it was after prom.
this was years ago but it was still stuck in her mind. now thirty, she sat behind the tiny knitting cafe counter she worked at, knitting and purling and watching how quickly the periwinkle fabric turned and twisted in her hands, something she could not do twelve years ago, but now taught people how to do it, as her job, along with making cappuccinos and coffees and teas and baking organic and vegan muffins. she tried not to think of the divorce proceedings that were currently occupying her life, the pregnant cat at her house, half of whose kittens would belong to her soon-to-be ex-husband.
but after the prom, they did the going to a club thing, drinking out of flasks or cheap plastic cups, then going to the beach, still drinking out of flasks or cheap plastic cups, and then going to the lady luck diner and eating eggs. one out of every four students threw up in the parking lot. they all went to their respective houses, to tell their parents they had a great time, and slept till the late afternoon. the rest of the weekend was consumed by drinking, clubs, wild hotel parties, sex, and/or takeout food.
marey woke at seven in the evening on the day after the prom, and drank two glasses of powdered iced tea upon waking. (she knew nothing of teas then, just instant and regular hot tetley. she knew nothing of herbal or steeping or antioxidants.) she called her then-boyfriend, who came over. he was acting weird, and marey knew it was over. while he sat and talked with his best friend, mostly ignoring her, she went into her backyard and swam in the pool. after she dried off, he had left. she saw his car going down the block; she had hoped he would hop in the pool, greeting her tired mouth with his warm red lips.
her best friend came over. "why did jay leave? aren't you guys going dancing?"
"i guess not. fuck these suburbs. let's leave."
marey pulled on a black summer dress over her wet bathing suit. her hair smelled of chlorine and she was glad her hair was short--it always looked good, even without combing.
krissy called jay for her while she applied coral lipstick. “what the fuck is up with ditching my best friend?” this was when it was normal for your best friend to mediate your problems with your boyfriend. jay told her nothing was wrong. (really, he was getting into drugs, coke and acid and whatever else was around, above all weed.) he told krissy he was getting high. krissy told him to clean up his act or he was going to lose marey. “i don’t give a shit,” he told krissy, which she told marey only two years later, wanting to spare her friend the pain.
after a suitable lie (marey was sleeping at krissy’s, while krissy’s mom thought she was sleeping at marey’s) they walked to the commuter train station. they were almost late for the train, and ran the last quarter mile, arriving at the station breathless. they spent their train ride talking in soft voices, not sure what to do.
“st. mark’s place. it’s the coolest.”
as soon as the train arrived in the city, they went to a drug store inside the train station. they had forgotten their lipstick. there was a condom sale, and krissy wanted to buy the discounted trojans. marey paid for her rose pink lipstick, and they left.
they wandered around the train station, studying maps, until they figured their way to the street they so desired, a street on which marey would later live, when it would be labeled “so overrated.”
they were not sure what to do once they got their. they hopped on the subway, studying the map, subtly staring at people. as they exited the subway, marey began crying. she wouldn’t say what it was about, but it was of course about a boyfriend who she didn’t really like that much anyway—but it was the fact that their ties were being severed.
they went to an all-night bagel and pizza café. marey got a sesame bagel with an inch and a half of cream cheese, while krissy got two slices of greasy pepper pizza. krissy had never been to st. mark’s and was impressed. marey had been here before—had had her back pressed tight against a doorway while making out with a guitar player from an unknown punk band two months ago, on this very street, after eating at the very same pizza and bagel café.
they ate. they drank juice in small cartons. in the bathroom, marey ignored the small baggies decorating the floor and studied herself in the mirror. too boring. she applied excess lipstick, dotted the pink color on her cheeks and rubbed, as if it were rouge. she scrunched her hair up, pushed her dress down, revealing more cleavage. the wet spots from the bathing suit had almost, but not completely, dried.
on the street, marey bought barrettes from a store that was somehow still open, even at midnight. she put them on in front of a mirror the cashier had handed her, fastening her hair back. she bought an extra pair in a different color, that she dropped into her purse.
they wandered around, between glowing embers and couples making out and drunk nyu students and loud music spilling out of clubs and shrieking of sidewalk bars and the fried food of restaurants. krissy bought a cd from a street vendor.
they sat on the curb in front of a store that had closed hours earlier. they had never smoked before but krissy bummed a cigarette off of a cop, and they passed it back and forth between each other, coughing ever-so-slightly. a couple walked past, and stopped.
later, marey would never remember what they had been discussing. they were never sure if they were a couple or just friends, but eventually, marey was kissing the girl who was a thin model (marey later saw her in cosmetic ads) and krissy made out with the tall and somewhat feminine man (who they later realized was a woman).
on the train later: omigod, are we lesbians? but for now, just kiss.
after the kissing stopped, krissy and marey continued walking. they averted their eyes, and bought a pack of cigarettes. they went into a bar and shared beers. they drank and smoked until their money ran out. then they let two law students buy them drinks, and lied about their ages. they made up an elaborate story. the boys had to leave to study for a test.
krissy and marey left the bar when it closed. they walked back to the suburban train station, skipping the subway ride for a long walk through the still-humming streets. they were tired. they bought a snapple to share, and gum to disguise their heavily nicotine breath.
“god. this is so not normal for a prom weekend.”
they got on the commuter train bound for their hometown when arriving in the station, and found the streets in the suburbs much darker, much quieter. dew covered everything. they heard their breath. unlike the city, which hummed and grew and breathed life and energy even so late, the suburbs were scary and empty. the girls ran back to krissy’s, ran the four miles. they ran into sprinklers, and constantly looked around. no one was there.
they ran into krissy’s backyard, where they climbed the tall oak to the treehouse they no longer used. it was good for times like these. stinking of nicotine and beer and sweat and even, a little on marey, chlorine, they slept until the afternoon.
and now years later, marey wondered what had happened to jay. here she was: divorced at a year when she should have been having children. she knew krissy was living in iowa, teaching kindergarten and married with two children. her husband was a children’s author. she was successful. supposedly. all of these facts had come through friends of friends, and had marey inquired further she would have learned that krissy’s husband had left her for their babysitter, and her husband got custody, and that krissy was depressed and planning on quitting teaching to travel around the world.
but somehow, none of this matters because memories are the most important.
30 December 2004
it was after prom.