Motion (Page 31)
I stopped there because Gabby was giving me a sideways look, the rest of her face frozen, the fire of suspicion behind her eyes.
“What?” I asked sharply. “What is it?”
“I don’t get it. You’ve slept with like, seven guys, right? And never wanted a relationship with any of them.”
“We didn’t sleep together, we had sex as a means to determine specific aims. And that doesn’t mean I’ve treated them like objects.” I hadn’t. I really hadn’t. It had been a mutually beneficial arrangement, where we’d both used each other’s bodies to answer—You know what? Never mind.
“You . . .” Her eyes narrowed. “You’re into Abram,” she said and nodded, slowly at first, but then faster after a second. “Like, way, way, waaaaay into him.”
I pinched my nose with my thumb and forefinger again, closing my eyes. “Just because I recognize that Abram isn’t an object, doesn’t mean I’m into him.”
But, for the record, she was totally right. I was into him. Way, way, waaaaay into him. And now I had a headache.
“Oh girl, you know what? I take back my suggestion. Avoid him. You don’t want this goodtime guy as your first crush. He’s the caviar of goodtime guys. Avoid him at all costs.”
Peeking at her, I frowned, because she was contradicting herself and her expression looked so entirely earnest. “You make no sense. A minute ago, you’re telling me to use him for his body. But now that you think I like him, you’re telling me to run the other way?”
“Yes.” She nodded, her eyes large and sympathetic. “Lisa will be back in a few days, and Abram can never ever know that you impersonated her this week. He will totally flip out and tell the world about it. His sister is a journalist, you know? It’ll be everywhere.”
I studied her, her words, her expression. Clearly, she believed what she said, but I couldn’t help offering a counterpoint. “Really? I don’t know. What about Leo? Wouldn’t that make things awkward between them? And when I apologized on behalf of Lisa for what happened last year, he accepted the apology, no problem.”
“You have to trust me on this. He has mad respect for Leo, but this guy is ridiculous about lies. I know him much, much, much better than you do. Remember? I hang with him and your brother and their group when Leo is in town, so I know Abram. When I say he’s uptight, I mean it.”
“He hates lies. Hates them.”
It was a struggle not to roll my eyes. “Everyone hates lies.”
“He has ended friendships, both long-term and with powerful people who could help him in his music career—like, a lot—because they told a stupid lie and he found out about it. Ask Leo, you don’t lie to Abram. And knowing Leo, how laid back he is, he probably wouldn’t be surprised if Abram ratted you both out to the press. Now, I’m not saying Leo would forgive him for it, but he wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Hmm.” She looked so serious, I decided to stop pushing the issue. For now.
“So, yeah. If you like him—like, if you like him, as a person—if you’re crushing on him at all, pretend he doesn’t exist and push him from your mind. Avoid him like the plague or whatever. Even if you weren’t already lying to him, I’d say the same thing. He is definitely not someone you want to have feelings for.”
Giving me one more nod, she stepped back, glanced around the room, and sauntered to the door. “I’ll be back tomorrow to check on you.”
“Gabby,” I called to her as her hand touched the doorknob. “You confuse me.”
“I know.” She shrugged, a flat smile on her lips. “But honestly, babe, I’m just looking out for your heart. Learn from your sister’s mistakes: don’t go chasing musicians or windmills.”
I stared at her, unable to believe my ears.
Windmills? Had Gabby just made a Don Quixote reference? Did that just happen?
Before I could ask or clarify, she opened the door and strolled out of it.
I’d wanted to ask Gabby about the drugs and whether Lisa had been selling them to teenagers. I’d wanted to uncover why my sister had been arrested and what the deal was with Tyler. But I hadn’t. I’d been too distracted by Abram, and talking about Abram, and thinking about Abram.
What is happening to me?
Taking a pain reliever for the headache, I lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling for approximately twenty minutes, and gave myself a pep talk.
FACT: He can never know you are Mona. Ever.
FACT: You must avoid him for the REST of your LIFE.
FACT: Your interactions serve no purpose. They have to end.
FACT ACCORDING TO GABBY: He’s a goodtime guy.
And, most importantly, stop noticing the way he chews. It’s not okay.
But traitorous little objections searched for cracks, issuing rebuttals and trying to bargain—
Why can’t he know you’re Mona? Maybe Gabby was overexaggerating about his loathing of liars. Once you explain the situation, he’ll understand. What if he’ll keep it a secret too? What if he helps you?
If I have to avoid him for the rest of my life, why avoid him now? Shouldn’t I make the most out of the time we have left?
All interactions serve a purpose, even if they’re not immediately apparent. Right? What if Abram has something to teach you? What if not knowing him puts you on a path of inexorable ignorance?
And what’s the harm in watching him chew? It’s not hurting anyone. I can hide and watch him chew, right? He won’t even see me.
And, I’m sorry, but he just doesn’t seem like a goodtime guy. He just doesn’t. Being surrounded by women doesn’t mean he’s a goodtime guy, it just means women like him. And I don’t blame them!
—and this was concerning because: why?
Why was my heart doing this to me? Why was I arguing with myself? I’d never allowed a crush. I’d been tempted once or twice, but the most logical path forward had never included time for a relationship. Therefore, crushes were (are!) irrelevant.
So why him? Why now? Why? Why? Why? WHY?!
What a mess.
Going in circles, and growing increasingly frustrated, I decided there was no point in continuing this discussion with myself. Facts were facts. What I needed was a distraction. So I snuck down to the kitchen. All was quiet, and Abram was nowhere in sight. But because I was a loony bird, I also sniffed before taking another step, searching for smells. The aroma of donuts permeated the air, but I detected no trace of Abram-fragrance.
Heaving a large sigh, I meandered to the kitchen table, hoping against hope that the remainder of my chocolate donut was still there. It wasn’t. Instead, I found a plate in the center of the table with—one, two, three, four, five . . . –thirteen chocolate cake donuts.
I stared at them, not understanding how it was possible to have so many emotions at once.
He went out and bought me donuts.
I was rubbing my chest, massaging the warm, tight ache there, before I realized what I was doing.
He bought me donuts. My favorite donuts. Thirteen. A prime number. A baker’s dozen.
As I stared at the pile, I was distressed to discover that my mouth was now dry, which ultimately necessitated a swallow. My mouth should have been watering at the sight of all that deliciousness, but it wasn’t. And, worse, I suddenly had no appetite. It’s hard to think about eating when you’re panicking.
However, the panic did help me close the door on my traitorous thoughts. I didn’t want messy, and the only way to avoid more messy was to put all dissenting opinions on lockdown. I would focus on the facts, as they were, and stay the course.
I made myself tea, crept to the mudroom, and found my old dog-eared copy of Moby Dick waiting for me. It felt familiar, and paired with the aroma of peppermint tea, it felt like an oasis.
But my brain was not quiet and would not allow me to absorb the story when I opened to the bookmarked paragraph where I’d left off a few days ago. Taking several calming deep breaths, I flipped open a random page and forced my eyes to read the words,
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
A little huff of wonder slipped past my lips and I blinked at the black ink. What were the chances? This! This was what I needed to read. It was a sign. It was magic. It was the universe telling me—
My eyes drifted to the top of the page and I was no longer surprised or convinced the universe was telling me anything at all. Opening to this very page was no accident. I’d triple folded the corner, because it was my favorite passage. Like all mysteries investigated thoroughly, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation.
Mystery solved, I took Melville’s advice in any case.
Closing my eyes, I went to space. I visited the safety and calm of my brain-planetarium—my own version of Melville’s sea—and distracted my mind from small cares with the complexity of creation. From the Sloan Great Wall to a single quark, the whole and the individual pieces, working within the constraints of laws, of beautiful order.