Fiction Friday: Desperate Strangers



The one time I called Sloan Sasha she had a fit. It was a sweaty summer night and we were rolling. Crystal Method was playing in a renovated cathedral and my roommate’s friend, a guy you never expected to come through on anything, approached us and asked if we’d like some E. “Normally it’d cost you guys,” he said. “But what the hell. Happy holidays.” I felt charged, lit up, excited.

I had never done ecstasy before and I couldn’t have thought of a better place to try. “Shall we, Sashenka?” I arched an eyebrow in mock seduction. She shook her head, irritated. “Don’t call me that,” she said. “You don’t get it. I’m not that girl anymore.” I got it. She had worked so hard to not be Sasha and here I was dumping it back on top of her. Everything she’d gone through to kill off the weak parts of herself, I was descending to the river’s bottom and dredging them up, vein blue and waterlogged, back to the surface.

She didn’t want to be Sasha because it meant Aleksandra, her birth name, the name the parents she had nothing in common with stuck to her, and especially not Sashenka, sweet and cow-eyed and diminutive, the kind of name that looked at the floor when given a compliment and wore frilly white socks with its sandals, but above all she didn't want to be Sasha because Sasha was feminine and Sloan associated femininity with weakness and the last girl to call her that had been Kate Moss. Kate Moss was a total fucking mystery.

From what Sloan described she was this surreal gorgeous night creature with a semi-respectable day job, legal something or other, but at night she would wrap up her long skinny body in dark flowing fabrics and shut down the Moscow night clubs, high on every drug known to man. I knew Sloan exaggerated when she described her but I wasn’t sure how much and I also didn’t want to acknowledge the possibility that she might not be exaggerating at all. All Kate Moss apparently ate was strawberry yogurt. She fed Sloan shitty 3-star cognac because it was cheap and anyway Sloan didn’t care what she drank, she was seventeen and in love with her. She met Kate Moss crying on a curb outside a club one night, uptight pinstripe office skirt climbing up her thighs. Her ex-boyfriend was there with some other girl.

Sloan sat close to her and lit her cigarettes, wiped away the black streams running down her cheeks with the back of her hand. She’s always had a thing for desperate strangers. “Her real name’s Kate Moss?” “Of course not,” Sloan said. “We just called her Kate Moss because she looked like Kate Moss.” Not only was Kate Moss beautiful, she was indestructible. Once she had driven 90 mph on the wrong side of the road just to see what it felt like. Occasionally she would play lottery pills with all the drugs in the house, shake them up in a bottle and pop a random one in her mouth, see if she could correctly guess what it was before it began to hit. Even though she was gone she remained something to compete with, the memory living in Sloan’s mind a black mark on my consciousness. “I don’t miss her,” Sloan said. “She wasn’t stable. I couldn’t go home to her.”

I supposed she meant that to sound reassuring but it sent a ripple of horror through me. It made me wonder whether that’s what she really wanted at all, to go home to someone. Whether the stability was something she knew she needed but didn’t really want, like iron supplements or getting your blood drawn. She was home with me all the time and we were both sick with it, asphyxiating ourselves with the carbon dioxide from the constant connectedness of our mouths, vodka and menthols and Marlboro Reds on the ever present base notes of strawberry yogurt and the occasional black Sobranie. “Whatever,” I said. “Let’s do these drugs.” My pill was acid green and had a dolphin imprinted on it. Sloan had a pink one with a tiny mud flap girl. We popped them in our mouths in the bathroom at the same time and chased them down with water.

I was relieved to have an excuse to drink water for the rest of the night, if only for the fact that we were both underage and getting alcohol at any club was such a fucking ordeal it didn’t even feel worth it. The summer before we had gotten kicked out of an MSI concert simply because I was holding a beer. Not even drinking it, just holding it for a friend who went to the bathroom and didn’t want to put it down on the disgusting floor. I was livid. Look, I told the security guy. This isn’t mine. This is fucking Bud Light. The very thought that I would risk getting kicked out of someplace because of Bud Light was so painfully ludicrous I couldn’t believe he was even suggesting it, and I tried to make him see that.

But he wasn’t having any of it. In America, being underage and in close physical proximity to anything with an alcohol content is cause for alarm. I told him that by that logic, I already had a contact buzz from the liquor-soaked mosh pit so what difference did it make. “You don’t get it,” I said. “This is the kind of thing that makes kids want to drink more.” He told me if I put up any more of a fight we would both get arrested. We had already gotten a warning from the lady security guard for fucking in the bathroom and holding up the line.

Sloan had unzipped my tight blue dress and went to work on me, such a bright chemical blue it made your eyes hurt, but the problem was I could only spread my legs so wide because the dress was attached to garters which were attached to fishnets which were stuck in my boots and by the time I figured out how to maneuver my outfit the other girls in line had started throwing wads of toilet paper over the stall door. “Fuck off, we’re having a moment!” Sloan shouted to the line, which only increased the amount of toilet paper thrown over the door from every direction. “Whatever,” I said, pulling her out of me by the wrist and zipping the dress back up. “Let’s go. I can’t even focus.”

And thus we exited the stall, which is how I got suckered into holding my friend’s shitty beer in the first place. Of course after we got kicked out Sloan suggested climbing back over the fence into the smoking area, but the thought of doing that, especially while not wearing underwear, was only slightly less mortifying than the thought of getting kicked out again by the same bouncer, or worse, making him help me down from the fence my vagina would inevitably get impaled on. And I was pretty sure I did not look anonymous that night – in a sea of mall goth black on black, the cobalt blue dress and similarly-colored hair would be difficult to miss. Especially impaled on a fence. “Fine,” Sloan said. “If you don’t think it’s worth a shot, we’ll just go home.” “Come on, babe. It’s not the last time we’ll get to see MSI.”

I tried to sound like I believed what I was saying but I couldn’t help thinking Kate Moss would have done it. Kate Moss would have hopped that goddamn fence and slipped through the tight-packed crowd of smokers like mercury, reached under her dress and pulled a joint out of her snatch. Kate Moss would have let Sloan finish fucking her in the bathroom, caught the wads of toilet paper flying over the door and thrown them back at the pissed off girls wet with globs of her own spit and cum. Kate Moss wouldn’t have been content to just go home. Kate Moss, whatever she would have done, wouldn’t have been scared.

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