Author : Carol Reid

Is there a sign over Gina’s head that reads, “Vacancy”? She imagines it in neon, that peculiar orange pink reserved for a certain class of motel– and apparently for her, a certain class of fucked up female, who had a reasonable, ordinary life before the thing began. Maybe she should blame her dad, poor dad, long dead and blameless anyway. The other half of the sign lights up. No. No. No. No. You did this on your own, girl.

She has a cell phone in her hand and his number written on her wrist, as if she could forget it, although never has she called him on the phone before. She is not near any motel. She is in her car, parked neatly between the lines in the empty Wal-Mart parking lot. Recession has cut back hours, everyone heads home at six. It’s a quarter after seven, the September sky turning lavender overhead. She has a cell phone in her hand, open.

Everything feels so still, just an underlying electric hum, perhaps from the cell, perhaps from the lowering sky. Her need for him tears at the lining of her gut. He has done nothing to encourage this. He is merely there, out there, somewhere, waiting for her call.

Her head swims a little from hunger but she doesn’t want to hurl again. Her husband has noticed that lately she picks at her dinner; she can hear him thinking that maybe she’s on the sauce. And she has tried a little, just wine so far, which did nada to file down the edges of the thing to any tolerable level. On nights like tonight, when he leaves for his shift at four thirty and doesn’t come home till five a.m., she can live unobserved. She can pick up a six of cider and tuck it under the passenger seat, drive up and down the alphabet of residential streets, Aspen, Brook, Cassia, Dunbar. She “dun” went to the “bar”. Ha ha. Not yet, at least. Later, alligator.

She rubs her thumb across the inked-on ten digit number she took the entire afternoon tracking down while her husband napped. The ink doesn’t smudge. If she wants it gone she’ll have to take a layer of skin off with it. If only her husband had woken up early, crept up behind where she sat at her computer, demanded to know what the fuck she thought she was doing. No. She had any number of lies ready. There wasn’t a thing her husband could have done.

She keys in the series of innocent numbers, each one a stroke nearer to getting the thing done. Each tone has its own heavy frequency, and after the series of ten is complete, the silence on the line sucks her breath away. Who knows what she really sees next? It is likely that her mind can’t open wide enough to take it in. In its place she sees the matte metal shell of the craft hovering just above her, and the hinged staircase dropping open, each step limned with a neon glow. The roof of the car is first transparent, and then permeable, so that when she reaches up to clasp his hand there is no longer any barrier between them.

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