This doesn’t mean we’re getting back together, you said. I upgraded us to first class anyway. I have a terrible time with turbulence. It’s only gotten worse since you left.
In our seats we drank mimosas and my feet were tucked up under me, there was so much room. We’re not getting back together anytime soon, you reiterated, and then the captain said something about choppy air and I nosed my way under your arm, forgetting all about what you’d said, concentrating on the choppy air instead.
Later our friend’s wife asked me if I felt bad and I couldn’t figure out what she meant. I didn’t feel bad at all. I felt good in a way I hadn’t felt in well over a year.
I guess we made each other, you say, and I laugh, even though I know it is a true statement.
We have wasted a whole year trying to prove something to each other and now that there is nothing left to prove we are free to move around the country again at will.
At the hotel the man behind the counter says he only has one room left and it’s only available one night and this is a problem because we want to stay two. What about a suite, we say, and the man lets out a long sigh and rechecks his computer and then he mumbles something about the honeymoon suite and I say we’ll take it, even though you never officially asked me to marry you and I never officially declined.
We order room service and eat our breakfast around a circular table with cloth napkins and unfold the paper and discuss first the sports and then the entertainment news. Neither of us cares what else is going on in the world – politics, and wars and the like – so why pretend otherwise. We put on our suits and go down to the pool and when the lady comes by taking drink orders we add ours to the list. We sit in chairs facing the water and read books by people we know and discuss first the books and then the people. We like one or the other, and sometimes neither, and occasionally both. In the water we float lengthwise past the Spanish speaking men and I can’t figure out if I’m lightheaded from the sun or the alcohol or my legs wrapped around your waist but finally I am able to ask you all the questions I’ve wanted to ask for months and months. And the second I ask them they became stupid or irrelevant or both. But we enjoy the conversation anyway, and it is such a relief to have asked them that I laugh and laugh, and I can tell by the way you are looking at me, as though comparing this moment to others in the past when I have laughed as unselfconsciously, that you are moved by my laughter, and it feels like a little victory: moving you again.
This would be so much easier if either one of us could find someone else as awesome as either of us, I say. I am half undressed on the bed. Or maybe I am half dressed. It’s hard to remember which.
Yeah, you say. Good luck with that. You are standing near the window. You are putting a shirt on or taking it off. You are so far away. You are the closest you’ve been in months.
We open a ten dollar bag of cookies from the mini bar and sit on towels in front of the TV and wash the cookies down with the rum punches we brought back from the pool. We watch half a biography of Ray Liotta and when that gets too sad we watch a game show on MTV and then we decide to watch porn. There are twenty different movies to choose from and we watch all the teasers once, trying to decide, and then it doesn’t matter anymore because your fingers are in my mouth and then they are in both our mouths and I can taste bits of rum and suntan lotion and chlorine on us and I like tasting us, our recent history and all that.
Since when are you able to match me drink for drink, you say, refilling the ice trays at the sink in your kitchen.
A year’s worth of nights, holding onto the railing with both hands, trying to forget you, I say.
How did that work out for you, you ask.
I have a higher tolerance for alcohol now, I say.
And then we’re sitting at a table in a room in Jamaica and I’m watching you try to roll a joint with the obnoxiously large amount of pot our taxi driver gave us and finally you manage, and finally we’re smoking and I’m sprawled out in my chair, legs reaching as far as they will go in front of me, hands extended well overhead and everything is beyond surreal, like when you’ve been waiting months and months for something to happen and it finally does.
I wish you were more relaxed, you say, and I smile what feels like the sort of smile that won’t fit my face and just barely does and your fingers are inside me again and I’m realizing I’d rather clean your kitchen than write a story. I’d rather vacation with you than win any sort of prize.
We are so much braver than before. We are standing on a sidewalk outside a casino at four in the morning and in the ocean at four in the afternoon. My back is against the wall in one scenario and the ocean is pushing you toward me in the other and I don’t look up in either case. I am focused on you in each instance. My focus is on you in all scenarios now.
I remove everything from the kitchen table – books, magazines, grocery receipts, grocery lists, whiskey bottles, postcards my daughter wrote you from South America, tiny, hand-folded paper cranes – wipe down the top and reorganize its contents into neat piles. I wash the dishes, some of which we’ve dirtied together this visit, others that were dirty when I got here.
“The kitchen floor hasn’t been washed since the last time you washed it,” you say, and I take some small comfort in this, in knowing that in a year and a half no one else has washed your floor.
I am in the process of cleaning the stovetop when you appear in the doorway. The atlas is open in your hand and then it is spread out on the table. We take turns doing shots of whiskey and then we close our eyes and point. We get in your car and drive to the airport and ask for tickets to some city neither of us has been to and the woman behind the counter says there is a flight leaving in less than an hour and we say okay and we sprint through the airport and we barely make it. On the plane we do more shots and then my head is under your arm and if there is turbulence I barely notice. I close my eyes and when I open them again we are on the ground and we are taxiing to our hotel and we are pulling back the sheets and here is another place we have been and every vacation is a honeymoon now and seven years and still nobody is awesome like us.
Elizabeth Ellen‘s stories have appeared in numerous online and print journals over the last ten years, including elimae, Quick Fiction, Hobart, Lamination Colony, Mud Luscious, Sleepingfish, kill author, Pindeldyboz, and many others. She is the author of the chapbook Before You She Was a Pit Bull (Future Tense) and her collection of flash fictions, Sixteen Miles Outside of Phoenix, was included in A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: four chapbooks of short short fiction by four women (Rose Metal Press). Fast Machine is a collection of her best work from the last decade. Currently she lives in Ann Arbor where she co-edits Hobart and oversees Hobart’s book division, Short Flight/Long Drive books.