Butter Eggs

I met Biv at the hotel, where she was famous already. It was a large three-star several blocks away from the Nashville airport, with a splashing fountain in the atrium and twangy muzak played loud to cover up the roar of planes. All the other girls in housekeeping wanted to make it big and since a lot of managers stayed there on tour, the halls were full of dropped CD’s and chance encounters. It was a nice atmosphere. Each day, our team arrived at work dreaming they’d get discovered, and the guests were catered to by a squadron of beautiful youths already in love with them.

That’s why Biv turned so many heads the first time she appeared in our lobby: she was not our demographic. Mid-twenties and obviously queer, she had electric blue hair cropped over her ears and an alligator-skin briefcase. She ordered a suite with a canopy, paid with four crisp hundred-dollar bills, then tipped Marco to carry her things to the twenty-first floor.

I did not witness this scene, just heard about it afterwards when I was trying to find out as much about Biv as I could. The first time I actually met her was in the stairwell, three days later.

I was sitting on the very top step of the 30th floor and thinking about Maria. Between the end of my shift and when the sun set, I would spread out my skirt on the dirty cement, look out the tiny window, and imagine her singing her song about goodbyes. She had a deep, rich voice and a thick repertoire of love songs, which prolonged our breakup.

So I guess I was looking lonely, and when Biv popped her head into the stairwell to find a place to smoke, she asked if everything was all right.

“I miss my girlfriend,” I said. “Well, ex-girlfriend.”

“Oh.” She raised an eyebrow, because it probably seemed like I was hitting on her, letting her know I dated women even though I looked pretty femme. And maybe I was doing just that. I liked the way her slender hands flipped the cigarette pack open then closed.

“I’m okay, though,” I said. “Now I’m just pissed.”

“Pissed, why?” Her accent was rougher than the usual Nashville twang. It reminded me of those documentaries I’d seen about deep Appalachia, but Biv looked rich and had all of her teeth.

“I moved here with her so she could sing,” I said. “I was supporting her until she got a deal. She left me before that happened, and now I’m stuck here.”

“Why don’t you move away?”

“I don’t have anywhere else I’d want to go.” I’d never had a good answer for what I wanted. I didn’t mind working in the hotel; I liked shoving stale sheets down the chutes on each floor and wiping away the flecks on the big bathroom mirrors. I wish I made more money, and that someone loved me enough to put me in a song, but I didn’t need much more than that.

“You’re young,” she said.

“You are too.” We exchanged ages; she was 26, I was 24.

“Are you free now?” When I said yes, she asked if I wanted to come back to her room.

I paused a little to be sure, but I liked the way Biv stood there patiently, so I said yes. Her room was bright white and lemon clean; I’d stocked the mini bar this morning and thought for sure we would have a drink. But she just flopped down on the bed, closed her eyes, and in a half a minute fell into a sound sleep.

I lay still for a while, staring out the window at the line of cars turning into the arrivals section of the airport. I imagined someone was getting off a plane right now who would change my life. But even when I closed my eyes, I couldn’t see what they looked like. Maria always had those sorts of fantasies: he was a young, open-minded record label scout looking for a beautiful singer with a face to match. I looked down at Biv. Her eyes were clenched tight like a kid pretending to be asleep. I nudged her with my finger but she didn’t move. “Hey,” I said, kind of quietly. “Hey,” I said again.

Her eyes flipped open. “Sorry,” she said, rolling over. “I guess I was tired.”

“Were you up late last night?”

“I had a meeting with a client,” she said. “It ran til 3am.”

I blinked. “What do you do?”

“I sell insurance,” she said. “Specialty insurance for really rich people. Rare books, art, horses, you know? Last week, I wrote a policy for someone’s record collection. I can’t tell you who.”

I was beginning to wonder if we were even going to have sex. I still didn’t know if I wanted to. “Where do you live?”

“Wherever I’m working the most. I don’t have a home.”

“You mean you stay in a hotel every night?”

She grinned. “I haven’t made my own bed in years.”

“Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just rent an apartment?”

 “My work pays for it.” She shrugged. “And I like hotels.”

I smiled for the first time. “Me too.”

She put her hand on my waist and pulled me to her. Her fingers were thicker, her breath sweeter, her eyes more bloodshot than Maria’s. I still felt tired, too tired to think about what I was going to do next. I liked feeling that way.

In December, the sky turned pale and I began to forget the lyrics to Maria’s songs. Biv was busy with a few estates north of town, and had moved into 11G until further notice. Each day I met her after my shift ended. We’d lie down together on the pillowy white coverlet I had spread that morning. I had learned many more things about her: that she had grown up poor, on a farm in Kentucky; that she did not graduate from college but now made $155k a year; that her nipples were small and dark and sensitive; that she went to the salon every two weeks to refresh her hair; that she disliked animals and babies, since her sisters had “foaled more than the horses, and if I hadn’t been a dyke, I’d have probably gotten knocked up too.”

I was shocked that she’d used that word, and I guess it must have showed, because she grinned and said, “Dyke dyke dyke dyke.”

I had begun to think Biv was hilarious. So hilarious that, when I learned she was planning on spending Christmas at the hotel, I insisted she come home with me instead, to my parents’ house in Richmond. She said she couldn’t, and at first I thought she was being polite so I told her over and over again how welcome she’d be.

“I’m not going,” she finally told me the morning I was set to leave. “I don’t do well with parents.”

“You’d like mine,” I said. “And I know they’d like you.”

She put her hands on my shoulders. “I love you too much to take that chance,” she said.

I could sense that this wasn’t the whole truth but my mind had gone blank at the word “love.”

“Oh,” I kept saying. “Oh, wow.”

“You gonna say it back?” she said, grinning.

“Yes,” I said. “Sorry.” My heart thudded fast. When I told her I loved her back, the words came out all shaky.

“You’re ridiculous,” she said. “Drive safe.”

When I came back to Nashville, the weather was cool and dry. The bustle of the city had died down for the holidays and the moon shone full above the darkened buildings. I had missed the orderliness of the hotel and was glad to be back.

But on New Year’s Eve, as we were splitting a bottle of champagne in 11G and watching the street below fill with people, Biv got a call from the head of her insurance company. She had it on speaker because she had just gotten her hair done and didn’t want to accidentally dye her phone. The man sounded tired.

“Biv,” he said. “We needed you in San Fran.”

“When?” she said. “Last week?”

“All month,” he said.

“I was building customers,” she said. “Didn’t you see my emails? The Dellas and their neighbors, the, the Houstons. They both started paperwork on their art collections.”

“It’s not art, Biv, it’s cowboy boots. Cowboy boots and—fucking, banjos and shit.”

“Those banjos and shit are worth one-point-two. One-point-two each. This is an untapped market, Graymond. They’ve got neighbors who like me, too.”

“The Rosters signed off on a plan that’s fifteen eight.”

Biv was silent.

“I guess what I’m saying is, this can’t happen anymore.”

“You want me to go to San Fran?” Biv said. “I can get on a plane now.” She stood up. “I’m at the airport hotel, actually.”

There was a long silence on the other end of the line. Then the man said, “The deal is done.”

“So what?” Biv said. “So what?”

“We’re going to pay you out through the end of the month,” the man said. “And housing benefits.”

“Are you kidding me?” Biv said. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

The man said nothing.

“But it’s the thirty-first,” she said finally. “The month only goes for a few more hours.”

“I’m sorry,” the man said. “This is a hard conversation to have.”

Biv hung up before he could say anything else. I sat stunned on the bed, staring out the window. At the end of the street, a crane was lifting the big red music note high above the crowd for the midnight drop.

“This isn’t your fault,” Biv said after a while.

I hadn’t thought it was. “I’m sorry,” I said. “That was a shitty thing for him to do.”

Biv sat down on the bed and flicked a nail against the bottle of champagne. “It’s already open,” she said. “We might as well drink it.”

“Only if you want to.”

“I do.”

We drank the champagne fast, while it was still very cold. The bubbles stung the inside of my throat. “What are you going to do?” I said.

“Maybe I’ll injure myself,” she said. “Jump out the window or something and rack up a bunch of hospital bills before midnight, fuck up their insurance.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

She walked over to the window and looked down at the packed street. “I knew I should have gone to San Fran.” She pressed her face against the glass and I cringed, knowing I’d have to scrub it the next day. “They e-mailed me like a million times.”

“Why didn’t you go, then?”

She shrugged. “I like it here. I didn’t want to leave.”

I folded my hands. I knew I should feel sympathetic but instead joy shot through me like an electric charge.

“Come stay with me,” I said.

Biv turned. “Reallly?”

I shrugged. “It’s cheaper than a hotel.”

“I like hotels.”

“Don’t you like me, too?”

“I love you,” she said. Right then, we heard fireworks. We turned and watched as the whole street lit up orange. Sliding down its string, the big red note descended into the crowd.

Biv looked confused. “It’s only ten o’clock.”

“They drop it twice,” I said. “There’s an early drop so parents can take their kids home after.”

 “That’s so weird.” Biv’s brow furrowed. “I thought it was for real.”

“It is for real,” I said. “We’re just celebrating a few time zones ahead.”

Biv frowned. “I don’t know how I feel about that.”

The next day, Biv checked out of 11G and took the bus home with me after my shift. She’d only been to my apartment twice and looked out of place against the drab walls. She set her briefcase down on the counter.

“I’ll only be here a few days,” she said, but I told her to stay as long as she wanted. Carrying her briefcase upstairs, I tried not to smile. I thought of us drinking coffee together on my couch. I imagined my closets filling with her clothes. She had very few things right now, so I imagined buying her robes and coats and hats that she could wear whenever she wanted. I smiled, thinking of how happy and grateful she’d be.

The next day as I was coming in from work, I heard a groaning crash and ran upstairs. Biv was lying on the floor of my closet, tension rod yanked out of the wall, noose around her neck. It was made from a braided belt I’d worn once on Halloween as a cowgirl.

I untied her and began to pull her to the door, but she was fine: she kicked and bit me until I let go.

That night, we sat together on the couch and cried. This wasn’t the first time; she’d tried twice before; she didn’t really mean it; that’s why she did it on my shitty clothes rack; she wouldn’t try again. I watched her hands shake.

“But why?” I kept asking. “It’s just a job.”

“It was a good job. You don’t understand. You’ve never been poor.”

I frowned. “I make $9.15 an hour. I don’t have any savings. I take the fucking bus to work because gas is so expensive.”

Biv looked at me. “Have you ever heard of butter eggs?” she said. She went on before I could say anything: “When I was growing up, we didn’t have a refrigerator. We had an icebox but that cost money too because you had to get out to the store and buy the ice. So when our hens were laying, we’d all have to wake up early and grab the eggs while they were still warm. We’d rub them with butter until they were all greasy and put them on the counter in a big bowl. They kept for a long time but if you broke one open, it smelled like bad milk.”

She paused. “I never want to eat a butter egg again. I never want to sleep in the cold. I never want to wake up because I’m sharing a bedroom with someone’s screaming baby.”

“You won’t,” I said. My voice felt stronger in that moment than it had in months and I knew this was where I wanted to be. I said, “I’ll take care of you,” and believed it.

Biv spent the rest of the week reinstalling the bar in my closet and scrubbing down the house with bleach, as if someone inside had just recovered from illness and she wanted to make sure no one else caught it. Then, she bought a skirt suit, disappeared for three days, and came back with a job designing software for a tech company downtown.

“Congratulations,” I said. “But you scared me—leaving like that.”

 “I wasn’t far.” She took my hand. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”

Deflated, I said, “I didn’t know you could code.”

She shrugged. “I picked it up.”

At her new job, Biv made twice as much as me, but still way too little to go back to living at the hotel.

I was learning so much about her—that she cooked meat but never ate it; flossed her teeth in the morning but not at night; slept on her back, arms crossed like a vampire; bought only brand names.

“It’s salt,” I said one night as she unpacked a bag of groceries. “You don’t have to buy Morton’s. The store brand is still salt.”

“I like the way it looks,” she said.

“It’s just wasting money.”

“It’s my money.”

“It’s stupid.”

It was strangely warm for January, as if our bickering had excited the atoms in the air, making them buzz.

A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. I opened it and there was Maria, wearing the red dress I’d given her for her birthday.

“Hey,” she said. “I came here to talk.” I knew how this would go from fantasies I used to have. The music had failed. She missed me. I could see the words through her pale pink cheeks.

I swung the door open wide, which she took as an invitation but I meant as a display.

“Come in,” I said as soon as I knew she could see Biv. “You can meet my girlfriend.”

Maria froze. She had something in her hand but put it behind her back. “Oh,” she said.

I walked over to Biv and kissed her chemical-scented hair.

“Maybe I should go,” Maria said.

“Suit yourself.”

When the door had closed, I turned to Biv. “That was perfect.”

Biv crossed her arms, “You’re mean.” As she turned away her elbow accidentally tipped over the big canister of salt. It scattered on the counter and she threw some over her shoulder as she stomped upstairs and all I could think was I didn’t know she was superstitious.

At her new job, Biv made a cluster of friends who were involved in Nashville’s small gay scene. Mostly thin, bearded men, they invited Biv and me to come drink with them after work at a dive bar that always played Shania Twain. We sipped gin and tonics and talked over each other about our plans for the year ahead.

“I’m going to blow the lid off alt rap,” said Jeremy Sanchez one evening in early March.

“I’m going to blow Mark’s manager,” said Ephram.

“Isn’t it a little late for New Year’s resolutions?” said Mark. He was the only one who had any modicum of fame, having quit his job the year before to play bass for a Christian rock group.

“By this summer,” Biv said, “I’ll have enough money to stay in a hotel again.”

I bit into my wedge of lime. “Really?” I said.

“Not all the time,” she said. “Just some nights. It’ll be like a vacation.”

“Why do you need a vacation?” I said.

She kissed my ear. “Babe,” she said. “Let’s talk about this later.”

“This’ll be great,” Jeremy said, obviously not listening. “You guys know anyone who can help me out with an album cover?”

“No one asked me about my New Year’s resolution,” Mark said.

“I thought you said it was too late for them,” Biv teased.

I put the lime back into my glass. “I want to talk about it now.”

“Ooh,” Ephram said. “Catfight!”

“Jesus Christ,” Biv said to him, then turned to me. “Maybe you shouldn’t finish that drink.”

“I’m not drunk,” I said.

She put her arm around me. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But don’t you think it’ll be fun? Sleep apart a few nights and then have crazy wild sex when I come back?”

“Don’t go into detail.” Mark pretended to gag. “I can’t even think about it.”

Biv grinned. “What, you don’t want me to say the word ‘moist?’”

All the guys groaned. Biv put her arm around me but I shrugged it off.

“Your friends are dicks,” I said, and walked outside to the bus stop.

Biv apologized the next morning but didn’t promise not to move out. I didn’t know what she counted as summer, the first day after Memorial Day or June 21, but I knew as the hot weather approached, I was running out of time. I did not want to be left behind when she went back to the hotel.

So one day in late April, I texted Maria. “I found some things of yours,” I said.

“I’m playing a show tonight,” she said. “I can’t come get them until late.”

“Where’s the show?” I said.

I told Biv I was going to the movies with a friend, and she didn’t ask me about it, which made me furious because it was such a flimsy excuse. I was ready with the details: it was a friend from college, Max, who was visiting his grandparents in Brentwood, and we were going to see the new Natalie Portman movie, which I knew Biv would have hated. I’d even read the plot summary on my phone. But she didn’t ask, just said, “ok luv u,” and it made me even angrier that she texted like an old person because it made her seem stupid.

The show was in a place called Funky’s, a brightly-lit standalone restaurant in between a Cheesecake Factory and a McCormick and Schmick’s. They served beer but everything smelled like ketchup and lemon Pledge and the absence of beer smell made the whole thing feel more wrong. I was used to watching Maria sing in the diviest of dives, places that prided themselves on dirty glasses and gum under the bar. I sat alone at a small two-person table and ordered a summer cider that tasted crisp and tangy.

Maria came on first. She was wearing a denim skirt and big hoop earrings, and if she saw me in the audience, she didn’t acknowledge it. She opened with a cover of “Jolene,” which made me jump a little, because maybe that one was directed towards me. You were the one who left, I thought.

Her set was short and mostly covers, but people in the restaurant clapped politely when she sang “Don’t leave me on the train,” a simple song she’d written about loving a girl who’s going away. They probably thought that was a cover too, because her shiny hair and painted nails made her look straight and whitebread. That turned me on a little, thinking about one of them catching a glimpse of us making out, or hearing the noises she made when I made her feel good.

Afterward, I shuffled around to the side of the stage while the next performer set up.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I said. “You sounded good tonight.”

“Thanks,” she said. “I know this place looks stupid, but a lot of scouts come here with their families. You never know who’ll be in the crowd.”

We both turned around. The other audience members were drinking wine and eating pasta, seemingly happy to have some quiet time to talk to each other. No one looked like a talent scout; they all looked like parents out on a rare date night.

“I’m not going to stay for the next guy, he’s an asshole,” Maria said.

“I’ll help you carry your things.”

“If you want.”

She didn’t say anything so I picked up her minirecorder and her music stand—she never liked anyone to touch her guitar—and we walked out into the empty parking lot.

“You still with that girl?” she asked.

“She wants to move out,” which was not a lie.

“I could tell she was weird,” Maria said. “What was with her hair?”

I shrugged. “I like your skirt.”

“Thanks.” She opened the trunk of her car and bent over to put in her guitar. I touched the small of her back through her thin cotton blouse. She paused for a moment and turned around.

“What do you want from me?” she said.

“I want to hear you sing,” I said, which surprised her because she was probably thinking I’d say I didn’t know.

“I just sang.” But she shut the trunk and hoisted herself up so she was sitting on it. “What do you want to hear?” she said.

I stepped forward and kissed her. Her mouth was dry and tasted like her lipstick. I pressed into her and we kissed until the lights in the parking lot buzzed on. I’d never cheated on anyone before and was surprised at how good it felt. I locked my fingers in Maria’s hair. It was long and dark and curly and I couldn’t get enough of it.

“Come on,” I said, “Let’s go back to your place. You can sing to me.”

She pulled away. “What’s wrong with yours?”

“Yours is closer, is all.”

“Does she not know?”

When I didn’t say anything, she sighed heavily.

“Is she even moving out?”

I said yes, but when I tried to come closer, Maria just turned and shook her head. She got in her car and I ran to the other side.

“Come on,” I said.

“Come on, what?” she said.

I didn’t know, so I just watched her drive away.

The bus was clean and new and the driver was playing the radio in the front seat. A young, thin voice sang the chorus to “Jolene,” and I pressed my head against the warm window as we rumbled down the street into the night.

It wasn’t even eight o’clock when I came home. Biv was sitting in our broken La-Z-Boy, doing the Sudoku in the free paper. “That was a quick movie.”

“I didn’t like it,” I said. “We left early.”

“Really?” Biv said.

“Yeah,” I said.

I went upstairs to shower. I’d spit-scrubbed Maria’s makeup off on the bus but I probably smelled like her perfume. Now that I was back at home, the whole excursion seemed silly and wrong. I loved Biv, and I wanted her to stay with me.

As I stood under the hot water, I heard a knock on the door.

“Can I come in there with you?” Biv said.

“You wouldn’t want to,” I said, “I’m having my period.” It felt good to push her away a little.

“That’s early,” Biv said through the door. “Are you feeling all right?”

“Yeah, I’m feeling fine.”

When I got out, I thought about putting in a tampon just so she could see the wrapper in the trash. But tampons were expensive so I put my clothes back on and went out into the bedroom.

“Are you going to bed?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Let me get in with you,” she said. She usually stayed up much later and crept in beside me around 2 or 3.

“Okay,” I said. We got under the covers and she put her arms around me.

“You know, I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone.” It felt so good, to know that I made her want me this badly. I closed my eyes, exhausted and happy, like I’d just finished first in some contest.

June came, then July and August, and Biv didn’t say anything about moving out. The first few weeks, I was scared, but then I just felt antsy, cleaning hotel rooms with a manic fury, knocking the vacuum into the walls so hard it made marks that I’d just have to scrub later. Our weekends felt emptier since the daylight stayed longer and I scrambled for ways to fill them. One Sunday, we went with Mark and Ephram to an outdoor concert. It began raining in the middle of the show but we were all a little drunk so we stayed, pressing closer to the stage as the crowd dispersed.

“Y’all are the true fans!” the singer shouted at us into the mike. We laughed because before today, none of us had heard of them. But we all clapped and whooped back at him, pleased to be recognized.

Later that week, I got a sinus infection from standing in the rain. The doctor I went to gave me antibiotics that were too strong; they wiped out the bacteria in my stomach. I shit twenty times a day and could not go to work. At first I couldn’t tell why this had happened and when I finally went to urgent care, I was white and thin and parched. There, they gave me stronger medicine, green pills, to take four times a day. These drugs made me tired and weak. I lay in bed and Biv fed me M&M’s one by one. The illness drew her to me like nothing else had, and even though my limbs twitched and ached, I was happy.

Biv told me that when she was seven, her mother won a thousand dollars in a magazine contest and said she’d take Biv and her sisters to Disney World on May first. This was in March and each day Biv woke up crying since it seemed so far away. By the end of April, when the money was gone, she did not have any tears left.

“I’ll take you to Disney World,” I said.

Here is another thing she told me: I like taking care of you.

Here is another: What can I get you? Not water or toast. Anything.

“You wouldn’t like it,” I said.

She said, “Maybe I would,” and I knew we were talking about the same thing.

Months later, when I had all but forgotten her promise, I came home one night and Jeremy Sanchez was sitting on the couch in a robe, naked underneath. Biv sat across from him, fully clothed, stirring a mug of tea.

“Hey,” she said. “Happy birthday.”

“It’s not my birthday for another two weeks.”

“You won’t be ovulating then.”

“How long have you guys been sitting there?”

Jeremy laughed a little. “Not long.”

Biv got up and took my hand. “I know this is really weird,” she said. “And we could do this in other, less weird, ways. No offense, Jeremy.”

He yawned. “None taken.”

 “But—I don’t know,” she said. “I know you want it. And—I’m ready.”

I looked past her. It was snowing. Early October and it was already snowing. I had met Biv last year at this time. I thought about who I had been when I had sat on the top steps of the hotel stairwell. I put my hands in my pockets.

“This is also, like, the less expensive way. The store brand. Right, babe?”

My stomach folded in on itself at her excitement. I just stared. Beneath the blue of her hair, mousy brown roots were showing.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Thanks for going to all the trouble, but now just isn’t a good time.”

 “Absolutely A-okay.” Biv laughed too loudly. “It’s a big decision. I just wanted to let you know—voila! I’m down if you are.”

“Should I have put a bow on it?” Jeremy asked, pointing at his crotch.

“Hilarious.” Biv snorted. “Very funny.”

“I’m going to go upstairs now.” My stomach turned. “Sorry.” I moved away but Biv caught my arm.

When I looked at her face, her eyes were small and pinched. “What if I did it instead?” she said. “Doesn’t have to be tonight, doesn’t have to be Jeremy. I’ve got some money saved. We could go to a sperm bank. Or—wherever. Getting knocked up runs in my family, and besides, I’ve got great hips.”

“I thought you hated babies.”

She said, “People change,” and it felt like suddenly I was allergic to the air. My throat closed up.

I said, “I’m really sorry,” and walked past her out the door and into the snow. I stood there for a while in the patch of grass in front of our building and watched as the flakes settled onto the sidewalk. It wasn’t cold enough for them to stick so they disappeared when they touched down. I watched for a while but it didn’t get any colder so I shook the flakes out of my hair and went back inside.

When my lease was almost up, neither of us mentioned it. We just moved things around the letter on the counter. I went to the hotel early each day and stayed late, picking up shifts for all the girls who called out. At the end of two weeks, I’d made almost two hundred extra dollars. I used the money to fill up my car with gas so I could leave before the buses ran. I drove slowly through the orange-lit streets listening to the radio, which in the predawn hours mostly played songs about coming home, or leaving it. I didn’t know which ones I liked more, but I felt good on those early morning drives, too tired to think about what I would do next.

Then the lease really was up, I had to call my landlord and beg her to take us on for another year. But she couldn’t, she already had people moving in the next day, but she offered us another unit across the parking lot so we spent all Sunday carrying our things over in boxes.

The new apartment was the mirror opposite of the old one, with stairs on the right, not left, and a closet without cracks in the wall. The dishwasher ran once and then broke, and when it did, I found Biv crying.

I stayed my distance as she scrabbled her fingernails on the plastic front, like an animal in a cage.

She kept saying, “I got you everything,” reaching for me with shaking hands.

She left one day and didn’t say where she was going. Days later, I took a Chinatown bus to Orlando, remembering what she’d said about Disney World. The bus smelled like rotten onions and chemicals. Everyone on it was in one band or another. They had come to Nashville to make it big and had failed. The boy next to me had two fanglike lip rings and closed his eyes when he saw the first palm tree. The driver let us out in a whitewashed strip mall and everyone lined up to get their guitars out of the luggage compartment.

I did not find Biv in Disney World, although I waited outside the entrance to the Magic Kingdom for two days. I saw so many people, I felt lightheaded. Like looking over the top of Niagra Falls, which I had done once, on a school trip. Everything rushing past you so fast, never stopping, everyone smelling like sunscreen and buzzing with excitement. I’d never done anything this crazy before, and I ached to tell Biv about it.

But by the third day, the ache faded and I just felt tired again. So I lined up in the strip mall to take the bus home. In the parking lot, I watched a group of tattooed girls load a padded drumset into the luggage compartment, grinning. I smiled at them as I boarded, because who was I to say what could and could not happen?

Contributor

Hannah Thurman

HANNAH THURMAN is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her short stories have been published or are forthcoming in The Lifted Brow, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Brain Child Magazine, and others.

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