Trigger Warning: Substance Abuse, Foul Language, Violence, Politics.
A knock at the door interrupts my hangover. I sip my coffee and ignore it. My flimsy apartment door seems miles away from my couch. Can a girl just sit and scroll for a few hours? C'mon, asking for a friend. The paper-thin walls do nothing to attenuate the knock.
I flick through the news.
Inflation Woes: Biden to Blame. No.
Primary Season: When It's Too Close to Call. Nah.
Lock Your Door: Home Invasions on the Rise. As if.
Knock again. The hope of hallucination escapes me. I sip and ignore.
Patty Pastry: Cupcakes Better than Sex. Not likely.
Op-Ed: Everyone's a Racist. Not everyone.
Knock. Pause. Knock again, but faster. Sigh. I toss my phone on the empty couch cushion, get up, walk to door, and look through peep hole.
Shit. It's Charlie. Back from church. Perfectly dyed blonde hair pulled through the back of a MAGA hat. Lipstick matches the hat. Too much mascara.
"Stacy! I know you're home, Stacy. Your car is here," she says. Too loud, Charlie. Way too loud.
I unchain door, shield my bloodshot eyes from the burning daylight, and open the door but not too much.
"Charlie. What's up?" I croak.
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm praying for you. My pastor says lesbians are going to hell."
"I'm not a lesbian," I mumble. The light amplifies the bass drum in my head. My breath is horrible.
Charlie furrows her brow and sticks out her hip. "But--"
"I'm bisexual, Charlie."
"Oh. Well, lesbians are going to hell and I'm praying for you. And, my pastor says that you can't kill babies any more."
My heartbeat ramps up, each beat like a hammer hitting an anvil. Moisture collects in my mouth. "Charlie, you might--"
What I want to say was that she might want to take a step back, but before I could complete the thought, I vomit. All over Charlie. All over her MAGA hat. All over her Let’s Go, Brandon! shirt. Half digested coffee, hair-of-the dog bourbon, and scrambled eggs fly everywhere.
"Goddamn it, Stacy!" Charlie holds her arms out by her sides in an effort to lessen the damage.
"Oh, my god, Charlie, I am so sorry." I'm not.
"You bitch! I try to be nice to you and you, you, you . . . shit all over me!"
"It's puke, not shit."
"I can't stand you!"
"The feeling's mutual," I say, as she stomps off to her apartment across the hall and slams the door. The open air breeze from the open hallway wafts the scent of my breakfast out into the parking lot, a rotten cloud of hard-boiled disgust.
I close the door. My spew stinks. While most of it repelled Charlie, some of it landed on my oversized Bauhaus t-shirt and yoga pants.
I toss my soiled sleep clothes into my washer and take a shower. The steam erases the remainder of my hangover. The second shot of bourbon helps, too.
I sit. I scroll.
Know Your Maintenance Man. Or maintenance woman.
Arming Teachers: The Solution. Oh, boy.
Trump & COVID: The First Occurrence in History of Negligent Genocide. Maybe?
Emotional Intelligence: Forgiving and Letting Go. Yes, but . . .
I toss my phone on the empty couch cushion. I'm hungry. I also feel guilty. Yes, Charlie was a self-righteous bitch-dork for barging into my Sunday morning the way she did, but I can't imagine anyone, well, almost anyone, who would enjoy getting barfed on. So, I make chocolate chip cookies. A dozen for me and a dozen for her. I lick the bowl.
Two episodes of Fresh Air later, I saran wrap a plate of warm cookies. I eat six of mine.
I knock on Charlie's door. No answer. I knock again.
"Charlie? It's me, Stacy. Look, I'm sorry about earlier. I brought you some cookies."
"I'm just going to leave these here, OK?"
I turn around and walk the stone's throw back to my door, but something ain't right. The puke. Where is it? I mean, spew was everywhere. Now, it smells like bleach and lysol.
"Charlie? Did you clean this up?" I yell. But that would be the last thing Charlie would do. "Thank you. I guess." I mumble.
"You're welcome," a raspy, deep voice says from the stairwell that ascends from the first floor.
"Who are you?" I say as a hulking shadow walks up the stairwell and towards me.
"I'm the janitor," he says.
"But we don't have a janitor."
"You do now."
I run to my door, turn to open it, but it's locked.
The janitor moves towards me. I pat down my pockets in the hopes that I have my key, but I don't. I look down. I keep a key under my mat, but the mat is gone.
"Looking for this?" The janitor dangles my spare key.
"No one can hear you. Well, I'm sure someone can hear you, but they don't care. No one cares."
"Now, about that mess." The janitor moves closer. He unzips something, but I turn away.
I crouch into a ball in front of my door and scream. "No! Leave me alone."
Then, three cracks, each louder than the loudest thunder, ricochet through the cement foyer of the apartment unit. For a moment, I think the janitor has clocked me with his mop, but his mop is on the ground. The janitor is on the ground, too. I look up. Charlie stands in her doorway with a hand gun, which, juxtaposed with her slender, tiny frame, looks more like a hand canon. Later, she tells me it's a 38 Special. Charlie is frozen in place, eyes wide as baseballs. Tears are welling in her eyes.
I look at the janitor. Blood is pooling out of his belly and his left knee. He groans in pain, but doesn't move.
"Charlie? Are you OK?"
"You saved my life."
"Dammit all, Stacy."
"What's wrong, Charlie?"
"I was aiming for his head."