Almost a full century after the failure of the Demeter system due to its inefficiency – start, stop, start, stop, turn; start, stop, turn – not to mention the literal stumbling blocks, there is a newer system for autonomously harvesting crops: Saturn, LLC’s self-propelled lateral-move automated harvesting system. Saturn, for short.
I was twenty-five the first time everything fell apart for me. My boyfriend, Dominic, broke up with me after five years together and we cut short the lease on the little flat we were renting in West Hampstead. This meant I had to scrabble around for a room to rent in London, a city that now felt vast and radically unfamiliar, even after four years there.
The first time Yvonne ran away, this was maybe 1970 or 1972, she had so much fun at the O’Farrell that all she thought about after the goon kidnapper sent by her bitch mother hustled her home was how to get back to the mountain of ‘ludes mixed with red and yellow M&Ms in the green candy dish on Artie’s desk. If you saw that old movie, you might think you know this story, but you don’t. This is about Yvonne, Mr. Ears, and how Yvonne conquered Hollywood, not about dick. Well, some dick, but not all.
“Don’t they look glorious at this age. Men. The bastards.” Pia and Briony are looking at their husbands across the room. The two men have their arms draped over each other’s shoulders and are thanking everyone for a great party. “And don’t we look shit,” says Pia. Briony raises scant brows. “Speak for yourself, love.”
Morrison woke suddenly from the all-too-vivid dream. Dolores was, in fact, gone. With the hangovers they usually had, first thing they craved in the morning were those shots of espresso firing out of the machine, so they would slip out the door of the Grand Orient fast as they could and up to a counter, any counter, and ordered up two doubles to get it started.
I open the door; place a hand on the hallway wall. It is covered in velvet; soft and dense. Vibrations thud against my palm from the party next door. The smell of sandalwood, earthy and sweet, envelops me. Candles decorate the alcove where I place my coat. I undress down to my underwear, then I lock the front door, putting the chain on for good measure.
The difference between the cheap Parmesan and the good stuff is that when you put a knife to the imitation, it’s like cutting tire rubber. That’s why I ended up at Urgent Care at 11 p.m. You’d think a rich girl like Opal, who was my wife then, would know, or care, about real Parmesan.
I can’t help watching them. The young couple sitting opposite me, travelling backwards on blue seats. They brush the tips of their fingers, upper arms, knees through jeans beneath the grey, plastic table. They speak with intensity, staring at each other’s lips moving.
Absence transforms experience and memory. He thinks of her often because he cannot find her. She does not respond to his texts, phone calls, or emails. But it is neither an old catastrophe nor a new one. It is a longing. Not exactly. It is a longing mixed with desire.
“It’s not difficult,” Helen said. “Just don’t fuck your teacher. Or your students. Actually, don’t fuck anybody you’re not supposed to. One of my old teachers is having a kid with one of his students.” She was speaking quickly, her words falling from her mouth in a tumbling cascade. Beside her, Margriet fiddled with a cloth napkin. While she spoke, Andy watched the small brown mole on her cheek. Wedged into the crease that curved from the slight round above her nostril to the corner of her mouth, it rose and fell with the rhythm of her lips. She had taken up running, and her body had refined into a new, compact package, one he was having trouble acclimating to.