Esther and Virginia
by Kyle Hemmings
A pool party in the East Hamptons. Esther introduces you to several woman whose eyes roll over you like tiny dark marbles. In your backyard sea, the marbles float on water and stare back at you. She walks away, maybe not ignoring you, but "forgetting" you, temporarily. Maybe to see if you will follow, to show you how easy it is to become lost. You trail. You feel like a decked-out centipede. She talks to women in matching blazers and pink sunglasses, some hardly out of college, ex-sorority sisters, who have published significant work in the study of Women's Lit. The one holding a drink and wearing a black striped bikini keeps looking back at you to see if you can catch. Esther is now talking to one woman who must have had three tummy tucks and at least one husband named Bill who was a terrible gardener. You tap Esther on the shoulder. She turns and offers a cheap but gleaming smile, the way they do in Hollywood Fade-ins. You rub your belly and say that you feel sick. "Allergic to lobster dip?" she says with a wry twist of the lips. "Please. Can't you see how they love me? Baby, drink some seltzer. It cures everything."
That night you vow that if she ever hurts you again, you will tell her how you fuck rude boys from hostels, from city dwellings below college towns, just for the thrill of bending their brittle spines, of listening to the soft-speak of their mummy-lives in the dark.
* * *
Esther in a Gucci Floppy hat. Esther in bunny slippers. In your sister's cashmere robe. Esther vacuuming your mind's refuse with Hooverized words. Esther of salt deposits and endless oasis under the skin. It's what brought kings down. Their wives grew lazy inhaling a form of white dust. Esther with the cat-nip hands and the kitty's eyes that always roll you an Up. She reads to you from a book written by a woman claiming to have loved Queen Victoria. The author was a minor figure on the Bloomsbury outskirts. Esther quotes. Suicide or a double life? Clandestine lust under the carpet gets caught in the loops, you say, as if speaking from free association. What did you say, Esther asks with a queer grin. What does that mean? She never finishes the chapter.
* * *
You're plucking three grey hairs from the reverse image in the mirror. Your father died, you conjecture, in the same sleep your mother was having. You bring men home, ones who are skilled at house repairs, to impress your mother and to spite your sister. Meanwhile, you meet Esther in underground cafes, in hotel rooms that make you dream of feeling safe inside submarines, on street corners, where you blush and buy a dozen roses to celebrate the child you are whenever Esther says You are the only one. Double-sided Toms, hit-and-run lovers, girls who are messenger pigeons in a storm, are for me, Esther says, just transitional elements. Then one day, without explanation, Esther says good-bye. You feel like a pigeon dropping.