LoveLines
Author:S. Walden

“So, how’d you do yesterday?” Erica called.

 

Her head was stuck in the refrigerator searching for an afternoon snack for her kids. Her four-year-old screamed in the background, while her two-year-old rolled around on the kitchen floor, beating her chubby fists on the hardwoods and trying to out-match her brother. So far, she was winning.

 

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

 

“Eh,” I replied.

 

“What’s that?” Erica said, holding carrots and a container of hummus. She couldn’t hear me. She couldn’t hear me if I were standing right beside her. I glanced at her daughter, Annie, whose face sported fat, angry tears.

 

“Your kids eat hummus?” I shouted above the wailing.

 

“My kids eat anything,” she shouted back, and walked to the kitchen table. “Screaming stops now!” She tossed the food and watched her children scramble to the chairs, pull themselves up, and sit completely mute awaiting her next order.

 

“Amazing,” I breathed.

 

She doled out carrots and opened the hummus, then instructed her children to take turns dipping. And they did. They munched on their carrots in silence while Erica and I moved to the living room. She sank into an oversized armchair directly in front of the TV and instinctively reached for the remote.

 

“Hello?” I said with mock offense

 

She laughed. “Sorry. Force of habit. I get a second to breathe, and it’s TV time, you know?”

 

“Not really,” I replied.

 

“Bitch,” she whispered, and then she suddenly remembered the conversation she tried to start in the kitchen. “Oh yeah, so how was yesterday?”

 

“I didn’t do it,” I muttered, taking a seat on the couch.

 

Erica nodded, pulling her long blond hair back in a messy bun. “Did you come close?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Her blue eyes brightened. “Bailey, that’s so good! How close are we talking?”

 

“I got my hand on the door handle.”

 

“Get out! Are you serious?!”

 

I smiled at Erica’s enthusiasm.

 

“Okay, this is, like, a major step, Bailey. You should be proud of yourself.”

 

“I would have been prouder to actually make it inside,” I pointed out.

 

“Hey. Baby steps, okay? You’re too damn hard on yourself.”

 

I burst out laughing. “Um, Erica? I’ve been working at Beach Elite for over five years. I think we’re way past baby steps.”

 

“You also told me that your doctor said your hang-ups are really severe. So, yeah. It’s gonna take some time. You touched the door handle yesterday. That deserves recognition.” Erica thought for a moment. “That deserves a drink.” She hopped up from the couch.

 

“It does?” I asked.

 

“Totally.”

 

I watched Erica disappear into the kitchen then reemerge with two beers.

 

“You just want an excuse to drink,” I said, taking the beer.

 

“You’re damn straight,” she replied. “You don’t understand, Bailey.” She popped the top then tossed me the bottle opener. “You don’t understand what I go through on a daily basis.”

 

“Yes, I do. You tell me. Every day. In excruciating detail.”

 

Erica looked at me flatly. “You hate hearing about my kids, don’t you?”

 

“Not at all!” I lied.

 

“Oh, whatever. It’s obnoxious, I know.”

 

“It’s cute,” I said. “Your kids are cute. Well, when they’re not screaming.”

 

Erica smiled.

 

“Your husband’s cute. Your life’s cute . . .”

 

Erica gave me her pity glance.

 

“I hate you,” I said, and she laughed.

 

“It ain’t all that,” she said, “and you know it.”

 

“Better than being alone,” I mumbled. “And I’m not looking for a pity party. Just sayin’.”

 

Erica drew in her breath. “You know, I have a really hard time with this notion that you can’t be happy unless you’re with someone. And I don’t mean you you; I just mean people in general. People think this, and it’s dangerous.”

 

“Dangerous?”

 

“Yeah. It’s like, why can’t you be content with just you? Why aren’t you enough? Why aren’t you complete?”

 

I stared at my friend. “Are you really saying this to me?”

 

Erica nodded and took a swig of beer.

 

I glanced at the kitchen table then turned back to her. “You’re such a bitch,” I hissed.

 

“How so?”

 

“It’s easy for you to spout ‘wisdom’ like that when you’re married with kids!”

 

“Oh, calm down. Half the time I don’t even wanna be married.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“Watch it,” Erica said, jabbing her thumb in the direction of her children. “I’m just saying that I wish you’d be happy.”

 

“Erica, I’m not happy being alone. Okay? I commend those people who enjoy being single. Good for them. More power to ‘em. But that’s not me. And it doesn’t make me some weak ass woman because I want a partner. People partner up! That’s what they do! And I’d like to. I’d like to find someone who can . . . deal with me.” I stared at the bottle cradled in my hands. “I’m tired of failing at it.”

 

Erica moved over to the couch and sat close to me, our legs touching.

 

“You’ll find someone,” she said, “when you least expect it.”

 

“You’ve been saying that to me since I was eighteen,” I replied. “Kinda don’t believe you anymore.”