Bright Light, Blue Moon
She was looking at the sky. There were hardly any clouds and the moon was out, even thought it was daytime. It was hovering, all faint and embarrassed, like it had lost a game of hide and seek. Did that mean she’d won? She nearly missed the bus. A woman got on and sat next to her and started talking about her blisters. “Oh lord,” she said, “I got ’em all over. My feet, and my hands…Oh lord,” she said, again and again.
Rachel was embarrassed. For the woman or by her, she wasn’t sure. She took out her cell phone but there was nothing to look at. She thought about her boyfriend. He was supposed to call her. She had called him first, for a ride, but he hadn’t answered. What was he doing? It didn’t matter. She’d see him tonight. She touched her pocket and felt her prescription.
Thirty milligrams, the doctor had said. Ten more than before. He looked up at her dubiously. Was she supposed to answer? She nodded. His math was correct. He handed her the prescription and smiled wanly. Behind him was a samurai sword. It was on display in the center of the wall. She pictured him in his underwear and tube socks, whipping the sword around like a light saber. He was probably recording himself with a vintage 80’s camcorder. There was a good chance she could find his videos on the internet, posted by some perfunctory online persona like ‘ninjadoctor69’. What else did grown men do with samurai swords?
The doctor told her how many doses, at what time of day and what time of night. He gave her the look again. She nodded. She wasn’t sure his instructions mattered; she would give them to Adam and he would sell them anyway. She had stopped taking Adderall a year ago. She looked at her phone.
Come to the park, said Adam’s text. And then a moment later: Codeine and whiskey. She got a sharp taste in her throat. She watched as the bus passed by her initial stop and continued on, toward the park near Billy’s. Billy was Adam’s best friend. Billy was probably a drug addict. She got to the park and he had the bottle of whiskey in his pants as he let Adam spin him on the carousel. The metal squeaked each time it went around. Billy put his hands out on either side of him and fell off immediately. Adam laughed and then noticed Rachel. He kissed her hello and then he just kissed her. She asked him where he was earlier when he didn’t answer her phone calls. He took a swig of whiskey and laughed when Billy tried to walk in a straight line. He didn’t respond. It didn’t matter.
“Do you think it’s going to rain tonight?” she asked.
“It’s not going to rain,” he said. “There’s a drought.”
“Oh,” she said. And then, “Well it has to rain sometime.”
“No it doesn’t,” he said earnestly. “That’s why it’s a drought.”
Billy took another swig of whiskey and got back on the carousel. Adam spun him round and round, until he vomited. His puke was pink and cascading. She thought of the time she was ten and got sick from cotton candy after being stuck on the Graviton. She didn’t want to go on but her dad said she had to get over her fear sometime. She felt nauseous after one ride but the teenagers on the other side of the wall asked the operator to go again so he did. When she got off, she couldn’t make it to the trash can on time and threw up all over the entrance. They had to shut the ride down for an hour. Her dad said, “At least you’ll have a story to tell.”
So she told Billy and Adam the story but Billy just looked up confused, like she’d been speaking a different language, and then continued retching. Adam laughed maniacally at Billy’s paleness. He shoved him weakly and Adam shoved him back. Billy told him to fuck off, took off his own jacket, put it back on, and then walked toward his apartment. Rachel looked away.
“Sleep over,” Adam said.
It was cold and the buses had stopped running an hour ago. She took a swig of whiskey for the walk and let Adam finish the rest. He took his shoes off and laid on the bed as soon as they got to his mom’s house. She tried to go to sleep but her mind was restless. More restless than it had been all day. She watched Adam, who looked as if he was sleeping, or nearly sleeping. His chest moved up and down irregularly, trying to find a pattern. She touched his hipbone, then his stomach. It was warm and moving and felt like dreaming. After a minute, he moved to touch her back. She felt his penis twitch. It felt smooth and warm like her sister’s hairless cat. She thought about Buster (the cat) and felt sorry for him, baldly going through his entire life, never knowing the kind of social acceptance hairiness could bring. He was an outcast, probably; handicapped by obligatory sweaters that only accentuated his skeletal physique. She wondered if this was the same opinion gorillas had about humans, all hairless and awkward, peering at them through glass walls. Preposterous! she thought in a 1920’s American socialite accent. Absolutely outrageous.
“Ha,” she said out loud.
Her boyfriend said, “What’s so funny?”
“Socialites,” she said.
After a minute he said, “I’m kind of too tired to fuck.”
“Yeah,” she said.
She woke up after Adam woke up. She could hear him talking to his friends in the garage. “We’re having a party,” he said when she came down.
“A party?” she said. “It’s 11 a.m.”
“It’s 11 a.m.,” Billy whined.
She sat down and took the beer Adam offered her. The garage smelled like cat pee. They started playing music and everything got hazy. Gradually the party got bigger. People she didn’t know showed up. Boys ignored her because she was Adam’s girlfriend and girls asked her her name. “Rachel,” she said and they said “Rachel?” and gave her a look. The look depended on who they were.
She asked Adam for a cigarette, even though she didn’t smoke. He gave one to her and then said he was leaving to get more beer. He asked her if she wanted to come but she said no. A car ride sounded awful. Someone asked her to dance and she said okay. She didn’t know his name but he was nice and didn’t try to touch her. Eventually she got tired so she sat down. The party got smaller. The people left were doing whippets but the room was spinning so she went to lie down. Someone was playing the bongos. Distantly, she heard Adam’s throaty laugh, followed by a clamor of disjointed claps and slurs of encouragement. “Right on,” someone said. A belch and a whistle.
Billy came in at one point and started talking to her. Was he talking to her? She wasn’t sure. The room was spinning. He sat on the bed. More clapping. “You’re so sexy, Rachel.” There were constellations on the ceiling, glow in the dark ones like she’d had when she was a kid. Whose room was this? She didn’t ask.
“Get off,” she said, but Billy didn’t listen. She was drunk and he was heavy on top of her, like a sack of wet cement. She was drunk and it didn’t matter. She was drunk. It didn’t matter.
There was a keyboard in the room when she woke up. It was probably there before but she hadn’t noticed it. It was a child’s keyboard, small and bright red, covered in glitter stickers. Some of the stickers were pineapples, others were kittens. Meow, she thought. This was Rebecca’s room. Rebecca was Adam’s little sister. She liked Rachel. Rachel knew because she asked her to play Barbies every time she came over. She never asked Adam to play Barbies, Adam said.
Rachel tried to play a Chopin piece but forgot. Forgot. She wanted to become agitated with herself but it really didn’t matter. Chopin didn’t matter. He was dead! She found one of Rebecca’s Barbies and touched her hair. It was soft and waxy and came out of tiny plastic pores. She laid down on the bed. It smelled of fabric softener and cigarettes. Probably from her hair. She felt bad so she stripped the bed and washed the sheets. She watched the machine while it ran and moved them to the dryer when it beeped. She wanted a shower. She started to undress and her prescription fell out of her pocket. The pills had tiny orange beads inside them. She opened one pill and placed the beads on her tongue. They were like fish eggs but didn’t pop in your mouth when you bit them.
Adam was asleep on the couch in the living room. A boy and a girl were lying on the floor with their limbs draped all over each other. She felt greasy and weary and wanted a shower but someone slept naked in the tub.
She went outside. The pool was littered with oak leaves and empty beer cans. The water was cold when she jumped in. She lay face up and floated. She pictured herself in various bodies of water – an ocean, a river, a small stream in the jungle, a gutter in L.A. She was small and insignificant, floating amongst the fishes. Her body felt cool and weightless. The sun seeped through her eyelids and made everything ethereal and white. Nothing was real; her thoughts were not hers. She pictured herself in a crowd, subsumed by women in red sweaters and men in black coats. When she looked at the crowd from far away she could not find herself. Her tongue was numb. She could not feel her hands. She thought of Philomela and then felt silly and unimportant because she was not a Greek myth. She was not even a virgin. Empty thoughts became fragmented. No; they weren’t empty. They felt brimming! She wanted to cry. She was crying. It was a salt water pool, not chlorine, so it was all the same anyway. Everything caught up all at once. A scream underwater. Hot summer rain. Rebecca said, “Is she dead?” And Rachel thought, What was the meaning of it? She wanted to know. She really wanted to know. Perhaps she would ask.
Adam was pointing at the sky when she came up for air. She looked at the moon and then at his hand. The moon. His hand. The moon was a great deal brighter.
Chelsea Spiller is a native Californian, currently studying English Literature and Studio Art at UC Davis. She is a self-procclaimed adrenaline junkie and quite fond of lucid dreaming.