor and aneurysm. When I was satisfied I had a run-of-the-mill hangover, I cautiously climbed out of bed and padded to the kitchen to make some tea. It felt very grown-up and chic to have a hangover. Kim Kardashian probably had one every night of the week. To get a proper understanding of how to act during this time, I searched the hashtag hungover on Instagram. I found that most girls with a hangover wore their hair in topknots. I knotted my hair on top of my head and studied myself in the mirror. It was more of a little turd than a topknot—I’d have to grow it out. I slipped on a pair of sunglasses to block out the light and headed to the market in my sweats. Saturday was market day for Jolene and Mercy. Unless it was raining, they walked the four blocks to the Whole Foods, stopping at the yogurt shop for a treat on the way. That was the thing about Jolene: she had lots of rituals. I liked to consider myself spontaneous. Why, even buying this house was a spur of the moment decision. And it had been the right one. Spontaneity was a good quality for a mother to have, showed the little ones that life was a series of unplanned events and to just go with the flow. I did not walk to the market. I drove the four blocks and parked in the expectant mother spot in the front. I was just in time to see Jolene and Mercy walking up the block: Jolene pushing the stroller and Mercy skipping beside her, the remnants of her yogurt smeared across her face. I hurried inside, grabbing a cart and throwing things in to make it look like I’d been there awhile. Truth be told, I really hated Whole Foods aka whole paycheck. They could sell gorilla phlegm and people would load up their carts with it so long as it was packaged as “organic.” All of the Lululemon bitches and their coconut water could go to hell. I was there for one reason and one reason only: Mercy Moon. And while I was there I was going to go on a diet. That’s right. I loaded my cart with kale and radishes—because I liked the way they looked—and coconut water, and then hung out in the cereal aisle, giving them time to get in the store and move around. I heard my name as I was reading the nutritional facts on a box of overpriced Wheaties.
“Fig! Hi Fig.”
I composed my face into a look of surprise and turned. I was still wearing my sunglasses, but I made sure to pull them off so Mercy could see the sincerity in my eyes.
“Hi pretty girl,” I said, winking at her. I smiled at Jolene as I dropped the Wheaties into my cart.
“I’ve got a hangover,” I whispered to her. She raised her eyebrows and nodded like she knew what I meant. I opened my mouth to say something else when I saw Darius walking down the aisle toward us. My mouth suddenly felt dry.
“Well, well, well, Fig is a Whole Paycheck junkie too.” He grinned, kissing Jolene on her temple.
“Not really…” I stuttered. Then, “Yes, actually. I love it here.”
He glanced in my cart. “Looks like you have everything down except the Lululemon pants.”
I opened and closed my mouth, my heart pounding furiously. Then I started to laugh. I hadn’t laughed like that in a long time, and it felt good. We were practically the same person. Mocking the over-exuberant efforts of society, calling out the followers who mistakenly thought they were leaders.
“They’re from Target,” I said. “It’s practically the same thing.”
“Yes, for sure,” he said. “What was I thinking?”
“Don’t listen to him,” Jolene said, giving him a playful shove on the chest. “He likes to poke fun at the organic Lululemon lifestyle, but he kisses all over it at night.” I noticed that her pants had the familiar flared half loop logo. Tacky, Jolene, real tacky to talk about your sex life in aisle five.
“Well, since we’re paying three times the price for an organic, grass fed, extra antioxidant lifestyle, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do the same for pants. Your ass looks pretty good in them, baby.”
He had me until that last part. My face fell, and I looked away quickly before they could see. Mercy, who was crawling through his legs, let out a wail of unhappiness and said she was hungry. Our attention was diverted, and the happy family said their goodbyes to me and exited the cereal aisle together. But not before they asked me over for dinner. I told them I’d check my planner when I got home and give them a ring. Then as an afterthought, I asked for their phone number. Jolene said her phone was dead, and to my delight, Darius asked for mine and sent me a quick text so I’d be able to contact them if I needed anything. I finished my shopping, all the while my insides were buzzing so loudly I could barely hear my own thoughts. He’d asked for my number … buzz buzz. Mine … buzz buzz. He had a woman who looked like Jolene and he saw me—I mean, really saw me … buzz buzz buzz.