Freinds by Caren Beilin

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The beans in the filter are brown, like black cocaine.

Central Perk.

Dehydrated shit, but wet.

The sun at a certain time, when it urinates with concentration, its dehydration comes through the window of our favorite coffee shop—it comes in, a crop of wedding band in the coffee ground.

Rachel, where the fuck have you been?

Get her a decaf.

Because of how high-strung I must have seemed. Sitting there—sopping—in a wedding dress.

How sheep it would have been to marry Barry. Periodontist. DOCTOR OF THE GUMS.

The sun sets its mauve gums down.

I’m trembling, to have run. To have hurled oneself out of the window of a reception hall’s bathroom. I had to get out. To have climbed out of the toilet of that marriage plot—“They said that you would be here”—and come in here high-strung.

“I went to your apartment. But the super said that you would be here.”

Central Perk.

This is Ross. CAROL IS A LESBIAN. I think it to myself—I, Ross—over and over, over what happened. And then Rachel runs in, after years, with wedding dress gobbed on her skin, just sopping, a slut sheep, and her breasts are more than I could ever have held in mind, the breasts, body, and mind, all of the sudden, of someone who tans.

Maple mountain range, mr. breasts, balloon range, hunt them down, tan the balloon skin.

I found your address, Mon. The super—mr. treeger—said that you would be here.

Central Perk.

Monica.

“Rachel, you remember Ross?” He’s sitting right there.

This is Ross. I changed my eyes to hazel, for my career. I work out. I don’t drink. I don’t do cocaine. I don’t do crack cocaine. I quit heroin. I changed my life.

The ground is full of fossil. Roller coaster calcium in the ground. I’m talking dinos. I’m a paleontologist, Rachel. I’m on the cusp of being offered to lecture on the dinosaur at New York University. It is still a living issue. We still need to know what she is thinking. The lizard oil pumps still in my brain cerebrum. Higher power. Memory of my first Sinclairosaur. I, hugging her leg, plastique. I said to her then, at the gas station, “Take it.” Take what happened to me. TAKE THESE PEAS OFF THE FUCKING FLOOR.

Later, in my dissertation year . . . I found a deep footstep in the rock, in the field, my three-toed sleeping bath. It filled up with rain. I was alone, naked – mr. clean –

Your hair is really different. From what I remember.

I had it straightened. It has also been layered.

“Um, the strata of your fimbria.”

Thank you for boring us, again, with your science, Ross. God. Rache, I live just steps from this coffee shop. Come up. We’ll get you dry.

Where’s Sandman?

This is a no-pet building. Welcome to NY. You can’t have dogs in most buildings. Sandman was old.

We killed him.

Come in.

Move in with me.

Sun, shaft of dust. A teastain tan on a teatowel, hanging.

Carol is a lesbian. I think it to myself. I go over what happened. Susan’s cunt, the rent control apartment. TOO GOOD TO BE IMAGINED.

Sunset, a cunt is smoldering, I—Rachel—imagine, if you go out to the country, Long Island. That O’Keefe painting I saw at the MOMA, on that poster for that MOMA on the subway stairwell, during my first subway ride, on my way to Bloomingdale with my father’s credit card, now ripped from the subway wall and put on a pier, the Long Island pier—the sun getting its guts, its paints, each evening like it’s the cunt of Prometheus. Punishment for what?

Dear Monica, you had started a fire in my heart.

Night, the maggot quilt.

Where did you go, Rachel?

We had plans to go, together, this NY evening, to the laundromat, but Ross begs me to let him go in my place. “Come on, Mon. Let me take her.” He cites his past drug abuse. “This is the gift of my sobriety,” he tells me, over coffee.

Central Perk.

Then I wanted to give you crack.

At the laundromat. The sign. NO FREE DETERGENT. Oh fuck, Ross. This is so awkward. I’m out of detergent. I knew I couldn’t make it here. I’ve never even been to a laundromat.

Rachel, is this underwear lace? What is this, the slutty fetus of your wedding dress? You have to separate the lace, Rache. Jesus. I’ll teach you, Rachel, to make piles. I teach (I lecture all of the time) to undergraduate students at NYU.

Gunther lets me work at Central Perk.

The sun goes flaccid in my muffin. Orange worm. Slugs of it, sunlight, in the espresso glass. I burn it. Gunther retrains me. He has to. I burn it again, I can’t learn. I never finished. I didn’t go back to college, to anything like that. Monica, you don’t know where I went.

Sunset, the orange worm filling with red wine, then nothing, night, espresso evaporate, beetle cunts jamming the system.

At night, the moon comes heavier, blooming down and pouring cream, and if a building bends or the moon wanes, you’ll see it, Rachel. The moon. Especially tonight, during this city-wide blackout. Candles lit, I took you out to the balcony to tell you—

I’ll tell you about it, Rachel, on the balcony, because it, too, is part of my study of paleontological prehistory, night being the first cave, stars the first hieroglyphic, could they BE any more prescient?

Rachel, you statue of lithe maple, I mean, I imagine your bones are the color of lithe tinsel. Come closer. Come closer to my ribbed sweater.

It’s nice out, Ross, New York as dark as this, the ghosts of capuchins extending . . .

Sunrise, steam of wine—white wine—coming from heaven.

Don’t you have to work?

My class is offered at NYU to undergraduate freshman in the afternoon. Until then I am free to go to a recovery meeting or sit with you here, and read magazines. Catalogues from Bloomingdale, I’ll pick my poison. Victoria, tell me.

Say it.

Rachel, I’m not leaving.

“I’m going to bed.”

In the morning?

I’m very tired, Ross. I need some space.

I gave you space. I gave you a tour of the fucking stars.

That’s not what I mean.

Not again. Not you, too, Rache. CAROL WAS A LESBIAN.

She goes to bed. She closes her door. I read a catalogue between them. Two rooms. I’m staying right here. I’ll watch for any action. I don’t want to see them kissing again. I’m not going to any meeting.

I’ve met everyone.

I am in my room. You, Monica, are not ever in my bed but in the next one, the wall adjoining us. I bear its radiance.

Your roommateness.

I’ve imagined it would happen on the edge of my bed, my bedding, like we were pigeons on a duvet wire.

Lesbians, the pigeons. The most pervasive dove.

Cannot be contained in one song, one Carol.

Monica. In her bed, in the early dawn, her room, and I jump out of my skin. I want her so much in my bed that she becomes it. I moan and seizure all over my bed, horsefright in my blood and a hummingbird souled perineum.

Coffee would come after—if we go down to the coffee shop, just steps from our apartment, the sun strumming the first strings of its acoustic beginnings through Central Perk’s red letters, if it could happen, if we were to do it—what I mean is, whether you make coffee on your own or it’s given freely across the counter by Gunther, it is often the first gift, the after-sex offer. The brain flooding with mud, macerated—coffee, masturbated mud. I hope this, if it happens, if you come into my room, through the wall, no, practical, the door, real, that what happens doesn’t fatten into the flat of that happened, that, the dead dove—would that it wouldn’t be a single time, Mon. Your name is French, for mine. Je t’aime.

My heart has never beaten anyone. Your face is in my mind.

I feel the pain of feeling nothing. The not-you gnawing, ruining the room. It’s delicate. We’re friends. We have been for a long time. Longer than this feeling. The feeling kicked my heart at sunset. It kicked my clit.

Coffee, you marsupial vinaigrette.

Get me decaf.

After sex, I would give you some. I would make Gunther get down on his knees and make you some and pour you some and I’d give you some. We’d drink coffee together, Rachel, on the velvet couch, casual, your hair as straight as it has ever been. Your skin is very tan. I’d kiss you there, in the coffee shop. The after-sex kiss, O, murmur of velum—is kissing the moon, with your infamous after-sex glowing, you are glowing, the moon a cooler surface to kiss after fucking, after landing and walking the FUCK around, on the sun.

We never walked on the moon. It was a film.

I keep the moon intact, Mon. I just look.

Sunrise, a cunt is coming. Rachel. Would that it weren’t mine.

Rachel. This is Ross. You should know—I was in love with you in high school. So there.

Ross, don’t just do it. Don’t say things anyone could pull down and pass around. Anyone can confess the general past.

I love your breasts, in certain lights, Siamese moon—at dusk, butter balloon born conjoined. Twins. I could go on—mr. –

We fight all over our shared apartment, me and her—over Jean-Claude Van Damme, the actor. He’s been in New York making a film. Right outside of Central Perk. We both say we want him. I say it first. She follows my line of desire, if not its origin. My heart center. So you want him now too. And it being you, it will happen, things happen for you all of the time, just look at Ross—look at where you have him—these things as you summon them, but now I want him, JCVD, because he is interested in what interests me. He seems disinterested and pleased with both of us, more with you. The sun setting into our apartment, all of it, we fight.

I deliver real stuff. Real blows. Real pardons. I hit her for looking at the moon, and for drinking coffee alone, for the privacy of her bowels—the heart only internally, cerebrally, melodious. And for finding me, here in my city, in her wedding dress, sopping, and for saying, “They said that you would be here,” but not saying it, not completing it. I was looking for you. I came from one life to this life, mine to yours, to you. To complete you.

“You had no right to go out with him.”

“You sold me out.”

She flicks me. I flick her. It starts with flicking. I hit her arm. She hits mine. I punch her breast. She flails against me. I hit her head. She smacks at my thighs and ass. She lunges onto me. She wraps her legs right around me and hits me. I drag her by the feet and I take off her sock and beat her. I fall into her legs, her hand on my face. It feels like the hand of Jesus. I chase her into the kitchen, we run around the table, the sun coming heavy on the hung down rims, my mugs downturned. I destroy her sweater and she dumps marinara sauce right in my purse.

She marries Ross.

 
 
 
 
 
Caren Beilin is the author of a novel, The University of Pennsylvania, and some short fictions, Americans, Guests, or Us. She lives in Philadelphia.