Undercurrents

Lana plucked a grilled cheese sandwich out of the pan and noticed she had burned one side. She dropped it onto a plate with the burned side down and carried it over to Mark at the kitchen table. Studying his thinning hair, she said, “Here you go, babe,” and she thought about the countless evenings he had spent prowling Serbian nightclubs for easy one-night stands.

A picture of her father hung on the wall next to the table. His short salt-and-pepper hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and gentle features betrayed the years of hunger he had suffered as a little boy. He told her just before she left, “What doesn’t happen on the surface is fine.”

Mark was about to spend three weeks in Shreveport with his construction crew, getting wasted in the clubs late at night and sending Lana garbled texts that she would respond to cautiously, figuring he would never change because he was ruled by ungovernable instincts that dictated the terms of their relationship. What Mark called issues, Lana called problems. There was a difference. Anything that couldn’t be reconciled with reason was a problem. At this point, she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to be an American citizen anymore. She just wanted him to eat his grilled cheese and leave so she could make the best of the situation.

“You’ll be good, right?” he asked.

“I promise, baby,” she said. “You’re my man.”

Once he was finally gone, she gazed out the window for a few minutes and watched the tide come in. Then she pulled a marijuana gummy bear from the pocket of her workout shorts and wiggled it gently between her index finger and thumb. Her body heat had made it warm and spongy. She popped it into her mouth, then poured herself a vodka press and took a few sips, keeping the gummy bear stowed safely under her tongue the whole time.

If she was going to be a human ornament, then she would do it on her own terms. She headed downstairs to the exercise room to stretch and lift weights, wondering who would hold her in his arms in the next few days. The range of possibilities made her quiver. She had to think about what she would tell him.