We reach Lime's building and she calls J to let her in.
"Good thing you never go out!" she laughs into the microphone on the security box. "Or else I'd never be able to get into my own damn home!"
"That's enough, dear," he says before unlocking the door.
"I'm not a fucking deer..." she groans.
"Let's just go straight to your room," I suggest. "We'll just completely ignore him."
She sighs in agreement as we crash into the elevator. I try not to look in the mirrors. The Night Mode lamp glows yellow inside the elevator, and Lime's white pants have turned yellow-orange. I look up to her face. She is staring at me with her mouth drawn in and cheeks twitching.
"Are you okay?" I ask. "It looks like you are about to explode."
She laughs loud and hard.
I ask her what is so funny, and glide up to her, trying to put my face into hers. She's taller than me but right now feels like she is melting under me. "What's funny?" I ask her again, wrapping my hand around the black tshirt and pulling her into me. She is writhing with giggles and trying to spit out my name. The elevator stops and opens and she zooms away from me. I chase her down the hallway to the door.
"J! Open the door!" she squeals. It slides open and she hops inside. I fly in behind her and the door zips shut behind me.
"What the hell are you girls doing?" J asks, standing up to see us hop through the livingroom to Lime's door. "No one followed you in, did they?"
Lime takes a final hop through her bedroom door and flies onto her crystal bubble bed.
I zoom in and close the door behind me, avoiding eye contact with J.
"I'm going to fill up our water bottles, do you still have yours?" I ask Lime, holding up the AQUA.NET bottle.
"Uh-uh," she grunts from the bed.
I fill up my own in her bathroom sink and wash my face a bit. The water feels like it isn't sliding away from my face. My eyes look different. I guess blacker. I take off my skates and stuff my socks way down into them to hide their smell and wash my feet in the sink. I hear Lime flipping through songs on her stereo. I walk in and sit on the end of her bed and hand her the full water bottle. There was an early electronic music album that I was listening to a lot last month, what was it?
"Do you have that Hiroshi Yoshimura album?" I ask.
"I don't remember what it's called."
"Was it Green?"
"It was more like blue."
Apparently that was a stupid thing to say.
"It's like doo doo doo doo doo doo," I try to specify.
Lime clicks up a projection of album artwork and clicks on one with a blue graphic. It says Soundscape 1 Surround.
"This one is boring," she says. "Just lemme pick something."
"Alright fine." I say. The projection on the ceiling flies through dozens of images and she lands on an image of a woman surrounded by sharp grey spikes. Or are the swords? Her face is painted with pink and yellow and orange and her eyes are staring straight through me. An electronic orchestra eases in to our ears and a heavy beat is laid below us. A soaring voice shoots across the room. "I guess I'm sick of oldies," she laughs.
"Does that shirt smell?" I ask her. "Some sweaty guy gave it to me so it probably smells." She pulls the collar over her nose and breathes in.
"Aye-uh-oh," she says from behind the shirt. I lean over her and inhale. She smells awful.
"It's terrible. You should... take it off. I'll throw it in your laundry."
"I can't smell it at all!" she laughs, pulling the bottom over her head. "I really can't!"
"That's weird," I say, pushing her arms up and pulling it over each of them.
"I always said I'd be happier if I couldn't smell and here I am! It's finally happened! A dream come true!" She laughs and tries smelling under her arms. "Nothing!" She leaps out of bed and over to her vanity. She picks up a bottle of perfume and sprays it right at her face. "Nothing!" she yells. "Oh wait." She coughs. "Maybe I can smell that."
"I can smell it form over here. It smells like some sort of candy nightmare!" I howl, pulling a sheet up to my nose.
"It's Bunny Algroix's perfume! It was really expensive. I thought it smelled like Sugar!" she coos.
"Like Sugar?" I ask from inside the sheet. "Turn on the blower!" I suddenly shout over to her, hoping that it erased what I just said.
Lime clicks on a fan and I slump out of the bed to throw the shirt in the laundry hole. I wave my hand across the glass hole. "It's not opening," I say. "Is your room like broken right now?"
Lime runs over and waves her hands back and forth over the hole until the glass slides back. I toss the shirt inside. "Because your door lock wasn't working either."
"That's not broken," Lime whispers to me but throws up her hands and shrugs her shoulders.
We sit on the floor and listen to the music. My stomach growls and I look through my bag for something to eat. The blue-grey spirit is sucking away at the croissant. I pull it out. It looks squished and smells stale. I pull off a layer and eat it. It tastes very bland. I don't bother offering any to Lime. Her eyes are closed and she can't smell it anyway. I scarf it down and take a deep swing of water. The blue-grey spirit in my bag is rolling around, gazing up at me. I lift it out and ask Lime if she wants to keep a spirit for me.
"You know I'm not going to be able to feel it," she sighs, and holds out her hand to me. I lower the blue-grey spirit into her open palm. It wobbles there for a moment before moving up her arm to her shoulder.
"This one might rather live in your room, instead of on you anyway," I explain.
"Is it on me yet?" She asks.
"Yes. It's trying to climb your hair." I giggle.
She sighs. "You should just take it back. It's wasted on me because I'm not magical at all," she quickly spits out at me.
"That's not true!" I say. Lime is plenty magical. At least, I always thought so. "I think you are magical," I say.
"You wish I was, Sugar- but I'm not. Just because you want me to be, that doesn't make me. Deep down under that wish, I know you know it. You just... forget or something. You look at me and see what you want and not what I am. That's why we can't be close, not really."
"Because I am incapable of seeing you?" I ask. I am trying to not get angry but why would she accuse me of that? I'm not an idiot living in some fantasy world.
"No! Because I'm not magical, I just told you. I don't have this thing that you have, that you need me to have."
"I don't need you to have anything," I try. Why does she think I'm incapable to seeing her but she apparently knows what I need? "I'm sorry." I pull the spirit away from her and place then back into my backpack. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do."
"I'm not saying I don't want to. I would, Sugar, I just... I mean I want to. I want to be able to be there with you with your spirit stuff. I just can't see what you can see. I just can't." She sounds like she is going to cry but she looks more serious than sad. Is she mad at me? I don't know what to do. I feel desperate and helpless. The singer wails over us and instruments crash around us.
"Is this why like..." I start, but don't really know how to finish. I want to know if this is why she left me back then, but I don't know if we were really together. I thought we were but people usually know when they've broken up. It's scary and dramatic and everyone cries and drinks and acts out afterwards. This was just like... I don't know. She was just with other people more and I got tired of being dragged around involuntarily or, worse, voluntarily tagging along. Sometimes I couldn't tell which was which. But it doesn't seem like there is anyone around now. "Where have you been, Lime?" I ask.
"I've been in here!" She flops over on the bed, exasperated. "I've been STUCK IN HERE!"
I can't help but feel like she is yelling at the room itself.
"Why don't you want to go out? I would go out with you. You can always just come over to my place, I mean I'm usually working early in the day but I'm done long before evening rush hour, usually. Are you not working anymore?" She is silent. I shouldn't have said all that. "I would love to hang out more again," I say slowly. Maybe we can just start there. I crawl up on the bed and lay down next to her and wait for her reply. When she finally speaks, I feel all my organs fall through the bed.
"I feel like I could never really be close to you, Sugar." Her voice is hard and matter of factly. "There is a gap between us that we can't close."
"But we are close!" I say. I am so ashamed that I made her feel that way. Why do I push her away? Why do I keep her at a distance? I was always afraid I'm not what she really wants. And so when it looked like she wasn't interested anymore, I made sure I didn't look desperate to be with her. But that wasn't what I wanted. "I never wanted to push you away!" I exclaim. "I can close the gap between us. I want to be close. I don't feel closer to anyone than you."
"I don't feel close to anyone," she says, staring at the ceiling. "That's how I can live in this place with J. I wish I could live like other people do- with people who love each other, but I just ruin it. It's just in my nature to want more, and then I hurt them. It's better I live with people who I can't bring myself to try loving because they're garbage. Well, the other girls who live here- they aren't all garbage, but J is garbage."
"Yeah I get the feeling that lately J has been exceptionally... himself," I try.
On cue, the bedroom door slides open and J is standing there, holding a drink. "Are you girls talking about me again?" he asks. Lime stands up and takes my hand. "How was the party tonight?" His voice is low and a bit slurred. Lime is pulling me into the bathroom. He starts to ask something else but the bathroom door closes before he can finish. Lime locks the door and leans against the sink, pushing her hands deep into her pockets. Her left arm digs deeper and deeper and she pulls out the pills.
"Want another one?" she asks.
"Yeah." I nod. Why not? Maybe it will help us have fun again. We both sit down to wait with the tablets under our tongues. There is a small fluffy white rug and we manage to fit both our butts and feet on it. Lime opens the cupboard under the sink and slowly starts pulling bottles out, reading them and putting them back. I listen for Jay's knock on the door, but it doesn't come.
"This stuff is supposed to prevent bacteria and fungus from growing on your head so you never get dandruff or smell weird. I always forget to use it. I should use it." She places it up on the sink.
"He sure did pop in uninvited, huh?" I say. Lime's eyebrows go up and she nods, still looking under the sink. "Almost like he heard us," I say. "Almost like he was..." Lime is nodding slowly and clenching her teeth.
"He can't get in here though," she says. "Already learned that lesson."
I wonder if Lime ever sleeps with J. She never told me that she did but the way he feels entitled to enter her room and apparently listen to her conversations makes it seem like maybe they did in the past? I don't know. I hear that men treat women like that sometimes. I always thought she hated him in the same way that you hate your boss. Her complaints were always at that level. But this seems a lot worse. But then again, what do I know? I've never had a boss. Not really.
"Want to take a bath?" she asks.
"Yeah." I nod. I try not to think about if it's a good idea or not.
She fills the tub. It takes a while and I can feel the pill working again. Now the idea of being in water sounds wonderful.
"Are you going to take off your clothes?" she asks. I guess I'm first. I don't know how long it has been since we've seen each other naked. Do I look the same? I feel like I never look different until I see a photo of myself. The water is very hot and fragrant.
"It's too bad you can't smell how nice the water smells," I tell Lime. "It smells like what the ocean smells like in the morning. But the ocean at Santa Monica, you know." She pulls the remains of her top over her head and I decide I should just look at the tiles. They are new but look like they haven't been cleaned in a while. The water rises as Lime gets in. I can smell her sweat humidifying. Now I'm glad she can't smell mine. She wraps her arms around me and we slide against the back of the square tub. She feels so nice but it is hard to enjoy her this time. I can't believe it was easier at the rave, in public with all those people around.
I ask her if J is making her stay here. She denies it.
"So why are you staying home so much?" I ask.
She takes a few moments before replying and I run through several worst-case scenarios.
She has a terminal illness and hasn't told anyone yet.
She is being hunted by a private security agency.
Her family got a tip that she is in this part of the city and she hasn't found a way to escape yet.
She has a debt somewhere that someone or thing has decided to collect on.
Thankfully she interupts my thoughts and tells me that she was trying to avoid socialization to explore her inner landscape. That is something I can understand. We talk about how drugs can help you see and learn things you wouldn't have without them.
I tell her that I wouldn't have made that breakthrough with spirit tongue if it weren't for Air elementals. I always worried that people would think I was delusional or that it was all a hallucination and therefore of my own creation, rather than a valid interaction with the outside world. But I know that Lime doesn't think like that. She knows better. I wonder what she has discovered lately. What does her inner landscape look like? I am a little afraid to ask. She will tell me if she wants to.
Eventually the water cools down. I step out onto the fiber bath mat. It soaks up the water from my feet instantly and I step off, leaving two soaked foot prints. The mat is so thin. Is it disposable?
When we exit the bathroom, the bedroom door is closed again. Lime turns off the main light but leaves a blue light glowing under the bed.
"I hate those yellow night lights," she mumbles. Standing naked by the bed, the blue light reflects off her legs, belly, and chin.
"I think the blue light suits you," I whisper. "I mean it's like... you know, it's flattering." She didn't have that the last time I stayed over. But back then, we used to pass out with the lights on most nights.
I dig a radio out of her closet that I left there months ago so that I could hear the shoutouts. I set an alarm on my handheld so that I won't miss them.
"How are you getting job requests nowadays?" I whisper.
"I'm not. I got off the list uh... like... a few weeks ago or something," she whispers back. "Come to bed."
I sleep in her bed with her for the first time in over a year. It doesn't feel weird at all.