Awake at four. Another sleepless night. Fired from her waitressing gig because of the risk of contamination, she now had nothing to swallow her time but The Project. Maybe some breakfast? What’s the point? Eating is for the living.
            She decided to call them in reverse alphabetical order from her little black book. Funny, they call it a little black book, but hers is canary yellow. Names, phone numbers, three or four per page. Thumbing through: so many nights, so many ill-advised drunken trysts, most of them partially remembered, at best. Grunts, creaking bed springs, sounds and sensations recalled with concentration—hazy, far-away. The next day always clearer: finding the condoms in her purse still in their foil packets, unutilized. Fingers crossed, a quick prayer, and then into the shower she’d go. Life goes on. A week ago, a cough she couldn’t shake, some sores dotting along her bikini line like soldier encampments. What could it hurt to go get it checked out? Better safe than sorry.
            She called Danny Zebrowski yesterday and that was all she could stomach for one day. Some simple chit-chat, then straight into it when he asked, “So, what’s up?” He must’ve known. They hadn’t spoken since he had gotten fired for their workplace affair. He probably had his eyes closed tight, hoping for it, at worst, it was just a baby and not the other thing. From her mouth into the receiver; the bullet travelled the phone lines to his waiting ear. He took it well. After a pause that lasted a thousand searing seconds, he said he’d get himself to the clinic. Oddly enough, he thanked her. Thanked her for telling him. “I’m with someone now that I’m pretty serious with, so it’s good to know before we—you know.” She apologized three times, her voice fragmenting on the last. “Take care of yourself, okay?” he said, vaguely passive-aggressive. She had to be honest with herself, there was no better reaction. He could’ve yelled, threatened legal action. She hung up, became catatonic in her prayers that it skipped him; that his test might come out clean.
            Today, after some coffee, she’d call the next one, Todd Yonkers. She took her eight pills and drank the bitter cup of black and failing to concentrate on the banal morning talk-shows, sighed. Back to it. She found her phone next to the yellow book on her nightstand, bookmarked with a matchstick. Cocooning herself in her comforter, in the bed where she had most likely caught it, she dialed Todd with the bad news sitting ready on her tongue.
            After Todd it’d be two down, sixty-four more to go.

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