Julia and Robert sat on the steps of the bar that Robert was to be reading at in about an hour. Robert had his computer on his lap and was checking his email, which he checks around 87 times a day. Robert gets very anxious if he cannot check his email for even a small period of time.
Julia was on the phone with John. She was wearing a vintage dress that felt a little too tight, but flattered her figure in a nice way and made her feel confident. Her hair was braided and pinned up in a old fashioned way; a crown of braids encircled her head and soft curls formed at the sides even though she had spent a long time straightening it earlier to avoid this.
“uh huh . . . yeah . . . no, I understand . . . I get it . . . alright . . . uh huh . . . okay bye,” Julia said quietly, because she was quite embarrassed.
Robert put his hand on Julia’s shoulders while she listened to what she had listened to a few times before from other people. He pushed his hand gently back and fourth over her neck and shoulder blades while her eyes welled up. It happened frequently, but Julia was always very touched when Robert showed her he cared for her. She sniffled and hung up the phone quickly, not wanting to hear any more explanation about “timing.”
“I’m sorry baby,” Robert said.
“Oh shit. It’s fine. We both saw it coming, ya know? So it’s fine, yeah its fine.”
Julia put her head in her knees while Robert rubbed her shoulders some more. A few minutes later Joe arrived, because he was also reading. Julia felt relief because she didn’t feel like talking to anyone just then, and Joe does not do a lot of talking. Joe made a funny face and smiled at Julia. She leapt and fled down the steps to Joe, stopped just before him, and petted his head. He flinched a little, but corrected his instincts and allowed Julia to greet him how she usually does. Robert came down and they walked down the street together.
“I’m on the prowl tonight, I’m going to fuck someone,” Julia told Robert and Joe.
“Why?” Joe said. He sounded irritated with Julia.
“My self-esteem is bad right now. It will make me feel better.”
Joe and Robert wanted to stop in the organic co-op that they walked by. Julia was smoking and stayed outside. As the door shut behind Robert, Julia began to cry uncontrollably. It was not dramatic with sobs and heaving. Her eyes welled quickly and tears were pouring down her face. An old woman with an old poodle walked by and asked if she was okay. Julia nodded and wiped her tears. She touched her scarf to her eyes to be sure that her mascara had not run and that there would be no visible traces of her unfortunate state.
As they walked back down the block they passed a small dark bar. Julia could feel another wave of tears swelling so she quickly said good-bye to Joe and Robert and fled to the little cave that seemed comforting. When she ordered a glass of wine at the bar, she sounded like an idiot, she was sure. She didn’t have it in her to flirt and be charismatic but she tried out of habit anyways. Julia moved to a tiny table in the corner and faced away from the room so she could cry unashamed. It was not often Julia had the urge to weep like this so she wanted badly to indulge in it. She felt extreme, sitting at the table quietly weeping. She hated the idea of Joe and Robert seeing her look so pathetic, being that she tends to think of them like uncontrollable little brothers, especially when together. The relief of being alone made her despair seem endless. Julia drank her wine and was resided to being overly emotional and indulgent for just a few more minutes. She stared at the wall and wiped her face occasionally with her pink scarf, which was now littered with snot and mascara marks.
Julia had a two-week love affair with John before he realized he was too busy for her. In the last year Julia had many two week love affairs, none of which she had ended herself. When she met John, Julia had decided to immediately indulge full force in his affections. Normally Julia tries to dissuade people from being too kind to her, but she had been feeling exhausted and weak when she met him and allowed him to dote an unreasonable amount. Julia touched her neck at the table and was very happy to find that for the first time in many days she had not worn the necklace John had given her. Julia was going to take it off if it was indeed there, but since it wasn’t she used her fingertips to feel the jutting outline of her collar bone.
Amanda sat at Julia’s table. Julia was still weeping and hadn’t seen Amanda come in. She looked at Amanda, startled and embarrassed. Amanda had a beautiful soft face and lots of curly brown hair hanging all over it. She was small and Julia had decided she liked Amanda since the first time she met her a few months ago. There was something child-like about the way Amanda moved and talked and it made Julia have irrationally tender feelings for her. Julia wanted everyone she knew to be her little siblings. She thought about babysitting all of her friends and them all adoring her the way children adore a babysitter that was more fun than their parents.
“Joe told me you were sad,” Amanda said.
Julia tried to respond. What was formerly weeping turned into ugly guttural sobs while Julia desperately tried to compose herself to explain that it wasn’t really a big deal, she was just being indulgent. She failed horribly, but Amanda seemed to pick up fragments of what she was saying and occasionally interjected something comforting. Julia slowly felt more and more calm. Soon she was not crying. The two women talked about burning boxes of ex-boyfriends and future ex-husbands gifts and agreed that burning gifts is a right reserved for sixteen year old girls and middle aged divorcees. Julia told Amanda about someone who was going to be at the reading later whom she wanted to fuck. Amanda was supportive of this. They both knew Julia did not have the heart to be aggressive with a man that evening. It was very obvious that she was not going to have sex with anyone. However, they agreed that sleeping around could be good for your self-esteem.