Jennifer Hollie Bowles
Eileen sees Chris waving his arms. She gets into his car, and she feels like she has just entered an ocean. There is no way to pull apart the salt from the water or the waves from the land. Chris is wearing his seatbelt like a good lemming. Eileen puts hers on quickly, just so he won’t tell her to put it on. She hates wearing seatbelts. When it’s her time to die, she will die. No seat belt will ever save her. No restraint of any kind will ever save her.
Chris has never slipped it into Eileen like he owned her. He has never even tried, so Eileen wonders what makes Chris steal his eyes over to her as if he can’t figure out whether or not she is attractive enough to kiss. She wants him to try, but she knows she will want him to stop because Chris is dating the sort of shallow chick Eileen hates. Why did he ask her out in the first place? They had known each other as adolescents, so maybe this isn’t a “date,” yet he insisted on driving. On being the driver. Of course it is raining. Nothing important ever happens to Eileen unless it rains, but just because it is raining doesn’t mean Chris is going to be important to her.
Eileen looks at Chris, whose eyes are searching the rain, and she sees his spirit lift out of his body and join the rain. She thinks something must be going on inside his head, but he always tries too hard to be nonchalant, to keep his clothes baggy, to keep his brown hair just floppy enough to seem disinterested—cool. Eileen hates “cool” people, but such people usually make her feel like barfing, and Chris doesn’t make her feel like barfing.
She doesn’t know what to say, but the silence feels like an oily tsunami spreading black matter. Eileen sinks into the passenger seat to forget who she is and where she is, but Chris’s energy still invades her space. She realizes he is analyzing her, trying to figure out her mismatched clothing and splotched red chest, trying to compare her to that vacuous thing he fucks and calls his “girlfriend.” He is picking apart every hair on her head, every curve of her frame, every gesture of her mouth.
Eileen feels self-conscious, and she knows Chris has no idea she knows he is picking her apart. She wishes she had dyed her hair again and had sat in the car holding her stomach in like a good American puff-tart. But it is too late for such pretenses, so she digs in her boho purse for a clove cigarette. She lights the tip of the cigarette, and Chris stares at the tip as if his heart is attached to it.
Eileen wonders if Chris has any idea how many men throw themselves at her, how she chews them up and spits them out one right after another. She imagines that Chris’s girlfriend probably has the passion of a fruit fly, and she giggles to herself imagining how she could fuck his brains out until his eyes bleed with want. Chris asks Eileen if she’s hungry enough to eat, and Eileen giggles because she is never hungry, but she likes to taste things in her mouth, especially men. Eileen hears Chris scream in silence. If only he were more dangerous, she would straddle him and taste his neck.
Chris mutters something about rainforests. Eileen says, “huh?” Chris looks through her out the passenger window. Eileen imagines the wild green of rainforests, how they breathe with chaos. Eileen wants to share in Chris’s delusions. It is the rain that makes rainforests, which cleanses all the dirt from leaves and souls. The rain is washing Eileen away, and she sees herself floating down gutters and finally into drains. Time drains. Rain is time. Eileen wonders if Chris knows how wet time is, and if he is crazy too. “I know,” he replies.
Chris is driving the speed limit. He hunkers close to the steering wheel and slows down for curves. Eileen always speeds and speeds up for curves. Eileen wants to yell at Chris and ask him why he slows down for curves and is dating a mindless pink-wearing tart. But Eileen holds in her voice and slowly pushes her knees to her chest. She imagines kicking in Chris’s windshield until the cracks spread and tiny shards of glass drip inside the car, until chaos exists inside the car in the form of crystallized sand instead of just silence. But she stretches instead. She spots blood on her hands from the glass. She is suddenly relaxed. Everything is clear. She is outside of her body.
Eileen moans and turns her head toward Chris. For a brief moment, he is her captain in that sea she felt, and time is dry. Chris looks at Eileen and remembers her years before when storms were only for play and even her roots were golden miasma. But Eileen cannot bear the dryness of his eyes, his lack of seeing for being, so she spins time back to wetness, where she controls the maps of ships and the directions of rains.
She tests him. Eileen tells Chris she is going to become a psychologist. She giggles, “Psychiatry is awesome.” He darts his eyes to her, but he does not see her. He rubs his eyes, digging into the sockets until the squishy sound folds into the steady drone of the windshield wipers. He assumes she doesn’t know the difference between psychology and psychiatry. Eileen plays dumb and asks him to explain, as she lays her head away from Chris, away from the possibility of connection. Chris doesn’t explain the difference to Eileen. Eileen doesn’t explain how she is different to Chris. The rain means nothing to her.
Jennifer Hollie Bowles is the editor-in-chief of The Medulla Review (www.themedullareview.com). She writes to prolong breathing, and her work has been accepted for publication in over sixty literary journals, including The New York Quarterly, Word Riot, Sein und Werden, Chiron Review, and New Millennium Writings. Her first poetry chapbook, Fire and Honey, was published with Flutter Press in July, 2010. Passionate to a fault line, her writing voice is both accumulative and instantaneous with tension.