The Monday After Last Valentine’s

Monday had mercifully come at last, pulling Lakshmi out of a post-party slump. She woke up at her usual time, did her usual routine, and started her usual walk to work. She breathed in the crisp winter morning air and breathed out a heavy sigh. Sunday had dragged on for what seemed like 25 months, with her hangover pounding into her skull. The other girls had disappeared long before Lakshmi emerged from her room, so naturally the mess had been left to her. She couldn’t even waste energy being annoyed; every ounce of strength had been spent keeping her head from exploding. She plodded through the apartment slowly, garbage bag in tow, picking up artifacts from the night before. Cups, plates, napkins, beer bottles, and what she could have sworn was an empty bottle of kombucha. She had taken down all of the decorations, and ended up mopping the sticky remains of dropped jelly shots off of the floor. She thought they looked blue, meaning they were probably her own shots. She’d always had a weakness for blue raspberry flavoured anything. Stopping short of her office building, she glanced at her reflection on the building and examined her tongue. Even after almost a whole day of brushing, her tongue was still bright blue. Another icy sigh later, she was through the heavy building doors and on her way up to her desk.

She was early, as usual. James wasn’t there yet, as usual. So she did her usual morning routine. She scrolled mindlessly through her phone for 20 minutes, to prime herself for a day of mindlessly scrolling through and then writing gossip blasts. A picture of Kali on Snapgram gave her pause. While they waited for an ambulance on Friday morning, Kali had sprawled majestically in a booth, one boot on, one boot dangling off, and demanded a picture. She made it look like an editorial spread, even while she grimaced in pain.

Lakshmi couldn’t help but stare at the boots. They looked just like the ones…it only took a few seconds of scrolling to find it: the day they had met almost 5 years ago, the day of The Incident. Staring at that picture of the two of them standing next to a cardboard standee of a dancing cartoon condom, she was taken back to when she was a just a young community radio intern on her first assignment. Walking into that adult novelty store, Lakshmi had expected to find a lot of things. Shifty-eyed old men looking at her funny, colourful devices that might spark latent curiosities, leather devices that might terrify her, but she never expected Kali. Not a statuesque brown girl with legs for days and a perfect hourglass figure all dressed in leather (but not the scary leather – the cute leather). Not the girl with the big beautiful eyes and the sweetest, most innocent smile that seemed both out of place and right at home in that store. Even to this day, she didn’t know if it was her staring at Kali that caused The Incident in the first place. Either way, after surviving something like the Incident together, their friendship had been cemented. She stared at the picture just a little bit longer than she knew she should have. Who knew red thigh-high leather boots looked so good with a purple pleather dress…and those strategically placed cut-outs…

“Hot and brown, coming through!” James’ voice cut through Lakshmi’s patent leather daydreams. James arrived carrying enough coffee to last them until their next coffee. “And he brought coffee!” James launched into their usual morning routine; debriefing Lakshmi on all the real life gossip that she couldn’t report on. Coming out of the party, there were the usual bits: Grace got naked and ran around the balcony until Vishnu brought her back inside and got clothes back on her. Naomi went to bed early, despite protests. Kali and James were the last to leave, early the next morning, for 4am Chinese food. But the new news was all Taylor, the new guy. Apparently, Taylor had fallen madly in love with a picture of Lizzie that was on the fridge. 2 bottles of hard kombucha in and he was professing his love to her. Lakshmi remembered none of this, because she had spent most of the night on the balcony, thinking about the Sex God. As James replayed the videos he took of Taylor reciting sonnets to the refrigerator, Lakshmi replayed her own finest moments from the party in her mind. In the pro column, she had listened to James and changed out of her terrifying costume into her sexy costume. She hadn’t fallen down once, and she hadn’t thrown up. And the crowning achievement of the night, she hadn’t punched Taylor in the face when he started rattling off the 37 reasons why he thought Bollywood was stupid when her favourite song had come on. Sure, she had been carried away from him and locked out on the balcony, but she still didn’t punch him. But on the other side of the list, she kept replaying everything that had happened between herself and Vishnu. Every oddly timed giggle, every spacey “ya, sure”, and every time she had been near him and hadn’t thrown him down and shagged him senseless; by her count, 67 times.

“So what do you think?” James’ voice again pulled her out of her day dreams, this time less fantasy and more self-deprecating nightmare.
“What?” she said, snapping back into reality.
“Taylor. What’s his deal?” James was already digging through his email and starting to actually work, all while Lakshmi sat in a daze.
“I still think he’s an ass,” Lakshmi said.
“Yes, that’s not up for discussion. But what about his ass? Do you think I have a shot?” James shot back.
“You just said he’s in love with Lizzie. He’s clearly not playing on your team right now, if at all. Do the sports analogies help?”
“Don’t worry, I can fix that. No one can be that hot and not be a little gay. And you’re making an effort with the sports stuff, so I’ll allow it. But it’s not great.”
“Neither is saying that he’s ‘a little bit gay’. That’s so offensive”.
“Fine, he’s a little bit bi”.
“That’s better”.