"Hi. What are you doing?"
"Hey. Watching a movie on my bed."
"Okay, I'm coming to get you."
I do. I go get him.
"It's warm in here. And you're playing Christmas music." I say nothing, but I smile. "What's up, champ?" he says. I shake my head. Two minutes pass. "I've never seen you like this; you want to talk?" I shake my head again.
"I just sort of... right now, I just need you to just be. Like, just be sitting there. I need that. I just need you to..."
"I can do that." We're not saying anything. I'm not, and even more bizarre, neither is he.
"You're not talking. It's freaking me out," I say. He laughs.
"You told me you just wanted me to be!"
"Well, yeah," I laugh,"but you can talk, too. I know you're just bursting at the seams to tell me something. You're always telling me something." He laughs again.
"You're right. But if you just want me to be, I can just be."
We pull into the Starbucks parking lot, go inside. I order a Vanilla Rooibos tea. Point to the iced lemon pound cake. Ask him if he's ever had it. Comments that only at my grandma's house and it wasn't groundbreaking. Says that the last time he was at Starbucks, he was breaking up with a girl. And after that breakup, they made out in the back of his truck. It was in high school, so no judgement, okay? And I drove a truck in high school, so double-no-judgement he says. I tell him he should try the cake. And that he shouldn't break up with girls in places like Starbucks. Or make out in the back of cars. Because it's tacky. He laughs. "I know," he says. We sit.
"Tell me about New York." I say.
"That's really kind of a broad topic. What do you want to know?"
"About the time you lived there."
He jumps in the way I trust he would. "Well, I used to work for an ad agency on Madison Avenue. Lived near Columbia University. Spent my lunch breaks in Bryant Park and pretended like I didn't hate my job." Looks to me. I'm stirring my tea waiting for it to cool, left hand on chin, legs crossed.
"More. Just please keep talking." He doesn't ask me if I'm okay. He's the only person who doesn't ask me if I'm okay.
"My bedroom was large enough for a bed and a desk. I never sat at the desk because when I'd pull the chair out, it hit my bed in a way that was sort of comical." [Takes glasses off to shine them.] "I spent a lot of my time at the New York City Library. And there was this guy in The Garment District," [Puts glasses back on.] "who I found fascinating. He was there every day. Always dressed in knee-high tube socks. Wore the helmet of a Roman soldier. Waved to me as I passed. At work, there was Elise, the woman whose office was beside mine. She called me Darrin. I never corrected her. How's the tea?"
"Good. Don't stop."
"Working at an ad agency is my personal hell. I wouldn't move back to New York. I'd visit, but move?" [Shakes head.] "Never again."
Brings up Christopher Wren. Says he's visiting Europe in the spring. I tell him about the pizzeria next to St. Paul's. He promises to go. We talk about Rousseau. Says he'll take a day trip to Saint Denis while he's in France. I tell him I can't picture that one. "Cathedral. Gothic," he says. We laugh because how is that helpful at all? We start a new conversation: Monet's Rouen Cathedral series. He doesn't know what that is. I soak in a moment of knowing something he doesn't. He tells me I'm smart. Tells me I'm delightful. I explain the paintings. He tells me to tell him more, so I do.
"They're done at different times during the day," I say, "and it's so fantastic."
"That sounds lovely," he says. He means it. He actually means the word lovely. "Did I tell you I'm taking a few years of Latin for grad school?"
"No, but that sounds like you," I watch him fuss with a button on his coat and feel a little tingly because he's ambitious. Also, I can't get over how uncanny the Jude Law resemblance is. That'll make any of us tingle. "Oh, Devin. You devastatingly handsome man." I say. He laughs.
[We get up, head out the door.]
"You're intellectually stimulating," I say.
"You are, too." He tells me, again, that I've got more in my head than other girls.
"I'd rather have that said about me than any other thing."
"Well, good. That means you're a worthwhile person."
"Yeah," I say.
[We get in the car. I don't say anything.]
"You're not all here tonight, are you?" he catches.
"That's okay, I just want to make sure you're still alive in there." He taps his index finger to my nose.
"Pending." I'm about to turn into his driveway.
"Keep driving," he says, "and if you don't want to talk, we'll sit. But keep driving." My eyes hurt. I pull over. "Kill your lights." So, I do. "What happened to you? You're not being you right now."
"I am off."
"I don't know, Dev. Off."
"I don't tell anyone exactly what I think anymore. I can't remember the last time I was honest about something like tha--well..." [We are quiet.] "you, I guess. I guess the last time was... you." He smiles.
"Me. Oh, before The Weirdness?" [We categorized the seven months we were scared of speaking and made it a proper noun.]
"I guess. But, anyway. I never say what I'm thinking."
"Do more of that," he demands, "and may I be bold?" he asks. I nod. "You're exhausted." I wipe a tear with my mitten and he's right. "You've been keeping this all bottled up in there, haven't you?" I nod again, because yeah. I've been bottling it all up in here. "Call me. Day or night. If it's night and I'm asleep, call again and I'll pick up. I always hear it on the second ring. But Court," he puts a hand on my knee and I am still all over. "I think you're holding onto something that's been gone a long time," and I don't know how he's just figured it out, but he's right. And I start to cry again. He makes sad eyes and I feel the weight of me on his shoulders. "Oh, Court." He looks over. We take off our seat belts.
"I'm getting out because I need you to do that thing."
I'm crying. Walk towards him. Headlights illuminate us. He pulls his arms around me completely, cradles my head in one hand. My face is buried deep in his chest. We're not talking. Only standing and it's the safest I've felt in weeks.
"You're one of my favorites. Top of my priority list these days." I don't want him to let go yet, and so, he doesn't. My body is limp and aching next to his. I cry because I know he's being genuine. Real. And I've been rocked so hard by insincerity that this normality of pure human decency buffers at my ridges and makes me feel like less of a shadow. "Will you call me if you think about it?" I nod in his shirt. "Okay." And then, we just stand there for a few minutes because, well, there's no reason. But it felt good to just have someone be.