Such Sour Honey by Afieya Kipp
Updated: Jan 5, 2019
It’s one of those enveloping, criminally perfect 21st and Garwood Sunday mornings. The sky is burnt orange with hints of salmon peeking through, and the clouds are whipped, silky patches of cotton. Old women with placid faces and French-tied scarves sip cappuccinos at the Black Cat Café, while college kids play Frisbee at Quinton Park. Dozens of taxis pass by filled with hung-over Saturday expats and hipsters are camped out on brownstone stoops staring blankly at each other or passing around a single cigarette. I paste my head against the cool glass of the window and watch the day operate as usual, while trying to create a word for the simultaneous feeling of absolute joy and the urge to vomit.
Melissa was still asleep on the air mattress behind me, motionless, except for the slight raise her freckled back made when she breathed in. I took a seat on the couch and watched as the sun crept in, stopping just short of the bed sheets, before it coated her lower body in a heinous yellow glow. My inner thighs were still wet and sticky from last night, and I smelled like the warm, vanilla scented lotion she loved to wear in the summer.
Melissa achieved an enviably athletic physique while still maintaining a softness to her frame that I admired since I knew I liked women. Lying there, her ass resembled two ripe pieces of fruit, and her once lithe legs were now herculean. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich tattoo was cradled in the small of her delicate back. We used to ride our bikes for hours on Pinochle Trail until our legs gave out, then picnic at the top of the hill under a giant sequoia. We always carried squished peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the pockets of our jean shorts to feed to ants, or each other if we were hungry enough. Then, we’d fall asleep wrapped up in one another until sundown. We were twelve, then.
Today, Melissa owned a vegan bakery in Heightscliff and collected art. She developed a penchant for iced coffees, which she drank year round, after her brief stint at an ivy league school in Upper Bloomsberg. She also took to watching documentaries about poets and world wars, and sleeping with copious amounts of tattooed men with questionable ‘jobs.’
Scanning the apartment, I found a Rachel Hicks record I gave her years ago. The faded message written in permanent marker said: You make me feel like Song #2. We were fifteen, then. After listening to track two in her parent’s SUV, Melissa turned to me and said plainly “I make you feel electric? What does that even mean?” followed by a shrill laugh. I tossed the record into the paper shredder nearby, every whirr, snap and pop! reminding me of almost a decade of torturous longing.
At the sound of the last bits of Rachel Hicks being obliterated to dust, Melissa stirred, tossing off the sheets and positioning herself on the edge of the air mattress. Her large pale breasts, with glowing, gummy pink nipples, fell to each side and she blinked the sleep out of her eyes. I immediately felt sheepish, grabbing at my shorts and tee shirt on the ground to cover my equally as pale, but not nearly as beautiful, naked self.
“Did you make coffee?”
“Ugh, what are you good for?”
She threw herself back onto the mattress and called to Kato, her rescue pug, while I suppressed my annoyance. I hated when she didn’t let me finish my sentences. Carrying Kato, she made her way over to the tiny, stark white kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and stood in front of it as if observing a sculpture. After retrieving a muffin she fingered through some mail on the counter.
“Do you mind checking my e-mail for me?” And I nodded too quickly, too obediently—my brief moment of agitation melting as I watched Melissa’s fiery mane drape over her left shoulder. I looked over at Kato and sensed that even he knew I was full of shit. Did he see us last night?
Present was a lot of junk mail, a few messages about final sales, an e-mail from Melissa’s mom, Abigail, talking about visiting the lake house before summer was through, and a couple of happy notes from the bakery’s customers. Just as I fixed my lips to read the e-mail from Abigail aloud, an instant message popped up at the right corner of the screen.
blackfox100: Have you thought about it yet?
I turned to look at Melissa, who was now wearing an oversized plaid shirt and taking selfies with Kato. Melissa never wore anything oversized and it appeared to be a man’s shirt, which looked like a dress on her fairly petite frame.
“Where’d you get that shirt?”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she plopped herself onto the air mattress and scrolled through her phone.
blackfox100: Hey...you there?
I erred on the side of apathy and decided to answer blackfox100.
MMvegan: Yeah, I’m here. Thought about what?
blackfox100: You know...marrying me, the next time I’m in town. I miss you so much, M.
Melissa was busy, now, taking topless photos. Kato, sensing my looming anguish, brushed his cold nose against my ankle and let out a choked whimper before placing his warm body on my foot.
Once, I overheard Melissa talking about having to kiss a girl in our high school’s rendition of The Great Ones, a play about two teenagers that fall in love during the height of a political riot. The lead guy fell ill, and to replace him the drama teacher chose Tina Oakes, a swim team champion and president of the cycling club who always got mistaken for a boy, due to her bowl shaped haircut and unbelievably flat chest. “It’s not like she’s ugly,” she explained, “She’s actually quite handsome. And she’s a great kisser too! Can’t say I didn’t like it, but I’m not ‘gay’ gay, you know? For Christ sakes, I’m dating Jeremy Bines!” We were eighteen, then. And I was regularly reading Dyke Daily online, and researching LGBT friendly colleges, and watching lesbian porn before bed every night, and pointlessly in love with Melissa, my best friend, and now, enemy.
“Blackfox100 wants to know if you’ll marry them the next time they’re in town, you scathing bitch.” I couldn’t believe I ached for a decade to know what she tasted like. My favorite Rachel Hicks song chimed internally: not even the blackest bee could make such sour honey.
Melissa stood up and walked over to the window, staring out at the morning that turned from paradisiacal to phantasmal. Turning to sit on the edge of the sill, she fixed her gaze on some object in the distance and answered breezily “Yes. Tell her I said ‘yes.’”
She lingered for a moment before pressing her warm hand to my cheek, prompting me to look up into her almond shaped eyes, and said nothing more, disappearing behind a white curtain at the far end of the room.
MMvegan: She said ‘yes.’
I collected my things, and left.
blackfox100: Who is this? Hello...
MMvegan: this user has signed off.
Afieya Kipp (she/her) is a queer poet, editor and text-based artist born in Brooklyn, NY. She lives in northern New Jersey where she carries poems in her wallet and is an MFA candidate at Lindenwood University. Follow her on Twitter @AfieyaK.