We were all drifting off into a drugged-out sleep, more quicksand slumber because that’s the way gin drags you down under, when I realized that you loved her.
We were reluctant riverboat passengers, the soft chugga-chugga-chugga chants of gin-gin for the win as a bon voyage. That reluctant, a running water’s mirage against our intuition, and the last of the body’s way to vest our lives since gin is the sneakiest monster of them all. It’s made to seem sweet, sophisticated from its perfume bottle swallows but serves a sour inside that settles only for the moment, waiting to surface back up later.
It snuck up on all of us. Though, not you, not as much or maybe not at all. Maybe you had not had as much as we did or maybe you were used to it in a way that we weren’t. A surviving scream queen who’d scared it away with a shattering screech. Still, I saw.
We’d all been talking—maniacally, slumber party-ishly, hysterically—all about her new guy.
You know, the guy-guy! The guy-she-met-at-the-store guy!
‘How he was tall enough to wear any heel she wanted. Handsome enough so that the kids would all come out pretty. He was not much of a Rockefeller but who cared when we had all lived in our Mothers’ houses once, who had married men with too much money. Who had somehow loved us all enough to warn against marrying a man with dollar signs on their sights alone. Who’d told us that the more money a man made, the more you would end up being less of his girl and more of his get.
“Where does he work?” you asked, snatching the cellphone out of her hand mid-scroll. You scoffed. “It’s you’re beautiful. Y-O-U-Apostrophe-R-E. Not your.” All critiques and less encouragement.
She hissed, grabbing her phone back, quickly clicking off of the screen. “See, here you go! Always looking to the small stuff! Never to the big stuff! Never to the stuff that really matters!”
She went on and on. Talking of what love is about, and what looking for love is about, and what living in that looking for that love is about. Went on until the Swamp Gin Monster grabbed her, swept her against the Chanel-tweed couch. Her feet surfaced about. Her head drowned down below, beneath a pillow.
Before I sunk, my internal screams stifled by the swiftness of the Swamp Gin Monster’s getting—No, No! Don’t! Go away! Leave me alone! —I saw.
You had not been able to fully save her, only her feet to rest in your lap. Your thumbs at the insoles. Soft presses. Gentle squeezes. Watching over her, only over her, while she rested.
My saw stayed.
‘Stayed through my quicksand slumber. Through the sudden jolt of the sleep paralysis breaking, the sour ready and bubbling. Spewing remnants. Splashing the inside of the porcelain toilet bowl a lagoon-blue blue. I said nothing in the morning-after rescue.
The muck of the evening before became cleared out by a cool breeze, and bottles of chilled 1907 Artesian some riverboat worker stored away beforehand. You, behaving as a victim in the ways that we were by asking—
‘Some Breakfast? Tylenol? Electrolytes?
Our phone batteries low. Missed calls from no one and missed texts from lots of someones.
The Swamp Gin Monster lingering around, warning us—one, two, three days after—to stay far, far, far away from these here parts.
Exodus Oktavia Brownlow is a writer, budding beekeeper, and a rising seamstress currently residing in the enchanting pine tree forest of Blackhawk, Ms. You can find her at exodusoktaviabrownlow.com.