Cherry on a Spoon

Miriam ate the yogurt first, methodically and without really tasting it, and then ripped open the bag of chips with a satisfying screech of plastic. As she brought chips from her fingers to her mouth in satisfying clumps, she wondered why she hadn’t eaten potato chips in so long. The grease of them inhabited the entire cavity of her mouth.

There was no other way to describe it than sexual, since it was the only word she had for such strong physical pleasure. Being responsible, she thought, resisting, wasn’t worth it. Here she was anyway, pregnant and eating potato chips. Wondering how she had gotten to this couch from the piano bench at the concert so long ago, she thought of how she and Jason used to argue over the story of how they met. Jason always said that he hadn’t been nearly as awkward as she insisted on remembering. He tried to point out that any true musician would be startled by someone invading his performance space so soon after a difficult piece! And he didn’t usually eat oriental food. But he always came off sounding petulant, his soft voice was drowned out by the enthusiasm of her storytelling, the vivid detail of her own memory. Still, no matter how many times Miriam told the story, she never could explain why he had agreed. Maybe she just didn’t want to admit to herself that his sure had been more submission than consent. Another victory-victim-for the Black-out Sniper.

Suddenly, she wanted to be drunk. To be drunk the way she had been freshman year; so drunk she couldn’t think straight or see herself or anyone else clearly. She went back into the kitchen and surveyed their alcohol supply. In the cupboard were two bottles of red wine Jason had got from his parents and a nearly empty bottle of whiskey left over from a party. Miriam picked up the whiskey. It was Jameson, better than she was used to, but it still burned as it went down in a few gulps. Then she picked up the bottles of red wine. She didn’t know how much it would take her to get drunk after so many years mostly abstaining.

As she was putting the bottle opener in her pocket, she remembered that women weren’t supposed to drink when they were pregnant. She laughed a laugh that that she nearly choked on-it was devoid of mirth and hurt coming up. Let’s kill it tonight, she thought, so I can’t change my mind. Then she grabbed a sweater and headed out the door without stopping to think who the second person in her us might be.

When Jason finally did come home, it was to find a half-eaten bag of potato chips lying on the table in a dark apartment.

Sitting at her desk in the empty Walker several hours later, the neck of the wine bottle firmly in her grip, Miriam realized the point of the cherry on the spoon. It was the first bite of an ice cream sundae! The enormous spoon, the red cherry as shiny as a booth in a 50’s dinner, the happy little fucking children all around it all day long on endless art field trips-how had she not seen it before? Too rigid, she thought, too rigid. But now she felt light as a feather, free and floating. She hadn’t even needed to open the second bottle of wine. The whiskey and the first bottle had done it.

Smiling as she thought about the cherry on a spoon, Miriam got out all of her Sharpies-the rainbow connection, as she called them, twelve different colors-from her desk drawer. At first she began to draw on computer paper, but the scope was so limited! Looking around, she decided she would do a mural. She sat down in front of the white wall, and began to draw. Not anything particular, not with a plan. Each color just seemed so bright, so beautiful. She drew a stick woman holding hands with a stick man and then drew in a tree next to them like a cotton candy, which she choose to make blue with a red trunk. Little kids must feel this way, she thought, when they draw those god-awful pictures that parents then have to put on their refrigerators to prove how much they like them.

Miriam kept drawing until she had Sharpied every inch of wall she could reach without actually getting up any farther than her knees. Then she rolled over onto her side, drew her knees into her chest, and pulled the now empty wine bottle parallel with her eyes. On the label, a small yellow kite blew in an invisible breeze, a gale, maybe, that was also moving the floor beneath her. She was so drunk that when she began to cry she didn’t hold anything back; she simply gulped and yelped as the air pumped her lungs like a bellow. She cried until she fell asl
eep.

When she awoke in the morning, a pair of shoes was next to the picture of the kite. Her boss, in a sharp black pant suit, stared down at her at a loss for words. Miriam sat up and pressed her hair to her head. Everything hurt and her eyes were gummy.

“I’m pregnant,” she said. There seemed to be no other explanation.

Noting the empty wine bottle, her boss asked, “Should you be drinking?”

“Should I be pregnant?” Miriam laughed hollowly.

The other woman pursed her lips. “You should go home.” Then her face softened a little bit, like she was having a memory of her own. She looked to her side, at the wall. “We’ll get that painted over,” she said.

For a moment, Miriam didn’t know what she was talking about. Then she saw her work of the night before; demented stick figures, trees, great swirls of wind. And in the center, a sundae with twelve different colors of ice cream, the top scoop green and slightly indented, from where someone had taken the cherry off the top.

 

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