I wish I could tell John the stories I want to tell him. I guess I never say what I set out to say but most of the time I don’t really care, or else the rhetoric of work is basic and easy to follow.
I wonder how it is for people who get to know friends and then see their children, smaller fragmented reflections. I’m only used to getting to know the children until one day I see a smile – a walk, a casual mannerism – in the adult that I immediately recognize from the child.
It isn’t the sort of thing to talk about, but I feel my lips curving into a smile nonetheless.
I saw his hand slide towards his seat belt buckle and I squeezed his arm, said goodbye and thanked him in quick succession. I’d opened the car door and gotten out and had my apartment door closed behind me before I’d exhaled fully. I looked down. “What the hell are you doing here, Molly?” I hissed at the dog. She wagged her stump and looked at me with significance. Maybe it wasn’t significance – maybe it was just the size of her eyes.
I’d had enough champagne to feel cheerful, sufficiently cheerful not to care that a French Bulldog had suddenly taken up residence in my house. I’d known there was a chance the director needed me to watch Molly but I’d assumed it meant I would stay in her house. How can I describe her house? Well-apportioned, I suppose.
“I couldn’t invite him in,” I told Molly as she whined and looked at the door. She loves John, she remembers when he used to bring his daughter to school. I slid down the door and sat on the ground while she sniffed my shoes. “Do you have any idea what people in this town say about me?” Her stump wagged. “Actually, is isn’t good at all. Stop wagging your stump. Ac-tually, it . . . ” I don’t know what he thought would come next, I thought. What if he thought – I mean – what if he just shrugged to himself and said ‘my turn’, you know? I hugged my knees. Molly snuffed at the hand that had touched his shoulder persistently, as if there were something still there.
“Now, that is a beautiful woman,” the director nodded towards a woman sitting outside Starbucks. “But she’s probably too ‘pale’ for your tastes, isn’t she Lola?” I squinted at the woman. She was pale – but that wasn’t what I noticed. “She looks like John if he were a woman!” I gasped. “Like, stick a wig on John and voilà – this lady.” She shrugged. “So? She’s pretty. I happen to think – ”
“What, that John looks like a girl?!” Because I assure you, he doesn’t.
“No. But I guess he is pretty. Or handsome. Anyway what is the chocolatey-est drink here? Mocha-mochas?”
I sighed. Again, I wanted to tell him, wanted very much to tell him, but ended up just rubbing my nose and exhaling a lot.
“I really want to tell John, though.” I told the director. “He likes my writing. He’d sit there at work” – and here I was beginning to imagine it – “clicking through my blog, reading my writing, looking at the picture of cats . . .”
“Finding out how you gave him mono.”
“Oh no.” I put down the scissors I’d been using to cut little red hearts. “But I – I could tell him? Right? I could tell him.”
“Do you want him to hate you forever?” I shook my head because no, of course not, I do not want him to hate me at all, or to dislike me even, or ever. I don’t even let myself imagine it because – although I assuredly would – I don’t think I could stand it. “Then don’t tell him,” she insisted. “He could never forgive you, even if he said he did.” I doubt it, secretly, but I doubt both options – and I’m not thinking clearly, as has been amply established already.
So I ask you – literally, not metaphorically – do I tell him? Do I not tell him?
“I want to see what you’re writing,” the director told me. I sighed. “Then I would feel self-conscious.” I thought of treading the fine line, business and personal, and rubbed the edge of one shoe against the other. “I guess if you really want to . . . you’re not in it, but if you want to . . . ”
“No, you’re right. This way you can feel unencumbered.” I sighed again, this time with relief.I’m not telling anyone I know in real life. Maybe John.
Actually, I’d really like to tell him. He said once he liked my writing, based on a not even well-composed email, and I smiled reflexively and entirely too widely.
I’ve been thinking, deliberately and with care, if I could have possibly infected anyone. I’m usually a rather indiscriminate kisser – not at work. There’s the old proverb about shitting and eating, and it still holds water.
But personally . . . no. I don’t think I infected anyone. I wasn’t sneezy. I wash my hands in the appropriate manner. I think I’m in the clear.
Oh no. There was the Frappucino; my friend John. The results hadn’t come back yet and I had no reason to suspect mono. I was waving it around like a delicacy, offering it to him, not desiring in the least to share it but – he’s a germ freak, never shares drinks, Purells constantly, bodily fluids scare him, etc. – I know what he thinks of my mouth. He ensures I don’t get close enough to breathe on him (if you’re wondering about redeeming qualities: yes, in spades). But that day, for some mysterious reason, he just grabbed it and drank. I stopped all my dancing about in shock. “Tastes like you,” he said, cool as a cucumber.