"So, will you do it?" Carol asks me, her pale blue eyes glittering in the candlelit dimness. She lounges across the low coffee table from me, wine glass casually cradled in her left hand.
I lick my lips. Despite the wine, my mouth incredibly dry. I look down at the tiny yellow pill sitting on the polished mahogany between us. I reach towards the pill, and Carol's mouth quirks up in her usual catlike grin.
Maybe I should tell you a bit about the girl I was before I met Carol Luis. I worked (work) in a publishing house as an editor. I was renowned for my work ethic. My desk was a wonder of Taylorian efficiency and scientific precision. A constant flow of manuscripts and correspondence would make their way from my "In" tray, to my "Out" tray, leaving my workspace marvelously clean and clear at the end of every workday. My bosses loved me, my coworkers admired and envied me, and. . .. Well no, I'm lying. Everyone pretty much ignored me. Except for Rob the copy boy. I caught him making eyes at me a couple of times. I swear. Too bad he's only eighteen.
I wasn't really the sort of girl who would go out on weekends, either. In fact, my social life was pretty much nil, unless you count Sunday dinners and bouts of Euchre with your mom, dad, and little brother.
But I was happy. Or I thought I was happy. Until Carol. Then everything changed.
Carol works at a used bookstore on the corner of Fifty Third and Prentice. Apparently the place has been there for something like forever, though I didn't discover it until five months after moving here. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to read, so it really is surprising that it took me five months to discover Lines and Dots.
The first thing I noticed about Carol when I first encountered her working in the dusty stacks of Lines and Dots, were her platform "army" boots and short plaid schoolgirlish skirt. The second thing I noticed was that she was perched precariously in those boots upon a rickety old ladder, shelving an armful of John Grisham. The third thing I noticed was that the ladder was starting to tip.
In an uncharacteristic act of heroism, I charged across the room, breaking Carol and John Grisham's fall, and gaining a sprained wrist and a new friend for my trouble (Carol, not John Grisham).
Carol, I soon found, was unlike me in every way. She was spontaneous. She was loud. She liked to party, and she loved to experiment. She was also incredibly open. As she drove me erratically to the hospital at impossible and illegal speeds, she told me a series of awkward sex stories about her and her recently ex-boyfriend. To keep my mind off of the pain, she said. She had decided she was a lesbian, she informed me.
It wasn't long before she was taking me to parties, dragging me to concerts, introducing me to new kinds of people that I had never spoken to before. They had dreadlocks, and purple hair, smoked pot, and had a wide array of cringe-inducing piercings and tattoos. They listened to loud music, were magnetically attracted to fishnet and army surplus, and were frequently violent.
I began to see everything I had once viewed as a strength in myself as a sort of limitation. My organization and commitment to work, my virginity, my desire to constantly "play it safe" were all holding me back from truly living. Now I am someone different. I am not exactly certain who that is, but I do know that in the past three months of friendship I have experienced more than I did in the entire twenty four years prior.
Carol helped me to change. Cracked me open. And here, once again, tonight, she is offering me another opportunity to become someone new.
"Will you do it, Alison?" She asks again, as my hand hovers over the little yellow pill. I meet her gaze, brown eyes to blue, and nod firmly, taking the pill in my sweaty hand.
I swallow the pill down with a mouthful of cheap red wine. It sticks briefly, but another swallow dislodges it. I look across the coffee table at Carol, shifting uncomfortably on the cushions, as nothing happens.
The candle on the coffee table flickers, dances. Dances like Carol's eyes, or like Carol on the dance floor. Wild, mesmerizing. The music I have put on, Enya, I think, is so quiet, so mellow, I can barely hear it, yet it makes me feel as though I am being wrapped in a thick warm blanket.
And suddenly, . .. I am falling. Carol's face grows distant, shrinks, as though she is looking at me down a long dark tunnel. Everything else vanishes, and the most visible thing in my world is her distant half-grinning, half smirk, as she watches me fall. She laughs, and her laughter blends with the music in my ears. She says something, but she is too far, and she speaks in tongues. But then doesn't she always?
I am falling, so slowly. I am falling. . .
Falling. . .