By Brittany Ackerman-
Parker sends me a Facebook message. He wants to remind me that he’s not coming to visit me, not coming Indiana next week like he’d promised he would. He cancelled his flight. He isn’t ready and can’t take it anymore, how everything feels rushed and big and heavy and urgent. The message is a slap in the face.
I read the message while I'm walking to Cody’s house. I work with Cody at the sushi restaurant and he happens to live a few blocks over. It’s February and I walk in the snow with my boots and my coat. I can feel my lace bra and underwear sitting tight underneath my clothes, like I'm all strapped in. I'm okay with fucking Cody because maybe it will erase Parker. It will buy me time. I see it as an act against the goodness of my soul, the forward motion of my life because I still think I'm meant to be with Parker. I hope that God will right the wrongs, will make it stop before it happens. I imagine Parker showing up on my doorstep with his luggage, our reuniting and making everything okay again. I truly believe these things will happen.
I delete the message and knock on Cody’s door, slipping my Blackberry into my purse after switching it to silent. Cody answers the door in basketball shorts and offers me dinner, leftover steak and potatoes. I decline and ask if he has any weed, any coke, any vodka. He has all three and we partake in each one quickly, like a regimen, a ritual. He’s feeling me up when I realize we’re going to fuck and that divine intervention hasn’t happened yet.
Cody works the lunch shift at the restaurant, a shift I’d never worked until last week because I only work nights. But I was randomly scheduled for a Friday lunch and it was so busy and chaotic. I wasn’t used to an influx of people all at once. The dinner shift spreads itself out over the course of a few hours as business rises and falls, peaks and valleys, in a way that feels steady and methodic. Cody had helped so much that day. He’d taken tables’ orders for me, refilled drinks, even made me a plate of food in the back and left me a cigarette to smoke that we’d ended up sharing. He’d put his arms around me to warm me up while I smoked. He called me baby and I wanted to let him have me any way he wanted. But I had Parker then, in LA, promising that he’d come visit me at school, my senior year, before I myself would move to LA to write, or rather, think about writing for another few years before I actually ever wrote anything down.
I ask for another drink and Cody has a massive hard on. He rubs it and pours my drink and I turn on the TV. Jurassic Park is on. Laura Dern is nursing a sick triceratops. She calls it beautiful.
Someone knocks on the door and Cody starts talking to whoever it is for a while. I grab my purse off the floor and see that Jason has called me nine times in the last hour. Jason was my boyfriend for a few months but he broke up with me because he’s a junior and I'm a senior. I’d met him during another bout of Parker being unsure and stayed with him because we meshed well. I think Jason just wanted to fuck other people, even though our fucking had been so good. He felt more like a friend, the way we would wake and bake and drive through McDonald’s breakfast, the way we played Super Smash Brothers, the way I’d wipe the bar stamps off the back of his palm with my makeup remover, the way we separated at parties and then ended up back together at the end of the night. But really our fucking had kept us together. We fucked like teenagers who had just discovered fucking. He was in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and I was in the School of Arts and Letters. He wanted to save the world and I wanted to write about how much I hated it.
I tell Cody I need to make a call and I go outside and dial Jason. It’s freezing and I forget my coat but he answers on the first ring.
“Where the fuck are you?” Jason asks, sounding concerned, not mad.
“Sorry, I was just in the shower.”
“For over an hour?”
“What do you want?”
“Obviously I miss you. I wish you were here right now.”
Whoever was at Cody’s door has gone inside and I look around at the street, all dark and covered in splotches of ice. It looks delicate and pretty. I take the phone from my ear and see it’s after eleven o’clock.
“Do you want me to come over?” I ask.
“Yeah, I do.”
I think about asking Cody for one more bump before I leave so I’ll be definitely okay to drive, but I know it’s rude so I don't. I hope by the time I walk home I’ll be sober enough to drive the ten minutes it takes to get to the other side of campus to Jason’s.
Cody’s pretty fucked up and isn’t mad that I'm leaving. He tells me to call him later, even though I won’t. He kisses me on the cheek and says bye baby. His place is depressing when it had seemed cool before and I'm glad to be leaving, to swipe my jacket off the couch and head back outside to the cold, to the rest of my life. I think about calling Parker, asking him if he’s sure he doesn’t love me, if he knows that I'm about to get back together with a great guy and then it’ll really, truly be over between us. No more Facebook messages or late night texts or desperate calls or letters, no more care packages or promises. No more waiting. No more heavenly deficit. I am done.
I change my shoes when I get back home and grab my car keys from the hook by the door. My roommates are all gone, out at the bar, so I don't have to answer to anyone. It feels like a good secret to have. I can explain it tomorrow at brunch in our sweaters and leggings and UGGs. I put eye drops in my eyes and drive to Jason’s. When I pass over the railroad tracks, I feel like I'm safe, like after this point only good can come.
Jason’s waiting outside smoking a joint and I join him on the steps and take the joint from him. He starts rubbing my shoulders and although I know this is a moment of joy, I also know if Parker showed up on my doorstep I would give up everything to be with him. I would blow up my life so I could be his, and he, mine.
We go inside and Jason’s roommates are watching TV. Jurassic Park is still on from before, but it’s jarring to see it playing in a different house on a different TV set. I wonder if the movie acted as God, or if my divine intervention was the knock on the door at Cody’s, or how the road was dead and the drive took me here with such ease, gliding towards Jason like an ascension to some holy mountaintop.
“I was watching this earlier,” I say, letting it slip. “At my house.”
All my friends are happy when Jason and I get back together. We celebrate the next day with pancakes and mimosas and I spend all day in bed with a hangover until work where I don't have to avoid Cody because it’s a night shift so it’s fine. I stay with Jason as long as I can. But I still go to LA the following year and chase Parker. I am not able to stop even when I so wholeheartedly want to. There is no erasing him or his power over me. I am triumphed by it every time. For a while I think that Parker is the divine, my God, my higher power, but it turns out he was whatever dark thing you’d like to call such an opposing force. He was the darkest dark in my life, an unlit tunnel, a void.
But tonight, I'm still in college, still in Bloomington. I still have the whole world ahead of me like an uncharted sea. I'm not yet responsible to steer the ship.
“I fucking love this movie,” Jason says, but instead of seeing it through, we go to his room and fuck.
Brittany Ackerman is a writer from Riverdale, New York. She earned her BA in English from Indiana University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University. She has led workshops for UCLA’s Extension program, The Porch, Catapult, HerStry, Write or Die, and Lighthouse Writers. She currently teaches writing at Vanderbilt University in the English Department. She is a 2x Pushcart Prize Nominee and her work has been featured in Electric Literature, Jewish Book Council, Lit Hub, The Los Angeles Review, No Tokens, Joyland, and more. Her first collection of essays entitled The Perpetual Motion Machine was published with Red Hen Press in 2018, and her debut novel The Brittanys is out now with Vintage. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.