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September 25, 2018 by The Citron Review

by Lee Anderson

Ophelia’s first time was with her boyfriend’s rock band and a group of girls the
other members had picked up, having lured them back to the hotel with their long
hair and talk of impending stardom.

In Room 222 of the Eden Roc Hotel, eleven of them gathered and knelt as if to
pray around a small glass coffee table. Skull, the bass player, and a girl with
elaborate piercings running from her nose to her earlobes went first, doing the work for each other. Ophelia watched with a mixture of horror and exhilaration as the needle sank into their arms, the plunger filling with pink. She watched as Skull and the girl went slack afterward, heavy-lidded with euphoria.

Brook, her boyfriend, tied off her arm with a black, studded belt, the same belt
everyone else had used. But a different needle. One of the girls was a University
of Miami medical student and had brought nearly a dozen.

Brook held a spoon over the flame of a short, shapeless candle. Within the spoon,
a brown powder became a baking brown liquid, which the needle sipped up. She
closed her eyes as Brook took hold of her arm. There was a pinch, then pressure. When she opened her eyes to see why he hadn’t taken the needle out, she saw that he had and was already injecting himself.

Outside, a siren went by and she went with it, dragged along in its eddy, escorted
down furry, black tunnels of warmth, peace, rebirth. Muscles slipped sleepily over
crevices and corners and holes of her skeletal system. Clouds. Angels. Diamonds. Desert. Ocean. Lightning. Mountains. An eagle shrieked.

No, it was the phone ringing. Brook stood, lost his footing and collapsed against
the night table, bringing it with him to the floor. Everyone laughed and the room
filled to every corner with the sound, like a thousand people laughing. Once Brook brought the phone to his ear, he said in a cracked whisper, “Hello?”

Skull began making out with two of the girls and soon they were undressing each
other. Ophelia became transfixed with them, not because they were having sex,
but by the impossible amount of movement involved. When she looked back to Brook, still on the floor, she saw that he’d closed his eyes and settled his arm across his face. She lay next to him and took his arm. He placed it around her.

“I love you,” she whispered.

A dreamy smile widened his face. “You do?”

“I love you so much,” she said. There was a thin line of stubble, which he’d
obviously missed shaving, just below his jawline. She touched it. “Very a lot.”

Brook licked his lips. “Cool,” he said.

Someone turned on a tape of what the band had recorded that day at South
Beach Studios. The music cradled Ophelia in a gelatinous cushion and when she moved
her head, her vision dimmed and wavered, as though reflected from inky lake
water. Skull vomited and the sex turned complicated. He was on his side, propped by an elbow. He retched violently while one of the girls played her lips and tongue
over his shoulder, oblivious somehow.

The last thing Ophelia remembered, before losing her own lunch and
consciousness, was putting lipstick on Brook. He sat against the wall, one leg
folded beneath the other. He stared at his left foot, as though baffled by it. Then, with the concentration of surgeon, she made wider and wider circles with the
lipstick, caking his entire face with red.

Later that night, Ophelia dreamed she was at a theme park called “Ophelia.” She
climbed a ladder — up, up, up until she reached the lip of space where a water
slide, winding in a zigzag path, delivered her back to Earth. It dumped her within
a moist mud bank.

When she awoke, she lay in pitch darkness. Someone was kissing her. She was
naked. In the next room, the phone rang two times and stopped.

“I love you, too,” the person whispered. It was Brook. “I could just eat you alive.”

Lee Anderson hosts a monthly reading series in New York City’s East Village. He’s been a music writer for The New Times – Miami and a profile writer for Ocean Drive Magazine. He’s published fiction in several small press magazines and has had two off-Broadway plays staged in lower Manhattan. Originally from Florida, Lee now lives in Brooklyn. 

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