Out over the Pacific, the sky was darker than Lucy had seen since she got to San Diego. The moon had been hanging visibly for hours before dusk even and now that it was out in that black massiveness over the heaving ocean, it seemed to be burning with a sun-like warmth. Lucy stripped down to her swimming suit and lay in the still warm sand for a minute, trying with every square inch of exposed skin to locate the heat she hoped the moon was radiating. She remembered the ocean from earlier today and she thought that maybe her bathing suit retained a memory of the water’s frigidity. Lucy stood her surfboard up so that it blocked some of the glow from the street and cast a shadow where she was lying to moonbathe before taking off her swimsuit. Her breasts were tiny moons that nearly disappeared when she lay down. She was face up for a while, her skin still aching for the moon’s warmth, her ears trying to ignore the waves and be alert for footsteps. She turned over, trying to convince herself that it was just because her front now was cold and she wanted to enjoy the sand’s warmth on her belly. She grabbed her towel from her beach bag and used it as a pillow. She wanted it on-hand if she needed to cover up quickly.
By the time Olivia showed up, clouds reflecting San Diego’s lights back to it had started to encroach on the moon’s territory and Lucy was back in her sweater and shorts and a fresh pair of underwear. “Hey.”
Olivia sat down beside Lucy and kissed her on the cheek. Lucy half turned her head so she could look at Olivia without presenting her mouth.
“Come on.” Olivia slapped Lucy’s bare thigh.
“Ow,” Lucy said and meant it. Still, she laughed.
Olivia grabbed Lucy’s neck and nearly hung from it to swing in for a kiss on the lips. Olivia’s crowbar tongue tasted of McIntosh apples and Lucy turned her head to find a comfortable fit, a place where their jaws seemed like complimentary puzzle pieces. Or would you say opposing puzzle pieces? Both, maybe.
Far off there was a smattering of deep, percussive blasts. Lucy flinched. Out over the Pacific, green and gold and blue embers drifted down to the water like the tentacles of jellyfish. There were a few more raining bursts in various colours before some other fireworks screamed corkscrewing up. Olivia didn’t know why there would be fireworks today. “Maybe you and me, we set those off somehow. Like our love did it.”
Lucy pursed her lips and blew a pfft through them. Olivia’s looked hurt, so Lucy said, “Like there was just a pile of fireworks waiting for the next holiday and some of our sparks happened to find them?”
“Ya, and the people nearby are all like, ‘What the fuck?’” Olivia kissed her again and there were more fireworks. Rather, the fireworks continued. “See,” Olivia said.
Lucy had only been in California for a week and it was only the second time she and Olivia had spent any time together. Olivia was beautiful, too. Half-Japanese, half-Mexican, ethnically; both sides of her family had been in California for generations, though. She worked at the surf shop for women just up the beach and was a graffiti artist heavily inspired by Os Gemeos, Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen.
Olivia put her hand on the upper, inner part of Lucy’s thigh then started running her fingers to Lucy’s knee and back, slowly, ticklingly. She kissed Lucy’s neck. Lucy pulled away. “I have to pee.”
Olivia moved her hand. “Okay.”
Lucy stood and started gathering her stuff.
“Oh. Okay,” Olivia said.
“I thought— I mean, I would just pee here.”
“Can you let me into the shop?”
“Sure. Then we’ll go to my place, I guess.”
“Is that okay?”
“It’s such a nice night.”
“I’m cold,” Lucy said. “I’ve been out all day.”
Just past Idaho Falls, on her way to San Diego, Lucy had driven into a nighttime rainstorm and there was snap and a spark by her left leg and the windshield wipers died. Sharp, toxic smelling smoke filled her 1983 Civic. She had pulled off the highway and, with her head out of the driver’s door window, she’d searched for a place to pull over and wait out the storm. She’d fallen asleep and when she woke the sun was shining and the windshield was misted and beautiful with trails where drops of water had run down to the top of the dashboard. A horse was grazing five feet from the passenger side door. Lucy squatted in a ditch and pissed. To let the moisture out, she’d opened the doors of the car and she thought they looked like wings. While she stroked the horse’s muzzle and ate a peanut butter sandwich, a guy in an old Chevy pickup stopped and asked if she needed help. No. Thank you, she’d told him, then wished she’d mentioned about the spark and the wipers.
She hadn’t had the problem looked at because she didn’t have the money. When she got down to San Diego, she’d told Olivia about it. Olivia knew this mechanic shop that was all women, but since Lucy had no money Olivia’s brother, Max, changed the fuse for her, turned the wipers on and left them for like five seconds and declared the problem fixed.
But when it started raining on the drive to Olivia’s from the beach and Lucy turned on the wipers, they worked for the first verse and part of the chorus of Father John Misty’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, before there was a pop and a spark and the wipers stopped mid-stroke. Lucy pulled over and hand-cranked her window down. Olivia texted her brother. The raindrops on the windshield turned every light into clusters of stars, but you could still see enough through the wet glass to be safe. Lucy drove with her chest nearly against the wheel.
They got to Olivia’s place and made grilled cheese sandwiches, which they ate with sliced pear and cucumber. Max texted Olivia back and said that he was in the neighbourhood and could swing by.
“Should I tell him we’ll go to him in the morning?”
“If he could look at it now, that’s great.”
Olivia typed a message into her phone. Lucy put a cucumber slice on top of a pear wedge and bit into it. The combination was surprisingly good. Refreshing. Olivia’s phone buzzed. “He says he’s busy tomorrow anyway.”
“You asked him if he could come tomorrow instead?”
“I just wanted to see if there were options.” Olivia smiled. “What? Seriously, that bugs you?”
Lucy didn’t know what to say, but yes, it did bug her.
“Fuck, come on. Seriously?”
Olivia left the room. Lucy put away the dishes from the drying rack then washed up the grilled cheese plates and the frying pan. Olivia came back in a spaghetti strap tanktop and matching grey short shorts—her pajamas—and said, “You don’t need to do that.” She ran her hand across Lucy’s stomach below her belly button.
“I’m fine,” Lucy said.
“Hello,” Max called from the threshold.
“Hey Max,” Lucy said.
“What’s up?” Olivia walked to the door.
“Jeez, Livie, you could have at least put some clothes on.”
Olivia went away again. “Hi Lucy,” Max said. “What’d you do to her?”
“I don’t know.”
Lucy gave Max her keys and he went out to look at the car. Olivia was lying in bed facing the opposite wall. Lucy said, “I’m going to make tea. You want some?”
“You’re going to bed?”
“I think so.”
Lucy started to heat the kettle and went over to her bag beside the couch. She got out a rolling paper and sprinkled some weed along the crease, but she held it in her hands for a while before dumping in back into the bag.
Max had angled the car so the open hood was lit by a streetlight. He explained that since the fuse had gone twice that it was probably a short somewhere in the circuit. Using his cell phone flashlight, Max showed Lucy some wires running here and there. “Only, the truth is, I’m not that good at electrical stuff. I’ve got a buddy who I texted already. He can look at it tomorrow or the next day.”
“You guys have a fight or something?”
Lucy shook her head.
“She was really looking forward to you coming down.”
Lucy stood up and searched the sky. “Hey, you know why there were fireworks tonight?”
“It’s not July 4th, is it?”
“I have no idea, then.”
Lucy nodded. The low clouds had blocked her view of the moon. “I’m going to have to go back in a few days.”
“Well,” Max said, “I’ll make sure that friend looks at your wiring.”
“Never mind, I can’t afford any work.”
Max put his hand on her back and all the nerves in Lucy’s body were suddenly, maybe all these years, magnetic and his hand was the north pole. “I’ll talk to him. I bet he’ll do it for free.”
“It’s probably fine.”
“What’ll you do if it rains?”
“Let me talk to him.”
Max walked to his car. “Talk soon,” he said.
“Tell Livie good night.”
Olivia was asleep. Lucy tried to read on the couch, periodically looking out the window. She set the book down and started running her hands through her own hair. She closed her eyes and tried to push the image of Max out of the way and replace it with Olivia. About to give up, Lucy lay belly down on the couch, unbuttoned her shorts and slipped her hand beneath the waistband of her panties.
Toronto, Sept.-Oct. 2015
Story: Lee Sheppard