The Ballad of Lisa and Lacey (Part V)
(For Part IV click here)
It wasn’t sadness; it was worse than that. It was the utter futility of normal. They had left each other at the airport. Lisa had a connecting flight, so there was no time for any real goodbyes — just a few inane remarks, a long tired hug, and Lisa holding Lacey’s hands together and pulling them to her lips.
“I had such a wonderful time,” she said, smiling and warm, and kissed Lacey’s fingers. The two women stood for a few seconds, wordless.
“Au revoir,” Lisa said in a whisper and turned and walked away. Lacey watched her go, saw her change, almost immediately, from a casual strolling tourist to a clip-stepped deliberate professional. And then she simply melted away into the crowd. That was the first alone, standing on the edge of Europe, unable to step off — the heavy Versace bag Lisa had bought her, keeping her from floating into the air. And the strange thing was she would have willingly floated away because the other alternative was — what now? And she honestly hadn’t thought about that. She hadn’t ever considered that Lisa and Lacey would eventually end. So she just stood there.
“I should go home,” she thought. But … she didn’t even know where to get her suitcase — Shannon’s suitcase. Shannon? A faraway friend that Lacey vaguely remembered.
“I should probably go home.”
And she did go home, instinctively, moving through time and space until the taxi stopped somewhere familiar — and her key fit the lock, and she closed the door behind her, exhaled and left her suitcase in the hall. She sat down in the living room, under the windows on the same brown sofa. She slid the Versace bag Lisa had bought her off her shoulder onto the floor and lay down. She hugged the throw pillow to her head with both hands, and after a few minutes she fell asleep.
Days, weeks, even months later, things hadn’t changed. She’d got her job back at the coffee shop when she showed up in a too-tight t-shirt and offered Tony a bag of dead grandma guilt for firing her. She eventually went back to school, and even though her exams were difficult, they weren’t impossible. Her GPA suffered, but she passed. After the final final, she met Shannon and a few others for drinks. Too much tequila and she started to cry.
“You must miss your grandma a lot,” Shannon said. It didn’t help, and Lacey went home. She called the parents. Talked to her brothers. Telephoned an ex-boyfriend, but that ended badly with her screening her phone calls and anxiously counting the days until her period. After that, she mostly just went to work and came home.
She felt tired, used up — as if she’d been washed too many times and now she was gray and dull and shapeless — like some discarded dishcloth tucked in the elbow of the pipes under the sink.
After resisting the urge for several weeks, she googled Lisa and found her, smiling and warm, at a Farmer’s Market in Milwaukee. The website was Radisson River, a family-owned food processing company in Wisconsin, and Lisa was the majority owner and CEO. She was married with two children, and the company made a variety of condiments and sold them in Japan. And after that, Lacey didn’t care anymore.
She tried texting but couldn’t figure out what to say, so she just said “hi” a couple of times, but that didn’t get a response. Finally, she telephoned and a very nice woman said Ms. Anderson was out of the office but she could leave a message and Ms. Anderson would return her call — “Who could she say was calling, please?” It was all too confusing for Lacey. She didn’t want to talk to Ms. Anderson; she wanted to talk to Lisa, and she couldn’t say who was calling because she didn’t know who she was supposed to be.
“What is this concerning?”
“That’s fine. I’ll call back, thank you.”
But she didn’t call back; it was too difficult. So she went to work and came home and usually watched TV most of the night. She ate mac and cheese and frozen pizza and leftovers from the coffee shop. She got angry with Lisa, angry with herself, and half cleaned the apartment several times. She went clubbing for awhile and found another ex-boyfriend, but that didn’t last. She decided this was stupid and she needed to get on with her life — but that didn’t last either. And by the end of the summer, she’d fallen into sleeping late and doing nothing, unconsciously caught in the slow leak of her life, watching the endless tick of minutes accumulating — until it was time to sleep again.