Fiction

White Rabbit

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 FICTION



San Francisco, 1978

Winterland shut down that
New Year’s Eve, bringing to an end the era of Bill Graham Presents posters
and concerts by Janis Joplin, Cream and the Jefferson Airplane. The
place was an old skating rink that had been converted to a concert
hall in the ’60s. It was being torn down to accomodate
a bunch
of condos, part of the
slow
destruction
of
free
love
in
San
Francisco.

   Because my boyfriend was a drummer in a rock band, he wanted
to go to the final night at Winterland. Actually, he wanted to play there but
wasn’t famous enough. Instead, Johnny
had to open for a ska band at a private boathouse party in Marin. I was at
Julia’s house for the night, with nothing to do. We were seniors that year. It was our last New Year’s together.

promotion

   And we were bored. Julia and I peeked into the living room at her
mom, who was spending the holiday where she spent every night: in front of the
TV
with her
bifocals
running
down her nose, a glass of Chianti in her hand, painkillers already popped.
Tears
streamed down her cheeks as she switched back and forth from watching reruns
of Upstairs, Downstairs on
PBS to reading Jane Austen.

   She had cooked us a turkey dinner before settling into her
nightly stupor. Fresh, bitter cranberry sauce, stuffing with chestnuts, sweet
yams and pumpkin pie
with homemade
whipped
cream were displayed, along with a half glass of red wine, on the big chopping
block table in the kitchen.

   Julia and I sat on stools, putting the food into our mouths,
staring at one another with nothing to say. Something in Julia’s eyes told me
her silence was deliberate. The
wine
dripped
hot down my throat, through my groin and down my legs. I had an idea.

   “Do you have any pot?” I asked.

   “Uh-huh,” Julia said.

   “Do you still have the snow?”

   Julia grinned; she knew exactly what I meant. Sliding open the freezer drawer full of frozen meats, she reached into the bottom, rummaged through
icy plastic and pulled out a white bag.

   We stuck our dishes in the sink and
ran out the back door — past the hot tub, around the labyrinth of flowers,
through the door and up the stairs to the converted stable loft where her
mom’s
potting wheel stood. On the windowsill sat a
set
of
coffee mugs-in-progress, made from clay she had excavated from a riverbed
in Sonoma
County. Hanging from the ceiling were sculptures she’d made from swigs and
branches. They looked like hornets’ nests — scary, prickly and gorgeous.
They
always made me wish Julia’s mom was mine. She called them “Wombs
and
Basketry,” and
sold
them
on the weekends at Ghirardelli Square.

   Julia stuffed
Sensemilla into her tiny pipe as I prepared the treasure we’d been saving
for three
years: two snowballs from the time it snowed in
San Francisco in 1976. I put each
snowball in its own bowl — crystal from her
grandmother’s set — and poured vodka and sugar
onto
each
one.


Julia
brought her lips gently down on mine. They felt small, slightly
off-putting
and intriguing.

   
We smoked the reefer and ate spoonfuls of vodka-laced snow
as we listened to Loggins and Messina, face to face, on the double bed
under the skylight.
Then Julia lit a fire in the wood stove. Acting like a cross between a little
girl
and a
mountain man, she grabbed a
Captain and Tennille record and threw it into the fire. We giggled until we couldn’t
breathe as we tossed Bread, Peter Frampton and Gordon
Lightfoot into the burning stove — a final goodbye to the decade we hated so
much.

   The burning records made the room smell strange, and I worried
that the fumes might poison us to death. Out the window, I could see Julia’s
black
cat
run across the back garden. A wave of terror swept from my toes to the top
of my head. I never did well with pot and was immediately paranoid. I opened
my mouth, which felt like opening a dungeon door made of lead, and said, “I
think I have to go to the emergency room.”

   Julia was used to my panic attacks. She took me in her arms,
pressed
the hair out of my eyes and smiled. Very firmly, she said, “Stop
worrying.”

   Christopher
Robin
and I walked
along…
The lyrics spilled out of the hi-fi as the two of us lay back
on the bed, looking up through the skylight at the branches from the redwood
that hung
over their backyard. Julia grabbed my hand and said, "Let’s pretend
we’re
on
a chariot, going through the clouds." I could feel her
breath above mine, lightly scented from pumpkin pie and dope.

   

I looked into Julia’s big blue eyes and now, on New Year’s Eve,
as
the clock ticked from 1978 to 1979, and our classmates partied somewhere across
town
at
a lacrosse kegger, we were in the quiet of this space, and we were going
to
kiss. Julia brought her lips gently down on mine. They felt small, slightly
off-putting
and intriguing. Like I wasn’t kissing a girl, but a very small
child.
Before I knew it,
my tongue was inside her mouth, racing across her teeth. I could feel her
tits — protected inside her padded bra — pressing against my tits.
I wanted her to smear her breasts across my face.

   Then there was the
quietest
rap
on
the
door of the stable house. The knock sounded again. We thought it was Julia’s
mom,
and
we
were
terrified. Even
though Julia’s mom acted like she was cool, we never knew when she was going
to snap-to and realize she was, in fact, a mother. We ran to open all the windows.
I turned down the music. “Yes?”

   As the door creaked
open
a notch, the voice came, low, sweet and cautious. “Tria?” It was Johnny.

   I rolled my eyes. Not now.

   My boyfriend tiptoed up the stairs, sober because
he
was
that kind of weird rocker who didn’t partake. He
always
looked
cute,
with
bitten nails and sinewy
brown
arms that were

packed
with
lean
muscle. He had on his 501’s that
were
worn
at
the
balls and
a green t-shirt that matched his eyes and made him look delicious.

   I ran into Johnny’s arms and kissed him in front of Julia.
I turned to her with blurry eyes that felt like they might fall out of their
sockets and roll across the floor and said, “Let’s
have
an
orgy.”

   Julia threw her face into the pillow, laughing. Johnny
ignored the proposal. It embarrassed the shit out of him. “Let’s drive over to Winterland,” he said. “It’s
almost midnight.”

   I
jumped
on
the
bed,
put
my
hand
on
Julia’s
chin and kissed her. She was so startled that she tried to move her face away,
but
my
firm
grip
made
that impossible.

   While we were kissing, I glanced over at Johnny and noticed
that he was looking out the window, as if it were the only
polite thing to do. As
the next record dropped on the turntable — it was Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge
Over Troubled Water
— I questioned whether I really wanted to do
this.

Almost robotically, I lifted Julia’s blouse and put her nipple in my
mouth. She jerked away, annoyed that I was suddenly so aggressive, but
already aroused. I lowered my mouth back to her boob and sucked.

   Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Johnny had begun
to watch. He approached us slowly, then crept — still fully clothed
and wearing his cowboy boots — onto the bed. His expression said, “Now
what?” as if we were in a playpen.

   “Maybe
you should give him a blow job," I whispered to Julia, loud enough for
Johnny
to hear.

   Julia practically choked, and Johnny froze — excited,
then nonchalant, as if we weren’t talking about sucking his cock. He fingered
the crucifix around his neck and looked at me with saucer eyes. So did Julia.

   “Okay, I’ll do it first,” I told them and unbuttoned Johnny’s
jeans, pulling out his nicely large erection. Julia looked away and Johnny closed
his eyes. I took him into my lips, moving up and down — my hand stroking
in unison with my mouth — twirling around the head, an upward spiral.

She
was suddenly a sexual genius.

When I glanced up, Julia’s
eyes were glued to my cocksucking. “I
want to try,” she
said. And I loved her for how sweet she was.

   “Only put a little of it in at a time,” I told her.Julia pressed
her lips down on Johnny’s cock in a way that
was slightly inept and pretty fucking sexy. She had full
lips, and her eyelashes looked impossibly
long
and
black.

    Suddenly my cheeks and ears burned, and
then so did my groin. I hated watching her. I wanted to throw Julia off Johnny’s
cock
and impale
myself on him.
I wanted to slap her off the bed and go down on her, all at the
same time.

   
Then Julia pulled up her skirt, brought her left
hand down to her thigh and into her cotton panties. This was the shy and smart
girl
who
was my
best friend. She was suddenly a sexual genius, and I was left watching.

    For
a
passing
moment,
I
thought
I
was
a
lesbian.
I
imagined
Julia
and
I
setting up
house together. And if Johnny needed to be there, that would be okay. He
could buy groceries, and we would have a cottage full of ferns and barber chairs
for living room furniture. We’d put a claw-foot bathtub in the garden
in
which we would bathe in the moonlight together, warmed by the water that Johnny
would
bring in boiling kettles from the stove.

   Then Johnny couldn’t take it anymore. He pulled his cock out
of
Julia’s mouth, reached up my skirt, pulled my underwear to the side and entered
me. I felt triumphant: I had my man back. As I fucked Johnny, I craned my neck
to make out with her. She seemed oblivious and caught up
in fingering herself. Her breath was getting faster and hotter, and I could tell
she was close to orgasming.
She moaned and almost cried. It made me want to come all over Johnny, and
it was all Julia’s doing.

   I looked down to watch Johnny’s prick push into me, and then
I stopped. Shit, what
was
I
doing
here?
Deep
inside,
a
black
and
empty hole made me feel like I was cheating on someone and being betrayed
at the same time. I pulled Johnny’s cock out of me and got off the bed. I
could tell that Julia was orgasming, but I had to go.
I
put all my clothes on in what seemed like half a second, and stood at the
door.

   Johnny ran to me, trying to put his pants back on.

   “Don’t leave, baby,” he said.

   All I could say was, “It doesn’t feel right anymore.”

   “What doesn’t feel right anymore, baby?”

   “Sleeping with you,” I said bluntly.

   “Why?”

   “I don’t know.”

   “I’m sorry we did this. We shouldn’t have.
Let’s
go,” Johnny
said.

   “No. I just can’t. I’m freaking out.” I was swaying my head
back and forth, as if to shake off the whole experience.

   “Stay here,” Johnny said.

   “No.”

   “I’m coming with you. I’m driving you home.”

   “No,” I said firmly. “I’m walking home. I want to walk home.
You shouldn’t
walk me.”

   “I’ll drive you.”

   “Give me the keys,” I replied.

He would make love to her.
He would take her virginity.

   “I’ll drive myself home," I said. "You can pick your car up
in
the morning,”

   “What did I do?” Johnny handed over his keyring, practically
in
tears.

   “You didn’t do anything. I need to be alone
for a while.”

   And Johnny said, “For Christ’s sakes, Tria, you’re breaking
up with me.”

   The next record dropped onto the turntable. It was Boz Skaggs.
Julia had finally stopped climaxing.

   Johnny grabbed my arm to stop me. I looked him
straight
in
the
eye
and
said, “If
you
don’t
let me go, I’m going to start crying.” He released me. I ran out of the garage,
jumped into Johnny’s
Alfa
Romeo
and
drove
away. Moisture hit the windshield, making the streetlights fuzzy as I shifted
into
third.

   I imagined Johnny and Julia back in the garage — face
to face — below
the woven baskets of wombs and nests. I fantasized that Julia would feel sorry
for Johnny, wrap
her
arms around him and kiss him on the lips. Then Johnny would feel so angry with
me that he would pull
my
best friend down and put his tongue in her mouth. He would make love to her.
He would take her virginity. And when he came, he would repeat her name over
and over again, “Julia, Julia, Julia, I love you.” And
she would believe, for that brief moment, that he did.  


From
the forthcoming book PHOTOGRAPHY LESSONS

by Erin Cressida Wilson.

To be published in Spring 2005 by
Touchstone Books, a division of
Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved by the publisher. Reprint by
permission.

  Click
here to read other features from the Breakup issue!

 

©2004 Erin Cressida Wilson and Nerve.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Erin Cressida Wilson is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and a Professor in the Literary Arts Program at Brown University. She won the 2003 Independent Spirit Award for her screenplay, Secretary, which starred James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Her twenty plays have been produced regionally, Off Broadway and abroad. She co-authored The Erotica Project with Lillian Ann Slugocki, published by Cleis Press. She is writing the screenplay for the biopic of photographer Diane Arbus. Her first novel will be published in 2005 by Simon & Schuster.