I’m browsing amongst handbags when the phone rings. Of course it’s Scott. No one else calls – I’ve trained all of them to email – and he’s the only one whose call I’d answer anyway.
“Who buys these things?” I say into the receiver by way of greeting, startling the woman next to me. Good. The people in this store need a wake-up call. “The uglier they are, the higher the price. And what’s up with the straps? Is there a secret that I don’t know about, a way to carry these things without holding them in the crook of your elbow so your arm goes numb and you lose all feeling, and, I don’t know, you die of arm paralysis?”
He says: “I got an email.”
My name is Elena, and I’m a catastrophist. If we were in one of these twelve-step meetings, you’d probably say, “Hi, Elena!” and then sip coffee from a styrofoam cup held by a jittery hand. But it’s just me, talking too loudly in a group of shopping strangers that is unsuccessfully trying to ignore me. My cheeks redden and I can feel my heartbeat throbbing in my temples.
“It’s from Joy,” he says.
I go to slump against the wall with relief and realize there is no nearby wall, only a gray-haired woman against whose shoulder I almost fall. I stumble and manage to stand up straight. She snorts and puts a fair distance between us.
Can’t say I blame her. I’m smart enough to know that I can get a little ... intense.
“Joy,” I say. “Joy. You scared the shit out of me. You know how I am. But you get me all riled up over Joy?”
Joy is my sister. She is my inverse. She is the part of the battery marked with a plus. I am the minus. Of course Scott got an email from Joy. Joy emails everyone. She wants to spread her ... Joy.
He says: “She told me she wants to fuck me.”
I’m not just a catastrophist. I’m also extremely possessive. Not to mention insecure. Do I even need to mention that? You know those two sisters skip together hand in hand, daisies in their hair.
Except how that would never be Joy and me. I don’t skip, and besides, the bitch would never be caught dead with a daisy near her carefully layered hair. The bitch has a thumb so black it’s purple.
I’m the gardener in the family. I know how to raise things. She just puts her boot in the soil and ... stomps.
“Fuck?” I say. My voice is no longer loud. I am leaning against a wall for real. I sound like a little girl whose favorite toy was co-opted on the playground, leaving her alone and aching.
I am six again. But this time with a wedding ring on my finger.
“Where are you?” Scott asks.
Saks, Macy’s, Gremlins? Is there a department store called Gremlins? Do they sell munchkin handbags with straps barely big enough to fit your wrist, let alone your shoulder?
“I don’t know,” I say, and wonder how permissible it is for a 33-year-old to suck her thumb.
I'm a writer and storyteller in Berkeley, CA. If you're wondering where that is, follow the smell of patchouli and skunkweed. There you'll find me with my kickass husband, gorgeous little boy, and manic Lab-Australian Shepherd mix pups. I'm represented by Miriam Altshuler of DeFiore & Co., but of course, my views are my own.