THE SPACE AGE
Hannah didn’t wait until the end of the night to celebrate the beginning of the New Year: at 9:08 she was already face-down in the grass, breathing in bits of dirt and feeling settled in the idea that the future was imminent.
I went over to sit next to her still body. She was clutching a metal wheelbarrow, a baking pan, and several Coca-Cola cans.
“Are you nervous?” I asked.
She muttered something.
“I can’t hear what you’re saying. You’re speaking to the ground.”
Hannah rolled over and looked at me.
“It’s complex,” said Hannah.
She then rolled again and began to engage in a long, sustained hum. It sounded like an electronic piece giving out a low buzz of energy. I petted the space between her shoulder blades, attempting to be reassuring. Hannah was weird and probably afraid that the next year was only a few hours away. When we were kids, she’d mush up bits of dirt and bark and rubber from the AstroTurf field in the schoolyard all together, and then slosh some water over the top and drink it.
I went back inside the house. The beta fish in a woman’s bra were swimming around and staring at me, jutting out their lips and opening and closing them, like James Cagney in an old movie saying, y’hear, see. Or was that Edward G. Robinson. Either way, it was not the right time in a night to be dealing with something like that.
I called outside to Hannah, but I don’t think she heard me.
I lay on my stomach. Hannah is sitting on the ground, against the foot of the bed, stretching out her feet and then curling them back up, multiple bottles of nail polish scattered around her. There is a mesh colander in the corner, but I ignore it. I’m on the bed. I grab at a large stuffed dolphin and put it under my chin.
“I wish I had a boyfriend,” Hannah says half-seriously.
“Me too,” I yawn and pour the crumbs from a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos into my mouth.
“You’re going to get fat,” she says without looking at me.
I answer her by tossing the empty bag onto her lap. She squeals and kicks over an open nail polish container. It’s lime green and horrible and all over the carpet. She’s annoyed with me for a few minutes, but then gets over it and switches on the TV. It’s a reality show about people who hoard pets.
“How do you watch this?” I ask her.
“How do you not?” she jabs a straw into the bottom of a Capri Sun and start to suck out the juice. “It’s a fascinating look at an American subculture.”
“Does your dad know that you post porn on your blog?” Hannah asks me.
“My dad doesn’t follow my blog,” I sit down next to her on the ground..
“Yes he does.”
“How do you know that?”
“He told me.”
I immediately have an image of Hannah going down on my dad, and for some reason my brain places this scenario inside of a cart on a Ferris Wheel, and then it’s gone.
INT. DANCE HALL
Cue “Moonlight Serenade.”
The band begins to play with the opening strains of the song.
Cut to TWO GIRLS leaning against the wall of the ballroom. Cut to the center of the ballroom so we, the audience, can see what they are watching. There are maybe 20 couples swing dancing. The TWO GIRLS are the only people not in full skirts, although one is wearing bright red lipstick. The other thinks it makes her look like one of the hairy-lipped babushkas from the co-op but she doesn’t say so.
Why do we keep coming here?
To punish ourselves, I guess.
They hold out their fingers as if they have invisible cigarettes. GIRL 1 turns toward GIRL 2 and references a party that they had gone to the night before.
Did you have fun last night?
Not really. You?
GIRL 1 shakes her head ‘no.’
Wanna go out again tonight?
They watch the couples dance. GIRL 2 fiddles with a metallic charm bracelet. GIRL 1 sighs heavily and looks at her phone.
I hear noises that are too loud for this early in the morning, and walk around the corner after knocking on the front door repeatedly, and I find Hannah in the garage with a blowtorch in one hand and her face covered by a large metal mask. She’s wearing a ‘Kiss Me, I’m Alive’ apron. There is a large body of metal in the center of the room balancing atop several stacks of plywood. It is not just plain sheet metal, I notice, but is a melted-together monster. A Slinky sticks out of one end; a frying pan, the other. The center of the thing is similar—a jumble of different kinds of steel and aluminum and tin and iron.
“What are you making?” I ask. She hands me a hammer, a handful of nails, and a box of crushed soup cans.
“A spaceship,” she says, and begins to tap—ding ding ding—metal into nails into metal.
“To go where?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says. “Anywhere.”
I sit next to her and we build in silence until the next morning.
Image courtesy of David Sjunnesson