BY TORN PORTER
Cynthia had sent in her audition tape as a joke. The show took place on an island that had once been fully populated. On the tape she wore something nice. A pale blouse with bracelets the color of meat (rare, well-done). They hid the blush, the brown spots. For the webcam she sucked everything in.
The cameras ruined her life. Scott made her come home early from the taping. She said, I really think I could’ve won. Who would have known I could start a fire so fast? And me, who’s never been camping!
Cynthia’s husband’s name is Scott. She likes to lie down in the backseat when the driver takes her out. She only gets off once a month. Her driver’s name is Kenneth.
She got back from the show and her husband moved her and the dogs to their boat. They kissed their son when they dropped him off for his first year of school: the same one as his father. He wore a tie and passed through the gates. Cynthia cried, silently. She had worn heels to see him off, but she could never really walk in them. She simply couldn’t make it across the parking lot. The car picked her up at the curb.
Once they were on the sailboat, the trans-caribbean journey took its toll. She read Don Quixote, like, three times. She could have recited the damn book to you. Straight out of her head. She had read it so many times, the only book onboard. Oh, it’s the best story ever told, really, have you ever read it? It’s just great, especially for old stuff.
On New Year’s Eve, she almost cried to see her dinner guests all dressed up, in one long line, as if awaiting that last shot: not firing squad, but morphine.
The men looked great in their tuxedos. The women got drunk too quickly. The theme of the party was 1950’s glamorous. Cynthia talked about: her son, Sancho Panza, the dogs, her yoga routine, the expenses of sailboat living, the mechanics.
On New Year’s Eve she almost cried, again: to see the fireworks shoot off so close to her face, and to sway to the live band so close, feeling Scott’s warm cheek, she couldn’t put it into words but she thought that this must feel like what it was like to shoot old movies. Italian ones, where you can’t tell if you hate or love the main characters, but you can’t look away—they are so pretty. They are so pretty, she thought, gazing at the men unwrapping the fireworks on the speedboat commissioned for the firework squad to shoot off from. They were docked near Jamaica. None of the firework men had ever seen somebody like Cynthia before. They knew the sad rich, knew to keep their distance. But Cynthia, she was something else.
On New Year’s Eve she thought of prom. She thought of her wedding, the photos she used to show to spring-breakers at every tiki bar between Rio and Miami; on each and every plantation-island from south to north, she would pull out the photo to show to the kids.
Gawd! My waist! Don’t know where it went, anybody seen it lately? Haw haw.
She would sip her drink and say, I am going to fuck you tonight.
On New Year’s Eve she almost cried, the fireworks were so close.
Jan 1—she laid (hangover massage) on the deck. It got so cloudy, and nobody saw it coming, but suddenly the world flipped over: the yacht overturned, Cynthia’s towel fell from her hands, and she fell (a reverse castration, or, who knows, a birth) into the beautiful and noisy sea. Suspended, she knew she was falling, clutched her masseuse’s arms and hung on for dear life, letting the salt sting her eyes.
She heard, then felt, the dapper coast guards lift her out.
They couldn’t find the dogs.