Tuesday 14 February 2023

Lip, Sync by Joanna Theiss, shot of Tequila

 We warm up in our shared room, squeezing into matching black skirts and applying lipstick from the same tube, turning ourselves on with sips from a shared red cup.

We duet when we flirt, our words dipping into troughs and skimming up peaks. Our statements climb at their ends and we press down on the second in three-syllable words, tequila, performance. We don’t know who spoke this way first, but our laughs are pitch-perfect when the bartender says we sound just alike.

We harmonize, sliding against each other on the dance floor. The beat swells and because two is better than one, we attract. Twins, the guys say in unison, lust glazing their sibilants. We are the crescendo of a frat fantasy: synchronized girls who grind and, after a round of shots, collide at the sharply-lit bar.


We warm up in our shared room, swapping black skirts for sweatpants, scrubbing off our makeup, sighing with the pleasure of it, the after-show glow.

We duet when we lean against the counter in the communal kitchen and reprise the beats of the night: the pick-up lines, the bathroom lines, the shots lined up along the bar.

In our shared room, we are so tired, we could sleep for a thousand years sixteen inches apart in our twin beds, but instead, she turns on an old movie, she squeezes in beside me under my pink and gray duvet. She is freezing, she says, cuddling into me like a newborn seeking mother-warmth.

Onscreen, autumn leaves fall on a white wool jacket. A collision, a jumble, a stranger and our heroine. A red mouth, a laugh that sings out interested but unsure.

Onscreen, he and she argue, but it’s foreplay, everyone knows, and in our shared room, the beat swells. The citrus-and-sweat smell of her, the black smudgy remnants of mascara, the burgundy flakes of lipstick residue. Two is better than any other number. I find her mouth and

She slides away. What are you doing?

What we have done before, in bars, at basement parties, once on the subway back to campus while her ex filmed us on his phone.

Yeah, but. I don’t like you like that, she says, as if it is obvious, as if anyone watching would have known.

She leaves my bed, climbs into her own.

Outrageously, the movie continues. The lovers overcome their petty misunderstandings, slide their hands together, close-up.

We don’t speak until credits roll, black screen, names in white, until she says,

We can still be friends

There is no light in our shared room. I press myself against the painted concrete wall and mourn for sleep. 

About the author 

Joanna Theiss (she/her) is a lawyer-turned-writer living in Washington, DC. Her short stories and flash fiction have most recently appeared in Chautauqua Journal and The Dribble Drabble Review. One of her pieces was selected as a winner of Best Microfiction 2022. Links to her writing are available at www.joannatheiss.com

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