-Rhonda in an elaborate dream state conjures a subconscious scene with Ludo-
“I want to put you in a blue room and with you slow dance all night,” murmured Ludo under his breath.
“You’re weaving words as if they were for a poetry exam,” replied Rhonda.
“No, you’re just this pulchritudinous poignant person; like a lukewarm latte. If only my face weren’t so prematurely wrinkled.”
“My furrowed face is unflattering.”
“No no, you’re brilliant as a, a yellow highlighter.”
“Will you with a needle sew my face to look like a weedle?”
“If I in my pokeball can catch you and keep you forever.”
Then the two morosely meandered through the mildew.
Rhonda unsealed her eyes as if for the first time. Was she not at home? The thought provoked her as she looked around the room at decanted vials of that odoriferous Dos Equis staining the beige bedspread a decreased dandelion, and Kikkoman soy streaks strewn over the trompe l’oiel carpet on the wood floor. Drum set by the den, well, where a den should be. Pages formed from themselves; unbound books shoved shamelessly into shelves. Ground zero intact before her. Yes, this was home.
A pulsating rhythm from her left thigh; her phone beckoned. “Ludo?” cerebrated she, but no. Not her estranged friend Orville from New York who often told her to extract before she cracked. Not Terry in another cannabis-induced fugue. Just another collection agency.
Only strangers paid her calls. In a vortex of violent vitriol and violated vinyl, ‘Seth’ vied to vamoose in vexation.
They had been in love, maybe. Or perhaps it was just gas. Regardless, it ended suddenly and very expectedly. Had she been stable, she wouldn’t have let him take advantage of her credit. But her King of Hearts had royally impaled her with a spade of debt, shackling her to their once sensational studio; sensuality substrated now with sorrow and a slew of slander. Almost a year later, she still extracted shards of plastic from beneath her bare feet. Back then her life made less sense then than it did now, but the sporadic moments of joy, those illusions of circumstance stifled the despondency she harbored thereafter.
Her recovery wasn’t immediate, but it had to start somewhere. That somewhere manifested in the miniscule room of a duplex where, after breaking her lease, she for six months ruminated, refreshed, relaxed, and reconstructed. In defiance, she drunkenly deleted the dregs of the Dereon debutante that drafted her to this dour dwelling. Photos of both her and Seth separate and together. E-mails they’d written each other. Ideas they’d shared. Canceled plans.
She had taken to mumbling little nothings in the hallway closet as she consorted with the memories attached to her clothes. Rags that suffocated her with memories of the man she slept with for nights, months, then for a full year. An emaciated effigy was not enough. She wanted to remove every file on her computer; pictures, songs, word documents. She wanted to delete all her associations; bills, coworkers, obligations. These were wishes turned wants. Wants that were warranted.
Months before her meandering took her to OkCupid and before she subconsciously conjured Philip, Rhonda did all her looking on the streets of South Congress. Her feet enshrouded in ten year-old trends, her mind a myriad of tender and loving turned dejected and deleted.
Entertaining and exciting as it seemed, dating strangers hadn’t reared remarkable results.
The first John was a ten thousand, two hundred twenty-eight day-old baby trapped in the writhing body of a man she’d found handsome at a glance, whose intent to plague her with peculiar poetry and ill-aimed histrionics was deemed detrimental. In a crazed note scribbled on spy paper that had been tacked onto the bulletin board in her bedroom, he wrote that his last dying wish was to be her Rhonda puffer fish. She last saw him stalking her from a booth at karaoke the night before the morning she filed a restraining order.
Two months later there was Percy, the pastry chef. Like all poorly pieced porcelain penguins, he’d promised he’d learn to love her, whatever that meant. She supposed suckling on 40s and entrapping himself downtown past midnight on school nights and manifesting inebriated at her doorstep in search of a soft spot to suck on was what that promise encompassed.
The colossal crotchetier who physically resembled Seth that she met at an art co-op showed promise. Framed by forces he failed to fathom, he included her as a guest of honor at every one of his art openings. Unfortunately it was December, and her Seasonal Affective Disorder really dragged her off the streets into seclusion. Not even the twelve pairs of handcrafted cozies he gifted her in a breadbasket could coerce her to leave her confines, and he resentfully resigned defeat. She suggested he stop seeking to revise other peoples’ sadness. He suggested she try self-medicating. Midol and Maker’s Mark were hoarded with haste.
Andrew Bumblebee was the last of the real boys to intercept her incisors before the idea of Philip became the ultimate alternative; the coin-operated boy. But now there was the possibility of a real-life Ludo; a fellow tangible who’d cameo in more than just her synthetically procured comas.
“I want to disappear,” mantra’d Rhonda to herself.
Tears welled up but wouldn’t flee, since she had long ago deduced that this display of desperation was brought on anytime she enough didn’t sleep. Was it the desperation to make the connections? She forgot to remember that her talents were masked, not worn ragged or torn but indefinitely dormant. And no one else would ever again fool her into thinking she needed to auto correct herself; to enslave herself. After all, not a soul she had been acquainted was ever capable of incurring a better version of them self by pressing F5; why should she be any different? Perhaps someone with an absence of alcohol on their breath, or without performance reviews of her imperfect parts. She required a soul mate with the right balance of neurosis; someone who wouldn’t drown her, but would give her room for enlightenment. Were she ever to attain an even number was yet to be calculated.
There was that sound again. A shrill hag?
That reply; a child?”
She got up from her bed realizing it was not hers at all, but a stranger’s. And those feet; whose feet were those she just stumbled on? A man? Browned feet and bruised knuckles. Shrill voices coming from outside?
“Where am I?”
“Damn it, why’d you kick me for, Caroline?”
“Ugh. What time is it? Shit.”
Rhonda realized she’d come home to Faux Flash Gordon, whose place looked remarkably like her own in the dim of a long-gone dawn.
“Would you get me a beer, bro?” Said Flash, fondling his frock.
“They’re in the vegetable bin in the fridge. It’s the best place for them, keeps them crisp.”
“I can’t remember his name, and a mullet? What the hell? Soon he’ll tell me he builds tee pees and fights wolves in the woods. Fuck I’m hung over,” she thought as she stumbled into the kitchen. She recognized the light fixture on the wall in the living room immediately as that of the cheaply made ones she’d seen at The Metropolis.
“Yeah, it’s sick isn’t it?” Said the fully-follicled foreign frolicker from the night prior.
“No, the temp Babydoll.”
“Oh. Oh! The beer. Here.”
“Yeah. So, how did we get here?”
“Cab. I would’ve been fine walking but you insisted. You said burristas brandish the big bucks. I just thought you were being sarcastic but whatever.”
From outside, the shrill and disembodied voices continued to clammer on about the conquistador.
“Where’s that coming from?”
“Oh, my place is by the pool. Solid, eh? We can go for a swim if you like, but first let’s jam. You’ve gotta listen to this. They’re called Death Grips and I think you’ll really love them,” said our main man.”By the way, I’m Peppy.”