I heave an 800-pound body into a shower. Her hair reeks of beer. I know her. I wish I didn’t. I run the water and red dribbles by the drain. Words swarm and all I decrypt is “She needs water.” I go downstairs to the co-op kitchen, empty now and littered with bottles. I’m complicit in this mess. I was just here five hours ago.
I dressed up for attention but only felt attention to the space around me. I needed to hold something, to fill up. I downed the dregs of anything I could find. I heard a “Whoa!” and maybe some laughter. I was a fire-eater at a circus and people applauded. It took a moment before I realized someone was talking to me. “Wanna dance?” he asked. His eyebrows were suspiciously crisp. I have seen him around the co-op trailing a loud group of butch women. I thought he was gay. He was too good-looking. And then there was dryness. A dry laugh, my dry tongue, his dry fingers, my crinkling lungs. I shrieked in repeating waves like a siren. He kept shushing me, and then stopped. I followed his eyes to the sentry point between our pelvises. I was bleeding. I finally cracked.
I take my water outside. The backyard is the best part of this dilapidated co-op. For what the co-op could not afford to renovate or furnish, they compensate with lack. The backyard is expensive as a non-profiting space, resting on a prime real-estate hill, but each resident is given the LA sky—clear on any given day or night. Except this morning at 4:35 a.m., covering just the tiniest corner of the sky, smokes forms and disappears from the nostrils of a small Asian girl with a cigarette, smiling at me. I tilt my head forward and ask, “Can I sit with you?”
I learn the initials between long drags. She is a Chinese exchange student who is leaving in two days. She has a boyfriend. I ask what she’s doing up so late. She says she’s waiting for the sun to rise. I tell her I just lost my virginity. “How was it?” she asks. It hurt a lot. Like my organs rearranged.
“Wait right here,” she says and goes upstairs. She comes back with a bag of red jujubes. She says her mother gives her these when she has cramps. She says steeping one in tea helps with heavy bleeding. “Try one,” she says. They are the driest, most purposeless fruit I’ve ever eaten. “They’re good,” I tell her, giving her the bag back. “Keep it,” she says.
The sun rises and we add each other on Facebook. I head back to my room and nibble on the jujubes. The arrangements inside feel a bit more comfortable.