"I want to go dancing," I tell Jackie when she picks me up.
She stares at my yellow satin shirt and too-tight jeans. Genes. Strong genetic component. "Are you sure?" she says. "I thought we were going to the movies."
"No, dancing. Sexy dancing. Fancy drinks and men way too young for me looking to get lucky." Luckily, money won't be an issue; these facilities can be expensive.
"Sharon, are you all right?"
"I'm fine. It's my respite night, so dammit, I want some respite."
We go to The Moon in Waverly. It's the hottest spot in 20 miles, the dance floor all smoky haze stabbed by strobing flashes. I unbutton the third button of my shirt, so no one will notice I don't belong there. We dance. Jackie gets tired and sits at a tiny table with a club soda. I keep dancing.
A blond man in a pinstripe vest starts dancing with me. "You're pretty good," he says. I am. I raise my arms over my head and do something reminiscent of 80's aerobics with a little extra shoulder and hip action. He follows suit.
A beautiful young girl in a beautiful young dress dances by us, carrying a beautiful young drink, something blue in a tall skinny glass slithering around round ice cubes. "I want one of those drinks," I tell Pinstripes. It looks cool and sleek and magical, like a frozen waterfall. "Sure," he says, and goes off to the bar. I follow him.
"My name's Brad," he says as he hands me my drink. I take a sip; it doesn't taste as good as it looks. "What's your name?" You aren't Sharon, my Sharon just had her eighth birthday, we had a party with a clown.
"I'm Ophelia," I tell him.
"So, Ophelia, what do you do?"
"Right now I'm an estate planning lawyer, but when I was a teenager I was a fashion model. My picture was in Vogue magazine." He'll think I'm lying, but that's fine.
"Well, Ophelia, it just so happens I'm a commodities trader," he says, though I didn't ask him. "But I've never been in Vogue magazine." We laugh too loudly. "Where are you from?" he asks. Time to consider residential placement in a specialized facility.
I finish the drink in three gulps and hand him the glass. "I'm going to dance." He does something with the glass – maybe he swallows it, or throws it on the floor – and follows me back to the dance floor. He stands next to me as I start to step and twist. His arm goes around my waist. My arm rests on his hip. He turns and does a sort of modified lambada, straddling my leg. I straddle him too. If I could feel anything, I might dry hump him right there on the dance floor.
I disengage with a casual "Bye" and join Jackie. "Are you having a good time?" she asks.
"Yeah." Brad is dancing with someone else already. I take a sip from Jackie's club soda. I head for the distant corner and repeat -- dance, drink, bye -- with another impossibly clean-cut, eager, young man who doesn't ask what I do but tells me his name is Carl and licks my ear. My drink is red this time, vibrant, pulsingly alive. Maybe three years, but they won't be good years.
I tell Jackie I want to go home. She drops me off where she picked me up. She asks if I'm alright. I assure her I'm fine.
Mrs. Miller is sitting at the kitchen table. "You're early," she says. Early onset, progresses faster.
"Respite isn't all it's cracked up to be. Can you stay while I take a shower?"
"Of course, dear. Take your time, I have until 11 p.m."
"How was she?"
"Oh, not too bad, a little crying spell, kept saying you lost your tricycle, but she's in bed now."
I wash off the smoke and the lights, and Carl's slobber, and brush my teeth to clean off the booze. I give Mrs. Miller her check and go into Mom's room. She lies under a crisp white sheet, her head turned to the side. She looks pure and clean and peaceful.
I lie next to her and curl up so my head is on her chest. "Mommy!" I cry. She brings her arm around me. I can't stop the tears. "Mommy!"
She strokes my head, fingers caressing my hair, and turns to hold me with both arms. "It's ok, Shiny-Hiney," she says. "Mommy's here. Did you have a bad dream?" No one's called me Shiny-Hiney in 30 years, not since I asked everyone to stop using that name at my eighth birthday party.
"I had a bad dream, Mommy, can I sleep with you?" She kisses the top of my head and sings "The itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout." Our fingers climb in the air, touch, clasp. We sing together, "Down came the rain and washed the spider out." We giggle and hug, then drift off to sleep.
About the author:
Karen Carlson lives in Maine, and writes about the lost, the lonely, and the confused. Her work has appeared in several online literary magazines.
© 2011 Word Riot