Lanie Brice | Claritin

“Are you crying?” he asks. The phone line crackles with static.

“No, it’s the pollen,” I reply. “And your car speakerphone. It makes me sound awful.” My thumb hits the mute button before I sniff up the snot pouring from my nose like spring snowmelt. I push my glasses up to my hair.

“It’s the dead of winter.”

I close my eyes a long beat. “There’s mites in the snow. Triggers attacks for some people. People like me.”

“Okay,” he says. I can hear the road rushing underneath his car. It’s 6:05 now. The California sun must be setting into his eyes. He’s probably squinting instead of wearing sunglasses. I can see the bridge he’s crossing so clear I’m nearly there in the passenger seat ready to change the CD because he has horrible taste in music.

I taste salt; my lip’s bleeding from the dull bite of my teeth.

“I miss you,” he says.

The words reach through the phone and strangle me.

“Are you there?” he says after the silence stretches so far it splits. The road noise quiets. He’s nearly to the driveway.

I miss you means I am not there. I’m not there to pull the parking brake when he forgets. He lives on a steep hill. I cannot say “I miss you” even though my stomach feels like a scraped out pumpkin at the words. If I said it back, all my guts would spill out. I would get on a plane back to LA. I would ruin my life.

“I can’t do it anymore,” I say.



I hang up. I pull the throw blanket over my head. I click the volume on the television all the way up. There’s no other way to numb out in upstate New York. I turn off my phone. I want to die. I struggle to breathe through the thick snot.


The doorbell rings, and I don’t move. It must be coming from the TV.

Then it rings again. And there’s a knock.

I’m being robbed. By very polite thieves, apparently.

I wrap the blanket around my shoulders and shuffle to the door. A blond kid who couldn’t be older than seventeen is standing there with a plastic bag from CVS. “I have your delivery,” he says.

“I didn’t order anything?”

“This was the address I was given.” He shoves the bag toward me. “Just take it.”

I loop my hand through the handles gingerly and retreat back into the house. I spill its contents on the counter. A blue box of Claritin.

For the allergies.

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