Trinidadian Cleansing Ritual

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Nocturne in C-sharp minor softly emoting from her levitating Bluetooth speaker, a hot honey milk bath infused with chamomile flowers (not those ones), a fully charged vape pen filled with Sandstorm, a marijuana strain from Pakistan her dispensary described as introspective, and a shiny bubbling flute of cava. The lights are low, the flameless, remote-controlled candles set to flicker. This is how Brie does meditation.

Patterns... patterns, patterns, patterns. Think back, Starchild. What unique fuckuppery have you patented in this life? Come now, let's not be obtuse. We're talking about relationships. Push deeper—we're talking about your behavior with men.

She kisses the vape and inhales some introspection. Where to begin? Failures dated most recently or the foundational fiascos, the genesis of the pattern for which she hunts? Always best to start at the beginning.

Brie was lying when she told Alaska she lost her virginity in college. She was sixteen, and it was in the bedroom at a house party, the teenage concept of nirvana. No adults, yet the creature comforts of an adult home: mid-shelf liquors that would not be missed if their volumes were restored with like-colored liquids, safe harbor from the fun-hating police (as long as the neighbors didn't rat), and for the privileged few, a bedroom with a locking door. The party was at her house. Her mom had gone with her dad to some legal conference in Houston, and Chris Collins had been priming her all week through handholding and party planning assistance.

Brie tries to invade her sixteen-year-old mind. What was to be gained from love at that point? She can't recall any naïve aspirations that she and Chris would be together forever. Her teenage mind offers no insights, likely due to its absolute absence of thought. Her brain was a mere interpreter of hormones, trying like hell to spin male attention into confidence and self-worth.

Brie dunks her head beneath the surface and stays there, listening to the underwater sounds of her own groans. She watches her legs float in the water like a corpse in a river, and for a moment she indulges the fantasy. So young still, they would say. Still so beautiful. Taken by that monster. Her story would be in the papers. Twenty-eight to forty-five year-old men in the greater Los Angeles area would feel a pang of loss in their hearts and groins, knowing she was no longer available.

Nirvana was actually playing on the stereo. Smells Like Teen Spirit never fails to conjure the image of football players shotgunning Natural Light and watching fuzzy porn on her parents' cable box while the girls got stupid on vodka. Outside, the skaters were getting stoned and jumping from the roof into the pool. Chris had been ignoring her all night, talking to some flooze her friend Lizzie had brought over, so Brie proceeded to get bulletproof with gin and Diet Sprite and berate the flooze before a growing crowd of spectators until the girl asked Lizzie if they could leave.

Chris turned his attention to Brie with amusement. "You're mean."

She shrugged. "Yeah well you're a dick."

He moved in on her, low-lidded. "Oh yeah? Well you're beautiful."

Bing bing bing bing bing. Correct answer. Unlocking legs in 3-2-1.

When Brie was young her father had that poster of Cheryl Tiegs in the white fishnet one-piece swimsuit tacked onto the wall in the garage. She looked so friendly, her sandy hair at her shoulders, smiling at the camera with a casual stance. Brie used to stare at Cheryl's boobies, who stared back at her through the netting like the googly eyeballs of some unknown Muppet. "Why is this picture up here?" she asked her dad.

Chip considered Cheryl. "Ohh because she's beautiful. Daddy just likes to look at her."

"At her boobies?"

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