THREE DAYS IN THE LIFE
by Josie Okuly
January 1, 1984
Joanna's VW Bug spits and sputters as it crawls to the top of the Harbor Bridge. We are on a mission. The car is having a hard time making it up the bridge because the Bug is not used to carrying four people.
"We're almost there. Tell me when we're exactly at the top," I say to my friends.
I roll down the window on the passenger side. I look over at Joanna and notice she is driving with four-inch heels. How does she do that? File it under unsolvable mysteries. If I tried that, my foot would cramp up until I screamed in pain.
"This is the very top," Joanna says.
"Is it?" I ask again to make sure.
"It is," says Kimmy from the back seat. Her voice is slurred from all the vodka she drank tonight.
"Perla?" I ask. I won't do anything without Perla's seal of approval. She is the oldest one of us, creeping up on thirty, almost ancient.
"This is good enough," Perla assures me.
Joanna slows to a crawl. I tear out pages from last year's diary. Rip, rip, rip. I hold them out the window. The breeze catches the pages. They float and dance above the Corpus Christi Harbor. Then they are gone.
Maybe someone walking on the beach will find one of my pages, water-logged and faded, covered in doodles and sketches and writing. I have spread myself to the four corners of the earth. Maybe one of my pages will end up in China, which is a secret fantasy I have.
This is the third year I've done this. I never want to see my insipid, whiny scribbles again. Each diary lives one year and then it's killed.
I look at my watch. Exactly midnight. Fireworks burst across the harbor as if on cue. We timed it perfectly.
We speed up and then coast down the other side of the bridge. I'm reminded of a roller coaster, especially at the bottom of the bridge where the exit ramp requires a sharp right in order to catch the road, which runs into the road, which leads to Perla's apartment.
We always end up there. Perla has the best apartment. Spanish-style, wrought-iron trim on the windows, surrounded by tall tropical plants. She has the best pool which is plunked down in a miniature rain forest. At least that's what I call it. And, of course, the cutest guys live in her apartment building. She makes the most money which explains her posh digs.
We drink wine coolers at Perla's place.
"So how is your life going to change this year?" asks Kimmy to no one in particular.
As usual, she puts into words what we are all thinking but don't want to put into words. The group around the coffee table is silent.
"Not that resolution crap again," says Joanna.
Kimmy's smile turns downward, reminding me of a petulant Cabbage Patch Kid.
"I'll start," she says. "This year I'm losing twenty pounds."
Kimmy is fat. I don't know the border where chubby turns into fat but secretly I think she's way over the border. I think she should shoot for thirty pounds instead of twenty. At least.
Joanna yawns. "Let's see," she says, "what can I do differently this year? Last year was so perfect." She rolls her eyes. "How about if I try, sincerely and earnestly, to have a healthy relationship with a human male this year."
We burst out laughing.
"And I'll buy a condo on Mars," says Perla. "I've heard those Martian men are quite something."
"What's about you Perla?" asks Kimmy.
Perla scratches her nearly bald head. Her hair is so short that her scalp peeks through. Her hair is a butch cut - as in butchered, as in butchered to death. She reminds me of a man pretending to be a woman by wearing fake breasts. She is athletically built, like a male body-builder. She works as a chef at Bayou Bay, the best seafood restaurant in town. And that's saying alot, considering you can't turn around in Corpus Christi without running into a seafood restaurant.
"I'll settle for a good relationship with another human being, any gender, any race," Perla says.
We nod; we can relate.
"Rory's turn." Kimmy looks over at me. She's determined to squeeze an answer out of each one of us.
"My resolution is two-fold," I say.
"Two-fold. Listen to her," says Joanna. "You always have to be different."
"I'm not being different. It's just that there are two ways I want my life to change. Is that okay with you?" I say it in a joking way but I'm irritated at her and myself.
"Tell us," Perla urges.
"Okay, first of all I want to find a real job. Maybe somewhere I can actually use my degree."
I'm a broken record on this subject. I work at Mozzarella's Pizza Fun Palace, which I feel is a sincere rip-off of Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre. I'm twenty-four years old with a bachelor's degree in history. I've dreamed of going on to grad school. I've dreamed of becoming an archaeologist. I've dreamed of becoming the world's premier finder of lost treasures. They've heard it all before.
I started working at Mozzarella's during college. For some reason, I can't bear to leave this minimum-wage rut. My friends work there for one thing. Even Perla works there to earn extra money when she's not working at Bayou Bay. She must have a fortune stashed away by now. She's determined to open her own restaurant. I know this is one of her secret resolutions because she told me.
"Part two of my resolution," I say, "is to find Prince Charming."
Everyone groans again.
"I know you've heard both of these before, but this year I'm combining them into a two-parter."
Joanna throws popcorn at me. The others join in.
"Food fight!" yells Kimmy.
We trash Perla's apartment, drink Bartles and James wine coolers, crash on the sofa.
January 2, 1984
Hangover hung me over and out to dry. Barely slogged through my shift at Mozzarella's. Begged aspirin from Joanna every two hours. She wants to hit the club tomorrow night since we're both off-duty. Can't think that far ahead.
Couldn't wait to crawl under this thick, mushy comforter. I'm enveloped in darkness with an ice pack on my head. I'll never drink again in this lifetime.
January 3, 1984
Joanna's beauty is envy-inducing. I wish for her beauty but the rest of her life stinks. Tonight is happy-hour at Whale of a Tale, aka Whale's. Kimmy worked tonight so it's just Joanna and me out on the town. Perla says her club hopping days are over. I think mine are on their way out.
Joanna is wearing black leather pumps with the four-inch heels I adore. Her dress is short black leather. She never wears anything except black.
"I feel safe in black," she told me once. Whatever that means.
I'm in red which is my favorite color. Standing next to Joanna at the bar, I start to fill up with jealousy/envy. Tonight I'm full and bloated like the helium balloons we give the kids at Mozzarella's. I watch her suck on an ice cube; her slight overbite sexy as a siren.
I look away from her. The engorged jealousy/envy balloon deflates. I come back to planet earth and she is simply Joanna, my best friend.
I look around the meat market. I never come here alone. I don't admit it to my friends but I hate nightclubs. What an odd thing for a club hopper to say, don't you think? When I think of the word nightclub, I think of romantic, sophisticated clubs in old black and white movies. The places where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall might be seen together. Places where cool detectives like Dana Andrews or Alan Ladd might frequent. Not a place like this.
I doubt my friends have even heard of Dana Andrews. In fact, I could probably bet my life on that. I know I was born at the wrong time. I want romance, not sex. There's a difference. I want the come-hither stares, the lowering eyelashes, the exquisite torture of a slow build-up.
When I was a child, I saw the musical "Cinderella" with Leslie Ann Warren and Stuart Damon as the Prince. If anyone ever looked at me the way the Prince stared into Cinderella's eyes, I'd love him forever. Do those looks only exist in Hollywood movies?
Where is Prince Charming? Where is he hiding? All I see are drunken sailors on shore leave. Whales is a favorite spot for the one-night stand crowd. I'm looking for more. But what if there's nothing more? I see married people everywhere. Did those women marry their Prince Charmings? Did they marry for money? Did that sweeten the pot? Or did they simply settle for what they could get? I hate the word settle.
A guy asks me to dance. I shake my head. I can spot a one-nighter a mile away. I've met enough of them. On the other hand, Joanna is my polar opposite. The only thing she craves are one-night stands. The guy she's with tonight is a human octopus. He sits down at the bar next to her and within five minutes his arms start to move independently of the rest of his body. He manages to sling a sweaty arm over her shoulder; then later he rests a hairy paw on her knee. He massages her neck because he figures this will work in his favor. And it does. Joanna must like this one-nighter because she agrees to dance with him. She never dances; she prefers to sit and hold court.
Later she tells me, "I'm leaving with what's-his-name. You can take my car. I'll pick it up at your apartment tomorrow." She drops the keys in my purse.
"Fine." I yell to be heard over the pulsing, pounding music.
Now I'm alone. I suck down a bourbon and coke and then head out to the parking lot.
"Where you going baby?" a creep sidles up next to me as I leave the building.
"Get lost," I say.
Joanna's car is parked a mile from the club. There's no light down at that end. The creep is still behind me as I get farther away from Whale's. With each step, I smell his hot breath on my neck.
I turn back toward Whales. He turns too.
"How about a sip baby?" He pushes a beer in my face.
"Get lost or I'll scream," I say through clenched teeth. Actually I don't know if I can scream. My voice is dissipating as fear clamps down on my vocal cords.
"I'll bet you can scream," he says. He grabs my shoulder, ripping the material of my imitation Diane Von Furstenburg dress.
This is too much. I try to scream. Small squeaks erupt from my mouth. I push him away. He loses his balance. I run.
I remember that I'm wearing heels tonight. Not Joanna's four-inchers but these will do just fine. I bend to take off my leather pump. He is behind me again. I turn and then proceed to pound him on the head with the sharp heel.
"Ow, stop it," he screams, "I'm going to fix you, blah, blah, blah."
He didn't really say blah, blah, blah. What he said was unprintable. I told you I was born at the wrong time. I never heard a curse word come out of Dana Andrew's mouth. So I'm not about to repeat what the creep said as I slugged him with my shoe.
"Blah, blah, blah!" The creep is trying to knock the pump out of my hand. He curses me, my family and the horse I rode in on.
I run toward Whale's and then I lose my balance because I'm only wearing one shoe.
I sprawl on the pavement. My other shoe flies off.
"Crap!" I yell, but I say something much worse than crap.
The guy is on me in a tenth of a second. For a drunk, he's pretty fast. He grabs at me, much more of an octopus than Joanna's one-nighter. His hands are on my throat. I'm sinking fast into panic and beyond.
Then a miracle. Someone pulls the guy off me. Someone whose face I can't see. He's big and the sound of his fist slamming into the creep's face thrills me. The creep screams in pain and then scurries off. The big guy chases him for a second or two and then comes back to where I lay on the pavement.
"Are you okay ma'am?" Good manners. I like that.
"I think so." My voice is hoarse because the creep almost choked the stuffing out of me. This is the worst sore throat ever.
The mystery big guy is bending over me. He carries my shoes. First he puts on my left pump. Then as he slides my right foot into the shoe, a car turns into the parking lot and his face is illuminated.
I gasp. He is beautiful, a young Stuart Damon come to life.
I say, "Prince Charming I presume."
"Only if you're Sleeping Beauty," he says. He smells delicious.
I start to babble. "Actually I've always preferred Cinderella. She had guts. Sleeping Beauty just slept. Cinderella worked for a living." Why can't I shut up?
"I guess you're right," he agrees as he pulls me to my feet.
I can't wait to talk to the girls tomorrow. I think this is my last entry for awhile. I'm gonna be busy.
Josie's work has appeared in the Adirondack Review, Anotherealm, Millennium Shift, Nuvein Magazine, The Harrow, E Street Journal, Cold Glass Magazine, and Tapestry.
Her first two children's books, An Elephant Named Fiesta and Fiesta's Dreaming Day are scheduled for release by Writer's Exchange E-Publishing International.
Currently, she is completing rewrites on a recently completed novel as well as developing ideas for future children's books. Visit Josie's website at: www.freehostsltd.com/sites/menfreya