Stress Panic Tremble

Prompt: Year


Envy picked up her cell phone, then put it down again. She was sitting in her car on the street in front of her new condo. It was raining. Inside the second floor apartment, boxes of kitchenware, clothing, papers, books, collectibles, junk, knickknacks, useless trinkets, and meaningless mementoes all awaited her, wanting to be unpacked and put away.

Why had she not been more discerning when she packed? Why had she accepted that box of her high school binders and yearbooks, pictures and trinkets, from her mother? She hated high school. Now high school sat in a box on the second floor of a modern brick building in a questionable, but soon to be upscale, neighbourhood. Or so her realtor had told her.

She could feel the vibes from the high school box emanating from the condo and penetrating the car. She couldn’t help but think of her college friend Tatiana, who always smelled like deep-fried garlic ribs because her apartment was above a Chinese buffet. Would Envy now smell of desperation and despair?

High school was why she kept trying to call Stuart. He’d rapidly become the best friend she had, with Virginia and Cash away, Marcus in prison, and her complete lack of interest (reciprocated) in the passive-aggressive friends of her ex-marriage.

Stuart and his boyfriend Trent had already invited her to join them at a New Year’s Eve party in town. They said it would be fun, quirky, and lots of straight people there too. Free food and liquor, and who knew what? Stuart said with a nudge. Wear what you like, but wear a mask. Come! they said.

And who knows? Maybe they thought she would enjoy it, that she would even contribute to the celebration. They didn’t know that on November the first, before Marcus, and apparently post-Marcus, she traditionally began the pre-December 31 stress panic tremble. She’d almost forgotten herself.

Or maybe it was a pity invitation, like her high school New Year’s Eves had been. Three of them, three miserable endless nights— but at least she’d had the dignity to stay at home the third time. She told her parents she had a cold, and stayed in her bedroom writing angry poems in her journal, plotting her dramatic suicide, and listening to Lucinda Williams. Her brother Cash just laughed at her. What a dick.

She knew it was foolish, but she loved beyond reason that she and Marcus had been able to choose from a respectable stack of party invitations, or choose to welcome the New Year alone at home, in front of the fire, with champagne, lots of sex, more champagne, laughing, and more sex.

Now grey skies rained, and water dribbled down the windshield, and all Envy could think of was Bob, a man she had never met. “He’s not that bad,” said Stuart when he’d first brought up the Bob possibility. At the moment that sounded like a glowing recommendation. Why had she waited so long to pounce on the opportunity to date such a highly valued man? He was not bad looking, Stuart said. That seemed to be the sum of his brag-worthy qualities. “Scrubs up nice, and I happen to know he is completely free at the moment.”

So what if he was a poor conversationist? If he was politically incorrect sometimes? If he was more interested in sports— watching, not playing— than he was in anything else? He was a man’s man. “More like a boy’s boy,” said Stuart. “But I kind of like him. He’s not entirely a bigot.” Not entirely?

“He’s very clean,” said Stuart.

That was it. Envy dug her cell phone out of her pocket one last time and punched in Stuart’s number.

Of course he was at work at the clinic, and she left him a message. “Stuart it’s me. Can you get Bob organized for me? Like, for New Year’s? Would I have to call him, or, what can you do? I know, I know, but you know. Anyway, I have to run, call me back when you get a chance. Love ya.” She threw the phone onto the passenger seat as if it stung her fingers.

Stuart understood. He would help her. In the meantime, a radioactive box of toxic memories was far too close. She started the car. It was Wednesday, and right now, until five pm, the church was handing out food baskets. She would go help Jerry pack up and ship out some cans of tuna, peanut butter, and dry pasta. High school could wait.