Nothing Rhymes With Orange
Every payday we went to Walgreens. At the end of our shift Edward would say, “Oh, Anuhea, let’s go for a drive, shall we?” We could have gone anywhere—the sprawl is most complete when you’re in the bull’s eye of the country—but we’d invariably only go from Kansas City’s Seville-esque Plaza to the outskirts of the gingerbread brick town of Brookside, which was a ten minute walk at best. In fact, you could see the Walgreens from the parking lot rooftop of our Tommy Bahama shop—which always made me feel a bit silly about our jaunts.
“Oh, Anuhea. It’s too cold/hot/ugly/beautiful out today to walk,” Edward would say, if ever I suggested it. So into my hot pink Ford “Sexcort” we’d hop and off we’d buzz to, well, Walgreens. “I think we need some vodka,” Edward would say. “Yes. A big bottle of vodka. What do you think, Anuhea?”
Edward always asked for my opinion, though he didn’t need it—he was a man of impeccable taste, only compromised when he was broke, which was always (we had that in common). If he bought Smirnoff instead of Skyy, did he look cheap? Well (whatever my answer) it didn’t matter, he’d conclude, because “screw the cashier if they want to judge.” But would his date think he was cheap? “Well screw him too.” (And then he’d giggle and give me a sinister wink.) Did I think X bottle of wine was better than Y bottle of wine? Should he wait until his next paycheck to buy those expensive Gillette razor blade refills? Is that guy at the end of the aisle checking him out, or me? (Of course you, Edward. You’re a Portuguese Ralph Fiennes.) Original or Wavy potato chips? Potato chips at all? Is this cute? Is this ridiculous? Would Tony (my then-boyfriend) like this? Would Kevin/Robert/Michael/John (whomever he’d met online) like that?
Up and down every aisle we’d go, picking up things, putting back things, hashing out the gripes of the day, our hopes for tomorrow, our dreams of going home. “Kansas City is fine,” he’d say on good days, great quivering wells brimming at his ducts, “but there’s no place like home.” P Town, that is. The furthest little curly cue at the end of Cape Cod. A fairytale land of moonlit sand dunes, nightly drag queen shows and fabulous parties.
“Oh, Anuhea. You, too. You must miss Maui soso much.” And the more he said it, the more I did (if such a thing were possible). So I’d tell him of my country shangrila; of spending whole days on the reefs of Makena, or knowing Poli Poli trails by heart. We’d both be crying by the time we hit the seasonal aisle, the heady smell of mass-produced snow globes telling us it was time to go.
He always left with liquor. Me too, usually. And razor blades, on non-rent checks. Potato chips when we’d worked through lunch in the summertime. Maybe People magazines.
But we no matter what, we always left with candy orange slices. It was the one thing that was outside of opinions, exempt from discussion. When they went on sale, we’d clean them out, no questions asked. When it was slow at the store he’d open a bag, walk up to me with his decidedly heel-toe step and say, “Oh, Anuhea. You know you want an ahrange. They’re fabulous.”
As was the plan, two years after moving to Kansas City, I came home to Maui. It was Edward’s plan to move home to P Town, but the last time I spoke with him, he just sighed dramatically and said, “Oh, Anuhea. I don’t know when I’ll ever get home.” He was broke, of course. (We still had that in common.)
Last week, I went to a dinner party at my friend Jen’s house. Jen could win one of those Food Network shows with her eyes closed, so bringing a dish is a waste of resources. I brought vodka. And candy orange slices.
I’d bought the candy because Edward had been on my mind, though it’d been months since we’d talked. Jen had the genius idea to stick a slice on the rim of our glasses like a garnish, and I thought, “Oh, Edward would love that” and made a mental note to give him an overdue call.
But I didn’t. And Edward died that night. Maybe. Maybe the night before, maybe the night after. Nobody knows. He was alone in his apartment, hopefully with a bottle of vodka, a good shave, People magazine and an empty bag of candy ahranges.