“Ell! I don’t have sisters – I need someone to tell me these things.”
“You can’t even handle talking about kissing me, and you want me to tell you what it’s like when I get myself off?”
I swallowed down the thrilled swell in my throat. “Okay, never mind.”
“Macy,” he said, more gently now, “why don’t you ever go out with anyone back home?”
Gaping at him, I told him what I thought was obvious. “I’m not interested in other guys.”
“I mean,” I said, catching my slip, “anyone.”
“‘Other’ implies there is one guy” – he held out the palm of one hand and then lifted the other – “and then, other guys. But in this case, you said you aren’t interested in any others. So, there is just one guy you’re interested in?”
“Stop debate-teaming me.”
He grinned crookedly. “Who is the one?”
I watched him for a long beat. Inhaling deeply, I decided this didn’t have to be so bad. “You know I compare every boy to you. We aren’t in revelation territory.”
The grin widened. “You do?”
“Of course I do. How could I not? Remember? You’re my best everything.”
“Your best everything you ask about wanking.”
“Your best everything who no other guy compares to and whose tongue you let touch your tongue.”
“Right.” I didn’t like where this was heading. This was heading to admissions, and admissions changed things. Admissions make feelings intensify simply because they are given space to breathe. Admissions lead to love, and admitting love is like tying yourself to a train track.
“So maybe your best everything should be your boyfriend.”
I stared at him and he stared at me.
I spoke without thinking. “Maybe.”
“Maybe,” he agreed in a whisper.
thursday, october 26
rue to her promise, Sabrina brings Viv to the city to meet me for lunch. The first time that works for both of us is nearly two weeks after the picnic. During that time, I’ve essentially buried myself in work. It’s strange to say it, but I’ve seen Sean awake only three times.
That might be because I’m sleeping on the couch.
I don’t know why I can’t take that last step and pack up my suitcases and move back to Berkeley. It might be the drag of the commute, or the ghosts of my past that I know still live there – Mom and Dad are in every single particle of air in that house.
I’ve only been back for a total of seven days since I left for college. It would be like stepping into a time capsule.
Sabrina’s face when I walk into the Wooly Pig tells me all I need to know about how successful I was at covering the dark circles under my eyes this morning.
“Jesus Christ,” she mumbles as I sit down across from her. “You look like you’ve been raised from the pet cemetery.”
I laugh, grabbing the water in front of me. “Thanks.”
“If I’d known to expect this I would have had an espresso waiting for you.”
“No coffee,” I say, holding up my hand. “It’s been the sole source of my calories this week and I need something… juicy. A smoothie or something.”
I feel her inspection as I look down at the menu.
“Okay, tell me what’s up,” she says, leaning closer. “I saw you two weeks ago, but today you’re like a different person.”
“I’ve been working a ton. It’s a busy time – flu season is starting.” Without thinking, I glance at Viv, asleep in her stroller beside the table. “And things with Sean aren’t great.”
“Oh yeah?” Sabrina asks, and I don’t look at her face after she says it because I’m not sure how I’ll feel if her expression matches the giddy edge to her words. “What’s going on?”
I meet her eyes, giving her the spare me face. “Sabrina.”
“Do we have to do this?” I feel like I’m going to break down in tears. “You know what’s going on.” Holding up a hand, I begin to count off the events on my fingers: “I barely know Sean. We get engaged after two months. I run into Elliot at Saul’s and seeing him is like… I don’t know, a kick to the soul. And then, what do you know? Elliot is back in my life and, surprise! I think things with Sean maybe aren’t so great.”
Sabrina nods but doesn’t say anything.
“You’re quiet now? I thought you’d be happy to hear this.”
“The point is that I want you to be happy. I want to see that spark I saw the other day. I want to see you blush when someone just looks at you.”
“Sabrina, I have been happy with Sean. Just because I feel more overall when Elliot is around doesn’t mean that those feelings are more valid, or happier.”
“Really? Do you even know what happy looks like? I was wondering this the other day, actually. Had I ever seen you happy before the picnic?”
This feels like a violent shove from someone who has known me for ten years. “You’re joking.”
She shakes her head. “When Elliot walked up to us… I swear that was the first time I’d seen you smile like that – with your entire body – and it made me question everything about your personality before then.”
“Wow,” I say slowly. That feels… enormous.
“You think you’re happy, but you’re barely living.”
“Sabrina, that’s residency and working eighty-plus hours a week.”
“No,” she says with a firm shake of her head. She leans back in her chair, taking her mug of coffee with her. “Do you remember freshman year?”
I feel the cold shadow of that time creeping over me. “Barely.”
“Ever since I met you, Elliot has been the third person with us, every second. I sometimes felt like the things you told me, you only told me because he wasn’t there.” She holds up a hand when I start to respond to this. “That’s not a complaint, by the way. I had Dave, and I had you. You had me… but you also had him – in your thoughts, in every single thing you did. When you went out with guys, it was like… you were slinking out and sneaking back in at night, as if there was someone who might be mad that you’d been on a date.”
Letting out a long breath, I study her, hating her for doing this, for putting these truths, which so far lived only in the dusty shadows of my memory, out into the public space.
“The first time you slept with Julian? You remember that?”
I let out a laugh-groan. I do remember. It was halfway through freshman year. Guitar-playing, long-haired Julian was a demigod on campus, and a junior. Beautiful, mildly vain, not as deep as he thought he was – or maybe that’s just my take in hindsight. For whatever reason, he started pursuing me in October, much to the heated jealousy of his band’s groupies. I finally agreed to go out with him; at the time I thought maybe diving into something with someone else would make everything back in California disappear.
We had sex at his place after our first date. I don’t really remember much about it other than thinking, while it was happening, that there were at least fifteen other women who would want to be in this bed right now, and that he was probably doing a fairly capable job at the whole thing. But all I wanted was for him to be done so I could go home and curl into a ball.
I got back to the dorm room I shared with Sabrina, and before I could say a single word, I threw up on her favorite pair of purple Docs before breaking down into a hysterical puddle and telling her everything about Elliot.
“Poor Julian,” I say.
“He was cute,” she says. “And it worked for a while because you weren’t invested. You’re never invested, Macy. You only have a handful of people you’d actually call friends, and keep everyone else on the surface.”
I move to object and she lifts a sassy hand to stop me.
“Let me get this out, I’ve been working on this speech since the picnic.”