“Carmen, this isn’t about the damned pool, or the melted clothes. It’s about you, dear. How could you just go behind Harmon’s back like that? You have this house, and that body and the clothes–I can’t believe you’d do this to such a clever, devoted guy–a perfect husband.” Then Binny used hips to budge Carmen away from the window and shutter it.
“So you’re crying about me? Or, about my husband?”
“Are you so offended that I care? It’s better than crying over clothes.”
“Those were all last season anyway. And, um, you were never gonna fit, cornejacita. All of that, quemando en la piscina afuera, fueron la zanahoria para motivación.”
“Binny, look, you even think about getting with my husband again, and I’ll insult you worse.”
“You’re so conceited, I’m your friend, just trying to help. Honestly, Carmen, you are not even in an open marriage, so what are you trying to pull now? When were you ever opposed to vows, binding a man and money to yourself? The whole first two months of me knowing you out here was, ‘Harmon’s my handsome prince,’ this, and ‘We got married, happily ever after, and it was so perfect’ that. Don’t look at me like I’m lying, either, when I recall you bragged to me it was Underneath Your Clothes played for that first dance at the wedding reception. I wasn’t even there, but I remember just as well, ’cause you never stop talking about your happy ending–anyways, that was what got me turned onto Shakira!”
“Por menos, mis caderas no mentiran–como las tuyas.”
Binny rubbed at her eyes, “If I’d known Miami was a set-up to have an affair, I would have never taken you, Carmen.”
Carmen went to fiddle with pots and pans for breakfast, then tossed everything into the sink, cried. “I know, I know… oh my God. But meeting Flavio was an accident and when he moved up here too, to be closer, I didn’t tell him to do it. This just happened so fast…”
“Well, un-happen it.”
Carmen began to whisper such that the television and husbands out in the living room was most apparent, “I don’t want you to hate me, you and Sparky are the only real friends we’ve been able to make out here and it’s been a year. And, maybe that’s also why I feared to tell you, honestly, how unhappy and frightened I’ve been. I didn’t just drag you down to Miami, I’m not so tough. Really, I fell apart and I started–I couldn’t breathe, I started panicking. It was after I got that job, remember?”
“You mean the one at magic kingdom? Oh, poor you, being a princess in costume all day long.” Binny rolled her eyes.
“Porqué me miras asi? It was a real acting gig, to be a like a cartoon princess in the park, maybe forever, if I was good. Or, at least it could be a step up, right? I had to work to get myself into it. And that was how I went, looking at it like letting the girl in me finally have her chance. To bloom and be beautiful in the theme park, to have everything perfect. But then, on my first day, real little girls came up to me and they didn’t just take pictures. They asked questions. They gave me these tiny little hugs and asked what it was truly like. Some of them even in Spanish, tan bonitas, que mona. Then I said…”
“That’s possibly where you went wrong, honey, right there. Pretty sure you’re not supposed to conversate with the kids.”
“Que el príncipe me forzó quitar el lugar de las estrellas y los sueños, para ir aquí, jugando con gordas, churros duros y mosquitos–”
“What does all that mean… I don’t think I’m catchin’ any of your Spanish today, Carmen. I must be too upset.”
Carmen glinted sideways. “It means they fired me, because I could not stop talking about how Harmon made me come all the way here and I never wanted to go! There is no happily ever after, querida. I think Harmon was even wearing Louis Vuitton knock off sunglasses the night we met.”
“Lemme guess, was he wearin’ the Revulsions, and not the Impulsion glasses?” Binny joked, but Carmen mourned that it wasn’t funny. She could have been a real actress, she could have been in movies. Harmon always claimed to have connections, top clients everywhere–a lawyer to the stars. But where were these people?
“‘You can be una actriz anywhere, Carmen, but I can’t practice law any old place.’ This is what Harmon told me two years ago, that we had to move back near his alma mater in Florida. I actually believed him. No, my all husband’s ‘connections’ were really the sort of friends who made us flee cross-country. Jesus, I watch my back sometimes. I get this feeling…” Beyond that, though, Carmen abandoned explanation.
Binny collapsed in a chair–she was never comfortable on the retro-tiny rainforest-green plastic stools for the kitchen counter. “Pft! Carmen, you and your plastic dreams. I mean, I really feel for you, honey, but you’ll be fine in the end. Not like me. I’m so lucky I met you. Nobody else in our circle came out here, from Tallahassee after school. Sparky was even worried, when I can get so down sometimes, but then I cheered right up after we two met at the gym. I don’t know how I could have got along without you, and especially now. I’d feel so guilty leaving things wrong when we could be enjoying our time together. It’s so nice to have a fashionable, fun friend.”
“Ya, you really need it.”
They enjoyed light, unhappy laughter.
“Well, if it’s confession time, then I’ll go too. This is the whole reason why I wanted to have brunch, anyways. I’ve got another problem. So… my this is hard. Sparky and I have to move, but we can’t agree on where to go. His job is giving us two options, we can go to the midwest, or the east coast. Sparky and I can’t agree at all, we’re really having too many fights. I like the idea of a rolling green just outside our window, but what if we could cozy up in Manhattan with my grandparents as neighbors? In an apartment at the center of it all, just like Carey. I’ve been on the New York City subway once. It runs all the time so people stay out forever having the time of their lives, like LA, right. Can you imagine it, Carmen, this could be my real chance to become a jet-setter.” Binny rushed into her purse again, tossed out a pack of cigarettes and went into a bag of baby carrots. “Sometimes, I feel I could live my whole life underground like that, or comfy down in some borough.”
“You are telling me that you’re moving away, like some afterthought… This is devastating, but then you go on as if that’s not the real problem, like what you really want is for me to pick the exact kind of torture. Where should you run away to? Binny, I want to know something else. Why did you not tell me first?”
“I didn’t think I needed to ask permission. Carmen, please don’t make this about you.”
“It isn’t, Dios mio. Why are you always saying that, I don’t do that, no estoy tan infeliz, que no puedo pensar en cosas fueras de mi mismo!” Carmen came around the kitchen counter, arms raising over her head. “But why did you wait until now, you must have known a long time, already, to be so sure of it. You’re just going to leave me here, alone with Harmon? I don’t want you to, Binny. You are probably doing it for the wrong reasons anyway, you have low self-esteem remember? I care about you, I know. You can’t run away from your problems, querida, that’s what my grandmother always said. Just people.” Then, she gasped. “Is this because of me? Are you trying to get away from me?”
“I swear that I’m not, honey. It’s Sparky’s job, he has to transfer. And he says it might be good for us, too, for other reasons. Not that I agree with him. But maybe sometimes you can be, a tiny bit, um, controlling? And wild, like in Miami. Miami really scared Sparky, Carmen. I mean, we’re married women and we just ran off for a weekend to be crazy. Whether you were upset about your job as a princess or not, that was kind of selfish. For both of us.”
“Am I so offensive to you? How much have I helped you, with your weight at the gym, and your terrible sense of style, all of it. You said you wanted Sparky to find you more desirable, didn’t you? And it worked, didn’t it? I had to go someplace else, for the kind of attention Buster Sparks gives you.”
“Yeah, but it worked too well, sort of.” Binny slipped out of a frown, momentarily. “Sparky thinks you’re starting to go too far. In the end, our body types are just too different. Maybe.”
“How many of my friends, mis chicas, did I make over perfect-pretty, back in LA? I’m the right one, I know what I’m doing. Es evidente, that you can’t stand how our husbands are not getting along, because Sparky’s started to look at me. Harmon doesn’t get protective for no reason. He doesn’t want Sparky around either, I notice these things.”
“You are not gonna sit here and malign my husband, Carmen.”
“Suddenly, you think I’m making problems in your own marriage? Si, eso es! And let me tell you something, if you want to blame any more problems in your bedroom on me, look at yourself. Maybe if you took better care of yourself, tía, my good advice in other areas could actually work… you look bad–gross–in that dress!”
“You want to know what the real problem is? These days, it’s not just Sparky who can’t stand Orlando, been distracting himself playing stupid games. I can’t stand you hounding me, either, Carmen. All this chasing me around where I can’t go, where I don’t want to go… I finally see it, after all those dresses melting, I finally see it. Sparky was right. I shouldn’t be here. You can’t help me, and I can’t help you, not any longer. This is too crazy for a friendship, it hurts too much.” Binny collected spilled carrots back into her purse, then dashed out of the kitchen.
Harmon caught this plume of female fury at the back door.
“Hey, you aren’t crying again, are you Binny? Because storming out the back door is no way to solve it.”
“You’re sneaking out too, anyways. And for the same reason, I suspect. That woman in there, called Carmen, is not a woman at all. I tried to reason with her, but you’re right. She’s lost it, she’s a monster who tried to turn me against Sparky just now, and then tear me up inside, when that didn’t work and she knows how I see myself. All to get me to stay here alone with her, and be miserable. Carmen is completely gone.”
Harmon hugged Binny, quieted her. “Sorry, I should have done this earlier, I guess. Rather than have you fix me another drink. Heh. But Binny, listen, you don’t have to fix this for me. You don’t owe anything. We aren’t–well, I assumed you were my wife’s friend. If Carmen doesn’t want to talk to me about our problems, then no one can force it. My God, are you really this much of a sweetheart? You’ve gotten right in the way of this thing, haven’t you, all to help out a guy who was never so nice. In fact, I admit now that I was being an ass.”
“Some days you’re a wolf and a dog, a cat–”
“Yeah, what is it with Sparks, hating cats for no reason? It’s annoying.”
“I dunno, he’s my goofball, I guess. And then, you’re also trained as a shark. But today, Harmon, you finally admit that deep down, you’re an ass.” Binny attempted to reach past him, and put her hand on the doorknob. “I just can’t help caring, I guess. Sparky’s warned me about being too sensitive, since forever. And, I didn’t want to come into your lives and then leave you two like this. I already feel bad enough, for moving.”
“Wait, what? Are you leaving us? Oh, maybe it’s for Sparky’s job. So then, he wasn’t lying when he warned his money might come late, again.”
“What in the world do you two men talk about, whenever you do get along? No, Harmon, honey, the truth is… I’m pregnant. And that’s what pissed me off at first, about the dresses. I’ll never fit into them now. Right after, it occurred to me how right Sparky’s been, about my focusing on something so silly–and dangerous–when we’re on the brink of starting a family. It’s time to start taking things seriously. I’m a pudgy frump. I’ll just work with it.”
Something came over Harmon then. A kind of pure anger. He now held in his arms, all of that which Carmen was not. The world was cruel. The two women had touched and spoken so many times over the last two years, but Carmen didn’t even have the humility to absorb this one’s kindness, going in the other direction. Everything his wife touched, seemed to fall apart. No. Both Carmen and himself were awful creatures. What were they doing to one another, and to other people?
“Binny you are a beautiful woman. And, you’re going to be a great mother.”
“No I’m not. There are so many things wrong with me. But it was nice of you, a great guy like you, to flatter me.” Binny then remembered herself and called for her husband. They were leaving.
Harmon knew how hungry and wild both he and Carmen had been. Their friends were going to leave, forever. He felt ashamed of himself. He’d thrown money at Carmen so many years ago, he indulged her worst nature. She never got to see any more of him, as a result. Who knows what she might have expected of him, if he’d just given her the chance. Harmon cursed himself for making Carmen leave LA when she didn’t want to. Then, he went back even further and regretted never giving Carmen the benefit of the doubt, and then he hated himself for never having the courage to try and not pay for everything and everyone in his life. What then? Would he have ever found someone so genuine? Honestly, he didn’t think that existed, and then, he’d been afraid to go out with less. Less? That was even the wrong word.
Harmon squeezed metal teeth of the keys to a timeshare his wife did not know they owned (well, legally they only had access to it, let’s say), but their lifestyle still profited from it. One of so many secret projects. Stealing, lying, threatening, beating up other human beings–bloody, just beneath the law, all for what? Maybe he broke the skin of his palm right now and was bleeding too, Harmon didn’t know. Like when he lost his mind the last time Carmen let him have her, and sank his teeth in. A part of him wanted to do more than kiss hard, he wanted to break her neck. Harmon already knew, in the heat of it, that she wasn’t going to sleep with him again. They were too angry at one another.
Seeing all of this was the first time Harmon felt distressed and knew that was the feeling; a man falling completely apart. It was not because of circumstances he could just flex and pry himself out of, one way or another. It was because of what monstrosity really dwelled, inside of himself. Why in the hell had he finally taken a look?
And so, Harmon kissed Binny until their mates came, saw, and started screaming.