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Monica Drake

Dearest Dear

You, Lamb chop, sweet, my dearest dear—

I'm sorry I put your good shirt in somebody else's free box. If you call me, I'll help you find it. We can track it down. It was by Union, or Federal way, or a small street near a billboard asking for Models for Christ. You know it, I can find it. I promise. Yes, I tried to throw your shoes over the wire in the middle of the night. They landed in the street, there was a car coming, and I took off.

Here's the thing though—earlier, in the day, I'd hauled our bottles and cans back to recycling. The smell of the recycling corner? It has an effect. It's all rancid beer, mold and soggy cigarettes. But you know me, I'm sentimental. That smell reminds me of the day after a good bender, tight friends, house parties, and it makes me want to gag, but I always want to crack a new beer too.

Out of sentiment.

It's the way a dumpster on a hot day smells like our vacation in Acapulco. Remember that? I love the smell, because of us. Because of you.

So I was taking cans back, and this woman comes up with a shopping cart full of bottles. We're moving in unison, hands feeding the machines, me all Diet Coke and Seven up, and her all beer, beer, beer, the sun on our backs. She's got these dyed blue chunks in her pale hair, and she's wearing baggy overall cut-offs. Maybe I was staring. You know how I am—a people person. She looks, and randomly says, "Hey honey, want some extra pots and pans? I'm moving. It's good stuff, I'm trying to get rid of."

I say, "Free?"

We all know what moving is like. So she wants to give things away instead of packing, right? I'm here to help.

She says, "Pretty close by. Walk with me, and I'll hand you this whole set of Revereware. A tortilla maker, too."

We're still feeding the machines, talking over the clank and rattle, that rancid beer party air, and I say, "Sure." Because I'm thinking of you! You're on my mind. How you love homemade tortillas.

Then her phone rings. She takes the call, and says, "Dude. Check. Five minutes."

She tells me, "I've got to get back and fix this tattoo."

I say, "You're a tattoo artist?" Her arms are laced in funky drawings of field grass, and briars.

She says, "Not really. Just ink, stick and poke."

I'm crazy about the sound of those words. Why do I like words? I do. Her eyes are pale and kind of nutty, sand he's pretty but not perfect, a chipped doll in the wrong clothes, but she's giving off pheromones or something I think, it makes me dizzy, and right away I like her a lot.

We turn in our receipts, change mountains of bottles into a few bucks, and I follow her down the street, and we stop at this apartment. The door's open. There's a guy holding his arm like it's in a sling, except it's not, and that arm is patched with dried blood.

She straightens his arm, holds it. His skin is caramel, he's strong, sinewy, and a mess where he's tried to write something on his body. Heathens? Heathers? I can't exactly read it. She smacks his arm, and he pulls it back. She says, "Nothing I can do with it 'til that swelling goes down."

He says, "Who's this?"

Meaning me.

She says, "I'm giving her the pots and pans, right?" Like it's some conversation they've already had, and I want to remind her about the tortilla maker. Because of you, my bonbon, my pumpernickel, my pet. I am thinking of you as I step into their dark, cool cave.

I'm thinking of how soon I'll be back beside you.

The guy presses his bloody arm against the wall. He's got long, shagged out hair, a narrow nose, and a thin smile, and maybe he's a little high. I could see him as a drummer, behind a drum kit. Maybe he sees himself like that, too. He says, "Can I do you?"

He's got a sewing needle in his hand, with ink-covered thread wrapped around it. When he takes his arm away, a ghost of the word he'd tried to write is left in dots, on the white paint. Heathens, I'm pretty sure, now. Definitely Heathens. He's a man willing to live with his mistakes. He says, "I'm good, I just can't do myself."

The woman lifts her patchy blue hair, raises her head to flash the blood-flecked thorns only of a rose outlined on the side of her neck, dangerously over those arteries.

I say, "I'm okay."

This guy must be giving off pheromones too though, because I start to like him right away. I like him so much—I kind of want to chew on his split ends, clutch his red, bloody arm. He says, "Starts with an oxycontin." He's plying me. On their cluttered coffee table, there's this mess of pills.

The woman picks one pill up and says, "Those are oxycodone."

Maybe I give a come hither glance, at the meds? I don't know, but the guy's inspired enough to say, "I've got Xanax."

A blue pill pulled from his linty pocket says Xanax in all caps, right on it. I'm being careful, reading it first, right? Maybe this is where I go wrong.

I look for a glass of water. He's got a motorcycle, an old BSA, taken apart on newspaper in the kitchen. I say, "Nice."

He shrugs. "250 cc's. Old school."

While that Xanax creeps into my blood, we get into this motorcycle thing. He says, "You look more like you'd handle a 350. Maybe 550." He passes me an open bottle of Maker's Mark, and that's even more of a party than rancid beer smell. It reminds me of a night, you and me, at the coast, sleeping our sleeping bags on cold sand. I have this surge through my veins. The woman crowds beside me, both of us against the fridge, thighs side by side. I'm taller than she is.

I melt into this crazy shy riot of need. To cover what feels like blushing, I say, "Like a fine wine, I'm made to be drunk," and take a swig.

She drinks, too. Turns out the guy has another bike in back, a 350, and offers to let me ride it, and I say I don't ride a bike like that, only a dirt bike, and he says, "Same basic deal," and his words come out soft and sleepy, and he's older than he looked at first, they both are, and the burn of whiskey always makes me happy, and I know I said I'd be home, darling, but things like this come up.

What I feel in that kitchen is the way humans are so flawed and so perfect, and I want to share bodies. You know your old dog? That's how I feel—I want to climb on people, breathe their breath, lick the inside of stranger's mouths.

I don't know these two, but who do we ever know, really, past the skin? How do we get there? Tell me how.

By the time I take the bike outside, we've been in the apartment so long, I forgot the sun would still be shining, but there it is. Lo and behold. Totally, setting sun in my eyes.

I think even the motorcycle is giving off pheromones! I like it so much, right away. My head is thick, my hopes are up. I put my legs around the bike, the engine gives off a heat, and it moves fast enough to make decisions for me. When I try to brake, it makes the wrong decision--I twist my wrist back, notch up the throttle, hit a cement parking strip, then go over a walkway into the back side of a Laundromat, and fall, slo-motion, all of it.

So when I saw you, and you asked where I'd been those days, and I said, "Out," what I meant was, out cold.

I wasn't trying to be uncommunicative, sweet thing. Sometimes our greatest strength is our greatest weakness, right? I couldn't leave once I came around. They made sure I stayed up all night. We kept each other up, we took care of bodies. I'm home now. You didn't need to leave. I hate it when you storm out. That's why—the shirt?


Your shirt was dreamy. It's probably still there. Nobody would notice what a good shirt it is, and how it smells rich with the human scent of you.

Your shoes? I'm not so sure about.

But I'm here, with stolen pills for you, in my pocket, ready to make you homemade tortillas. This is love! This is how love works. Call me back.

➥ Bio