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White Darjeeling Tea « Fiction365

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White Darjeeling Tea

Her body is flat against the long horizontal lines of the bamboo floor board. She is tired but it seems obscene to be on the bed. Thieves and other creeps should stay low, in the regiments of dust, with their hearts beating against the ground.

She looks up at the ceiling made of textured faux-concrete, popularly installed in buildings built before the 80s. Her college dorm room had the same ceiling. Once high on acid she had meditated on the crevices and thought their porous cracks were caves housing tiny mammals and also God.

But today she doesn’t see God. She also doesn’t notice the bright Southern California sun streaming through the blinds. The sun beats strong through tall palms in still heat. Things seen are not important these days. She is focused on what she can hear. On sound. The clock is ticking. She listens to the clock, waiting for the ringing at the top of the next hour.

The conversation began with an offered cup of White Darjeeling Tea.

“This is the champagne of tea,” he said.

She was intrigued. She savored the taste. The flutter of its sweet note impressed upon her tongue. Its scent, slightly spicy, was like sundried marigolds crushed with saffron threads. She found it peerless and delicious.

He is a sous chef. He is a devotee to food, to the mouth, the biology of digestion. Taste is the sense, above all, which he loves. It was the early afternoon in his restaurant when they sat together drinking White Darjeeling Tea.

She knew he was waiting for her to comment on the tea. She knew but she declined.

“I was born in the year of the rabbit,” she said.

“You have good luck.”

“I’ve always wondered that – wondered whether I have exceptionally bad luck rather than good.”

“I think it’s good,” he said.

“You would,” she replied.

“I was born in the morning,” he volunteered. “I’m the youngest and my mother said it was a wonderfully easy –,” he began.

“Would you like to see some of my photographs,” she asked, a hand already in her handbag searching for the prints.

“Oh, sure, I’d love to.”

“You’ll just adore these photos, I know it.”

Freud said men love narcissistic women, a natural yet disabling attraction. She’s Pompeii. She’s Sodom and Gomorrah.

She has met up with her sister to go shopping for a silicone cake pan in the shape of a heart. They walk together, side by side, nearly the same height and width the way siblings can be, sharing a physical geometry.

The sisters have chosen their outfits meticulously.

The younger one wears a drop-waist dress which hangs loose over her body and a boy’s school blazer found in second hand shop. Her shoes are new, black boots with fringe sewn over the toe like a man’s dress loafer.

The older one wears a dolman cut wool sweater over a nude lace camisole and gray wool shorts. Her shoes are also new, oxford boots with a slick sole giving her an unreliable traction. They both wear fine jewelry, diamond and pearl earrings inherited from their mother of impeccable taste.

“I am going to tell you something and it’s only because I know you would fight for me, despite better reason,” she says.

“Go on,” says her younger sister.

“I hear screaming in my head.”

“Oh yeah, of course, I completely understand.” Her sister nods as they turn into an aisle of clearance bric-a-brac from various holidays.

“It’s, like, loud turrets-like screaming. It’s my voice, going ‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’”

“I have something like that. I think really mean things sometimes. Like when my classmate Karen told me she felt studying for the Bar had been hard I thought ‘Coz’ you’re fucking stupid!’”

In a cooperative and natural act of obscenity, the sisters, without discussing it pause at the same shelf to position the Christmas bears and stuffed Valentine’s Day cupids into violent and lascivious positions.

“Well, that kind of makes me feel better you hear strange things too.

“Of course.”

“Do you think everyone hears voices?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Anyways, I wanted to tell you because I know you wouldn’t let them put me away even if you knew they should.”

Her younger sister is laughing hard.

“Stop, you’re going to make me go peepees,” the younger sister says.

She smiles and looks down at an oven mitt embroidered with a pumpkin.

“You wouldn’t let them take me away, right? You promise.”

“No, I’d defend your honor.”

“Do you like how I curled my hair today?” she asks.

“I do, actually, Pope,” her sister responds.

“Thanks John Paul.”

As they walk towards the hair accessories, she spits on the ground, where the tile meets the carpet. The cashier nearest to them reminds himself to walk around the damp spot later. He is unsure of what else he can do. No manager would believe girls that looked like that would spit on the ground.

The sisters leave the store without the cake pan but agree walking around was pleasant all the same.

The first time happened two Christmases ago. The first time had been an accident, unintentional as an overdose or a rainbow. She was home, back east for the holidays. She was looking for a party, had misplaced the slip of paper which held the apartment number. She thought it was Room 133 but it could have been Room 138. In her mind’s eye she could see a blurry snapshot of the slip of paper, the roundness of the lines she had written. She wore contacts. She thought her mind’s eye had poor sight as well. But there was no question, there were round lines so it had to be one or the other.

She knocked on the door of Room 133. She thought she heard murmurings and music. She turned the knob. It was a lovely apartment with high ceilings, modern paintings, and fashionable paper lanterns on the floor. A large plasma screen television was on but otherwise the apartment was empty. Now she knew she was supposed to go to Room 138 but thought it wouldn’t do any harm to look around such a beautiful little home. If the occupants came, she knew she looked harmless being a young, beautiful girl in a tight dress and smooth thin legs. They would help direct her, with a smile, to the correct apartment. She is beyond reproach, beyond humiliation.

She saw two small white jewelry boxes on the kitchen table. She went over to them and fingered the white felt softly. My God, the felt. The sense of touch had never seemed to mean as much as it did then. She opened them. The earrings were hideous. The necklace completed the set. She was full of desire.

“What’s it like when you do it?” asked the little sister.

“It’s kind of like cooking. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s really fun. Sometimes there’s a big mess, sometimes there’s hardly anything to clean up.”

“Who was the last person you did it to?”

“You know how sometimes after you meet somebody new, you’re like wow I fucking hate you!”

“Yeah all the time, everyday.”

“No, Linus, not like that. I mean, not your everyday offensive idiot talking his idiot ideas. Just a regular bland conversation but it’s enough, enough to leave you with a bad taste. It comes from, I’ve observed, at least 80% of the time from inappropriate facial expressions,” said the older sister.

“Oh my god, yes! Yes, I know what you’re talking about. The people who don’t mirror. Who don’t smile back. I read an article about this. Man, I hate people like that.”

“Yes, the people who look confused when they’re happy or tell a sad story with a smile. Or worse a vacant face.”

“Dead eyes.”

“It comes from insecurity I think. I did it to a guy like that. He’s someone I used to work with.”

“Nice.”

The older sister went to the pantry and removed a rectangle box of Battenbergs. She put one on a platter and handed it to her little sister.

“Here you go.”

“Thank you.”

“So anyways, he is a very neat and tidy, anal kind of guy. All his notes are always just so. If he had to do any kind of presentation, I’m pretty sure even his pauses were accounted for in between his horrifically precise language. Anyways, for all his facetiousness, he couldn’t smile back at his own face in the mirror probably.”

“That’s why autistics have no friends. They don’t mirror.”

“After all we’re just monkeys. We need the mirroring or it’s unbearable.”

“You really think its insecurity or a sincere social problem.”

“Oh for some it’s certainly nothing more than insecurity. When you don’t express yourself when you’re afraid of letting everyone know who you are and how you feel. He was so poached in his own bullshit, his tidy little notes,” said the older sister.

“What’d you take from his place?”

“Unsurprisingly, everything had its place. I put ice cream in the sweater drawer, toothpaste with utensils, books in the bathtub.”

“You are a genius, Lucy.”

“I haven’t told you the best part yet, Linus. I took all his cleaning supplies and laid it in the middle of his floor and threw the litter box all over it. Here little pussy, pussy,” the older sister laughed hard. “Oh, oh and then with some of his notes I made a little effigy and hung it from the ceiling.”

“After all that you didn’t take anything?”

“On his dresser he had six pairs of cuff links. I took one from each pair.”

The younger one finished her cake and took a drink of water.

“Of course, all the situations are different. That’s just one,” the older one finally utters.

She waits for the top of the hour because he is in love with her. He is bungled and broken for her but the world goes on with its air raids, snake bites, and losing lottery tickets. She accepts his futility but at least offers him a discipline in her method, offers control amid inconsequence. Stupid fucking sucker, ok, I’ll at least do it at the top of the hour. Timing is everything, she’s been told. So be it.

The bamboo floorboard doesn’t creak at all as she walks toward the bathroom. The smell of the room is very familiar, it is the scent of his soap and cologne. She’s fascinated by how the smell of some people lingers in the air. She knows hers doesn’t despite the excellent quality of her perfume. It’s one of the few things that upsets her. Somehow she can’t make her presence last.

Out of curiosity she checks out his medicine cabinet and finds nothing but toothpaste and shaving materials. Under his sink a six month supply of toilet paper and she is slightly impressed with his forward thinking.

Moving on she walks to his bedroom. She opens his closets and all the drawers of his dresser. She cracks his safe and undoes all the knots in the socks under his bed where his cash is. She inspects his stereo, his computer, and other devices. She leafs through some receipts and business cards in his dresser but it’s in his file cabinet, next to his box of blank checks and tax documents, she finds what she wants. Alright, she can leave now.

As she walks through the ruin of his home her phone rings.

“Whaz up Brigitte?” she answers.

“Whaz up Bardot?” her younger sister says.

“Nothing. Just chillin.”

“Wut, wut!”

“Oh my gosh by the way I did have a weird dream last night,” she says as she fixes her hair in the mirror by his front door.

“What happened?”

“I was in the desert looking for quarters in the sand. I woke up so irritated. I needed them for laundry,” she says as puts her hand on the doorknob to leave.

“Want are you doing right now?”

“Just on my way home. Finishing up errands. It’s actually been a pretty relaxed day.”

“Nice. Want to hang out tonight? I am cooking butternut squash risotto and I just finished a half pint of homemade ricotta gelato.”

“I can’t wait. I’ll come by after I go home for a second,” she says as she closes the door behind her.

“Bye Bert,” her sister says.

“Bye Ernie.”

When she gets home, she strips down to her underwear. She turns on her stereo and surround sound bangs around, elbows and knees scissoring the air, the music playing loudly. She sings along, “All aboard for fun time!” After dancing she is covered in a thin film of sweat as she lights a cigarette and puts on her spectacles that damage the appearance of her eyes with their thick, ugly lenses. She looks at herself in the mirror with her repulsive glasses that she loves.

“Hello, hello,” she says. “Who are you in there?” she asks and knocks on the mirror grinning.

She sits down at her desk. As she catches her breath, she examines her new treasure under her bright beauty mirror light. The envelope is a faded brown, made of a soft, vulnerable paper and smells like the attic of a grandma. Old, worn, keepsake paper. She opens it and smoothes her hand over the certificate. She strokes his small infant footprint. She looks at the faded type of his vitals. Five pounds, five ounces. The date, the signatures, the hospital name.

“Rice-a-roni, the San Francisco treat,” she sings while imagining the low-lying clouds hovering over the mountain in West Bengal where Darjeeling tea grows.

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Sinta Jimenez is a writer and fine artist. Her paintings and poetry have been published in several literary magazines including Underground Voices, Otis Nebula, and The Black Boot. In 2000, she was a recipient of a National Association for the Advancement of the Arts Award in Short Story. She received her MFA from Otis College of Art and Design. She lives in Los Angeles.

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