Posted on July 19th, 2021 by D'bryn Zoë and Hannah Ziredac
thE fLOoR (??)
juNe sUm’m, whAteVeR
d’bRyN tO zIrEdAc.
‘Aw fuggin… Yeah.’ Hannah ahemed something out of her parched windpipe. ‘Yeah. Yeah, Zo. Hey.’
wHeRe’Ve yOu bEeN? i’Ve bEeN tRyInG tO rAiSe yOu fOr aN hOuR.
‘Been, uh…takin a nap.’
‘Yeah, jus…jus a li’l… y’know, a nap. Honk-shoe, honk-shoe, counting sheep and shit.’
aRe yOu dRuNk?
‘Ope. Jig’s up, evrybuh, she zondu us.’
Someone put a spike-shaped gain filter on the comm channel just for Zoë’s sigh. i’M fInIsHiNg uP iN eNgInEeRiNg. i’Ll cOmE fiNd yoU iN fIvE miNuTes.
‘Oh good. Fun. See-soon, ba-a-a-ay-bee girl.’
jEsUs fUcKiNg cHrIsT.
The channel closed.
Nested somewhere in the lower half of Hannah’s conscious brain was a soft-focused memory of her most recent attempt at becoming vertical, but some utilitarian gudgeon had long since chopped the denouement onto the cutting room floor. Deductive reasoning, pillared by her current horizontality, supported the theory that the memory ended with a real Kafkaesque story arc.
‘Fuhm,’ quoth our hero. ‘Givavuvvle,’ quoth she further, with added truculence. ‘Mmm-mm-mm-mm y-y-y-y-y-y-yo-kay, here we go.’
As if from the bottom of a pool of oobleck, Hannah pushed herself up to a sloppy, slouched sitting position on the floor of the Skylark. Her pants were off: the calling card of Blackout Hannah. This signaled to all witnesses that such a terrific volume of barrel-aged poison had been pumped through her system that—in what must have been a fluvial, ballet-like maneuver—she had adopted a rebellious deportment that required the angry shedding of any and all legwear exceeding past latitude of the mid-thigh.
Underwear was still on, though. ‘Still gah muh di’nity.’
Attaining verticality proved a mountainous task, necessitating the leverage of the copilot seat, the far starboard wall of the cabin, and a trial subscription to faith in a higher power. Her proprioception told her that her head had just lurched and dived forward, and though she could not prove it, her physiological head had not just done so.
She sighed and said, ‘Oof.’
Hannah’s consciousness edited in a jump-cut four seconds past Zoë’s entrance stage-left. She was just there, wearing not even a modicum of the disappointment Hannah had expected. Just that gut-wrenching compassion bullshit.
‘Fuckin fuck, Zo, you scared the fug uh mm…’ The world went black.
The world went un-black. Zoë said, ‘You wanna run that by me again?’
Hannah wobbled. ‘Hi.’
Zoë’s hands went to Hannah’s arms to steady her. God damn, did it feel good. And god damn, did it scare her. And god damn, did she hate being scared.
‘You’re here,’ Hannah said. ‘You’re alive.’
‘Yep.’ God, that smile meant Zoë already understood everything. She didn’t need an explanation of why Hannah had gotten so kershnockered. When was the last fucking time she didn’t have to explain herself? When was the last fucking time someone with common sense and empathy looked at her like a human being?
Hannah’s head lolled forward. Her hand pantomimed a raised glass. ‘I’m alive too.’
‘I can see that. Let’s get you some water and a bed.’
‘Oh god, Zoë, yes. Fuck. Yes. Fuck.’
‘Zoë, can I fuggin tell you something?’
‘If you get your hand out of your pants.’
Hannah looked down and, what do you know. ‘Shit, no, I wasn’t doin an’thing…ya know. Issa habit. Weird comfort kinda thing. Been told issa guy thing, but I…’ Here she performed a professorial self-indication. ‘I happen to think thas bullshit.’
‘You’re fine, love. What do you wanna tell me?’
‘Ah god, thanks.’ God damn it, and Zoë was even smart enough to make the water tap-cool so as not to shock the senses. What the hell did Hannah ever do to deserve this? ‘I membered wha I wand zay you.’
‘Let’s hear it.’
‘I’m fuggin scared, dude.’
‘Of… I mean, well, A: death. Big one there. Thas not special. Thas like sayin my fav’rite band is The Beatles. Iss also nah what I’m talkin bout.’
Zoë gestured to the glass. ‘Slowly. Don’t hurl.’
‘I… Kay, fun fact about Hannah No-Middle-Name Ziredac: I… Actually, that’s a fun fact right there. I don’t have a middle name.’
‘Longtime Ziredac terdition. You gotta name like Ziredac, no real need for a cauliflower.’ Nope. Take 2, lights, roll sound, action. ‘Qualifier. Buh, no, fun fact: I don’t gotta eject button. Never spewed from booze, never will spew from booze. Kinda dangerous. Anyway. Fuggin, Zoë, I’m getting to my point. Ogay?’
‘I’m…’ Hannah’s leg danced the Belly-Scratched Pup. She teetered on the thought; the words lodged in her upper respiratory. ‘I already kinda said it: I’m scared. Just kinda of everything. You, and—well, not you-you, but, well, more scareda me when it comes to you. It makes sense in my mind, jus… jus bear with me. I’m scareda us, I’m scareda my family, I’m scareda these Light things we have, I’m scareda…buncha other stuff, and…’
‘It’s okay to be scared, Hannah,’ Zoë said. ‘It’s normal. It’s beyond normal.’
‘But I don’t know what to do about it.’
Tomorrow morning Hannah would remember the ensuing weeping fit with stark clarity. She would not remember the threshold, nor if the cry had built up the past few minutes without her knowing—but she would remember crumbling in a way she had not done in years. Zoë came to her side, held her, stroked her hair.
‘I thought we were gonna die,’ Hannah said through the quaking sobs. ‘I thought I was gonna die scared. I can’t live scared of my family. Not even Jason. I can’t live scared of a relationship with you; the fuck kinda shit is that? And I had all this shame, you know, about my past. I’m not ashamed of my identity when it comes to sex, but I’m ashamed of how I’ve abused that part of my identity. Y’know? Like…like using it as a coping mechanism. Using it to…to…ugh, lack of a better term: manipulate. Iss not what it sounds like. But it kind of is. Manipulating myself.
‘And Zoë, I jus don’t wanna… I don’t wanna fuck things up with you, but I don’t wanna live my life scared. I hate being as scared of shit as I am. Scared of myself, scared of my family, scared of…scared of… I’m just scared. I’m fine dying, but I ain’t fine dying scared.’
‘I know,’ Zoë said. ‘I feel you.’
‘I don’t like admitting this.’
‘No one does.’
‘Are you scared of shit, Zoë?’
‘Oh, no, not a thing. Have you met me?’
If pressed to compile a list of underrated emotional motifs, Hannah would put The First Laugh During a Cry at a clean #2.
‘Come on, Hannah. Let’s get you to bed.’
‘Will you sleep here tonight? With me?’
‘I mean, take your time and think about it, will you?’
‘I said sure; I meant sure.’
Hannah’s remaining drunk rattled her brain away from sleepiness, but Zoë whipped up some nighty-night tea that tasted like chamomile and lavender, and it made fast work. For a while they spooned in Hannah’s dingy twin bed, talking about anything but The Big Stuff. Zoë big-spooned, though it always felt weird to Hannah when she was big-spooned by someone shorter than her.
Nevertheless the warm embrace brought her to a recuperative sleep much quicker than if Hannah had chased it herself.
There had been an endearing and somewhat humorous back-and-forth surrounding the fact that Hannah had trouble falling asleep with clothes on, but the narrative will hereby redact this to honor their privacy.