They were talking and smoking up a storm. A layer of white gray smoke lingered, clingy and hung in the highest two feet of air closest to the ceiling. Swirling and psychedelic in the beams of sunlight coming through the wide slats of the wood blinds. They were no longer paying any attention to it.
Earlier they had each been occupying separate ends of the couch, heads hanging over the edge, upside down and legs sprawled across the brushed suede cranberry upholstery of it. Across the back and over it and one of them had a knee on the seat cushion. They had turned upright again, though. Relit the pipe. It was hard to hold smoke in when you were upside down, even harder to let it out without coughing.
They were trying not to wake the children. The less hacking and sputtering the better, it was enough work just to keep their voices quiet. Quiet was mostly an anti-priority, just then, except for the sleeping children. But they were sleeping and so difficult to actively remember.
"You know in that movie. I don’t know what the title is, the name of a plant or a flower or something; just one word, maybe Orchid or something but I know that’s not it. I don’t know. It’s by that one guy; I think he writes them and directs them, too. His name is a bunch of names, all strung together. Like four of them I think, all strung altogether. Two first names. Two last names. I can’t remember. He’s good, famous, renowned now, but this was his first movie. Nobody knew him then or if he was going to be any good and it was really long. That first movie. Like four hours or something."
Her voice was lilting and monotone, a little of both at the same time. Like a minimalist fiction writer, Chuck Palahniuk or Lorrie Moore, reading their own writing. She was getting louder in a way unrelated to the plot or content of what she was saying. Decibel drift, her sister thought. She’s always had the worst case of decibel drift of anyone I know.
"He’s made a bunch of other movies since then, or well maybe not a bunch but several, a few at least, yes, let’s just say several."
"Yeah yeah yeah…" Lanie held out one finger, crooked her wrist a little bit, moved it around in a vertical circle in front of her as if she was cranking a handle, "so what about it? The movie. How is it relevant?" She spoke her own words with an exaggerated bobbing head and a hushing-hushed tone while she used her other hand to quiet her sister down — with her palm stretched flat and floating, pressing toward the floor for a reduction in volume.
Lanie had no idea what movie Megan was talking about and she was suspicious there was no point to this story at all other than talking noise, but it was always her job to keep these conversations moving along. She had to remind her older sister to keep her voice down and at the same time keep her brain from bouncing, willy-nilly, topic to topic, out of control without any order or plot or logic. It was not the easiest job. Not that it mattered all that much, not that her sister was talking about anything that mattered. Her sister just talked a lot. She talked a lot about nothing. Sometimes she said the occasional brilliant thing. Often she said the too insightful thing no-one wanted to hear. At this point however, Lanie wasn’t aiming for silence, or coherence, she was merely looking to avoid any further interaction with her children — jet lagged and sleeping in the next room. She was secretly hoping they might sleep for a day or two. Hoping she might have time to both get smashingly drunk and sleep it off before they woke. Not likely but one could dream.
Her sister responded to the shushing without missing a beat.
"Oh! Sorry!" Megan said in a whisper shout. Then she went back to a normal, though slightly quieter tone. As she was talking she got up, turned around and sat cross-legged on the floor, opposite Lanie on the other side of the coffee table, her back to the hallway down which the children’s room slept.
"So there’s that character, the redhead, the gold-digger and she’s married the oldster and he’s finally dying of lung cancer in the middle of their gigantic mansion. There’s a hospital bed and a hospice nurse and all right there in the living room and he’s on an IV and sedated and all but she is freaking. Just freaking." Lanie did the hand flat bouncy floating gentle be quiet gesture again. Megan brought it down. "So in that scene, she is in her shrink’s office just fucking freaking out. Explaining how he has to do something or give her drugs or she doesn’t really want drugs, or she’s already got drugs and they aren’t working and she’s just pacing and demanding and crying and nothing can help her and she’s frantic and she’s crying and she’s desperate and angry and crazed and…"
"Okay, yeah. I get it, I remember, I think." Lanie still had no idea but she figured Megan was bound to reveal the point and it wouldn’t matter that she couldn’t picture it. They were, after all stoned anyway and just passing time while the kid’s slept. So, whatever. Let her talk. Nod and let her talk. Just keep nodding, she thought.
Lanie nodded and did the hand crank gesture again. ”So she’s frantic, so what?!” Her impatience showed through in her own, ever louder growing, whisper.
"So. I don’t know. It’s like she… Or well, even though she, she finagled the sort of ultimate rescue scenario, rescued from every worry and care, financially she was set, the old guy was still madly in love with her and he was about to die, he was perfectly taken care of and so would she be… it was the ultimate modern knight in shining armor ideal rescue situation and she was there in that shrink’s office still needing to be rescued. Freaking the fuck out on his ass, because she needed to be rescued and there was nothing he could do for her."
Lanie leaned forward. She made the shushing gesture with her hands again but she was nodding. Not in complacency this time, not in an effort at quietuding her sister, now. Her own pupils were wide, now. Her pulse was starting to race. She was remembering the scene now herself. Megan had forced her to watch the movie back before the kids were born, she had hated the scene. Had not really liked much of the movie but this story line did stand out in her memory now. She remembered.
"Sheesh. Yeah. Okay, I remember now. But so, yeah? What about it? Why are we talking about this now?"
"The movie was about redemption.” Megan lowered her voice voluntarily at this point. She was calming down, reflexively, as Lanie got more agitated. “That woman had no shot at redemption until she got exactly what she was asking for, she got exactly what she was seeking… and then it failed her.”
Lanie sat back into the couch with an umpf sound. As if she’d been caught off guard by the toss of a medicine ball. Some compact, but still clumsy weight, unsuspectingly strong, aimed and connected right in her middle. A punch of force powerful enough to knock you back but with no glamorous warning. No tragic omen. It felt like it might have broken her whole self She was no longer shushing. She’d been silenced.
Lanie shook her head. She lit the pipe. She handed it to Megan who was nodding slow, firm deliberate. Both of them, eyes wide. Wide and glassy.