Fiction: Either/Or

By Sarah Daly

Sometimes she wonders what would happen if {insert tragedy of your choice}. Would I be brave and good and stand up for the Right Thing? Or would I be weak and cower and cry like those black-and-white Hollywood starlets? She imagines herself, elongated on a sofa, her arm dramatically thrown across her forehead. Her silk nightgown is low-cut, her chestnut hair is shiny, and her lips are as red as rosebuds. Her eyes widen with fear as the sexy vampire leans down to bite her neck and…would she just lie there and let the venom spread, or would she punch him in the nose?
She wonders if she should be a society hostess or a ball-busting lawyer. She could dress in stiletto heels and pencil skirts, her red red lips curling in satisfaction when the defense guys break down weeping at her clever arguments. She’d have a big office and a leather briefcase, with a fully stocked fridge and big glass windows overlooking the bright city skyline. She’d boss around the interns and eat lunch at fancy restaurants. Or, she could wear poofy June Cleaver dresses and carry canap├ęs (whatever those are) on one arm while politely greeting the sexy guy who enters her door. The beds would be fluffy and perfect for jumping on and her counters would sparkle and the whatchamacallit cocktails (she doesn’t know what alcohol tastes like, really!) would be in shiny glasses which she’d offer to her husband with a kiss. Either way, she’d have a big big apartment with a fancy sound system and tons of rom-com DVDs and a popcorn machine and a huge closet filled with shoes and dresses and outfits. Of course, the apartment would have a pool and a gym so she wouldn’t get fat.
She wonders if Ryan Gosling’s twin likes her. A.G. is the handsomest, sexiest guy; a poet, not a sweaty football player who likes to do nasty things to you in his car while everyone else looks on and snickers. No, he has big big brown eyes and sexy glasses and a skinny frame. A.G. is not D.P. who pesters her and always passes her notes which she ignores by staring at the teacher, even if the teacher is only boring Mr. S. who shuffles and squeaks the chalk. No, D.P. has a wheezy voice and asthma and allergies and uses a million different inhalers, which everyone says he takes to just get high. She has seen his skinny skinny chest in swim class (can anyone conceive of such torture?) and no, he is not the man for her. A.G. is her soulmate. So, she hangs out with friends of his friends and then chats him up until he finally notices and asks her out.  
She wonders if she should just cry and give up. No, A.G. will never never love her, and she will be graduating one day soon and her grades suck because she spent so much time re-copying A.G.’s poems and doing his homework. She doesn’t even know what she wants to do or what she likes. And what about The Road Not Taken and all that stuff they learned about in lit? Isn’t she supposed to have some sort of special calling? But she’s sick of poems and doesn’t want to do anything special because NO one will like her so let’s just give up now shall we, and it’s a stay-in-your-pjs-and-watch-The-Notebook-for-the-millionth-time-and-stuff-your-face-with-ice-cream day because she isn’t going to have any prom dress to fit into.
And now college is starting and it’s hey let’s everyone have a great time and why did she dread college anyway? It’s soo fun because you get a ton of free stuff and there are awesome parties, and no one ever thinks about carding her, and hey the room is spinning but let’s live it up. And who needs a boyfriend anyway when there are so many cute guys just hanging out right around the corner, willing to get her a drink? Who cares if she’s hungover in Psych tomorrow because there’s three hundred people in the class and she can hide in the back row. She can copy the notes from her roommate anyway (who’s lame and studies, like all the time) if she really doesn’t feel like going. Finals are coming up, but who cares, she’s smart, gonna be a lawyer and lawyers gotta think on their feet.
It’s Senior Year Christmas with the ‘rents and everyone is like whaddya gonna do when you graduate and it’s like shit I have no idea but she can’t say that so she lies and says law school even though she hates pre-law and couldn’t give a flying fuck about next year when she’s living it up now. They shake their heads, but she doesn’t give a rat’s ass, does she? Would you? So maybe she’s a little worried getting kicked out of Mommy and Daddy’s free ride and her grades are shit but she pulls this whole I’m a grown up thing and don’t spy on my term cards when really, she’s freaking the fuck out. And her LSAT scores suck, so there’s no real chance she’ll actually get into law school. And now she’s a washed up senior, who no one’s interested in, since all the guys want the freshmen girls anyway, but hey, she’s still got a few months left to live it up.  
Fuck fuck fuck this pantyhose, it’s Law Internship Day 1. Because her Mom’s cousin’s neighbor’s dog pulled some strings so she can spend the day pouring coffee and sharpening pencils. Cause she needs to re-submit her law school applications and an internship would help with that plus she needs to deal with her student loans. This ain’t gonna fly shethinks but what other choices does she have? Being twenty-something and broke sucks but at least she has a place even if it’s a shithole with like a million roommates. Or at least it seems that way with the doors opening and closing every two seconds. She spends her nights at the bar eating peanuts and nursing one drink because, damn, drinking’s expensive in real life. Sad, sad girl. No dates, no parties, no fun.
One sad night at the bar he comes up to her and is like gorgeous whaddya doing alone? And she says fuck off and he says I like her and she says yes because he gets her that extra drink which she wants soo much and he’s not bad looking. So, they drink and drink and talk and talk and then the bar closes, so she goes back to his place and they go at it all night long and it’s great for her. He’s in some high class investment gig and has some money so she goes along with it and they meet the friends and then the parents because they both look great together even though they’d rather be shagging like rabbits. And everyone loves them and they’re the life of the party and everyone’s deliriously happy. So he finally pops the question back at that grimy bar where they first met, and she says yes!
Finally, finally, finally!! The roses and the white puffy dress and the gazebo and the ten-layer cake, just for her. Marrying the most handsome guy (Ryan Gosling’s brother!) and her hair is done up and perfect and two hundred some people stare at her as she walks down the aisle on her Daddy’s arm. And then she and her boyfriend stand in the gazebo, clasping hands as a hundred white doves are launched in the air when they both say I do. Hope the quiche’s not too soggy and Uncle Alec doesn’t get too drunk, but there are so many pictures (she’s a movie star!) and bridesmaids catering to her every need. Then there’s that honeymoon in France and then they’re moving into a four-bedroom McMansion with a white picket fence and a puppy. Her dream, finally.
Divorced with three screaming brats. NO time for a quickie with her ex-husband who got the house, and she’s just renting the basement but does all the housecleaning and cooking ‘cause they’re almost broke from all the divorce lawyers and braces and interest and she quit her job when she got married. No one’s hiring ‘cause the economy tanked and her grades were shit and she never could get into law school. Looks like barista-ville now. But hey, everything’s great and let’s pop another Vicodin and everything’s rosy and the car will last one more year, right? Oh shit, Junior got hit with what? And you forgot to bake a dozen what? And there’s a parent-teacher conference tomorrow? Why didn’t they teach me this shit in high school?

Sarah Daly is an American writer whose fiction, poetry, and drama have appeared in thirteen literary journals includingSynchronized Chaos,The Olivetree Review, Blue Lake Review, and Fixator Press.


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