The tiny seed of heat in my chest starts to burn brighter.
“I admired you,” I say, feeling a little defensive now. “It was a private thing—for me. I wasn’t being weird about it; I wasn’t talking about you on Twitter or Facebook. I wasn’t posting video of you on Snapchat. You played at the station—some of my favorite pieces—and it was amazing. You seemed too good to be true sometimes. I got caught up in that and sent a fifteen-second video to exactly one person. Are you saying it’s a bad thing that I was so invested in you?”
He walks over, sitting on the corner of the bed with his back to me. “I’m not saying that. It ended up being fine. It’s just odd.” He lets out a heavy breath.
Fine? It ended up being fine?
I watch his shoulders rise and fall as he breathes, hating that I can’t see his expression. “I thought we came into this the same—strangers—and you were helping Robert and I was helping me.” He tosses his socks into the hamper. “But I feel like—” He shakes his head. “I don’t know. Like you lied to me.”
“Yeah. Or manipulated me.”
This hits a trigger beneath my ribs: the seed of heat turns into a flaming brick, and I reach my boiling point. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
He turns, meeting my eyes, but doesn’t say anything.
“So what if I had a crush on you?” I ask. “Yeah, now I’m getting sex and some help paying rent—but I didn’t plan that part. In fact, if I recall, I was so covert about my feelings that you had no idea I felt them. I had to endure the anger of Jeff and Robert, my brother Davis isn’t sure how to even ask me about what we’re doing, and my parents don’t even know about this. Now Robert has the virtuoso he wanted, and you have the dream position in the most popular show on Broadway and sex at home, with your fake wife. You’re seriously giving me shit right now?” I stand, walking to the bathroom to get my toothbrush.
He follows. “I just wish you had told me you had feelings.”
“Is that what bothers you here?”
“That’s part of it, yeah.”
I turn to him, squeezing too much toothpaste on my brush, but I’m too angry and proud right now to do anything but shove it in my mouth. I immediately pull it out again.
“Look, you were coming to live here, and I didn’t want you to think I had any expectations.” I point the toothbrush at him. “I was doing this for Robert, yes, but also because I’d admired your music for so long, and I wanted it for you, even if I didn’t know you.”
I pause, and his eyes search mine, looking for some answer I’m not sure how to deliver. “I did tell you all of this in the interview with Dougherty,” I remind him.
“Yeah, but then you let me think it was just a story.”
“Right,” I say, nodding. “Because you called it ‘insane’ that I would do that.” I laugh dryly. “I like to think that it makes me kind. But here I am, doing shit for other people and getting treated like I’m monstrous somehow.”
His jaw ticks and I can’t figure out what’s going on here. All I know is that I’m out of words, and I’m done explaining myself.
You let me think it was just a story.
But if he’d asked me whether it was true, I would have said yes.
I bend over the sink, brushing my teeth with the energy of a woman who wants to lift up the entire building and hurl it into the ocean. I can feel Calvin standing behind me, wordless, but eventually he turns. I can tell from his footfalls that he’s walking to the living room, not the bedroom, and am a little heartbroken to realize that I feel relieved.
I’m up at six, having slept like crap, but I must have slept some, because as soon as I open my eyes, I remember last night and a sense of dread falls like shade passing through a room. The last thing I want to do this morning is rehash everything, or feel the tension between me and my new favorite person, who is presently buried under blankets and sound asleep on the couch.
I dress quietly and slip out before Calvin wakes up.
It’s been forever since I did my little routine of walking to the Fiftieth Street station, taking the train to get coffee at Madman, but I want to do it today. I want to walk in my old shoes, to try to remember that surety that this mission was critical, that I alone was connecting two universally vital dots by bringing Robert to Calvin.
The subway station is as busy as it always is, and there is no guitarist to greet me at the bottom of the stairs. There is, however, a sufficiently capable saxophonist, and I throw a five-dollar bill into his case. He stops playing to thank me.
So, he’s here for the money, not to get lost in the music, and the honesty of that is so fucking refreshing. Calvin could have played his guitar alone, forever at Mark’s apartment if it really was only about the music for him, but it isn’t. It’s also about the audience, about the adulation, about the income—so how can he be so fucking upset that he’s receiving it? Sure—I should have told him at the outset that I’d been watching him at the station for some time, and admired his music. But his reaction to my crush was so overblown that it sours something inside me. I’m torn between staying away all day and rushing home to rip into him again.
And . . . I actually cling to this feeling, because I never get angry . . . and I forget how being angry can feel so good because it makes me feel strong. For the entire time I’ve known Calvin, I’ve felt like I haven’t totally deserved having him in my apartment, in my life, in my bed. My anger is my new best friend, telling me I’ve deserved every second of the happiness I felt before this stupid fucking fight.