Dispatch 27 (Dec. 5, 1998)
The sun woke me from a deep sleep, gradually rising and
lightening the room until I had no choice but to give into its invitation to start a new
Brush, rinse, spit, shower, dry, dress, coffee. I went
through the rituals on autopilot as I tend to do, letting the thoughts of the evening
before continue. I remembered speaking to Gina before bed, but except for arriving at 10
a.m. (a number that was marked in the book of my mind like a dog-eared page), I
didnt wonder too much about it.
The drive, like most on a Saturday before noon, was nearly
traffic-less and relaxing.
I found parking near the co-op building and slung my small
purse over my shoulder. A girl was moving furniture out of the co-ops front door,
straining to get a lamp with a wide shade through the doorway. I held it for her, then
went inside, moving to Ginas door.
Ginas door, when I came to it, was slightly open.
The door didnt lay flush against the frame. Unless you were looking closely, it
wasnt too noticeable, but I was next to it and I knew that a simple push would let
I knocked. "Gina?" I called. "Your
A pause. And then a lazy, hoarse, "Come in."
The first thing that hit me was a greasy smell the
odor of ketchupy food left out. On Soos abandoned bed was a crumpled Whataburger
sack with the unmistakable orange wax paper wrappings visible from the top of the bag. It
was lying on its side next to stacks of Ginas CDs, strewn across the made bed.
I could see all this despite the dimness of the room
Gina was lying in bed, even her head under the thick covers, like a hibernating
"Im sorry, Heather," she said weakly.
"Ill get up. Gimme a minute."
I let out an unintentional sigh and set myself to cleaning
up. I noticed on Ginas nightstand an open bottle of Sauza tequila, half full. I saw
candy wrappers and was disgusted I picked up the Whataburger bag and started
collecting the burger trash, then came back for the wrappers on the nightstand.
I put the lid on the tequila and picked up the wrappers,
crumpling them in my hand. I looked down, feeling the foreign thickness of foil-paper in
I jumped when I saw that they were opened condom wrappers.
"What?" she said.
"Gina, what are these?"
"What are what, Heather?" she said, and her
under-the-blanket mass began to stir. "What?" she
"Gina, what the fuck are you doing with condom
The shape under the sheets was still. But instead of the
steady, loud breathing of a last-minute sleep stealer, there was silence.
"Gina?" I asked.
Ginas small hands poked out of the top of the
blankets and pulled the covers down. Her face was bleary; her eyes were scrunched against
the meager light of the room. Shed pulled the covers down to her shoulders and I
could see that she wasnt wearing a shirt or a bra. She was still silent.
"Gina, was Juan here? Did he come up from
No response. The same sleepy look.
"Gina, did Juan come here? Did you have sex with
Gina started to turn away, taking the mass of covers with
her, but after a moment she rolled back and met my eyes, her lazy set of light browns
meeting mine. "No," she said. "I had somebody over last night."
"Gina, what are you doing?" I asked. It sounded
plaintive to my ears, and it matched my attitude. I wasnt angry. Why should I be
angry? But I didnt know why shed do it. Why, at a moment in her life when she
was supposed to be in love with the right boy and when her mothers illness was
bringing out the devoted, praying girl in her, she would do this.
"I dont know, Heather," Gina said.
"These last few weeks have been
" she began.
I waited, but her pause was longer than my patience.
"Have been what?" I asked.
"No," she said. "I wont use that as
an excuse. I wanted to feel something, and thats what I did. Im not saying it
was right, but I did it."
"Gina, who was it?"
"It was somebody from the club," she said.
"You dont know him."
My mind was racing, but I slowed it down long enough to
let suspicion rise. "Is that why you had me come over?" I asked. "So I
would see this?"
Gina sat up, holding the covers to her to hide her
nakedness. "Heather, this isnt about you. If I had been awake to call you and
tell you not to come over, I would have. But Im not going to apologize for what I
did because who are you to make me feel bad about it?"
"Im not trying to," I said. "But what
Gina turned away and fell back onto the pillow. Her head
landed with a soft fluff. "I dont know," she said. "Sometimes I
dont know why I do the things I do. Do you know how that feels, Heather?"
I was sad about the situation, but unwilling to make her
feel good about it. "I know a little," I said.
"You should go," Gina said. "Youre
Anger flashed the same anger, I recognized, that
Gina directed toward me when Id tried to pigeonhole or categorize her behavior.
"Im not uncomfortable," I said. "I just think you did a very stupid
thing and instead of acknowledging it, youre trying to pretend you dont have
to justify it to anyone, me included."
"You might be right," Gina said, but her tone
implied I was galaxies away from being right. "Maybe I did a stupid thing and
Im afraid to admit it. Does that make me a bad person?"
"That makes you a confused person," I said.
"I dont want to kick you out, but would you
mind going?" Gina said. "Can we do lunch some other time?"
I was angrier now, feeling dismissed. As if Ginas
hormones gave her a Get Out of Jail Free card good for getting out of any commitment.
"Whatever, Gina," I said, as I began walking
out. "You know how to find me."
I turned before I left and Gina was looking at me
defiantly, waiting for me to walk out the door. It was a different Gina than the one
whod cried for her mother and whod turned into a little girl in the presence
of her father. This was a Gina that was as far from that girl as the distance shed
put between her heart and Juans with her carelessness.