Essays — February 2, 2012 16:47 — 5 Comments

Slim-Fast Vacation – Lori Horvitz

Two years had gone by since my last relationship ended, since I last kissed anyone. Not for lack of trying. I went on dates with women, most of whom I met on the Internet–one who told me her ex-girlfriend had accused her of strangulation, but in her defense, said, “There weren’t even any marks on her neck!” When I asked how she trained her four well-behaved Jack Russell dogs, she said, “I beat the shit out of them!” Another who, when I told her I was Jewish, said, “I once met a woman from Germany.” And another who was a cowgirl line-dance champion from Tennessee. No one interested me. And then I met Josie, a quick-witted Montessori teacher from Charlotte. Together we commiserated about our bad luck at Internet dating. She had just been dumped by a woman she called “Butchie.”

“Why did she dump you?” I asked over email. She wrote: “ALL BUTCHIE WOULD SAY WAS THAT IT WAS A FEELING. SHE COULDN’T PUT HER FINGER ON IT.” Every email she sent was in capital letters. I asked her why she “screamed” all the time. “I’M NOT SCREAMING. THIS IS WHO I AM.”

Along with her quick wit came inappropriate sex talk, and that made me nervous. Not that I’m a prude, but I always figured that people who go over the top when it comes to sex talk, especially with strangers, are the ones who have the most hang-ups in real life. I told her this. In response, she said, “I TALK THE TALK BUT I ALSO WALK THE WALK.” I reevaluated what I wanted from her. I’d never had casual sex but maybe, just maybe, I thought, I should try it. After all, it had been two years, and she did live out of town, and why shouldn’t I have a little fun? So I invited Josie for a visit. Her response: “I WENT OUT AND BOUGHT ALL THESE SLINKY CLOTHES TO WEAR WHEN I’M VISITING YOU.”

Josie drove two hours to my house, skidded into my driveway and stepped out of a beat-up Pontiac. Unlike most women I met on the computer, she was a lot cuter than her photos. A short bob haircut, a white sailor top, and on her feet, big black rubber-soled Mary Janes. Along with a suitcase, she carried a case of Slim-Fast through my door. It took her several minutes to jam the twelve cans into my refrigerator. Especially with a big box of donuts in the way. I had just bought a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. “What’s up with the donuts?” she asked.

“I’m on the donut diet,” I said. “I’m trying to eat two or three donuts a day to gain weight.”

She rolled her eyes. “Lucky you,” she said. “I wish I could be on the friggin’ donut diet.”

That night we went out to eat and she told me about Butchie. “She’s having a party next week,” she said. “She invited me. Then dumped me. I still might go.”

“Why would you want to go?”  I asked.

“She wasn’t as cute as you,” she said. “I knew we’d be friends. You and me. We’re both crazy and paranoid and insecure.”

“Good thing,” I said, “we have a lot in common.”

Back at my house, I stirred up a mix of scotch, ginger ale and lemonade. She sipped her drink and said, “Why are you serving me something that tastes like Band-Aids?”

“What’s wrong with Band-Aids?”

She tasted her drink again. “You’ve got a point.”

On my sofa, we talked about music and art and movies and she repositioned herself so she’d be closer to me. She impressed me with her in-depth knowledge of Modernist painters and writers, including Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein.

But she didn’t make a move, and I was scared and it was getting late so I finally led her to my guest room where I sat next to her on the bed, and I thought, it’s now or never. So I put my hand on her shoulder. She froze up. “What are you doing?” she asked.

I pulled my hand away. “I’m sorry!” I got up to leave the room.

“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “I didn’t think you liked me.”

“Forget it happened,” I said.

She crossed her arms. “I don’t know how to respond,” she said. “I just had no idea you liked me.”

I walked from the guest room to my bedroom, humiliated and puzzled. So much for a fun-filled weekend of casual sex. Before crawling into bed, I locked my door, like I always did, since I was a woman living alone.

The next morning we went to a diner down the road, full of deer heads and Hollywood photos of Greta Garbo and Rock Hudson. A group of men at the next table talked about a gun show at the local convention center. Josie, in a tight white halter-top, sat close to me. She told me about her father, now in a wheelchair, who abused her as a child. “The fucker fucked me up bad,” she said. Her dark eyes, now sad and glassy, affixed themselves to a deer head.

“I’m sorry,” I said, barely able to swallow my scrambled eggs. “I’ve heard that story too many times.” In the form of deep worry marks on her face and ripped up cuticles, the heaviness of this knowledge became apparent.

She sighed. “And then I had to help my mother take care of him,” she said, her eyes still stuck on the deer, “after his stroke.”

I put my hand on her arm. She reached for my hand, placed hers atop mine, leaned into me and whispered, “So when are you going to kiss me?”

I swallowed my egg, raised my eyebrows. Not the smoothest segue.

“I want you to do things to me,” she said. “I tried to come into your room last night, but the door was locked.”

After breakfast, I led her back to my bedroom and onto my bed. We kissed for a moment, but she sprung up and yelled, “You need to close the blinds! Make the room dark!”

I closed the blinds, now a tad concerned by her frantic orders.

“I need darkness!” she said.

We continued to kiss, and that was okay, until I felt sweaty and asked if she wanted to take her shirt off.

“I need material!” she said. “Material between us!”

I lifted my head. “What’s up with needing material?”

“Cloth,” she said. “Material!”

“I know what material is,” I said. “But why?”

“Haven’t you been with anyone,” she said, “who has intimacy issues?”

Even in the dark, I noticed her eyes, now focused on the ceiling. They started to water.

“I’ve got issues,” she eked out.

For a while we held each other. I caressed her arm, combed my fingers through her bob, wiped a tear from her cheek. And then, as if a shrill alarm clock went off, she said, “Doesn’t your dog have to go on a walk?”

We drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and found a short trail to hike. At one point, Josie stopped in the middle and asked me to kiss her.

“Here?” I said.

She said, “Don’t you think it’s sexy to kiss in public?”

I kept walking.

On the drive back to my house, we sang along to R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” and stopped off at a lake where we watched my dog fetch a stick and bring it back, over and over. Josie applauded each time. I imagined her at her job, encouraging young children, affirming them with gold stars, big smiles and loud claps.

Soon after, she packed up her Slim-Fast cans, every one of them, and drove away. Two hours later, when she got home, she emailed me: “I MISS YOU FEROCIOUSLY AND LONG TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU.”

It’d been a long day. I hadn’t eaten much since breakfast and now craved a donut. But when I opened the box, it was empty. The whole dozen, gone. All that remained were crumbs.


Lori Horvitz's poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared in many literary journals including Southeast Review, Hotel Amerika, Quarter After Eight, The Jabberwock Review, Thirteenth Moon and California Quarterly. She's currently an Associate Professor of Language and Literature at University of North Carolina at Asheville.


  1. RT says:

    Hey, this was good. Short and good.

  2. MT says:

    I think I get why Butchie cut off the relationship…..yea, oddly heartbreaking is right but I liked it a lot.

  3. Deb says:

    Laughed out loud but it’s a sad story. Do you still eat the donuts?

  4. Yvonne says:

    First time reading the “Monarch,” and your story the first piece I read. Excellenty crafted.

  5. Ryn Hayes says:

    Clever, interesting, funny, moving, and excellent writing! I love it! Thank you.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney