Cover Girl

Renée K. Nicholson

Forecast, ice: even the college radio station reported it. Winters in central Indiana tended towards ice storms. We fortified ourselves best we could with box wine and vegetable trays with dip, marked down with the reduced-price yellow sticker to buy and eat immediately. Already the edges of the celery turned brown and suspect. Twenty something, filling out a dancer’s body with hips and breasts, things that happened to other girls in their tweens and teens, I pretended at being a grown-up and haphazardly failed. My friends and I fell somewhere between young professionals and slackers. The storm loomed over our Friday night, and we got tipsy on the box wine, a blush, as terrible as it sounds. Of course none of us had money to go out anyway. We played Monopoly and I owned property from Baltic Avenue to Marvin Gardens, hotels on Park Place. I had been sent directly to jail, and I didn’t need two-hundred dollars because I collected the cold hard cash from the thimble and the race car and top hat. College radio informed us that the temperatures were dropping.

My friend, Jeffery Michael Thomas Flannigan, taking two and a half gap years before grad school in Psych, and who I probably don’t have to say came from a prodigious Irish family, landed on Park Place and promptly swore in that long-winded lilt of his people.

“I don’t believe for a fucking moment you were a fucking English major,” he said. “Creative writing my ass. You were secretly a fucking Finance geek. You’re going to bleed us dry.”

And then he kissed my cheek. I nibbled a sad baby carrot with a dollop of dip. I did not interpret this gesture as provocative, but later, as the wine drained from its box into our bloodstreams, I would be accused of exactly that. Stupid about boys and self-conscious, my cluelessness about flirting was matched only by my dumb luck at Monopoly.

We listened to nondescript alternative between warnings to stay off the roads. Some Cranberries and some Green Day and The Verve. And there she was, “Sex and Candy” Marcy’s Playground’s weird little 90s ditty. John Wozniak’s low voiced vocals, bumping along like a beater on a rutted country road, lazy around the turns. I heard “Sex and Candy” and thought: stoner.

I said this out loud.

“I think it’s about a guy who wants to be a transvestite,” Jeffrey Michael Thomas Flannigan said. He also informed us he would get stoned just to see if he smelled sex or candy.

“It’s just a song about urges,” another friend said, draining a clear plastic cup of blush. Then he cursed me for owning Reading Railroad.

A girl two years younger than everyone else at the table rolled her eyes, and another friend excused himself from the game to go smoke, probably got high. I helped myself to more box wine, aware that in the morning I’d have a headache.

I don’t actually know what the hell “Sex and Candy” means. In the 90s, I loved the lyric “disco lemonade” even if I didn’t understand it. Disco lemonade, in the hands of my imagination, tastes equal parts tart and sweet, like a sour-patch kid, and is served to you an ever-turning sparkly pitcher, with a giant round ice cube in its center that throws off the light in prisms in all directions. And when you drink it, you can sing “Macarthur Park” just like Donna Summer.

As it turns out, it’s just a name of a cocktail. It strikes me as a buzz kill. Languid and nearly effortless in karaoke efforts, it didn’t do any good to linger on the lyrics of “Sex and Candy” too much. Wozniak’s bored front didn’t make anyone actually think. But if you did, you ended up with weird sensory concoctions, like sweat mixed with cotton candy, sugared body odor, which is actually pretty gross.