Grace directed me at dawn to get donuts, and it’s like everyone got laid last night, saying, “Good morning,” and walking their dogs. Ah, to be loved, to be learned, to be lurking about. The donuts are so unnecessary–I feel rich buying a dozen–but it’s a good start to a bad day, since Colleen and Connor will be visiting. These friends had been flirting with divorce, but then they were in a car accident and a pedestrian was killed. Now they are trying again to make their marriage work—it was not their fault.
“We aren’t murderers,” Colleen said as they crossed the threshold. They weren’t elegant company–Connor especially with his webbed toes and sandals. “No charges were pressed, remember,” she said. The jaywalker was to blame, but this was an unsettling greeting. Grace had said just that morning that she felt, not like a host, but rather, a crash test dummy.
Colleen and Connor had been going to couple’s therapy, and used these sorts of visits to try out their new perspectives and techniques. Connor, for instance, had jealous rage. Colleen too had the rage, but of a different sort. They now tell the story that the accident that killed that young man really brought them back together, assuaged their rage, and provided insight into the nature of love. Grace and I were suspicious. The jaywalker’s teeth had been knocked out of his mouth.
I didn’t cook, or even slice anything for our guests. Grace wouldn’t sit. The history of our friendship with these people was getting foggier and foggier. After sneaking away into the kitchen, I said to Grace, “Remind me how we know them.”
“There was a time, “Grace said, “when we enjoyed having drinks with Colleen and Connor. Before they were married, they were fun and also pleasant. We often played trivia at the bar, and even went on a beach trip with them once. Connor is a good dancer, and Colleen is a dermatologist. Then you quit drinking and were in the hospital, and they got married and resentful with each other. Connor found a love letter from another man, and Colleen didn’t do much to calm him down about it. They were in a terrible car accident and someone lost their life. Now, here they are.”
Is it a feature or a bug of adult friendships, their presence? This isn’t the first time they’ve used our living room as a sort of stage. They did have the effect of making Grace and I feel perfect.
“You know, Connor is building a tiny boat inside of a wine bottle,” Colleen said. “Very meticulous work.”
“It’s a ship,” Connor said, “But, yes, it takes great care. Did you know Colleen is writing potty now?”
“That’s efficient,” Grace said. A car’s tires screeched farther down the street and the couple flinched.
“What do you like about Grace?” Colleen asked. No doubt, this was therapy-speak and I felt, for their own rehabilitation, I should try to play along.
“Grace once threw a meatloaf off of the back deck into the yard. Her parents were over for dinner and they claimed it was too salty. We had to order pizza.”
Larry Young was the name of the deceased pedestrian. He had not been drunk—just careless trying to cross the street between two cars. Colleen and Connor now had the nerve to believe he sacrificed himself for the health of their marriage, and it made me uncomfortable. If Grace was right about our previous friendship with these people, I just could not recall it.
“Another thing I like about Grace,” I said, “is that she always texts me when she’s getting a pedicure. Like, she’s at her most comfortable and still thinks of me. I also like the way she smells in the morning.”
Colleen and Connor had stopped playing along. They got up from the couch.
“He,” Grace said, “always writes in blue ink? Isn’t that cute? And he never exercises or complains about not exercising. And he wonders if every rock he finds is a meteorite.”
They were creeping closer to the door, gathering their things, their new car throbbing in the driveway. I still had a kind of amnesia. Even their names were escaping me.
Sean Ennis is the author of Chase Us: Stories (Little A) and his fiction has recent;y appeared in Maudlin House, Pithead Chapel, Rejection Letters and Wigleaf. More of his work can be found at seanennis.net