Maybe today is better than I thought: Five Seasons is actually open. Even Sean and Avery say the tempeh tastes good. Like caramel, Sean says. Oops – better get over to the five o'clock meeting — but wait, maybe that doesn't make sense. It's that church, but I guess we don't want her to see us before the meeting, do we? Oh, wait — there's a parking spot, perfect. But are we really going to sit in the car for a whole hour? Sean says don't worry, I have something we can do, and she takes out more coke. I'm studying the crowd intensely – so many chain-smokers but no JoAnne. I don't even know why we’re here: What will I say to her?
Baby you can drive my car, I say to Avery.
But you would never drive a Mercedes, Sean says.
Truth, sister, truth. My parents only gave me a Volvo.
Can't believe I said that. That's the coke speaking. No one notices.
Let's go on a walk, I say. Sean says it's freezing. I say where is your coat?
Mattilda, are you my mother?
It's what a mother does.
Don't make me read you, Miss One.
Whatever happened to that bitch?
I don't know, maybe she works at Filene's. Okay, let's go on a walk.
Oh, the snow is amazing, it clears my head, freshens the moment, makes me wired again I mean I was already wired but now I’m really wired, jumping up and down and skipping in the snow and no I don't know where we’re going but this is so much fun. Sean, are you having a fun birthday?
Yes, I just love freezing to death.
On our way back, there's a bigger crowd — is it six already? This must be the right meeting — a bunch of dykes who look like they’re coming from softball practice. I don't see her — let's just keep walking. Sean stops to stare, I wonder why she's so invested. That's when I see JoAnne. It’s the jacket that I recognize – the army green parka we got at Dollar-A-Pound, or not Dollar-A-Pound but the store upstairs that’s still cheap, but not that cheap. What the hell is that store called?
But JoAnne, this is horrible — she's wearing gold hoop earrings and a baseball cap. Red lipstick. I hope she doesn't see me. I hope Sean doesn't notice that I see her.
Let's go, I say, and we start walking again in the snow, yes the snow, just notice the snow. When we get in the car, I can do another bump. Okay, we're there. Wait, who is this standing right in front of me, who is this person right in front of me, I mean I know immediately but I don't want to know.
It's Tina. Tina who’s saying Matt, right, Matt? And holding out her hand. She has gold studs in her ears; I didn't expect she would be wearing makeup, but I guess this is Boston.
Excuse me, I say, and she says Matt, right, Matt? Avery and Sean are already in the car with the motor running.
Who the fuck are you, I say.
Tina, she says, like I don't know that, and I say my name isn't Matt.
Well what do you want me to call you, she asks.
I don't want you to call me at all. I look over at the meeting, or what's left of it — I don’t see JoAnne anymore.
Matt, Tina says, are you paying attention?
Who the fuck are you, I say again. I already told you my name isn't Matt.
That's the name your mother gave you, right?
Right, that's what matters, the name my mother gave me. Actually it's not the name my mother gave me.
I wanted to come up and introduce myself, because I know you mean a lot to JoAnne. I wanted to let you know that it's not healthy for her to see you right now. It's not good for her recovery.
Who the fuck are you, I say again. Why can’t I think of anything else to say?
Tina says I thought you should know.
JoAnne moved here because I was good for her recovery.
You know she did heroin when you left.
No, I did not know she did heroin when I left. What the fuck does that have to do with me?
Listen, JoAnne is only on step one. She hasn't progressed. You were enabling her.
What the fuck are you talking about?
We both know that JoAnne was drinking.
Who cares if JoAnne was drinking? I was not fucking enabling her. She was enabling herself. Why did you come over here to talk to me? You're just telling me a bunch of bullshit.
JoAnne and I are building a life together.
You have got to be kidding. You have got to be fucking kidding.
I wanted you to know that we’re not on different sides.
Oh, great — are you going to give me your number? Are you going to give me your number so I can call? Maybe we can get cocktails.
You're not being helpful.
Sean's out of the car now, I heard her doing a bump earlier. Front or back seat, she says as Tina holds out her hand again and I turn away. I don't know, I say. I don't know.
I told you she was using you, Sean says. She was using you, and now she's using that bulldyke. Why don’t you get in the back seat?
I don't know, I say. I don't know.
So we get in the car, and Avery turns the stereo on. Sean passes back a vial, but I'm already too wired. All I can think about is JoAnne's art, I have to get rid of JoAnne's art. Can we stop by my place, I say – I mean Ned’s. I know we're not supposed to go there ‘til later, but I need to get something.
Whatever you want, Sean says. I've never heard her say that before.
Are you okay, Avery asks. He's never said that either.
We get to Ned’s, and Sean and Avery wait in the car. It's still weird to walk in here like I live here. I mean I guess I live here. That’s what I realize when I get to my room, the room with my lists on the wall across from the bed, the curtains pulled back to let in the streetlight. It's gorgeous outside, the snow is really starting to stick. I grab a bottle of Valium, and the portfolio of JoAnne's art. All of it arranged so carefully, sheets of paper in between each piece so that nothing smudges. I grab the portfolio of JoAnne’s art, and rush back outside.
That was fast, Sean says — we didn't even have time to do another bump. What's up with the portfolio?
It’s JoAnne’s art.
What are you going to do with it?
Oh, this is getting good.
Let's go to the Fens.
Do you think it will burn in the snow?
Maybe if we get lighter fluid.
Avery, can we stop for lighter fluid? Lighter fluid, and water. A couple gallons of water, so we can put it out.
We get to the Fens and everything is white, no footprints yet except ours.
Yes, underneath that tree — oh, perfect, that tree. You know about that tree, right, that tree?
Mattilda, everyone knows about your dirty knees, but that wasn’t what we were here for, right?
I open the portfolio, take out the art, all these Medusas and pain, I hate the way you make me turn to stone.
It's a ritual, I say.
A ritual, Avery repeats.
A ritual, Sean says. A coked-out ritual.
Yes, I say, a coked-out ritual — give me a bump.
In the snow?
White on white.
Avery and Sean are smoking, I mean they've been smoking all day but for some reason I notice it right now. Maybe because I feel like I should be smoking too. It's like Sean is reading my mind. She hands me her cigarette — want a drag?
Sure, I say — oh, that's awful. Avery giggles. Sean says well, at least something hasn't changed. And she hands me the vial. I do two huge bumps and it feels like we’re in a club, almost, but what do I mean by that? Maybe the way everything is close and far at the same time.
Well, now you're catching up, Avery says.
Not quite, Sean says. But there's still time. Avery giggles again. Is this making her nervous?
Okay, a ritual, I say. We’re burning Medusa so we don't turn to stone. I take out all the artwork, separate it from the blank paper, crumple it up and then Sean throws lighter fluid on it. Avery flicks his lighter and boom, that was easy. I read each one as I drop it into the flames — repeat after me, I say.
Medusa Oblongata. That one burns fast.
Medusa Fermata. Slower. More lighter fluid.
Medusa Desiderata. A gem. Yellow flames.
Medusa Stigmata, Medusa Tomato Insalata, Medusa Carne Asada, Medusa Yada Yada, Medusa Piñata — yes, five at once. More lighter fluid.
Medusa Regatta, Medusa Dada, Medusa Messiah. The Messiah always burns.
Medusa Matzoh. The best for last. I don't know why it's the best. I know its last.
We stand there for a while, or not a while really, just until the flames die down and there’s a gross charred smell but I actually feel warm. Someone's watching from the distance. Or maybe they're not watching, but there is someone in the distance, coming toward us. We pour the water on the flames. And then I realize I'm thirsty, really thirsty, I drink almost a half gallon at once. Anyone else?