Cleansing

“I am going on a cleansing diet,” he tells me.

He’s sitting behind the wheel; the car is warming up.
He turns the radio on and adjusts the volume.

“Green tea, lemon juice, sea salt water, cayenne pepper. Ten
days. It’s going to get rid of all the toxins in my body.”

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a key and a small bag.
He dips the key in and lifts it to his nose. One paranoid eye side
glances me. “Don’t watch.” He shuts his eyes as he inhales.

“Cayenne pepper? That’s a bulimic’s diet.” I say, tracing my
name into the condensation on the car window. “You’re
going to be shitting your brains out.”

He tucks the key back in his pocket and restarts the car.
“That’s the point. To get rid of all the toxins in my body. It’s
CLEANSING.” He turns to look at me. “You should do it, too.”

I think about it and shake my head. “I don’t think I really
have many toxins in my body…not ten days worth.”

“What about beer, cigarettes…” he says, pointing to the pack
in my hand. It’s his pack. I rub the palm of my hand across
his entire window, erasing my name.

I think about it, though, and maybe he is right. I am not a
healthy person, I am just young. I think of all the toxins that
are unintentionally put in my body every day, then I think
again…no. It’s a bad idea.

“I am not going to shit my brains out for ten days,” I say,
matter of fact. “If I want to get rid of any toxins I’m going to
drink green tea and eat some blueberries.”

“Well, you’re supposed to drink green tea at night,” he
explains, checking his eyes in the rear-view mirror. “And
then sea salt water in the morning.”

“Why don’t you just NOT do drugs?” I say. “Quit drinking.
Try that for a while? Forget the coke.”

He turns the corner and his phone starts ringing. “Will you
answer that? And besides I don’t do this a lot. I just happen
to be on it every time you see me.”

Which was only twice, I know. I have only met him twice.
Either way, I still am slightly concerned. We were both young
and ahead of everybody else. We knew what we wanted to do
with our lives. He was fucking it up.

I answer his phone just as he twists the cap off a bottle of
Corona. “You don’t mind, do you?” He takes a swig as he
turns a corner. First drugs, now alcohol. We have been in
the car less than seven minutes.

“Hello?”

There’s a guy on the phone wondering where we are. I look at
the street sign and tell him. I don’t know this now but the guy
on the phone who I have never met will end up being someone
I fall in love with. Someone I may still be in love with.

He tries to hand me the Corona while I’m talking on the
phone: no thanks, I mouth, pushing the beer away with
my free hand. I talk a minute more with the then stranger
before hanging up.

“You don’t like Mexican beer?” He shrugs and downs the rest
of it while we are stopped at a red light. I look at him and
wonder if him driving me is a good idea but when it’s winter a
ride, even a dangerous one, is better than no ride at all.

“No, I don’t like Mexican beer,” I say, lighting up one of his
cigarettes and handing him back his phone.

————————

Franki Elliot is a twenty-something author from Chicago. Originally self-published,  Piano Rats sold out of its first printing quickly and was soon picked up by Curbside Splendor for an October 2011 release. Franki’s favorite artist Shawn Stucky created the cover art and book design. This is her first book.