The white wine tasted like Stevia and there was a popsicle on the label. Miranda berated herself for not thinking to bring a flask. Her glass was empty, and she’d already called Rachel, Emily—twice.
She’d only said yes to Game Night because these women seemed like good influences. These women, who liked to unwind from their nursing school applications by sharing one bottle of wine between six people and playing Monopoly. She adjusted her position on the couch to one that might make her leg fall asleep.
That was her game. She used to play it in rehab—whenever she was left alone in that freezing cold room with a glitchy Hallmark Movie. She would bend one knee, so that her foot was tightly locked underneath the rest of her body. Once her leg was numb and pulsing, she would stand up and feel the blood rush to her head like a pinball machine.
It was better than nothing.
The girls from Palm Valley Center all had a thing—something weird, to get a buzz. Shannon would hold her breath until her eyes watered. She passed out, a couple times. This blonde girl with dreadlocks ate strawberry jello, even though she was allergic to strawberries. “It’s not gonna kill me,” she’d explained, “just makes my tongue numb.” Her name was Laura. Or, Lena. Something with an L.
Kendra, the host, moved a knit blanket and sat down next to Miranda on the couch. “I love your hair short.”
Miranda touched a strand of her bleached hair, instinctually. It was almost to her shoulders, which was longer than she"d worn it in years. Kendra’s hair looked the same—wet, with fried ends. She straightened it, and still missed that same chunk in the back, giving her a bird’s nest at the peak of her head.
“Nice place,” Miranda said, finally. “Do you have roomates?”
“No,” Kendra laughed, like it was a silly question. “I can’t do roommates.” “Right.” Miranda picked up her empty glass, as if she might have missed a drop.
“Is it okay for you to, like, drink?” Kendra asked.
“Wine is fine. And beer.”
Kendra was one of the girls that Miranda’s mom had always encouraged her to, “spend some time with.” They grew up on the same street, five houses apart. Kendra wasn’t allowed to hang out with Miranda because she did things that were “innaproprate.” She was always trying to touch other kids. She touched herself a lot, in class. She tried to take baths with her friends, when they were too old for it to be innocent.
Miranda only knew that she’d been a weird kid—innapropriate—because people had told her. She couldn’t remember much about being alive before the age of sixteen. Anything, really. Past conversations and emotions were just black fuzz, like a broken television.
Dr. Jesti had asked Miranda questions about her childhood. Standard stuff like, “How was your relationship with your father?” Miranda answered by listing things that she associated with her dad: “Silver car, newspapers, sports-betting.”
“How was your relationship with your mother?”
“White car, Key Lime Yoplaits.”
“What was school like?”
“Gum on water fountains, chicken sandwich for lunch.”
Jesti suggested that Miranda’s brain was suffering from something called dissasociative amnesia. Basically, she thought something really bad had happened to her, before age ten. Miranda cried, because she could tell that she was supposed to. Jesti said, “very good.”
They played Monopoly for half-an-hour. Miranda was the shoe and went to jail, twice.
There was a half-time, during which Miranda went to the bathroom. When she returned to her seat on the corner of the couch, they were all giggling—squealing, like pigs. Miranda pushed down on her left leg, crazed for the feeling of pins and needles.
"What's everybody's number?” Kendra asked. She was talking about sex, without talking about sex. Miranda had an urge to take a bite out of the Monopoly board.
Straight-Bangs-Rachel said a number that was greater than ten, but fewer than twenty. All eyes were on Miranda, waiting for her number. Her toes started to sting.
They were actually going to wait. It felt like being in a doctor's office when they asked, "How many drinks do you have a week?” Miranda separated her lips to say eight. At the last minute she decided to tell the truth, to see what would happen.
“I don"t know,” Miranda said.
"If you had to take a guess?” Hannah asked. Hannah was the one who’d invited Miranda; she was a Christian, and described the church that she went to every Sunday as, “progressive.”
“Fifty,” Miranda said. "Or eighty. Somewhere between there. Less than a hundred.”
Up against the wall, there was a shelf, stocked with an unsettling amount of strategy-games. Miranda noticed a framed picture, on top. Kendra and her boyfriend were giving a thumbs up to the camera, holding a sign that read, "Las Vegas Escape Room! We Escaped!” She imagined what it would feel like to have a boyfriend who would look at her after checking into a hotel room in Vegas and say, #Babe, we gotta hit up the Escape Room.” Somebody changed the subject by mentioning that a popular television show was being remade into another television show.
Miranda stood up to grab her car keys, easily—she’d waited too long, from the time her leg had fallen asleep. #I"m gonna go get another bottle of wine,” she said. The group wooed.
Inside of her car, Miranda counted to sixty. Her hand was already down her pants. The car’s dull, interior lights switched off automatically. She pressed them back on; she wanted to be seen, reacting to her own hand like it was someone else’s, holding her hostage. The thought helped her get-off. Once she did, she sat on top of her used hand. The pins and needles came in less than a minute.
After dropping out of college, Sarah Goldstein became a fiction, screen, and copy writer. Her work has appeared in Snarl and Quibble. More often than not, her prose features hard-to-like characters who behave very badly. She lives in Los Angeles.