Dana awoke in a room she couldn't recognize.
She had found herself in a sea of cheap liquor bottles and discount, bottom shelf beer cans. The stench of sweat and last night's brandy surrounded her blankets and body. Sometimes, it was hard to tell the difference between whether the smell came from urine or some dead animal. This debate didn't seem to matter since Dana never noticed nor bothered to care. Breathing in a fresh gulp of putrid air, she finally realized that something rancid had decided to take her mouth without paying rent.
It was probably time to kick the tenant out.
Holding in a biblical flood of yesterday's stomach contents, Dana shuffled through the bottles and accidentally shattered a few that were conveniently stacked up in pyramids. As the glass came crashing down along with the noises of cascading junk, the bathroom door sealed and air hissed out the cracks. Within the airlock (or bathroom, as it should be,) Dana's face met the mouth of a toilet. The cargo she carried violently expelled itself, and at the end of a good majority made it into the water.
Now, unlike the rest of her small home, the bathroom remained at a moderate level of cleanliness. The floor's tiles stayed white and shiny at all times. The mirror smelled of lemon and the more respectable form of alcohol. Dana's shower, toilet, sink, and anything else that she might use remained spotless and free of mold and such. It all had the same sense of having the signature "Alien" touch of contrast when compared to everything else on the other side of the door.
A bedroom is a comfy place, and a bathroom is a cleanly place. That's what Dana always says.
After five minutes in hot water and minty soap, Gardenia's resident dreamer fled the dungeon of filth and got into her car. With a fresh set of clothes and a new day ahead of her, she set out to take it by the neck and strangle it firmly.
Her mouth opened and out came her mantra, "Another day, another Dana."
For some odd reason, her journal held no new words.
The roads looked and felt adequate, and there was indeed nothing wrong with the pavement, but the paths all took her to the same destination. She passed the interstate and ignored the highway out of Gardenia, made a turn into local route towards the central part of town, and soon found herself at the counter of a national chain pharmacy.
She bought two ginger ales and a bottle of lemon air freshener. It seemed she forgot her medicine.
Refreshments in hand, she returned to her car and drunk only one of the ales. She used the lemon to make her car smell less like a body died in it.
Today was a day where Dana felt like driving and not doing much. She never traveled more than she needed to, so Burt's Bar and the pharmacy were the only places she went. However, for some odd reason, she felt trapped in a dreamlike state where the only things in the world were the car, nostalgia, and herself.
She saw what remained of many buildings and homes. Her eyes bore witness to all sorts of decaying memories and places no longer recognizable. The library that had been shut down years ago because the town never cared to keep it up. Years ago it was once the place where she had met her husband, a writer whose name will never be remembered by anyone on the outside. In her memories, the books were always making music as many put them down and picked them up. The sounds of rustling paper and pens on paper always put Dana at ease. However, these days that quiet music has grown silent.
Dana's car seemed to shake and growl as if it were being held captive as a kind of zoo animal. Dana's palms grew sweaty as her grip on the wheel tightened. Her knuckles turned pale, the presence of her feet on the pedals disappeared, and soon she brought the vehicle along to a stop near the harbor.
A graveyard of ships awaited her. A few of the boats, scrapped for all their worth, rested near the beach and away from the docks. Nets scattered across the wood lay dormant, waiting for human contact. Tools of all sorts had rusted and been left in various places, forgotten. Lonely little trinkets and curios lined the shores of Gardenia. There were plenty of shells, an abundance of rocks, and loads of trash. The air here, which smelled of rotten eggs, was the most she could hope for regarding "Fresh Air."
Dana stepped out from her car, hobbled over as her lousy leg started to ache and throb, and laid down in the dirty sand. She didn't care if her lovely blouse got covered in sand or cut by pieces of glass hidden in the wastes. Her mind wandered off as it always did every so often, and she began to dream in the middle of the day.
A boat, a small one with lovely white sails and maybe yellow paint. Her beloved smiling from the deck with his hands on the railing. Dana's mind forgot the color of the paint, but they recalled the shape of her husband's hair, the color of his eyes, and just about everything except his face. The red boat sailed through the sea of colors, and Dana failed to see a single bottle or can swimming around them. There were what she imagined real fish to look like, and as her husband caught one with his bare hands, she could taste the salt from the water it splashed about. Its scales reflected the sun and turned all shades of the rainbow, continually remaining inconsistent.
The two lay together on the deck, staring at the sky from their little blue boat to the rich orange above.
She awoke in her bed. The drive home had been unclear, and she felt adrift in the winds of today. Dana had not gone to the bar tonight. She did not forget to go it was just that she didn't feel like going. The room happened to be cleaned, as if by ghosts, and all traces of junk had been removed, and the carpet cleaned. Dana's nose no longer picked up the scent of chemicals and piss. Her mouth was vacant, but it tasted vaguely of lemon and ginger ale. All noises in the room had gone away, absent as except for her slow breathing. Dana closed her eyes. She drifted, alone, on the queen-sized raft that she shared with no one. In her dream, she faced her husband, not a drink nor a bartender. In her dream, she was no longer alone. In her dream, she decided to stay.
Her bathroom remained clean, not a single stain or any speck of dust. There had only been one thing left on the counter of the sink.
An orange bottle with its white cap next to it.