Authors: Sadie Rabbit
days blended into a deliciously sun-drenched, free-for-all filled with fried Ahi tuna,
and mixed drinks in coconut shells.
Day 7, they went on an eight-hour
tour where they saw the Others’ barracks, Mr. Echo’s Nigerian village and the wooden tower where Daniel dismantled a nuclear bomb. Day 8, they chartered a sailboat. Day 9, they drove to the top of Kilauea.
By Day 10, Olivia was ready for a day
without plans. She slept in and awoke to the sound of gulls over the water. Her body was drained, but her mind felt pure. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t talked to her husband in nearly two weeks. It didn’t matter that she’d masturbated to another man saying dirty things in a recording. It didn’t matter that she only had two days of vacation left.
She felt whole again, as if life was something that was continually getting better. It was in this frame of mind that she sat down to write her proposal for Olivia.
The museum director wanted something grandiose, and Olivia would give it to her. From the small porch in front of her cabana, she stared out at the ocean and thought about deception. At its root, deception is a personal thing.
Our emotions and our bodies know the truth before we let our rational minds accept
it. It’s really ourselves we deceive.
With that in mind,
Olivia focused on creating an exhibit that made people confront her photographs alone, not surrounded by their friends or family. She wanted everyone to experience her work on their own level, in silence. This is what she wrote on the sheet of paper in her lap:
“The entrance will be a small room with eight doors, and each door will be labeled with a ‘deception.’ Beside the deception will be a lever. The guest should pull the lever beside the ‘deception’ they most often engage in. There will be eight options:
1: Acting confident when I’m not
Pretending like I love my significant other
Acting like I’ve never masturbated or looked at pornography
Pretending to believe in God
Pretending to like a ‘friend’ I can’t stand
Pretending to like my job
Pretending I’m not afraid of death
Acting like I don’t care about my appearance
“Pulling a lever will open a door. When
the guest goes through the door, they’ll be alone in a dim hallway. The door will close behind them. The only illumination will come from beams of light shooting through holes in the walls. When the visitors peer through the holes, they’ll see a room on the other side of the wall that’s filled with my photographs. Each of the photographs will show different forms of deception.
“At the end of the corridor, they’ll enter one more room dominated by an old TV. The TV will show a recording of them pulling the lever they picked a few minutes earlier. A rotary phone will ring on the table beside the TV. When the visitor lifts the handset, they’ll hear someone say, ‘Please push the red button to delete the video footage. Press the green button if you’d prefer to donate the footage to the artist for use in future projects.’
“When the visitor presses a button, the lights will come up, and a door will open into a common reception room where all the guests can mingle and look at larger versions of the photographs they saw in the corridors. There will also be a digital screen that keeps a time-delayed count of which levers have been pulled and how often they’ve been pulled.”
Olivia thought, smiling to herself. After jotting all her ideas in her notebook, she typed them up in an email for the museum director. She clicked send before she could start second-guessing her idea. She knew it was weird, but weird seemed to be exactly what the other Olivia wanted.
Not even an hour later, Olivia got a response
I love this idea. Love, love, love it! I think people would come even if your photographs were terrible
which, of course, they’re not! :) I’ll work with our construction crew to start drawing up plans. Hopefully we’ll be ready to sit down with you and review them when you return from your trip!
Olivia was basking in the museum director’s response when her phone rang. It wasn’t a number she recognized. Normally, she wouldn’t have answered, but just then she felt up for talking to anyone — even a potential telemarketer.
“Olivia,” a man said
on the other line, “my name’s Dun Fletcher. I’m an attorney representing your husband, Mike, and I have the unfortunate task of letting you know he’s filed for divorce.”
Time stopped. Olivia sat down on her bed, dropped the phone without bothering to hang up and stared through the window at the palm fronds waving in the wind. She felt like she should be screaming, crying or raging. Instead, a numbness settled over her.
She stood and paced the room.
Why didn’t he have the balls to call me himself?
She picked her phone up off the ground and hung up on the attorney. She dialed Mike’s
cell number. It went straight to voicemail. She hung up and dialed the landline at their house. It rang and rang and rang, but no one came to answer, not even a maid. She tried Mike’s office but was told he’d left for the day. It was as if he’d fallen off the face of the earth.
That son of a bitch,
she thought, surprising herself with the ferocity of her anger.
I’ve been trying to work things out for months, years maybe, and he doesn’t even have the balls to call me and tell me he wants a divorce?
Olivia stomped out the door and crossed the deck to Charlotte and Kenneth’s cabana.
Her friends were sprawled out on the couch in their living room — Charlotte laid flat with her head resting in Kenneth’s lap.
“Mike filed for divorce,” Olivia said.
Charlotte sat up quickly. “No fucking way,” she said. “No way.” Her best friend stood and wrapped her arms around Olivia. “I’m so sorry.”
Olivia felt numb in the embrace. “He didn’t even have the courage to tell me himself,” she said. “I got a phone call from his lawyer.”
“Uh oh,” Kenneth said. “That’s not a good sign.”
“Of course that’s not a good sign,” Charlotte said to him. “It’s a sign that Mike’s a heartless bastard.”
“I know,” Kenneth said. “I’m just thinking it might be a sign that he’s planning to fight you for money.”
“Mike wouldn’t do that,” Olivia said.
She hadn’t thought Mike was the sort of man who would give up on his marriage so easily either.
“It’ll be fine,” Kenneth said. “You haven’t worked in years, and it’s not like he has any dirt on you. You’re not a drug addict, you’re not dangerous and you don’t have any secret lovers.”
Olivia’s breath caught in her throat. What if Mike found out about her correspondence with Thomas? Would that amount to much? She stole a glance at Charlotte, and she could tell her friend was thinking the same thing.
“I just want to hear it from him,” Olivia said, “hear what it is that he doesn’t love about me anymore.”
“Hey, honey,” Charlotte said softly, guiding her onto the couch. “It doesn’t work like that. You got married young and people change over time. I’ve known Mike almost as long as you have, and I can say beyond a doubt that he’s a different person. Sometimes I can’t even see the old Mike in there at all. He’s like some sort of corporate drone. He’s turned into an asshole.”
Olivia couldn’t meet her friend’s eye.
“I think I need to be alone,” she said.
Charlotte nodded. She looked like she was about to break into tears, and Olivia wondered why she didn’t feel the same.
Am I in denial?
Back in her cabana, s
he thought about catching an early flight back. It wouldn’t do much good, though. She wasn’t sure Mike would let her back in the house and without Charlotte and Kenneth back in Dayton, she’d have to find a hotel room.
She picked up her phone to try Mike again. A voicemail was waiting for her. It was the attorney’s office, so she played
the message first.
“Hi Olivia,” the man said. “This is Dun Fletcher. I wanted to tell you this when we spoke earlier, but I know it’s a big shock for you, and I completely understand. Mike’s agreed to pay for an apartment for you during the proceedings. We’ll just need copies of all your expenses — everything, your food, phone bills, whatever you spend money on — and we’ll reimburse you through an account Mike set up. For the moment, your belongings are in a storage locker off Keowee Street in Dayton. When you get back, you can give us a call, and we’ll get you a key and all the information you need. We also have a debit card that you can use for immediate needs. Again, I’m sorry that we’re speaking under these circumstances. Please give me a call if you need anything. One other thing that I have to mention: Mike’s asked that you don’t try to reach him.”
Olivia deleted the message and dialed Mike’s number. Again, it went straight to voicemail. Olivia started to hang up but couldn’t.
“Mike,” she said, “I’m not sure what’s going on. I’ve been trying to reach you the whole trip, and I get this call from your goddamn attorney. I need to talk to you. I’m scared and confused, and I don’t know what’s happened to us.”
When she hung up the phone, she felt caged and restless. It was like her cabana had been transported to a tiny island where she was the only inhabitant. In the span of 30 minutes, she’d journeyed from euphoria to being the loneliest woman in the world.
The tears came long after midnight. Olivia sat on the beach with an uncorked bottle of Merlot in the sand beside her. The lights were off in the cabanas, and it was just Olivia and the stars.
Sitting there, she thought of her honeymoon. Mike was a salesman at Verizon then
; nothing glamorous, but he was livelier, more carefree. He looked at Olivia when he spoke, and his eyes were affectionate. The third night, they snuck onto the beach at St. Augustine with a bottle of wine. Half-drunk, they walked hand-in-hand to a deserted pier and made a pact to jump off together.
Olivia remembered how hard her heart was thumping when they climbed over the railing. She could feel the ocean spray when the waves crashed against the pier below.
“We don’t even know how deep it is,” she shouted over the sound of the waves.
“It’ll be deep enough,” Mike said.
Olivia looked down at the inky black water. It mixed together with the night sky, so she wasn’t sure where the sky ended and the water began.
“It’s like our wedding,” Mike said. “It’s a leap of faith.”
They counted to five and jumped. The sound of rushing air filled Olivia’s ears before the ocean swallowed her. It was so shallow, though, that she slammed into the sand with her rump. She popped up out of the water laughing. The water they’d jumped into was barely chest deep. Mike wasn’t so lucky. Instead of landing on his bottom, he’d kept his legs straight as corn stalks and managed to sprain both of his ankles. He spent the next day of their honeymoon with a hangover in the hospital.
Looking back now, Olivia wondered if it was an omen: their leap of faith was doomed from the start.
She woke to the sound of knocking. Olivia groaned and covered her eyes against the sunlight. The room was impossibly bright. Even with her eyes closed, it was too bright.
“Wake up, Sleepyhead!” Charlotte called out from the other side of the door.
a rolled over in her bed, but Charlotte wasn’t going away. She poked her head in the open window beside the door.
“Livy!” she said. “It’s our last full day in Hawaii, and I don’t care if a nuclear bomb blows up the moon. We’re going to enjoy it.”
Olivia started to smile, but even that made her head hurt. She must have drunk a lot more wine than she realized last night.
“What are we going to do?” she croaked out from the bed.
“Meet us at the car in half an hour, and you’ll find out,” Charlotte said. “It’s a secret.”
Thirty minutes later, Olivia climbed into the convertible. The Advil was
starting to work. Kenneth sat in the back, puffing on a cigar, acting as if he didn’t have a care in the world, which he probably didn’t.
“Where are we going?” Olivia asked.
“You’ll see,” Charlotte said. “It’s something I never thought I’d do.”
They drove the first 15 minutes in silence. Olivia tried to memorize the skyline, the soaring cliffs, the blue of the water and the plants — everywhere the plants. Life exploded out of the tiniest mounds of dirt in Hawaii.
“So, how would you like to go apartment hunting when I get back?” Olivia asked.