Do you remember that summer we decided to eat only bread? Or I decided bread, and you broccoli.
We were so sniffly and under-vitamined, holed up in that New York high-rise (it was some sort of accident—your agent booked it by mistake and had agreed in advance to pay), swept up into a season of fancy I-do-mixed-media artists and even fancier drinks.
For health we decided to introduce different foods, as toppings, so it wouldn’t be breaking our respective one food rules. I started with butter for bread and you with grated parmesan for broccoli. Then we expanded together: broccoli with cheese and butter, bread with butter and cheese. Our first real success was an olive oil bread-or-broccoli-topping that contained fine-chopped garlic and shallots, raw. Raw garlic and onion were good against colds people said.
Fine-chopping, mashing, spreading and drizzling, we greased our way through the malnourished slur of monochrome consumption. June, July, August. Martini olives that never got eaten. Little black dresses. Rhinestones like almonds—which was all anybody else was eating.
I loved the way you would wink at me and say to the man holding the hors d’oeuvres tray, no thank you, I only eat… but he always walked away before you could say, broccoli.
Arianna Sullivan's work has previously appeared in The Laurel Review, The Santa Fe Literary Review and Glyph Magazine, amongst others. Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Arianna lives and writes in Berlin, Germany.
Your feet start to hurt just before the dinner rush; only a few tourists complaining of sand, how it gets under their skin and irritates. Smiling with each order, your fingers can barely keep up. Some of the men glance at your exposed legs, despite their wives and girlfriends. “Whatever gets ya the best tip,” Nellie says as you pin and spin orders. She trained you two months ago, every piece of advice replaced with an endless clutter of expectations. You only hope you won’t still be working here in ten years, flirting to pay the rent.
His elbow hurts my ribs and something clashes against my forehead. The scarf gets knocked off me and I squint into the sunlight of a Dromore market day.
There’s a trace of what must be blood on my gloves but not enough to scare me. I hear the passing guffaws at our tumble. He stinks of whiskey and I can’t bare to look at him.
The girl is waiting on the median for the light to change and the traffic to come to a halt. When it does, she steps down onto the street and walks in between the stopped cars, slowly passing each one, a cardboard sign held chest-high. Her eyeglasses reflect the harsh glare of the headlights and look like two white squares sitting on her face. She is probably fifteen or sixteen. Her hair is clean, pulled back neatly in a ponytail; her backpack is new, as are her boots—hardly a scuff or a stain. My emotions are mixed. I feel sorry for her, life out here is hard beyond belief, but I’m also relieved, in a “big sigh” sort of way. No doubt, like the rest of us, she has some sad stories to tell. No, not sad. Fucking heartbreaking.
The pounding in Amana’s temples won’t let up, and it’s beginning to scare her. She has had headaches before, but this is something different—it feels like some kind of creature has invaded her body and is occupying every square inch of it, from the tips of her fingers, which won’t stop tingling, to the pit of her stomach, which feels like it is being stretched and twisted and kneaded like bread dough.
About a week after it all happened, a friend of mine texted me. He said he needed to talk.
I’d known Chris since the late 90s, when I lived in Salt Lake City Utah. Chris now lives in Nevada, in Las Vegas with his boyfriend. It’s not really relevant but they broke up in January sometime over increasing tension in their household. Chris’ boyfriend hadn’t voted in the election. It wasn’t something Chris could let go.
Here’s what the random word generator gave me: “copper, explain, ill-fated, truck, neat, unite, branch, educated, tenuous, hum, decisive, notice.” I was a detective working clues.
The children appear from the edges. Their faces set. Their bodies are covered in iridescent powders that shimmer in hues that could only be seen in dreams. We have been gathered in the square to wait. Our kin have been gathered to watch. The children walk around us in a pack, sniffing, running towards us and back again to their circle. Worn, brown leather pouches hang around their necks, swaying with their movement.
No one wanted to hang out with Janie anymore and I thought that was unfair. It could have been any number of things that turned the group off to her but in my book she was better than alright. Maybe I was being sentimental but Janie was one of ours and I wasn't ready to let her go.
"On with the American machine, down with grass and trees!" Dad said. I laughed, because, for fuck's sake, why was it time to turn the vacant lot next door into a new parking lot? The town was nothing BUT parking lots. We had just found out about the city’s decision, which gave me a helpless feeling.
It was inside the desk where she hid all of her secrets. On the surface were the objects that immediately spoke of the history she didn’t want to hide. The mahogany pencil boxed, handmade and carved with intricate leaves and vines, given to her by her grandmother on the day of her high school graduation; the framed photo of her grandmother, who did not live to see her college graduation; and her favorite coffee mug, the one she says she can’t work without.