Sandy didn’t feel like going home, so she drove slowly, all over the city, past the houses of friends and acquaintances. It was a Thursday night, late, and most of these houses and apartments were dark. She wasn’t in college anymore. She couldn’t just drop in on a friend at one o’clock in the morning. Some of them had real jobs and spouses and children and had forgotten how great a pancake tasted at two in the morning. “All your Facebook pictures are of your kids, you bores!” Sandy shouted at her steering wheel. She toyed with the idea of stopping by Roger’s place, but Frank could be there. He was there a lot, watching everything from Fassbinder to Street Trash and debating the merits of Led Zeppelin’s Presence and Television’s Adventure while smoking a little dope and drinking a lot of bourbon. She hadn’t spoken to Frank since she moved out of his house three months ago. It was hard, but she felt a clean break was the best way for both of them to move forward, whatever the hell forward meant. She grew angry at herself for her own poor choice of words. Forward. As if anyone’s life moved forward. No, it was all just easily distracted hopscotch limps in every direction. She didn’t need to be free of Frank to go anywhere. They were just bringing each other down. That was all. Somebody had to leave. It might as well be her. She decided to drive past Roger’s house anyway. He was the only friend she had left who might be up this late on a weeknight. Except for Frank. No. Roger was it. She couldn’t call Frank a friend anymore, even though she still had a lot of affection for him. He wouldn’t call her a friend, would he? She dumped him and stopped speaking to him. He’d probably spent the last three months sticking pins in her voodoo doll. None of us can talk to each other. Really, we’ll always be strangers to each other. Every one of us.
Frank didn’t agree with her, she knew. He felt a kinship toward his fellow Earthlings that Sandy could appreciate but never share. She felt terrorized by the fascism of crowds and uncomfortable around most people in her regular daily interactions. The differences might be familial, which certainly exacerbated the breakup. Frank’s family was close, both emotionally and geographically, and his parents visited once a month. She couldn’t bear these visits. She needed solitude, quiet, space. Their comfort and ease with each other pricked her insides. Her parents were divorced, remarried to strange people, her siblings scattered all over the country. No one visited. No one wanted visitors. Her family tree read like a Tennessee Williams plot synopsis, overloaded with death and alcoholism and dark secrets and festering, open-wound resentments. Her mother’s side of the family was full of right-wing lunatics crazy with paranoia about the government breaking into their homes and stealing their guns, the underground homosexual cabal, and the coming Mexican majority. Her father’s people were more refined Berkeley-style left-wing fascists who couldn’t enjoy an iota of their free time or money because people were being oppressed somewhere. They were always threatening to leave the country for Paris if so-and-so were elected and never leaving the country for Paris. They believed the words wife and husband were tools of the imperialist oppressors. They were partners, not husbands and wives and don’t ever forget it. They were always outraged about something. They listened to a lot of Pete Seeger. Both sides of the family were miserable drunks. Her parents got together out of spite and hatred for their own histories. Spite gave them three children before they turned their hatred on each other. Family was just another word starting with F, Sandy thought, like flatulence and famine and fornication and failure. And Frank. Poor, sweet Frank. She liked him a lot. He had a lovably weird sense of humor and didn’t carry himself like most of the other chumps and bores you have to tolerate just to buy a gallon of milk. But his parents visited once a month.
Sandy turned onto Roger’s street and noticed Gary’s car. She looked around for Frank’s, didn’t see it, but slowed to a crawl to eyeball the other cars on the street. If Frank wasn’t there, it might be fun to have a few drinks with Roger and Gary, see what weird movie Roger was watching, make fun of any friends who weren’t there. Sandy always liked seeing Gary at TL’s Grill, and at Frank’s house in the college days, and she’d had a good laugh with Gary at TL’s last week about their new lives as single people. Gary’s former in-laws were a major cause of his divorce. They visited as often as Frank’s parents did, but unlike Frank’s parents, they were malicious and controlling people who’d always hated Gary. “From now on,” Gary had said then, grinning at the words in his head, “I’m only going to date women whose parents are dead.”
Sandy didn’t see Frank’s car, so she parked against the curb across the street and grabbed her purse off the passenger seat. She was about to open the car door when she glanced at Roger’s house. It was bright, glowing, neon and purple. Even his grass and sidewalk were purple. She put her purse back on the seat and took her hand from the door handle. She eased back into her seat and watched the giant glowing purpleness of Roger’s house. It felt good to her, this purpleness. It made her happy, made her feel like all her favorite songs were playing at once and she could pick out each individual instrument and melody and riff and beat. She sighed contentedly and stared into the purple for as long as it lasted. She had no urge to enter the house. Out here, in her car, this was just fine. Eventually, or maybe soon, she could no longer accurately gauge the passing of time, the purple glow disappeared and the feeling went away. She sat up, startled, awake, the pleasure gone, the house back to its old, non-glowing color. What just happened? And did it just happen? Sandy felt the sudden urge to tell someone what she’d just experienced, or imagined. Hallucinated? If she told someone right now, that ecstatic feeling might not be lost forever. She had to try to make it tangible again. Who could she call? What time was it? She looked at her wrist, but she’d left her watch at home. She dug her cell phone out of her purse and checked the time. It was two-thirty in the morning. She couldn’t go into the house now that it wasn’t purple, couldn’t ask Roger and Gary what the hell just happened. Sandy didn’t want an explanation, or, worse, proof that she’d somehow conjured up the whole thing from her disturbed brain. She didn’t want to know why. She just wanted to experience it again. And she needed to tell someone. She would call Frank, she quickly decided. Time to break the embargo; end her one-way pact of non-communication. Frank would understand this call. Frank would still be awake at 2:30.