Watch The Ice Storm. Watch The Ice Storm on an 85 degree day and burn until you feel suffocated. Watch The Ice Storm and burn and take two sips from a watered down lemonade, conscious of the sweat accumulating at your lower back. Watch The Ice Storm and dream of even less breathable fabrics, of the cool of an east coast forest floor, of the expanse between two glass houses. Watch The Ice Storm and chew your swollen tongue, as you tap-type Richard Nixon into a search bar, as you experience nostalgia for a period of time in which you were not yet born. Watch The Ice Storm and burn suffocate and dream of bossa nova dinner parties and shoplifted tubes of drugstore lipstick. Watch The Ice Storm and walk to the bathroom mirror to compare your teeth to Sigourney Weaver’s, as you hold a belt like a whip. Watch The Ice Storm and examine Sigourney Weaver’s teeth and how they fit into Sigourney Weaver’s face, into her skull, beneath her wide yet beady eyes, and see that they are straight but somehow sharp, somehow more organized than yours and understand that your teeth are not like Sigourney Weaver’s, that you are not as tall as her, that your eyes are not dark like that, not dead alive, not seducing someone and killing them all at once. Watch The Ice Storm and look Sigourney Weaver in the teeth and tell yourself that she is not you, that when you are 50, this halter-top ensemble will not happen. Watch The Ice Storm and know that it is a lie, that Sigourney Weaver is a lie, that the adulthood presented by Sigourney Weaver is manufactured, that the idea of glamorous neighbors is a fabrication, that you could never wear that fur-ruffed coat the way Sigourney Weaver does because no one could, because they would all look like shit. You will never even own a coat like Sigourney Weaver’s coat. You will never even see a coat like Sigourney Weaver’s coat. You will never have teeth like Sigourney Weaver’s teeth. You do not have the shoulders for a halter dress the way Sigourney Weaver has shoulders.
Watch The Ice Storm and hold your phone in portrait mode, zooming slowly in on your teeth, looking at the way they fit in your mouth, the way they are not Sigourney Weaver’s fabricated teeth. Watch The Ice Storm and think about what would happen if you, not Sigourney Weaver, invited your friends over for a key party. If you, not Sigourney Weaver, placed a necklace of heavy beads over their shoulders to flirt with the son of a woman from elsewhere, some friendly acquaintance, some thirsty party from down the road. Watch The Ice Storm and think about Sigourney Weaver and hold the watered-down lemonade like a martini and consider your friend Karen, who you think is maybe still a virgin, or, who, at least, does not let you know who she is fucking. Hold your martini lemonade and think about Karen coming over for your party and fishing car keys out of the one Pyrex mixing bowl you own. Hold your martini lemonade and think about Karen or maybe Paola or maybe Jen or maybe John fishing out those car keys, knowing your party does not contain the option of Sigourney Weaver, that Sigourney Weaver is a lie. Hold the martini lemonade and look at an imaginary Karen and practice saying something like “Karen, darling, that’s just the luck of the draw” when imaginary Karen finds someone’s, maybe Matt’s, worn-out neon rabbit’s foot attached to the keys. Imagine Karen and someone, maybe Matt, or Paola or Jen or John in your kitchen, fishing out keys while you stand there, while you wear your halter top, while you hold your martini just so.
Watch The Ice Storm and know that when Karen picks someone, maybe Matt, or Paola picks Jen or John picks Jen or maybe Matt picks Paola or John picks maybe Matt or you or Rob or Melissa or Casper and they duck into your shitty apartment bedroom or your shitty apartment bathroom or return to your shitty apartment IKEA couch to fuck each other after so many years of friendship, of working side by side, of just meeting casually at parties, that no good can come of it. Watch The Ice Storm and think about Karen, who is possibly still a virgin, and think about the small patch of blood Karen might leave on your sheets. Watch The Ice Storm and imagine cleaning up the orgy, imagine the blood-stained laundry and a mysterious crust on the IKEA couch and a place on the ways so much can be tainted and understand that if this is going to happen, you’ll need to put the old sheets out, the ones from college that you barely use now, the ones you’re not sure why you keep around. Watch The Ice Storm and know that Sigourney Weaver did not have to think about gently cleaning blood from ironic cartoon sheets, that Sigourney Weaver was not thinking of the combinations of friends and the sexual histories one never knows and didn’t bother to wonder if neighborhood sex parties were the real reason a different generation wrapped their furniture in plastic.
Watch The Ice Storm and mirror Sigourney Weaver’s nonplussed expression, mirror Sigourney Weaver’s lie as you understand, suddenly, that those dinner parties held by the neighbors around your childhood home were more suspicious than they seemed, that they were always too excited about a rotisserie chicken, about baked ziti, about grilling out or “getting together for coffee.” Watch The Ice Storm and repeat the phrase “we should get together for coffee sometime” and the phrase “stop on over” and know that everyone is doing this, that these homewrecking orgies of friends and neighbors are happening right now, that you’ve been living in blissful ignorance of a deep, dark, corrupt world in which your neighbors and the friends of your neighbors and your friends and their friends and the co-workers who’ve joined you for drinks and their brothers in law and the mailperson and the doctors and nurses at the hospital and elementary school administrators and everyone you’ve never met are all silently participating in a don’t ask don’t tell trade off of sex and potluck.
Watch The Ice Storm and pick up the phone to call your mother from your place on your shitty apartment IKEA couch and feel the sweat still persistent on your back and tell her that you know, but mutter it. Watch The Ice Storm and take a sip of your watered-down lemonade and affet Sigourney Weaver’s dead-eyed expression and quietly mutter to your mother that you never much liked the Lawrences, that you know all about what was going on there. Watch The Ice Storm and think that the Lawrences are exactly the people you should be blaming for so many things you’re only just beginning to understand, that you know, really, all about what was going on there, that it has all been going on so long. Watch The Ice Storm and remember Mrs. Lawrence’s red wrap dress and the way she was always struggling to keep the cleavage respectable and the way she would fidget with the stem of her wine glass like she was giving it a hand job and the way your parents would joke, so many jokes, about things they’d “tell you when you’re older” and know that she was up to something, mutter this to your mother. Watch The Ice Storm and see Mr. Lawrence with his too short track shorts jogging down your street and recall the way your mother used to imitate his full head of hair flopping this way and that with each landed step and know that the imitation was a cover-up for something you couldn’t know then, but you know now. Watch The Ice Storm and call your mother and quietly tell her you know what was happening with the Lawrences, that you know all about their little parties, and the meaning of the jokes, and the red wrap dress with the cleavage and the wine glass hand jobs and the crotch of those short shorts and the happy hours that ran until after the babysitter put you to bed, yes, later than 10.
Watch The Ice Storm and feel your teeth in your mouth and know that when you grit them they are still not at all like Sigourney Weaver’s teeth and call your mother and try hard to block the mental image of Mr. Lawrence stripping from his jogging shorts, lifting up your mother’s zebra skirt, and penetrating her in the parts you pretend she doesn’t have on the Lawrence’s weird ugly paisley couch with your father just feet away doing the same with the parts you pretend he doesn’t have to Mrs. Pendleton from the cul-de-sac two streets over. Watch The Ice Storm and remember Mrs. Pendleton. Her Dalmatian. Her three sons. Her house with the decorative stone goose.
Watch The Ice Storm and know that when Mr. Lawrence fucked, his full head of graying-blonde hair flopped this way and that, that your mother had had a chance to master her imitation beneath him, and that the jogging was one big advertisement, that the too short track shorts had always clung at the crotch, must have framed his dick as it flopped this way and that, must have been like a billboard for the lusty housewives in their gardens staring as their children -- as you - pedaled none the wiser on their big wheel trikes, so ignorant of the world, so blissfully unaware of the lie of Sigourney Weaver, of so many things.
Watch The Ice Storm and see this, see it all so clearly. Watch The Ice Storm and see Karen fucking maybe Matt, see your mother fucking Mr. Lawrence, see Mrs. Lawrence fucking some person you don’t know, and another one, and another one, see your father fucking Mrs. Pendleton, see her three sons fucking faceless bodies, see yourself fucking Paola’s fiancé who you hate in the spare room, see yourself telling your mother that you know all about what was going on there with Sigourney Weaver paused, open-mouthed, in the background. Watch The Ice Storm and stare in the bathroom mirror at your eyes, which are not seductress’s eyes, which are not the eyes of a killer, which are not Sigourney Weaver’s eyes, which are normal and plain and slightly puffy as you sit on the phone with your mother, as you remind her again that you know.
Watch The Ice Storm and listen to your mother tell you that Mr. Lawrence used to cook a mean jambalaya and wonder when that became a euphemism, if it was like tossing salad or buttering the muffin or tea bagging or butter dipping the corn dog or feeding the kitty or hiding the sausage or tickling the pickle or simply porking with the parts you pretend she doesn’t have. Watch The Ice Storm and drink your watered-down lemonade and build a list of euphemisms and listen to your mother tell you about the Lawrence’s divorce years ago and know that it was because of the parties, of the wrap dress and the wine glass hand jobs, of the too short track shorts and floppy hair, and imagine two men talking in a locker room saying “I cooked a mean jambalaya last night, if you know what I mean.” Watch The Ice Storm and have your mother lament the death of her social life, how the neighborhood has gone to shit and seed and all the couples are so young these days and think of Karen and maybe Matt, moving in after their tryst, beginning the cycle anew.
Watch The Ice Storm and listen to your mother suspiciously and run your swollen tongue against your teeth to gage their sharpness. Watch The Ice Storm and listen to your mother as you stare, blankly, at Sigourney Weaver open-mouthed, freeze-framed, and know that this whole time everyone has been up to something and they always have been and decide never to mention this to anyone, even though now you are part of it, now you have uncovered it. Watch The Ice Storm and think about what you can say, how you’ll act if this ever comes up. Watch The Ice Storm, hang up the phone, return to the bathroom mirror, gesture with your watered-down lemonade like a martini and practice saying, “well, of course I’ve done that before, I know all about it.”
-- Jessica Berger is a Chicago-based fiction writer as well as a founding editor of Grimoireand Always Crashing Magazine. Her work has been featured in Ninth Letter,Suspira,Nat. Brut, Barrelhouse, The Spectacle, Maudlin House, and elsewhere.