“It’s All Good” by Brittany Ackerman

Editor’s note: “It’s All Good” was a finalist for the Show Us Your Short-Shorts Editors’ Prize.

I meet my boss for lunch at Kaya Sushi House in Mar Vista.  It’s not quite Venice Beach and not quite Culver City either, somewhere in between the two.  I’m in a plaid skirt and a grey muscle tee with my leather jacket.  I’m trying out the badass LA look, which I feel confident enough today to pull off.  Traffic was a bitch, but I’m not concerned, just listened to Arcade Fire the whole way and dreamt of Omakase style and expensive things.

I’m waiting at the bar.  I take off my jacket, then put it back on.  I watch the fake rain cascade down the windows.  A man in a green jacket walks by the door.  He turns around startled and comes inside.

He gives me a big kiss on my neck.  I give an anxious twitch and smile politely, in a cute way, in a way that appears a bit inappropriate.

We sit down at the back corner booth and he orders a bunch of things I don’t understand.  I only object to eel and ginger.  The rest is fine, the rest is all good, whatever he decides is cool.

He tells me about work, that it’s going well; super busy, and that people miss me.  Well, they don’t miss me, but no one’s said anything bad since I left.  He says he only heard good things, and that he always knew I was a fucking genius.  I look out into the daylight.  It’s late afternoon, lunchtime in Los Angeles, and he’s skipping work for me.

He asks me how I’m doing.

“I’m perfect,” I say it as a joke, but then I think I might even mean it.

He tells me about his life, his past life, before LA, before graphic design, before producing, before he got married, twice, and had a bunch of kids.  He says each time it gets worse, less meaningful, less likely not to cheat.

“Do my eyelashes look like paintbrushes?” I interrupt.

“They look great,” he says dumbfounded.

The food comes and it’s amazing.  When we’re done he moves to my side of the booth.  The restaurant is closing down for a break before dinner.  We’re the only two customers left.

“It’s so romantic here, with the rain,” he points outside.  I follow his finger.  He means the imitation rainfall.  I wonder if he knows what’s real.

“That’s not real,” I say, “None of this is real.”

He grabs my thigh.

I stir the ice cubes around in my glass of water.  I think about taking one more gulp and leaving, getting out of this place, out of LA.  What’s any of this mean anyway?  Why am I still here, doing this, what am I doing?  What am I still doing here?

He moves his hand up my leg.  I let it happen, I let his eyes drift deep into mine, he’s looking for something, he’s waiting for me to pounce, for me to completely let go right here in this booth in the middle of the afternoon with the fake rain and the hand rolls and he sweeps my hair to my left shoulder and I get up, I can’t do it, I have to leave, I have to get out of here now.

He follows me outside and says, “Come on,” but I say, I can’t and I look away.  I look back at the window panels from outside now and they look different, it doesn’t look like rain, it just looks wet, like tears, like a face full of tears.  Part of me wants to feel his fingers, the one that pointed to the rain all over me, and the rest of me, the part that’s all good, the part that’s cool, gets in the car and drives back down La Cienega, and gets out.  I pull over and look above my steering wheel.  It’s a sunny day, 75 degrees, and I can’t tell, I can’t tell if any of it is even real.

Brittany AckermanBrittany Ackerman is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University’s MFA program in Creative Writing.  In 2016 she completed a residency at the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, as well as the Mont Blanc Workshop in Chamonix, France under the instruction of Alan Heathcock.  She recently attended the Methow Valley Workshop in May of 2017 under the leadership of Ross Gay.  Her work has appeared in the West Texas Literary ReviewThe Write LaunchQueen Mob’s Tea House, Two Cities Review, and others.  She currently lives in Los Angeles with her forthcoming collection of essays entitled The Perpetual Motion Machine to be released by Red Hen Press in the fall of 2018.

Website: brittanyackerman.com