Kate Catinella lives in Philadelphia and works as a copywriter for a very large fashion retail company. Her fiction has previously appeared in The Nervous Breakdown and Maudlin House. She tweets @katecatinella.
1 story by Kate Catinella
The Entire State of New Jersey
The entire state of New Jersey texted me a few days after we’d met in an afterhours bar and had both done a bit of coke in the same circle of people. I wasn’t completely attracted to it, but we found ourselves conversing with each other and that was that.
“Do u want to get drinks?” the text read. I was a little put off by the straightforwardness of it all—shouldn’t there be more decorum? A build up? A game? Perhaps no, I thought, ultimately, because less decorum equals a much higher chance of having first date sex, for which I had been in the mood.
We met at a bar with a lot of advertisements for different kinds of beer and ripped-up leather stools. I sat on my coat because I had nowhere else to put it, and I felt preoccupied by the zipper ramming itself into my butt as the entire state of New Jersey told me about its job.
"We do a lot of things,” it said, “Trees, we’ve got a lot of those. The Pine Barrens. People always forget about the Pine Barrens,” I wanted to tell the entire state of New Jersey that I was one of those people, but I didn’t want to offend, since neither of us had gotten drunk enough yet for even mild honesty.
“I have never been to the Pine Barrens,” I said, ordering another gin and tonic. I had hoped the alcohol would start to take effect soon. I was feeling a little bored, but reasoned that the entire state of New Jersey was just cute enough for something casual, and that I didn’t agree to this date expecting anything serious, anyway.
“It’s haunted by the Jersey Devil” said the entire state of New Jersey.
“No, it’s true. And I would know.”
I sipped my new drink and started to feel the alcohol turn my blood heavy. The buzz opened me up to the idea of meeting the Jersey Devil, and by the time the entire state of New Jersey suggested we go visit him, I was ready. We stumbled over our own feet as we left the bar, and I thought it was nice that the entire state of New Jersey had offered to pay for my drinks. I thought, I could get used to something like this. I thought, No no, that’s not right. That’s not what this night is supposed to be about.
We walked up to the Jersey Devil’s house which looked more like a lump in the dirt than anything else. Inside, the house was furnished with naked brass statues and had a wide marble staircase that led underground to the bedroom, the floor of which was covered in burning embers. I was afraid to walk on the embers because I didn’t want my shoes to melt, but the Jersey Devil assured me there’s a thick pane of glass on top of the embers that would prevent such a thing from happening.
He poured us all drinks, and the entire state of New Jersey toasted our good health. It was intimate and warm and I felt like I had known both of them my whole life. We were singing a song about lost love and laughing over spilled wine. Soon, we were all naked on the Jersey Devil’s canopy bed.
“I’m glad you guys showed up,” the Jersey Devil said, “I was just going to go to bed before I got the call.”
The entire state of New Jersey was stroking my hair. Its fingernails tapping on my scalp gave me the chills, and I felt myself growing attached and afraid of the attachment all at once. The Jersey Devil refilled my wine and told me to relax, which was easy for him to say since he was not the one having anxiety over a date going better than planned.
In the morning, the entire state of New Jersey and I laughed as we tried to pull on our clothes and maneuver around the room without waking the Jersey Devil. We drove to the coast and walked along the boardwalk eating soft pretzels as vacationers rode by on tandem bikes and surreys.
“I had a good time last night,” the entire state of New Jersey said, grabbing my hand.
My hangover was intensifying as different arcades competed for attention, sounds and lights getting louder and brighter as we walked. Its hand felt different than it did last night, bonier, or like hands that couldn’t hold something heavy for a long time. Its face seemed paler in the sun than it had in the bar. I wondered if last night the Jersey Devil had poisoned us temporarily, made us fall in love for just a moment.
“I had a nice time, too,” I said. And it wasn’t a lie, but I could feel the words flying onto the beach as I spoke them. I wasn’t sure if I should run off the boardwalk and try to scoop them up from the sand, or if I should let the wind take them out and sink them into the ocean.