"I had a yard sale once," Lia said, pacing slightly in the grass, slipping her sandals off and on. "I did it because I had a huge crush on the guy who lived next door, and I was desperate to meet him. So I put out all of my best stuff, so that he’d see what kind of fabulous person I was and want to meet me."
"Did it work?" Irma asked.
"I even went out and bought a bunch of new stuff the day before," Lia said. "I bought peacock feathers!" she shrieked.
"Did it work?" Irma asked again.
"I guess so," Lia said. "He bought a lot of it, and then he asked me out. But when I went over there for our date, he was living with all my stuff, and I just didn’t know him well enough, it was creepy."
"Did you move?" Andy asked.
Lia looked startled. "Yes. I guess I did. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But I moved a couple of months later. Are you moving?"
"Is that why the yard sale?"
"No, just getting rid of some stuff. It was that or move."
"I know what you mean," Irma said. "Sometimes I think my apartment is renting me."
"I used to shop a lot in thrift stores," Lia said. "But I kind of tapered off after that date. I started thinking about where everything might have been, and it was just too much."
My house owns me, even though I rent it, Andy thought brightly, but didn’t get it out because Irma was saying, "I wonder what’s worse though, that or always buying brand-new stuff. New things seem to me to be in so much pain. It’s all so badly made. It’s so brutal! I think it takes years for things to recover from being made, at least the things I can afford."
"I feel the same way about people," Andy said. Both women looked at him.
"New people — like born-agains, or happy people."
"Yes!" Lia cried. "I know exactly what you mean." She took a couple of back-and-forth steps on the lawn. "People with new jobs, or who are in love!!"
Andy began to experience the magic of his complete lack of sexual attraction to either of these relatively attractive girls. Like a little glow, it was.
"I like people when they’re just alive," he said. "Without the hype."
"Yes!" Lia cried again. Irma smiled up into the sun, ruminative.
"You know when I like people the best?" Andy ventured.
"When?" Lia asked. He liked her. She was game.
"I like them riding the bus."
They all took a moment to picture it.
"When they’re in public, but they’re all shut down and quiet, and they’re going somewhere, but it’s somewhere they always go. It’s never an emergency."
"You don’t take the bus to an emergency," Irma agreed.
"You know what’s fun?" Lia said. "Watching people watch a movie. I did that once, when I was in Spain, and an American movie was playing, but it turned out to be dubbed, and I couldn’t understand a word, so I turned around and sat watching people watch the movie, and their faces were open." She darkened for a moment. "That almost sounds creepy, now that I say it. But it wasn’t at the time, it was perfectly innocent, I swear."
Andy liked everything they did or said. This, he thought, this is how you’re supposed to feel.
"Hey, you know that wallpaper?" Andy said.
"You mean the Prozac-by-the-yard stuff?" Irma said.
"What?" Lia said.
Andy nodded. "I had some put in yesterday. Would you like to see it?"
He led the way through the open front door into the living room. They all three stood in the middle of the room, striking attitudes of assessment.
"It’s blue?" Lia said, and they giggled and shushed each other like visitors to a serious art gallery.
"I was listening to the Top 40 yesterday," Andy said, beckoning them close, "and I started to cry!"
Irma giggled again. "No wonder you’re sitting on the porch."
Lia looked around the room. "Okay," she whispered. "Okay. Let’s just all sit in here for a while and see what happens."
Irma gestured toward the front door, and the lawn. "If anybody comes by, we’ll hear them."
"Okay," Andy said, "let’s do it."
They took up positions on the carpet, Irma against the wall with an eye to the door, Andy leaning back against the sofa, and Lia cross-legged in front of the coffee table.
"It’s like being in Egypt," Lia whispered after a while, smiling.
The compressor on the refrigerator kicked in with a low, thrombic hum.Hillary Johnson is the author of Physical Culture, a novel, and Super Vixens’ Dymaxion Lounge, a collection of nonfiction. She lives in a Hollywood high-rise.