Drop 170: Decision

‘Oh, God,’ Beth thought, stubbing out another cigarette, ‘it’s so difficult. I love them both in their own way. There’s so much history with Larry – years of warmth and love and caring, but John is new and exciting. Sex with him is just incredible and he makes me feel so fantastic – so young and attractive and full of hope.’

She didn’t know why, but over the past week the burden of secrecy had grown too heavy and she felt she had to choose. Her emotions, forever easy-going and forgiving, had suddenly swelled to demand action right away. There was no fighting it. She knew what she had to do.

She lit another cigarette as she made the call. He was on a business trip. After years of comfortable silence, she couldn’t wait another minute.

‘Hello, darling,’ he said. ‘Everything OK?’

‘Hello, Gunther,’ she said. ‘I want a divorce.’

By EM Vireo

Drop #156: Robot

kitchen robot‘No need to weigh it separately,’ the woman in the apron says, pouring sugar rocks. ‘The bowl already acts as a scale—see.’

I’m standing next to the only man in the room. He’s handsome.

‘Once you reach the needed weight just press the home button again and read the next step on the panel here.’

One man, ten women, excluding the presenter.

‘One blade does it all. Whipping, mixing, and in this case grinding. This might be a little noisy.’ She pushes a button and though she warned us, the grating noise startles me. But it only lasts five seconds.

Dee-doo-dee: the machine let’s us know it is done. It sounds like the chimes before an airport announcement.

Almost half the women ooh as we are shown how the rocks have been ground effortlessly into fine powder. Almost half the others aah.

‘Your wife couldn’t make it?’ I ask the man softly, taking advantage of the pause in the presentation.

‘Excuse me? Oh, no, she’s busy.’

‘Nice of you to come in her place, use your Saturday and all.’

‘Now all we have to do is add the washed and halved lemons,’ the presenter carries on. ‘No need to peel them.’

‘You do any cooking too?’ I ask.

‘Sure,’ the man tells me.

‘Lucky wife you have. I’m the only cook in the family.’

At the touch of a button the machine jumps abruptly into action again, but with a softer sound, and for about ten seconds this time. The chimes again tells us it is done. Though identical, they now sound more like that off-key, somewhat disturbing arrangement from times past, when people still had land lines: Doo-da–dee: We’re sorry, there appears to be a receiver off the hook.

‘Lucky woman,’ I push on. ‘Are you going to buy her one?’

‘A kitchen robot? I don’t think so.’

The presenter pours lemonade into paper cups for us women and my male friend to try. ‘Of course this machine also cooks entire meals. It practically replaces your kitchen!’ She laughs, and I wonder if she always laughs that same way at this exact point in the script. ‘I’ll soon show you how to cook a main course, sauce and all, but let’s move straight to the best part: ice cream!’ Two-thirds of the women mumble in acknowledgement.

‘Bet she’d love it!’ I tell the man, after finishing my lemonade. ‘Make her life a whole lot easier.’

‘Wouldn’t in the slightest.’

‘Really? Machine like this? Haven’t you been watching? It prepares and cooks anything you can think of. Bakes bread and even makes cocktails. It’s incredible.’

‘Maybe, but I don’t like it. I was curious but it’s too impersonal. It removes the connection with food, it—’

The machine starts up again, zapping frozen fruit into a pulp. Dee-doo-daa.

‘It takes the fun out of cooking,’ he finishes. ‘I’d never put a soulless thing like that in the kitchen.’

‘But maybe she’d want one. Buy it for her.’

‘I couldn’t.’

‘Of course you could.’

‘No, I literally couldn’t. I have no income. I mean, since I’m entirely in charge of the cooking, I could ask her to buy it for me, but as I said, I prefer my knives, pots and pans. In fact, I think I’ve seen enough. I should get going if I’m to prepare a proper dinner before she gets back from her business trip. Soufflés don’t make themselves, you know, and a proper Bourguignon takes several hours on a low heat.’

By EM Vireo

Drop #101: Backpack

‘Can I carry the bag a while?’

‘I’m fine.’

It was a large, heavy backpack, filled for a day at the beach with towels, mats, games, lotions, magazines and food. He’d wanted to buy water there, but she had insisted on bringing the bottle in the fridge.

They’d have one drink on route at Rudi’s, where his new colleagues were having brunch. A quick appearance, at least, would make a good impression.

‘Come on. Just for a bit. You must be straining.’

‘No. Thanks,’ he said. ‘I’m OK.’

Though the bag was bulky, and the route uphill, Rudi’s wasn’t far and they’d decided to walk. They’d catch a cab to the beach there afterwards.

‘Please. You’ve carried it the whole way.’

‘Jesus, Lynn. Let it go!’

They walked on; she asked twice more.

‘Man!’ He took it off. ‘You’re relentless!’

‘Thanks.’ She put it on and took off: two legs under a mountain.

At Rudi’s, four minutes later, they joined the large group at the rear.

‘Glad you could make it, Jim.’

‘Thanks—oh, everyone. This is my wife, Lynn.’ She stepped up beside him, the bag towering over her.

‘Jeez! Wife or mule?’ asked Hugh Gregory, standing. ‘Here, let me help you with that.’

‘Quite the gentleman, Smith.’ Mr. Higgins, Jim’s new boss, was suddenly beside them. ‘Can I get you a drink?’ he asked Lynn, softly, offering her a chair. ‘You must be exhausted.’

‘Thanks. Sprite please.’

‘And you?’ He turned to Jim with eyes like tombstones. ‘I guess you’ll be wanting something too?’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #92: Business

‘Can I get you anything else? We’ll be landing soon.’

‘Another red please.’

‘The Shiraz?’

‘That’s the one.’

‘Coming right up, Honey.’

 

He waited for Sylvia in one of the long hallways before immigration.

‘How was it?’ she asked, reaching him.

‘Good wine. Decent port. The white was a little warm.’

‘And the food?’

‘Tasty. I had shrimp and a cheese platter. How was it back there?’

‘You know. A bit mushy, but not too bad.’ They started walking, each pulling a small, square bag.

‘I still think you should have sat in your own seat.’

‘Your legs are longer, you like good wine, and I sleep fine on the regular seats,’ Sylvia answered robotically.

‘Yeah. Anyway, thanks.’

‘You’re welcome. You get some sleep?’

‘A little. Watched a couple of movies. Hugo and Drive.’

‘I watched Drive too.’

‘I figured you would. Ryan Gosling’s your guy.’

‘Any cute air hostesses?’

‘Yes, in fact. It used to be standard protocol, especially up front, but it’s almost a rarity these days.’

‘You’re telling me. You should have seen the gorillas on my British Airways flight last week.’

‘They’re all men in their fifties, right?’

‘I was scared to ask for a glass of water.’

‘So. One gave me her number.’

‘An air hostess?

‘Yup?’

‘You must have flirted with her.’

‘That’s possible.’

‘You always flirt when you drink.’

‘That seems to be my way.’

‘Was she type A or B?’

‘What do you mean? This was a person, not a kind of hepatitis.’

‘Come on. Spit it out, Ned. I know you, and I know what gets you going.’ They approached passport control. ‘There’s type A, the injured bird: slim with slumped shoulders, a little sad, big eyes, dark hair, thin wrists, delicate fingers, downcast eyes looking for answers, used to be a goth but doesn’t know what to be anymore; and type B, nice and fluffy: blonde, a little dumb, a little plump, touchy, in a perpetual good mood, white teeth, smiles a lot, say’s ‘Aaaaw’ without fail when she sees a kitten, calls guys Dear or Honey or Sweetheart. Of course, there’s type C too: anyone with tits and eyes – but those you can usually take or leave. A and B are hard to pass up.’

‘She was a classic B.’

‘Hm. Will you call her?’

‘You think I should?’

‘She’s probably not worth it.’

‘I’ve become so confused about what is and isn’t nowadays.’

‘Don’t let it hurt your brain.’

 

‘You’ll probably want to have sex at home,’ Sylvia said, while they passed through customs. ‘Won’t you?’

‘Probably.’

‘You’re always horny when you flirt with other girls.’

‘At least I’m not never horny, right?’

‘That, my dear husband, is a very good point.’

By E.M. Vireo

Drop #51: Four Months

‘My soup is just delicious,’ said Georgia. ‘How’s your salmon?’

‘It’s really good too.’

‘You said you’ve been here before?’ Georgia asked, dragging the bottom of the spoon deliberately across the bowl’s edge, then raising it to mouth.

‘Yeah. A few times already,’ Kate answered.

‘And here I thought I was showing you something new!’

‘No. Good food is one of my major vices. I must eat well, and often, so it pays to know what will gratify, and where to find it.’

‘It’s not really a vice, though, is it?’

‘I guess you’re right; we’ll just call it a pleasure, then, shall we?’

‘This place is Hal’s favorite, you know,’ Georgia said, with the tiniest wrinkle of a smile.

‘Is it?’

‘Yes. He can’t get enough of it. He loves the sweet potato fries and the calamari.’

‘I like those too.’

‘We’ve been coming here quite often,’ Georgia continued. ‘Actually, we’ve been going out quite a bit. We really are having a lot more fun lately.’

‘You weren’t having fun before?’

‘Well, after ten years of marriage, it had gotten quite stale. Who knows how things progress with time, but I’m pretty sure it was Hal who changed. I mean, you’ve known us half a year or so, and only met Hal a handful of times, so you wouldn’t have noticed anything, but his mood has really lifted. He was quite a grouch for the two-three years before that, never wanting to go out, have drinks, do anything on weekends, and just no fun to be around—for a while there, I thought we wouldn’t make it—but he’s been in much better spirits lately. He’s present, engaged, if you know what I mean, and just seems to be enjoying life again.’

‘What do you think changed?’

‘I don’t know, but this time it was quite sudden. Maybe I’m imagining things, but I think I remember the exact weekend, four months ago, when it changed. I went to Seattle for a Textile Convention, and when I came back, he was all smiles. He’s been a different man since.’

‘Hm.’

‘It’s bizarre, really, but we just get along now. He’s much more caring and generous and I’m less bitchy because of it. I can be quite a bitch, you know.’

‘Can you?’

‘Yup. Anyway, as I said, since he found his good mood back we’ve been able to enjoy each other again and build a failing thing back into something good—listen to me—I’m blabbing to you as if you were my shrink.’

‘That’s OK.’

‘I guess that’s what friends are for.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Oh—and suddenly, we have a sex life again. I thought it was lost for good. We hadn’t had any in months, then, after that weekend, he started being sweet and the next week, we had sex in the bathtub—like we were back in college or something.’

‘I love bathtub sex.’

‘Yeah, I have to say: it was nice to be physical again. Honestly, sex with Hal was never really great, even when we first got together, but it’s not too shabby right about now. He’s been doing all these new moves, and encouraging me to try new things, and it’s pretty cool.’

‘I’m glad. Sex is important. I sure as hell couldn’t do without it.’

‘You seeing anyone?’

‘Yeah, I’ve been seeing a bit of someone.’

‘When do we get to meet him?’

Kate, briefly distracted by the fan spinning overhead, now looked at Georgia and answered: ‘Oh. It’s nothing serious. More of a fuck friend. We’re just very compatible in bed. We meet; we have sex; he leaves. It’s good for both of us, I think.’

‘Oh. Ok.’

‘It’s only sex, but it’s good sex, and sometimes, that’s all you need—nothing more; nothing less—before getting back to the rest of your life.’

‘I guess.’

‘Did you ever ask him what happened to make him change?’ Kate asked. The coffee had come and Georgia was playing absent-mindedly with the mini cream container, fingering and poking it. Kate was anticipating an explosion, and in a way, hoping for one.

‘I did, once, but I don’t want to rock the boat. Life is so good lately. We’ve managed to reconnect emotionally in ways I had forgotten–I guess you could say we’re falling back in love–so I guess, I don’t really care what caused the change.’

‘Fair enough.’ There was no explosion. Things like to remain as they are, until you tear off their lids and pour out their contents.

‘Hey. We should all hang out together soon,’ Georgia said. ‘Hal really likes you. Though it’s only been those few times, you two always have so much fun together.’

‘Yeah. OK.’

‘Oh, and if you’re not sick of me yet, we can hang out again tonight, just the two of us. Maybe you can show me one of the other places you like eating at. Hal has a conference call with China. You know, with the 12 hr time difference, he has to take them at 9, 10 at night. He’s had quite a few of them lately.’

‘Sorry, I can’t. I have plans.’

‘A date with your mystery man?’

‘Yes, in fact.’

‘Fair enough.’

The bill came. ‘Oh, I’ll get this one,’ Georgia said, grabbing her handbag and starting to fish around inside it. ‘It’s the least I could do.’

‘Why on earth? I don’t remember buying you lunch.’

‘Just for listening, I guess.’

Say a command, Georgia’s Blackberry kept repeating, muffled in her bag till she finally found it and made it stop.

‘Sorry,’ she said, producing a credit card. ‘You just can’t control these things sometimes.’

Kate left, thinking about her date later that evening. About the man she would sleep with again. Had it already been four months? It was only sex, yes, but sex could obviously suffice in making the rest of one’s life tolerable, or even wonderful again.

By E.M. Vireo