Story: Moderate Merlot
By: Ross Durrence
She always made full use of the full-length mirror in her apartment. Before she ever left
the house she would take much more than a cursory glance at her appearance, surveying her form from head to toe.
She loved herself.
She loved herself so much that she never wanted children. She found the very thought of giving birth repulsive. She always said that she wouldn’t have the countless lunges she’s done over the years to be put to waste by some little brat stretching her body for nine months. And of course, these anti-pregnancy thoughts were only strengthened by the aforementioned full-length mirror showing her exceptionally thin frame every single day.
At one point not too long ago, however, she found herself crying over some Lifetime movie that she’d never admit to watching. It was about a woman who was told to be barren by her doctors, yet proved them all wrong by delivering an undersized, oddly shaped baby girl. She wasn’t sure why she found this story so moving, but she even proceeded to stuff a pillow under her shirt to simulate a baby bump. She sat there, crying as the end credits rolled holding her hands together, calmly, resting them on her plush, feather-filled stomach.
She even thought of reevaluating her views on pregnancy for a split-second, but she was distracted by a phone call. She reached across the couch to answer and her stomach knockedover a bottle and spilled moderately expensive merlot all over her moderately expensive carpet. She took this as a sign and quickly reminded herself of all those lunges she’s done.
The only thing she did more rapidly than abort her child-bearing thoughts was race to her shiny, white side-closet with shiny white walls, where she grabbed a shiny white towel. In fact, apart from her now blood-stained couch, the entire apartment was white. But if you asked her, it wasn’t white. It was clean. Everything was tidy. Well, more than tidy. Everything was absolutely clean. She liked it that way. She was in complete control over her apartment. Complete control over something that couldn’t argue, couldn’t question her authority, couldn’t defend itself in any way. The entire flat was at her at her disposal. She was in complete control over her apartment.
The crimson towel now in the white washing machine, an audible sigh escaped her neat lips as she bemoaned the wasted wine. Wasted wine that she spent hard-earned money to purchase. Wasted wine she thought she had control over, but the stained towel was proof otherwise. Before she allowed the anxiety and emotion well up inside her that, maybe, just maybe, she couldn’t control anything, let alone everything, she grabbed her sleek running shoes, donned a pair skin tight spandex that hugged her taut thighs, and flew out the door.
“Good.” She thought. “Good.”
“Run. Push. Harder. One more mile. You can do this. You can go harder, faster. You will go harder, faster.”
After an hour and a half, she twirled around in front of the mirror in the building’s gym. She got on her toes and examined her posterior. Her hamstrings. Her calves. Her flat, flat stomach. A huge grin flooded her face and her body was pelted with joy and excitement and pride. She created this body. She knew what went in, what went out. God, she sculpted it out of
sweat and blood and her own hands. A quick shower, a quick rinse, and an extended stare at her naked form later, and she was curled up in her white sheets.
Technically, she was alone. There was no one beside her in bed, but she didn’t need there to be. She didn’t want there to be. She didn’t need there to be for the first 37 minutes of her slumber, but then she could feel it happening again. Alone, in a stark white apartment. It wasn’t clean. It wasn’t neat. It was bare. It was bare like she was. She grabbed her sleek running shoes, donned a different pair of skin tight spandex that hugged her taut thighs, and flew out the door.
“Good.” She thought. “Good.”
“Run. Push. Harder. One more mile. You can do this. You can go harder, faster. You will go harder, faster. You’re not alone. You are not alone.”
The next morning came early. Bright, warm, and early. She’d been up for an hour by the time the sun rose on this summer day, breakfast in hand, sheen bathrobe adorning her tan body. She heard the slight thud of the newspaper against her door, placed down her glass of juiced kale, spinach, and celery, and retrieved the neatly folded package from her hall. She always peeked around at the other doorways in the hall to see if anyone else had risen this early on a Saturday. Each and every paper sat neatly in front of each and every other door she could see. She more than grinned, shut her white front door, and returned to her breakfast with pride.
Her apartment building was new and modern and flashy and full of little trinkets and little things. Whatever the building’s designer had in mind, the only feeling this particular property exuded was that of sleek, slim perfection. It was something forward-looking. Something down range. Something unlike the colored buildings surrounding. Steel and glass and clean, clean corners. As it turns out, it had the same amount of fat dripping off its frame as she carried on her
bones. It didn’t take her two days to select that building as her future residence when she moved nearly six weeks prior. She had to have that building. She needed that building. The others were short and plump and thick. The others just wouldn’t do. The others just didn’t fit. Didn’t fit with her and everything about her toned, tanned torso. Her long, lean legs. Her trim, thin shoulders. The others just wouldn’t do.
She left her apartment that morning to do various things at various times at various places, and as she quickly shut her door, she noticed there were still more than a few newspapers propped up against more than a few doors on her hall. She smiled, shook her head at her inferiors, and strode to the silver, shiny elevator at the end of her hall. The street around her was noisy and hot and busy with all manner of people. Much to her chagrin, this building she idolized so much was surrounded by less impressive structures. Structures she likened to the late-sleeping sloths that dotted her apartment on the seventh floor. Immediately to the south of her’s was a squatty brick bore of a building that some might call quaint. Not her, but some. To her north, a young apartment full of young people and their young naivety. Thoughts of making it big. Thoughts of just falling backwards into greatness. She knew how misguided they were. Some skinny young thing who wasn’t skinny by determination, wasn’t skinny by sacrifice, wasn’t skinny by running five miles a day. That building was full of skinny little things who were still riding their youthful metabolism into their size zero skinny jeans, their asymmetrically-necked tunics which showed off their prominent collar bones as they only half attempted to watch their figures. To her northwest, well, she never liked to go that direction. Never even liked to talk about that direction. How that building was so close to her shining beacon of success was beyond her. That dumpy, flea-ridden, half-excuse for a structure was surrounded on all sides by superior buildings with superior tenants. How could anyone live in those rat-traps and not lustfully look at the magnificent edifices and not long to be part of the elite? Long to be rid of their shameful existence.
By five in the afternoon, her hunger pains were closer to knives in her abdomen, as the juiced vegetables she had for breakfast was now not nearly enough to fuel her busy Saturday. She found herself much too close to those buildings in the northwest of her neighborhood, and much too close to the local fare those miscreants surely dined on. All that notwithstanding, she realized she’d placed herself in the unenviable position of needing some sustenance rather quickly. As the sun beat down on her thin, yet powerful face, she spotted what was assuredly a popular spot among those second-class citizens which inhabited this cluster of mediocrity. The neon sign which bore the letters “D-I-N-E-R” was already on, even though it was a brighter than average afternoon.
“What a waste,” she mumbled aloud as she could almost hear the tick, tick, tick of the meter as the juice flowed seemingly unnecessarily into that sign on this sun-filled day. She carefully avoided various pot-holes and the general grime which covered the area immediately surrounding this D-I-N-E-R and pitied those who were raised in this swell. Luckily as she was entering, she didn’t have to grab the door handle and deal with the horrible amount of germs that were surely layered on the chrome handle. A tall man with thinning black hair was exiting the D-I-N-E-R and as he saw her on final approach, he paused, opened the door, took one step back, and allowed her to enter before he left. She mouthed a false apology and shuffled past him, careful not to get too close.
She was certain nothing in that hell-hole was edible. And God, did that place just reek of sexism. The waitresses all wore little 50s outfits like in those terrible, terrible movies with terrible, terrible plots. She was certain nothing in that hell-hole was edible. A quick glance at
the filth on the floor, the stained rags the waitresses all used to wipe down empty booths, tables, and she convinced herself that the juice almost twelve hours prior was enough. She turned on a dime and walked back into the sun, empty stomach and all.
The hike back to her building seemed exceptionally long on this now late afternoon, but that didn’t bother her. She figured this would be surplus exercise and if there was one thing she always enjoyed, it was surplus exercise. Always. Her high-heels were beginning to dig into her toes and she could feel the now constant burn engulfing her calves, hamstrings, and at least three of the muscles of her quadriceps. While she did succeed in completing most of her various errands that day, it wasn’t until she returned to her luxury apartment in her luxury building that she realized she failed to deposit a check. It was far too late in the evening and the bank was far too closed to go back out. Frustration filled her face as there were few things she abhorred more than failing to fully complete her to-do list.
“Damnit,” she grunted to herself in the elevator as the metal box swiftly leapt up to the seventh floor. She stormed off the elevator, hung a left down a well-lit, long hallway, jangling her keys the entire way. She flung the door open, threw down her handbag, menacingly tore off a sheet of paper from a legal pad sitting on the kitchen table, and grabbed a dark blue pen filled with dark blue ink.
‘Monday – Deposit check at First National’
Two underlines supported this reminder and there was only one thing she could do to ease her complete and total disappointment with herself. She grabbed her sleek running shoes, donned a different pair of skin tight spandex that hugged her taut thighs, and flew out the door.
Ross Durrence is a native of Marietta, Georgia and currently resides in Atlanta. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and is in his third year of law school at Georgia State University. He is a tortured Atlanta sports enthusiast and considers Franz Kafka his greatest literary influence. His short story, “The Party”, is forthcoming in Slippery Elm Literary Journal.