#36: Truth or Truth

"My chest feels weird," Alicia said, swallowing repeatedly. "Is that normal?"

Whitley tilted her hand up, letting a handful of pork dumplings tumble into her mouth. "You're fine. If anything, it’s heartburn from the half-bottle of Sriracha you put on your dumplings." The two were three hours into their evening anime and cannabis marathon. Alicia had chosen the Volcano vaporizer from Whitley's arsenal of marijuana paraphernalia, and Whitley had chosen Samurai Champloo from Alicia's anime collection. As they wrapped up episode ten, Alicia felt the effects of eating three times her usual serving of dumplings while Whitley weighed options for their second course.

Alicia stretched her brawny arms and laid on the couch. She wore her comfort attire for the evening's festivities: a white sports bra, pink pajama bottoms, and her favorite fluffy slippers. Rubbing her stomach, she hiccuped, then burped. "Ugh, I don't feel good."

"I got something for that," Whitley said, passing the clear bag of vaped weed to Alicia, who took a hit. "Wow, what a trooper!" Whitley said.

Alicia exhaled. "It can't *urp* make me feel any worse, right?" Alicia's hand went to her chest. "Are you sure I'm not having a heart attack?"

"No, I'm not. What you need is something to focus on besides your digestion. How 'bout a little truth or dare, except only truth?"

Alicia immediately perked up. "Sure! You ask me first."

"Besides track, did you play any other sports growing up?"

"I played soccer until halfway through high school," Alicia said as she slunk down into the couch. "I played defender. I liked it way more than track, but I wasn't nearly as good at it. I quit that too to focus on cosplay." Alicia reached for her phone. "Now, your question comes from the audience." She tapped open Instagram and pulled up Whitley's profile. "Okay, from that post of you with the pancakes, someone said: 'Wow! That's a lot of pancakes! Do you ever attempt eating challenges at restaurants?'"

"First, I don't 'attempt' I 'complete.' Second, hell yeah, I do. It's the cheapest way to score a free meal. Okay, time for one from your people."

Alicia tapped her lips thoughtfully. "They're not, like, my people. Maybe more like my Army!" Alicia raised her fists. "Bwa ha h—"

"From that pic of you doing a handstand on somebody's roof, CyreliusPocus asks: Are you afraid of anything?"

"Totally. Blood."

"Wait," Whitley said, waving both hands. "Are you saying Barbie Bourne here would be more freaked out by the blood gushing out of someone's face when you break their nose than of the attacker?"

"That's part of why I stopped doing MMA. I knocked a girl out cold and gave her a concussion. She coughed up blood, and then I totally puked all over her and the ref." Alicia shuddered. "Ugh, the backs of my knees tingle just talking about it."

"But you work out practically every day! Don't you hurt yourself from time to time?"

"I can mostly deal with my own injuries. It's like the difference between finding your hair in your food and finding someone else's hair. I do hate having blood drawn, though. Don't miss the sports physicals." Alicia grimaced. "This is gross. Change the subject. It's your turn to answer."

"Fair enough, but you can bet your ass I'm logging this information," Whitley said.

"Okay, another one from Instagram: 'You're still growing? Wow. Is there any point when you will truly consider yourself too tall? Seven and a half feet? Eight feet?"

"Hm," Whitley said, pondering the question as she took another hit. She held it in for several seconds, before exhaling. "You know what's weird? I don't think about my height."

Whitley stood. Holding her arms up, she placed her wrists, then forearms on the ceiling. "The fact that I can touch my elbows to the ceiling in most rooms is as normal to me as reaching my mailbox. It's just me. I notice my growing as often as a kid notices his or her puberty growth spurt, except mine's even slower. It takes me as long to grow out of something as for it to get too raggedy for me to wear. Sure, I remember hitting my forehead on the door frame a couple of years back, and now it's the bridge of my nose. I still have to remind myself that all this is unusual to other people."

"But, are you worried about being too tall?"

"I don't want to start having health problems in general, and yes, I know that kind of goes hand in hand with being 'too tall.' But, no it doesn't worry me. Not saying it shouldn't, but it doesn't." Whitley finished the last of the vaporizer bag. "Okay, Alicia, easy one for you, what’s your favorite food?"

"I'd say a tie between chicken Karaage and clam chowder."

Whitley frowned. "Clam chowder?"

"I'm from the midwest! We didn't have it much where I'm from. Besides, it's SOOOOO good." Alicia licked her lips. "Oh my God, I know I'm full, but I could eat, like, a gallon of clam chowder right now."

"Whitley opened a drawer on the coffee table next to her and took out a printed menu from Empire Pizza. "Would you instead accept an extra-large seafood supreme pizza?"

"No, thanks. I'm still stuffed."

"A large'll do then," Whitley said, texting in her order. "Until then, give me another question while I repack this thing and refill this bag."

Alicia clicked through Whitley's Instagram until she came across another. "This one's from CoryCory216: Currently what shoe size are you?"

"Seventeen women. Fifteen men. Come on, that's a softball. Alicia, what's the biggest turn-off for you."

"Body odor. You?"

"Going on and on about my height, particularly when they repeatedly tell me how cool they are with dating a woman taller than them. Dude, you might as well have worn a t-shirt that says 'tall chaser.' What about you, Tinker Biceps? Does it bug you when guys bring up your muscles a bunch on the first date?"

"I dunno. I've only dated, like three guys."

"Gave up dating to focus on cosplay?"

"Mostly. Until Percy, it was all flings since high school. That way, it doesn't matter why they like you. ‘Course, you can always tell by how fast they—"

"DON'T need to hear that. Thank you."

"This is fun!" Alicia said, crossing her legs and bouncing in place. "Okay, where were you born?"

"Pasadena, you?"

Alicia pointed north. "Kellsburg."

"I knew you were from around here, but I had no idea you were that local."

"Yup. My parents and two of my brothers still live there."

"All together?"

"No, just Tucker. He's in his senior year in high school. Scotty and his wife live nearby since Scotty owns his dojo there. Nick and his partner live in Boston.

"You have a brother still in high school? But aren't you the second youngest?"

"Yeah, me Scotty and Nick are all from mom's first marriage. Tucker's from her second.

"Huh," Whitley said. Quite the family you've got."

"So you gonna' tell me about your fam—"

"No. Okay, also from the audience: who's your female bodybuilding role model?"

"Brigita Brezovac. From me: what do you do when you run out of weed, and you can't get any more?"

"I plan ahead, and I make sure I never go without."

"Well, duh. But what if you couldn't?"

"The weed's my medicine. Gotta' have your medicine."

"...and if you didn't."

"I don't go without."

Alicia frowned "So you're addicted."

Whitley offered Alicia a gentle sidelong glare. "I'd say I'm self-medicated, thank you."

"Oh, come on!" Alicia said, with uncharacteristic incredulity. "If you weren't you wouldn't have—"

"I'm NOT addicted to pot, Alicia. Seriously, shut up and listen for a sec." For a moment the Samurai Champloo menu screen background music was the only sound in the room. Whitley closed her eyes and took a breath.

"USA Olympics doesn't give a shit about marijuana. As long as I didn't show up to an actual Olympic volleyball game with it in my system, it was a non-issue. I love getting high, but I'd never ever showed up stoned to a practice or a game. I have fucking self-control." Alicia seemed ready to apologize, but Whitley continued. "But, there's a first time for everything. It turns out, showing up on your second day of team USA practice stoned is not a good idea."

"Why would you do that?"

"I was nervous. I'd never been nervous in my life about volleyball. To make things worse, they made it clear to me that, as a rookie and resident young'n new to the program, I would not be getting much play time, if any at all. I couldn't handle it. I thought I was the best. I was determined to prove I deserved to play. I had a rough first practice and a difficult night, and I woke up the in the morning feeling like shit. I got anxious about the next practice, so I did what I normally do to calm my nerves."

"Then you went to practice?"

"Technically, I went back to the breakfast buffet first, then I smoked again, then I showed up a few minutes late for practice."

"So that's what got you kicked off the Olympic team?"

"Well, that and getting kicked out of a bar the night before."

"Why'd you get—"

"I hit someone with a pint glass. It didn't break, surprisingly. Anyways, so yeah, that plus getting dismissed from the initial practice for laying out one of the assistant coaches with a spike made the weed thing kinda strike three."

Alicia's mouth hung open, aghast. "Whitley, what is wrong with you?"

Whitley chuckled. "Funny, that's exactly what Coach Grace asked me when I got back. Truthfully, I don't know. Maybe I have an ego problem alongside anger management. Dig deep enough and I'm sure you'll find some mommy issues too."

Alicia grinned as she sprawled across the sofa. "Oh, I've already heard plenty about those."

"Wait, when?"

"That first night you were here. After you ordered pizza, you finished the wine and got super talky."

"I didn't tell you about—"

"Your mom? Yeah. Krysta probably doesn't remember, though. By that point she was—"

Whitley's eyes flared up with ferocity. "Alicia I am fucking serious; don't you EVER tell anyone about that. If you do, I swear to GOD I will—"

A knock on the door interrupted her. She leaned into the window. The sight of the pizza guy on the balcony filled her with such joy she lost her train of thought.

Alicia yawned. "Funny, that's exactly what ended this conversation that night too."

Through the fog of marijuana and deja vu, Whitley paid the and tipped pizza guy. Shutting the door, she turned around to find Alicia sound asleep on the sofa. In her hand was her phone with Instagram open. Whitley set the pizza on the coffee table and gently plucked Alicia's phone from her hand. She had fallen asleep mid-caption for a photo of herself half-asleep on the couch.

Past my bedtime, but don't worry. This girl can hang. #partytime

"Oh, really?" Whitley said, returning to camera mode and stepping back to fit Alicia into the wide shot. "We'll see about that."