Lily Anne Harrison is a screenwriter and short fiction writer from Los Angeles. She produces a bi-monthly reading series at the Victory Theatre in Burbank, CA for short fiction and poets.
The heel of my shoe broke off with a thud and sat idly on its side near the entrance to a bar called The Yellow Room. I didn’t want to go inside The Yellow Room but I couldn’t keep walking without hobbling like a fool or taking off my one broken shoe and walking down the street like that. I used to walk down the street that way when I was still drinking. The universe or God or something had managed to still make me a barefooted drunk, a joke which made me feel powerless and small and which made it harder to see the point. My mouth watered at the thought of it, a Jameson and soda clinking with ice as I moved it in a circle with my hand, melting and watering it down to that perfect icy point. I shivered because it was cold and The Yellow Room looked like home. I paced there by the doorman.
“Ma’am, are you coming in?” he said, his hands intertwined in his lap and his stance wide.
“Probably not,” I replied. “Probably not.”
I spun playfully on my heel-less foot, as if I weren’t toying with the idea of starting up again but rather, a young woman with a broken shoe and her whole life ahead of her who might make light of it with a cocktail.
“My friends are on their way,” I said, chewing on my hair.
“Okay ma’am,” he said, staring straight ahead.
I turned my back to him.
“I’m just going to wait for them,” I said.
The heel of my shoe still sat there by the entrance. I hadn’t retrieved it but he knew it was mine. At one point he even looked down at it and back up at me. It was the only time he looked me in the eye. I guess it was the only thing he thought to be important enough, that heel in the entryway of his bar and how that might deter people from coming in. Maybe he didn’t care that I was an alcoholic who hadn’t had a drink in 142 days but just really cared that I get that heel out of the way of the entrance. I didn’t want to pick it up. Insult to injury and all of that. Also because that would put me close enough to the inside of The Yellow Room to smell the old carpet and sugary rum and hear that laughter that only comes with the imbibed, which might be too much for me to handle.
I got sober because my parents disowned me. I got drunk at my sister’s wedding and drove their car into the lake and drowned. My dad did CPR on me and brought me back. He broke two of my ribs and it still hurts when I breathe sometimes. My boyfriend Mickey took all of my things after that and kicked me out of our place after that.
He said, “you hurt everybody”, and he shut the door in my face.
I had been at our old apartment on this particular night, where he still lived, which was a drafty loft downtown with high ceilings. We had hung these tapestries on the walls that we’d found together in India and had shipped home for an unforgivable amount of money because we loved them and couldn’t live without them. They smelled like old books and when we shook them out to hang them on the walls, we laid them down instead and made love on them first. We hung them up with little metal tacks afterward and joked about how our friends would admire them when we had parties and we would have a private laugh about how we’d christened them all right.
So I’d been over there, at our old place, because we were friends again on account of me being sober, and I thought maybe I’d finally go to Mickey and ask him for my dad’s old record player, which was sitting on the dresser covered in a thick layer of dust. It had records piled on top of it, and the very top one had a wine ring in the left hand corner so I knew he’d had some parties. My dad had given me the record player so it meant a lot to me. The thought of Mickey playing my dad’s old jazz records on it for unassuming girls with fake tits and fruity lip gloss for the last 142 days made me sick all of a sudden.
“Give me that record player back now, please,” I said.
“Your dad gave it to us both,” he said.
“No. I’m his daughter. He gave it to me,” I said, moving to grab it.
“Don’t do it, babe,” he said, picking up the telephone.
“Are you going to call the cops or something?”
“If I have to,” he said.
“Hi officer, my ex-girlfriend is here taking her own record player from our shared apartment. Please help!” I snapped.
He called 9-1-1 anyway, so I had to leave in a hurry without the record player.
I left because I stole from him once. I took all of his camera equipment and sold it because I was out of money and needed a hotel room and I had caught him with another woman a few weeks before so I thought he deserved it. He also had a nice stash of bourbon so I took that and drank it all in the car on the way to the hotel later that night.
Him calling the police didn’t ruin the value of the record player, which is too bad, because I’d have to go on dreaming about having it back. I’d day dream some more that my dad would come to my little empty studio apartment to reconnect with me and see nothing but dirty sheets and a spare floor lamp with a flickering light, but there it would sit, his record player, and he’d know I never gave up on him either.
I pulled myself away from The Yellow Room, moving toward the street like a girl trapped in molasses.
“Ma’am, would you like your heel?” the doorman said behind me.
“No, you keep it,” I said loudly, without turning around.
I crept into the quiet street, and with no witnesses to vouch for my efforts, I crossed the empty street and reached the convenience store parking lot and whipped around.
The doorman looked at me strangely, but I smiled, big and toothy, and I waved from the other side.