BY UZODINMA OKEHI
I blew off Jackie, I told her, forget about the coupons . . . Two-for-one dinner-date, Brooklyn, select restaurants, twenty-eight bucks, and what’s that gonna buy me? Forget the first hour, which is easy. That could be testing out pens, looking for my ruler. It could be putting on socks, on then off again, too hot, or stretching, still not drawing, at the table, my chair, against the springs, I’m tense but I’m bouncing. Right outside the door, there’s Zhanna—again, in the hallway throwing that ball, and singing, and now she’s really drilling it against the wall. Jackie’s on the phone. Real loud, she’s stomping around, crashing dishes in the sink. Turning on the fucking blender. I get it. And Jackie, if not this then it’s sitting in some restaurant clearing our throats, treading water, you say there’s nothing to talk about anymore, but from my view what I’m doing is watching life swirl down the drain while we’re talking, talking about loan payments and new furniture, and sitters, and school fees, about why we need a car, about five years down the line, about Zhanna, she needs a sibling by the way, a brother, about whose turn it is to do the dishes and it’s two hours, Jackie, give me that much, let me concentrate, and whatever it is I’ll co-sign it, go out on a limb, let’s say, forever, that extra beat, if we could bite down and skip over some of this talking . . .
Then that second hour. Trying to imagine a soundproof room. I could do the walls with egg cartons, those black foam stalactites. I could get another room, a hotel. A new girl, maybe, I could forget it, start over. But that quiet is a prison, and it’s one way or another. That’s with or without Zhanna outside the door singing pop songs.That’s what I’m doing in here, Jackie, sealed off, most of it iced out on the couch, or curled up, dreaming, another life, or staring at nothing, I’m trying, what else can I do, and it’s not waiting, more like I’ve got to hit rock bottom each time, draw the same thing in disgust, over and over then finally, until time’s almost up, and of course now the stops are out, with the shaved-down stub of my blue pencil, I’m flying, drawing. Fight-free. Rolling.