Lou’s blue lace underwear have been hanging on the line since Friday. It’s rained twice since then and the soaked panties look sad and heavy, the one lonely article of clothing abandoned outside. I take mine to the public laundry with a fistful of coins. There’s a man who hangs out there, not doing his laundry but just kind of sitting there, waiting. I think he looks for forgotten underwear like Lou’s to steal, maybe left behind because their owner was in such a hurry to get away from him. If I ask him about the footy he generally leaves me alone, after telling me how awful his team has been playing.
When I was twelve I got head lice and my dad cut my hair into a bob so it’d be easier to comb them out. I cried and didn’t speak to him for a week.
When I shave my hair I feel no remorse, only a twinge of freedom as the locks fall onto the bathroom floor. I stare at my reflection and think, my forehead is really oily.
Lou walks in and almost slips on the hair. She catches my eye in the mirror and then looks at my head. “Oh, Soph. You’ve done such a patchy job of it.”
She takes the clippers from my hand and fixes my buzzcut.
The last few nights Lou has slept in my bed, arm thrown around me. Her body presses up against my butt and back; we both stick together from the sweat. It takes me longer to fall asleep because I start overheating, but I don’t mind because her closeness comforts me.
In the minutes before I drift asleep I tell her that my crush hasn’t liked any of my recent Instagram posts.
“That’s tragic,” she mumbles into my neck.
“I thought we were still friends.”
“Did she like your posts before this happened?”
I pause to think about it and realise that she’s never liked any of my posts. I ignore this and say, “I shouldn’t have told her.”
“Not in Venus retrograde, that’s for sure.”
She always fall asleep before me. I lift her arm from my side and roll over to watch her.
I bite all of my fingernails down to a tiny length from anxiety. When there’s nothing left to chew on, I push Lou into my car and drive the hour’s trip down to Portsea. She brings a bunch of CDs and we listen to a bunch of white guys from the 1960s, but I don’t complain about the lack of representation in her choices because she looks so cute in her vintage white blouse, tied at the front, and knee-length pink skirt. Good Vibrations plays as she holds a strawberry to my lips. I quickly kiss her fingertips before she pulls her hand away, my mouth full of fruit.
A man on the beach sits with us and tells us the best fishing spots across the peninsula. It doesn’t bother him that I’m a vegetarian, probably because he’s focused entirely on Lou. I lay down and rest my head on Lou’s thigh, shutting my eyes against the sun and trying to block out the guy’s flirty banter. I grab Lou’s hand, smiling as she begins to smooth her thumb over my palm. I eventually fall asleep to the sound of her laugh.
When I wake up my head is on fire. The guy’s gone and Lou’s reading The Price of Salt; she peers over the top of her book as I raise my head.
I press a hand to my forehead. “I think I have heatstroke?”
She lunges for her tote bag, shoving a bottle of water and a yellow peach into my hands. “I doubt you have heatstroke, but please drink this anyway and I’ll drive you home.”
Normally I don’t let people drive my car, but Lou’s different. Also, I feel like shit.
On the way home Lou sings loudly to a song called Calendar Girl. I’m slightly impressed by the way she manages to sing both lead and backing vocals, and wonder how often she sings this in the shower. I decide to stop shutting my door whenever Lou sings in the apartment.
“Why do you only love old white men?” I ask.
She smiles and turns to me when we stop at a traffic light. Lou doesn’t like driving on freeways so we go along the highway instead, through the beach suburbs where rich people from the north have come down for their summer holiday.
“The songs are corny and the lyrics sometimes challenge my own feminist values, but the harmonies, Sophie. It’s the harmonies that make me fall in love with them, every time.”
Another song that sounds exactly the same as the last starts to play and Lou gasps and exclaims, “Yes good song!!” As she turns back to the road and starts to sing, grinning widely all the while, I wind down the passenger window and stick my head out. The salty air feels good rushing against my scalp.
First published in F*EMS Zine, issue 12