The Relapse

07/21/2010 5:00 AM |

Claudia spent a good deal of her pregnancy drunk. For a while she didn’t know she was pregnant, this was part of it, but she didn’t stop drinking once she found out. There was a sense of this is going to end anyway, only it didn’t feel so casual, and also the vague notion that if she mistreated herself enough she’d have no choice but to go through with the abortion.

As for the guy who’d gotten her pregnant, he “wasn’t in the picture,” as the saying went—though she’d liked him well enough. They’d met at a producer’s party. Both of them found themselves in the basement—a kind of rec room, with pinball machines and a pool table—because they’d tired of networking with people who didn’t want to network with them. He was a poet but he was also an incredible dart-thrower, and after enough vodka tonics this had come to seem like an important combination. Claudia—as ever, a jester—told him his genes would make him solid mating material.

He told her he’d just gotten a piece optioned by a producer—a friend of a friend of the man who owned the house, in fact, though in LA more than one degree of separation was akin to admitting no relation at all. In any case, one of his pieces was going to be made into a movie.

“I thought you write poems.”

“I do.”

“They’ll find two hours worth of stuff? In a poem?”

He said: “It’s very dense.”

She said: “Oh.”

It was becoming increasingly clear what their conversation was about.

He offered his place. She suggested hers. She liked bringing men back to her apartment so that she could keep layering memories over visions of a ghostly Chris—tinkering with his French press in the morning, spending forever in the bathroom with his literary newspapers. Chris was her ex, a tidy man who didn’t sweat much and was interesting when he tried to be—which was always, except when he was too sad or happy to care about putting in the effort.

Claudia couldn’t remember much about what happened between herself and the optioned poet after they arrived at her apartment. She could summon discrete points of memory—the awkward explaining of photos in frames (my mother and her boyfriend, my trip to Portugal), the pouring of bottom-rung whiskey in the kitchen—but no memory of the movements or motivations that had connected them. She remembered realizing she hadn’t gotten drunk enough to sleep with him and deciding to get drunker so they could get it over with. She woke up to find him sleeping beside her, one arm crossed over his face as if protecting his eyes from savage birds.

She shook him softly awake. She said: “I’m sorry about last night.”

“Hey,” he said. “It’s okay.”

“I don’t remember much,” she said. “What happened?”

“You were saying I’m sorry,” he said. “Over and over again.”

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