Imagine the best sundae your childhood can offer, with deep red veins of strawberry sauce. Dig your spoon in and come out with a slab of melt-in-the-mouth kidney. A gummy-worm intestine. An eye.
You think it’s going to last forever. That sweet sour cusp of adulthood, freewheeling on your brother’s bike in the AM, keeping your voices hushed because the old folks on the end always leave their windows open and — shut up, no, I’m not going to tell you about that time again, leave it — whispers.
The nights are long, delicious, and uncertain. A great big stretch in the bed of the first person you slept with. There’s a salt-sheen on their lips. It’s on the mouths of your friends too, the ones you hate and covet in equal measure, wet from taking bites out of the still-dark morning.
There is one place still open at this hour and you pour in on shaky legs, still buzzing from cider and the second-hand smoke from the group huddled in the car park. Someone vomits and it comes out alcopop blue, then purple, then red. Chunks of burger and meat spittle misses the bin.
Everyone watches each other over the menu, expressions fixed somewhere between mild appraisal and annoyance. A laugh skitters across the table and is volleyed with a slow eye-roll. The veins shine Powerade blue under the light.
Someone orders coffee and the waitress makes it, dutifully trudging from the table to the machine then back again, her wrist quivering a little when she puts the heavy pot down. She’s tired but pretty, all box blonde hair and foundation that is creasing into a deep line tracking across her forehead.
Aging is rough, no matter how much Olay you put on at night.
The pot gets shared and everyone takes a turn sipping out of the mug. It’s a game. There’s a powdery tang under all the bitterness, all fake sugar and a dab of creamer. It’s the drink mothers make at the beginning of their limp mornings, after the husband and kids have gone to work or school and the house is empty.
Watery sunlight and instant coffee.