Flickering Out Part I
January 30, 2022•1,370 words
Flickering Out Part I
It began with a bet. Classia didn’t plan on visiting Wyoming and certainly not Jeff. He was years behind her. Sure, they were friends one year when they happened to be in the same anthropology class. How many years has it been now? She couldn't remember and she had no idea what would posses him to call. How did he find me in Santa Cruz anyway? Does he Google names for old time sake? Maybe he sifts through Facebook posts. Classia avoided social networking with a vengeance. She wasn't especially fond of being reinfected by her own history. And now this? One minute she was walking home from the beach pondering baja tacos and a Corona, next minute she's got Mr. Longtimeago talking to her on the phone.
‘So you're in Santa Cruz. I thought maybe you were in Ghana using that fat degree I helped you get.'
'You? Classia was utterly annoyed by that. Worse, she could tell Jeff he was grinning. 'Laugh it up buddy. I despise you, along with everything else I tossed into the bad decision bucket. Years ago.' Yet, after all this time something in his voice made her smile. That surprised her.
‘I’ll bet you a trip to the rugged trails of Wyoming you don’t have the dice,' he said. 'I mean, you quit carrying them.’
‘You’re right Jeff. I did. What, do you think I carried them around for a while?'
'Maybe. Do you have to be so blunt?’
He said it just like that. As if. I'm blunt?
‘You’re the one who got huffy because you figured I wasn’t giving you enough attention,' she said. She still could't quite forgive him for causing her put her poly sci degree on hold. 'Did you forget Jeff? I needed you. Who the hell are you now?’ The phone was on speaker, her arm worn out from holding it up. Worn out, just like Jeff. A few people on the sand dusted sidewalk looked over at her, obviously alarmed at her yelling in her phone. She considered throwing it away like she threw his dice away.
‘Billie,’ Jeff said. ‘Relax.’
He called her that. Billie. ‘It's Classia Jeff. My name is Classia. You know that.’
‘I’ve been thinking about the dice Billie. You don’t carry them around because you don't have them anymore.'
Dice. Chance. The unknown. ‘You throw them and get what you get, Jeff. I got what I got and so did you. There's no more rolling.'
‘You don’t have them do you?’
‘Yes. Yes I have them. Is that what you want to hear?’
‘No you don’t.’
‘Okay, you're right. I don’t. I don't even know where they are.’
Silence on the line.
Jeff carried his dice everywhere. They represented something you could know even if you didn’t know anything. It was something casual for him. He rolled them all the time. Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Snake eyes.
‘I don’t have them, okay.’
‘I’ve explored a lot of new trails since you left Billie. Come back. I'll take you hiking. I found you. That means I won this roll. Look, I have something to show you. It'll be like we're back studying anthropology together.'
'Don't be so narrow Billie. Listen, use the experience for your next PhD or whatever. Or, pretend the forest is beautiful. No dice required.'
‘Cute Jeff. Look, I really don’t need you anymore.'
Next thing Classia is on an airplane. How had he managed that? Then Jeff is picking her up in that dilapidated sky blue truck. He still has that? And they were hiking. He probably figured she was there by roll of the dice. She could have lied, told him she never rolled. But, lying was its own fate. He thinks he knows so much. What he didn't know was that she was pregnant. How's that roll? She wanted to believe she didn't need anything from Jeff. At least until she heard his voice.
Those crazy dice, still rolling in his head. Probability theory messed him up for sure. 'Okay Jeff, why lie? I don’t have them. I quit carrying those blasted dice for a reason. You never know what’s going to turn up.’ That made him laugh.
The beach sand was still in her toes and she’s hiking with Jeff. That was something Classia never imagined. She really did throw the dice away. Years ago. Turning the window down casually, she turned Zeppelin up and threw the pair of bitches right out of the car. Gotta whole lotta love. She imagined them tumbling down, spinning away from her, sticking in the mud. Dice in the mud, sticking her in a place safely away from Jeff. Who knows what they rolled. Who cares? I got out of his mess didn’t I?
Her Village Well essay ready, Classia dropped the MS off at her agent’s office and went looking for Eric. Shoreline fog misted in the air; the gray sea moved back and forth. Classia found Eric on the patio at Buddha’s Coffee… with Holly. Great.
She ordered a cafe latte. The brew girl behind the counter had long curls, brown, that slid down around her natural face. She obviously wore no bra under her psychedelic peace T. The cotton skirt she had on was not any better, wrapping around her tiny figure, revealing thin, but unshaven legs, leather sandals tied around her bare feet. The girl offered an artsy look, serving Classia her latte. Jeff's kind of girl. A snooty, knowing smile touched the girls lips. She's probably been with him too, among others.
With a scoff, Classia took her drink and walked out onto the patio, right up to Eric. ‘I need a ride to the airport.’
Holly looked up, lips pursing. She cursed under her breath. ‘You don’t say.’ She pushed her cigarette out, smokey tendrils curling away from it.
Classia looked into Holly's Asian eyes, dark and enchanting, like black fire. They went with her dark purple hair, recently cut boy shorter than her’s.
Eric sipped his coffee then smiled. 'Classia, where have you been?'
Holly spun her head around really fast.
‘I need a ride to the airport.'
'What.. Which one?'
Someone I used to write with called me.' Classia said. 'He needs something. If you can’t take me I’ll get an Uber. But, I figured I could make better time with you. I have gas money.'
'What else?' Holly said with a disgusted look on her face.
'Please Holly.' Eric brushed surf hair away from his blue eyes. ‘When?’
‘My flight leaves this afternoon. So, now.’
Holly locked eyes with Eric, obviously angry. She lit a cigarette, took a drag. ‘Okay Class, we're busy today,’ she said, slowly releasing the smoke. Her eyes were sulky. ‘Find another taxi.’
'Come on Holly, you can drop me off and do The City. An evening on the pier would be nice.’
‘Oh?’ Holly replied. 'I figured you two wanted to be alone.'
‘Stop it Holly,' Classia said. 'Don't be in such a mood.'
'Holly's just bugged today,' Eric said. 'We can take you. Maybe you're right about the pier.’ He glanced at Holly.
Holly pushed out her cigarette, glaring at Eric.
'Forget it,' Classia said. 'I'll just order an Uber.'
Eric said, ‘relax. Holly and I have been talking about a night out. A trip to San Fran will be perfect.’ He glanced at Holly again.
Classia put her hands up. ‘It's okay.'
‘Tell you what,’ Holly said. She looked at Classia then. 'We’ll take you if you stay where you're going. Then she looked at Eric. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.
You really don't like me. Class noticed Holly was self conscious. Come to think of it, Eric seemed uncomfortable too. ‘Are you guys okay?’
Eric definitely seemed bothered by something now.
Holly looked toward the sun setting just above the ocean. Then she said, ‘Classia, we’ll take you to the airport. In return... in return, once you're there you stay there.'
‘That’s easy,' Classia said, feeling bad about asking for a ride. 'I'm leaving town.' She smiled, but felt uncomfortable under Holly's dark stare. She couldn't help wondering what the girl was about.