Page 29

“I try not to take advantage,” I say, oddly humiliated. After all, Calvin just admitted to relying on a friend, too, and I know he makes money, at least in part, from playing gigs. “I was going to live in New Jersey and commute, but they found me this place when a friend of theirs moved out”—died, actually—“and . . . yeah.”

“Do you like living alone?”

I laugh. “Yeah, but . . .”

It seems to register what he’s just said and he laughs, too. “I promise to stay out of your way.”

“No, no. I like it,” I clarify, “but I’m not someone who needs to be alone, if that makes sense.”

Calvin looks over at me, smiling. “It makes sense.” He hesitates. “I make decent money for what I do. Probably make fifty bucks every time I busk. Make a couple hundred for the bar shows. But it’s not a real job.”

I look over at him. He’s got his face tilted up to the sky, like he’s inviting the shock of the cold.

“What do you mean, ‘real job’?”

He laughs. “Aw, come on, Holland. You know what I mean. I like that, actually, that you know exactly what I mean.” Looking straight into my soul, he says, “I make money, but it feels like cheating, like I have this ability I’ve worked so hard for, and I’m not doing shite with it.”

“Well, now you are.”

A smile spreads over his face and I wish I could describe it. It’s the expressive equivalent of an eraser, wiping away any doubt I had about this.

“Yeah,” he says. “Now I am.”

Because there was no way I could sleep before the wedding, I cleaned the hell out of my apartment last night. I’m not a slob, but I’m not meticulous, either, and cleaning kept me occupied for a solid two hours until there wasn’t even a bit of dirty grout left to scrub with an old toothbrush. So I started writing out a list of pivotal moments in my life.

To date, my longest relationship was with a guy named Bradley. He was from Oregon, and I met him during undergrad at Yale. We dated for two and a half years, which I now know to be the point when you’ve heard most of the stories and some of them you’ve heard a few times. But with Bradley—who was a completely nice guy but sort of boring (also his penis turned dramatically to the right, and as much as I tried to pretend it wasn’t a big deal, it always felt in my hand like a bone that needed to be reset)—I learned those things gradually, over time. Our getting-to-know-you had happened in sleepy doses during pillow talk, or at a bar, as we got progressively drunker and more physical. We broke up under completely pedestrian circumstances: I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. After a week of quasi-dramatic begging, he gave up and within a month was dating the woman he would eventually marry. Two and a half years, and the entire thing—from start to finish—was completely unremarkable.

I’m thinking about all of this—the strange way we’ll spew out our histories almost as if we’re downloading data—as I walk inside with Calvin, so when I see the list on the counter, I want to burst out laughing.

“Wow.” Calvin steps in, eyes wide as he looks around. My place is tiny, but it is pretty great. I have a giant bay window in the living room, taking up the majority of the wall. The view isn’t postcard-worthy or anything, but it looks out over rooftops, and into other apartments. I have a sleeper sofa, a coffee table, a television. Beneath the coffee table is a rug with swirling oranges and blues that Robert and Jeff got me as a housewarming gift (despite my protestations that the apartment itself was the housewarming gift). There are two bookcases loaded with books that bracket the television, and then nothing. That’s all I have in here. It’s clean, and simple, and cozy.

“This is so nice,” he says, moving closer to read the spines of my books. “Mark’s place is amazing, but he’s got twin two-years-olds who visit, and it’s super cluttered.”

I mentally file this bit of information away in my Immigration Interview Bank, and he runs his fingers along the edge of a book by Michael Chabon.

“This . . . I like it sort of simple, like this.” He wanders to the tiny kitchen, peeks in at the minuscule bathroom, and then stops, turning to me. “It’s really nice, Holland. Well done.”

He’s being so adorably awkward, I can’t help but say, “You can look at the bedroom.”

Beneath his olive skin, blood rushes to the surface. “That’s your space. That’s all right.”

“Calvin, it’s just a room. There aren’t, like, naked posters of me in there or anything.”

I can’t tell if the sound he makes is a cough or a laugh, but he nods, joking, “Well, that’s a shame,” as he moves past me into my bedroom.

It’s my favorite space. I have a wrought-iron-framed double bed with a white coverlet, a dresser, an antique standing mirror, a couple of lamps on the nightstands, a few photos of my family, and that’s it.

It’s bright and sparse.

“I think I expected it to be girlier.”

“Yeah.” I laugh. “I’m not super girly.”

He picks up a pair of pink scissors from on top of a pink photo album. Sets them down next to a pair of rose gold sunglasses. He glances dubiously to my doorless closet; it’s clear that pink plays a leading role inside there, too.

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