Connie Ramone's Day Off

She put some cold mashed potatoes on toast. She made gravy from a powder packet. She washed her things in the sink and dried them off in a brown towel rubbing the crotch of her good underwear like a wet puppy’s ear after a bath. Connie called three friends to ask after Dee Dee. He was gone again with her keys. Dee Dee always lost his set. He took her keys last night when they got sloppy and screamed into their own hands at each other after his show. They had messy period sex. She said that going to work tomorrow was out of the question. She put out his cigarette and clicked the light to black. Before Connie dozed off she asked Dee Dee to bring her pizza and a hot water bottle to bed in the morning and she would make him mashed potatoes for lunch in return. They were on Dee Dee’s unspoken list of easiest things to throw up after he copped.

Connie was tired of using wadded up toilet paper all day but couldn’t leave the apartment without locking up first. Feeling trapped and dingy she decided it might be a good day to start keeping a diary; to have imaginary interviews with herself like she did as a kid; to record her savings and keep track of her most loyal johns; so that someone would use it to write a story about her one day. A book that her best fag friend, Art, gave her at the abortion clinic two months ago brought on the idea. It was a thrift store-bought copy of Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas. The black-haired girl on the cover had a face like wet wax dipped in cream and large, potent flowers snaking around her frame. Art said she would surely be bored lying around on these next days off and it was time to read about a hooker with some tact—for inspiration. Connie told him to wait at the bar down the street if he was so fucking embarrassed of her. They both looked around the waiting room and Art rolled his eyes at Connie with fake patience.

Connie was feeling mean and scattered as ash after they took out the not-yet-baby she called Camille. Art thought it strange and then he thought it wise to give the problem a proper name. He braced himself for Connie screaming that name the next time she was wasted, but it seemed better than the nothing she usually howled at. When Connie began reading from her consolation prize gift, the part of the book she liked best was Marie Duplessis wearing white camellias pinned to her hair or bust when she was available for male company and red camellias for her days off. Connie laughed so hard at that amusing passage that her hot toddy spilled all over the baby blue chenille blanket and she soaked her briefs through the pillow-sized pad she called the grief catcher. Art agreed it was no dream catcher to be sure when they met for cocktails her first day back on the street. She looked around for her nylon mint-colored slippers with bouncy rosettes sewn on top and hummed, red camellias mean day off. Connie scrunched her toes to nudge the slippers on and put a big sweatshirt over her robe. She stuffed her remaining hundred and forty-eight dollars, minus whatever Dee Dee helped himself to when he snuck out in the morning, down her pilled pocket and went out into the freezing hallway. Using an old bar of soap she wrote, Will Rip Your Dick Off on the painted black metal of her front door and shut it without locking. She ran down to the drugstore cursing the biting sleet on the cracked marble front steps while reciting her list: pads, pack of white French-cut briefs, Love’s Baby Soft spray, razors, gravy packets, and Pall Malls. On the way in Connie grabbed a plump bouquet of red carnations and on the way out she swiped a pack of Juicy Fruit. Her feet were wet and blue when she got home and seeing that no one broke in while she was out decided to leave the message up until Dee Dee showed his idiot beauty of a face again.

It began snowing faster outside and the steamed up, old bathroom window looked like kids were throwing dirty milkshakes at her all day. She briskly shaved in the near scalding bath. Her body was so cold it hissed against the wall of heat. Connie liked the faint vinegar smell of brand new, red camellias mean day off, underwear. She sprayed her pad with Baby Soft. The bright sting of the perfume meeting with the freshly shaven flesh hurt well enough to please. Connie put her damp hair up in a high bun tied in place with a red ribbon and drew in a breath she could feel for the first time in months—like she finally deserved the air. Connie threw the Dumas book in her grey leather purse and grabbed a carnation from the vase. She stuck it in the buttonhole of her fur-lined denim coat and let the doorknob self-lock behind her this time.

Sophia Pfaff-Shalmiyev is currently attending the MFA Nonfiction program at PSU where she is the recipient of the Kellogg Award Fellowship and the Laurels Scholarship. Sophia is at work on her first book about marginalized female figures, misogyny, and escapism as a familial legacy.

Sophia is the Nonfiction Editor at Portland Review and writes a bi-weekly column for the PDXX Collective.

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