A Fairy Tale Including Chocolate Martinis and Calamari
Portia caught a ride with friends for her First Fridays mixed media show at a Phoenix gallery. She hadn’t driven for weeks since a mattress and metal bed frame parts had tumbled out of the sky in front of her old Honda on the Loop 101 freeway. She spun through cars, just missing the mattress and the on rush of cars, hitting the freeway wall twice, and totaling her car. She walked away, unscratched with the clothes on her back and her vintage Betsy Johnson purse slung on her shoulder. Since the accident, she had vivid dreams about flying cars and mattresses. The first were adrenaline heart pounding flashbacks, and she woke herself breathless. Then the recurrent dreams became gentler with colorful spores of floating forms, and the mattresses morphed into mystical carpets. Portia floated like Marc Chagall’s Bella in her flying canvas dreams. Her daze of dreams inspired an acrylic mixed media piece for the gallery show that she collaged with torn photos and diary pages, garters, toe shoe ribbons, and the writhed tangle of a worn mattress spring. But in the early morning darkness of her art making, she was painfully aware that something beyond her vehicle was missing.
At the gallery, Portia sold the dreamscapes inspired piece and tucked the cash in her vintage leather purse. Making the sale, euphoria splashed over her like a luminous paint wash. Then emptiness spread, which veiled her consciousness like the melting negative of a black and white photograph. After the show, Portia and her friends drove to nearby club, and she locked her purse in Sal’s car.
Inside the club, Portia shared a chocolate martini and calamari with a painter friend, Steve. Laughing with him, her spirits lifted, and the dark veil lifted. On the dance floor, her 60’s vintage black dress and long black hair spiraled as she danced herself into a soft pink ecstasy. Steve invited everyone to his father’s mansion while he was out of the country. Portia was intrigued. As a girl, she had attended an inner city art school named in honor of his public servant father. Before leaving, she talked to Sal. He was still dancing and drinking and promised to drop her purse by later. In the parking lot, she slid into Steve’s new Benz holding his keys, savoring the supple leather seats, and drove her friends to the historical district with palm tree lined streets.
Ornamental iron gates opened to the Spanish mansion, and vines canopied the walls and trees. Inside, a serpentine staircase spun like silk, and Southwestern antique furniture and art accented the infinite space. Portia texted Sal with Steve's phone. She worried about the cash in her purse, which she needed for classes and art supplies.
Portia and Steve left their friends in the house to take a swim. In the cabana, she shed her vintage dress and extreme heels. She swam in her black lace vintage brassiere and panties, soothing herself in the blue pool. Steve undressed and splashed in wearing his boxers. After their swim, Portia and Steve dried off, and she borrowed his robe and they used the sauna. As everyone cleared out, she paced, texting Sal. He texted back, and Sal and her purse went home with someone else. Her purse was safe in his apartment he said, and it was late. She borrowed Steve’s wife beater and boxers and slept restless in a plush guest room. She floated above the down mattress like a magician’s assistant. She drove Steve’s Benz through her dreamscape collage of torn photos in paint- splattered places, looking for her purse. In the morning, Portia and Steve sipped chai and ate fresh fruit and warm bread on the garden patio, watching the light reflecting off the pool. Cardinals flashed red wings in the ancient fig and grapefruit trees. Steve couldn’t stop looking at her. Before they left for Sal’s, she threw boysenberries and bread to the birds.
& (the true ending)
In the morning, Steve was hung over and wouldn’t get out of bed, and Sal didn’t answer his phone. Portia couldn’t find anything for breakfast. She grabbed Steve’s keys and drove to Sal’s apartment, pounded on his door and yelled, waking all the dogs and neighbors. After some time, Sal blurred in the doorway, his dark hair in his face. Portia snatched her leather purse from his hands. She exhaled when she checked her wallet. Sliding through the streets in Steve’s Benz, she stopped for fast food. Inside the mansion, she held her purse tight, and her heels clicked through the expansive Spanish tile floors. Portia stood at Steve’s doorway, listening to his heavy sleep. She slid her purse off her shoulder, and hurled it on his bed. He was unmoved, and pulled the covers over his head. Outside, beneath the fruit trees, her shoes spiked into the lush garden’s earthen body. In the shade of the cabana, she took a deep breath. The water became the world sparkling all around her. Portia slipped out of herself, and splashed ecstatic, floating above the electric blue.
Alexandra Isacson is a graduate of Arizona State who lives and works
in the Phoenix area. She has a chapbook, Poetic
Anthropoligies, forthcoming from Medulla
Publishing and has a Best of the Net nomination for poetry.
Her work appears or is forthcoming in >kill
author, Grey Sparrow Journal, Emprise Review, decomP, PANK,
and other awesome places. Visit her at alexandraisacson.com.