Short Fiction for Guests of the Wordfeeder
Monday, September 5, 2011
“You know,” Greg mumbled into his pillow, wondering if he’d been drooling, “I can feel you staring at me.”
“That’s not possible,” Georgia responded from where she was sitting up against her pillows, her knees up, one hand on the TV’s remote control waiting to see if she should change channels.
“Are you staring at me?”
“Well, yes. Sort of.”
“How did I know?”
“Because you can feel the intensity of the anguish emanating like laser beams…”
“Like red laser beams.”
“Right. Like red laser beams out of my electric blue eyes.”
“That’s it exactly.” Sitting up, Greg grabbed and stacked up his pillows against the headboard, fluffing them just so, scrunched his tush up and interlocked his fingers while staring mindlessly at Jimmy Fallon’s monologue. “Okay, I’m up. What’s bothering you?”
“Lisa and.. and what’s-his-name broke up. She’s devastated.”
“Lisa was ‘devastated’ when the African violet we got her for her new apartment died.”
“I know, but she was attached to that plant. It was like a member of her family.”
“Then she should have watered it. Maybe if she’d watered what’s-his-name..”
“Okay,” Georgia answered, cocking and lowering her head slightly while she raised her eyebrows to acknowledge his point, “but it’s still sad they broke up. She really liked this guy.”
“I’m sure she did, and the one before him, and the one before him, but I’m not surprised. She’s one of your best friends and still.. and still, after months of dating this guy, you don’t know his name.”
“They seemed so perfect together.”
“Com’on. You didn’t wake me up to tell me that Lisa’s back on the market.”
“We have nothing in common.”
“You and Lisa?”
“No. You and me.”
“We both like Jimmy Fallon.”
“Yes, but me more than you. Even that, me more than you.”
“Okay. ..Okay, let’s do this right. Don’t move.” Getting out of bed, Greg walked across their loft to his desk, picked up a yellow pad, grabbed a pen and got back into bed. Without his contacts in, he had to hold the pad closer than usual to his face.
“Mm, you’re so anal,” Georgia noted out loud, closing her eyes and shaking her head slightly while Greg drew two vertical lines, writing “What,” “You” and “Me” at the top of the page. “Ever since you read that book on..”
“Forget the book. By the way, I prefer “organized” to “anal.” ..Now go ahead. Pick any subject.”
“Go ahead. It’s 12:40 in the morning. Put your money where your mouth is, or lose for-ev-er the right to make this argument.”
“What argument is that?”
“The ‘we have nothing in common’ argument.”
“Fine,” Greg answered in kind.
“You can’t just diminish the impact of my ‘fine’ by repeating it.”
“Agreed. It was an instinctive reflex, like needing sleep, which, because I love you, I’ll do my best to repress. You go first.”
“Alright,” Georgia was ready. “Politics. I’m a fiscal conservative, you’re a Democrat.”
“I can be both.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Have you ever said ‘No’ to a social program even if we couldn’t afford it?”
“Okay, I’ll be a ‘Democrat,’ but only if you admit to being a ‘Republican.’”
She paused, “Deal, but with an asterisk.”
“This list is going to have footnotes, and you think I’m anal.”
“In the interest of precision, and I know how much you appreciate precision, I want you to note that I’m agreeing to these simple-minded distinctions only because it’s late.”
“Agreed,” and Greg drew a horizontal line. ..What’s next?”
“Believes in sex on the first date?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“It’s a question, a perfectly valid question that goes to your attitude toward relationships.”
“Honey, we had sex on our first date, willing, desperate, consensual sex on the first date.”
“That wasn’t exactly our first date. More like a preface to our first date.”
“You’re saying we had sex before our first date. How’s that even possible? What did we, bump into each other on the subway before we’d actually met? Why am I just hearing about this?
“Do you even remember? ..We met at a party. I’d spilled some chili on my blouse. You came to my rescue. We went into the kitchen for some water. The next thing we knew, we were grabbing each other in their garage, making love on the hood of..”
“You know, I don’t remember how we got from the kitchen to the garage?”
“That’s because you blacked out as soon as you touched my breast. ..Still do.”
“I do not!” Greg was beginning to take this personally.
“What difference does it make?”
“Okay. ‘Yes’ on both sides. There. That’s something we have in common.”
“Big deal. ..Let’s do race. “You’re white. I’m Hispanic.”
“Write it down,” Georgia insisted.
“With an asterisk. ‘Hispanic, but doesn’t speak Spanish or even like Mexican food.”
“I eat tacos.”
“Religion.” It was Greg’s turn. “I’m Jewish, but not religious. You were raised Catholic.”
“Perfect. That’s a perfect example. Remember how your parents reacted to hearing that, when you finally got around to telling them?! I still can’t believe you let them think that Gomez might be a Jewish name?”
“In my defense, there are Hispanic Jews. You could have been one of them, with a tan.”
“Yeah, how many? Just how many Hispanic Jews are there?”
“I don’t know exactly, but now that my parents know, they’re…”
“Adjusting. ..I’m drawing another horizontal line.” Greg was ready to change the subject. “…I like sea food, sea food and vegetables, preferably wild and organic.”
“Yes. Be sure to mention arugula, goat cheese, and all that new cuisine crap you’re always ordering.”
“I can’t believe you’re attacking the food I eat. ..You, on the other hand, never met a carbohydrate you didn’t like.”
“So I like pasta, and an occasional cheeseburger.”
“If by ‘occasional,’ you mean ‘daily’?”
“I like to think of myself like a Vegan,” Georgia felt the need to explain, “that only eats carbohydrates.”
“Right. Like a Vegan. I’ll make a note”
“Thank you. ..Sex?”
“I’m male. You’re female. You’re not holding that against me, are you?”
“That’s gender. I meant to ask, when do you prefer to have sex?”
“He,” Greg moved his pen while talking about himself in the third person, “prefers morning sex, but then you knew that, while..”
“She prefers nighttime sex.”
“You know,” Greg couldn’t help himself, “it’s nighttime.”
“No, no. It’s after 1 AM. The nighttime sex ship has sailed.”
“You’re referring to the USS Fornicate?”
“Exactly. Left the port. Out to sea. In international waters.”
“I get the point.”
“Parents. Draw another line. ..Parents.” Georgia was determined to keep the conversation on point.
“What about our parents?”
“Your parents like me. My parents don’t.”
“Your parents don’t like me?”
“No, they think you’re great. It’s me they don’t like.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You have two loving parents..”
“Who have never recovered from my dropping out of college.”
“Are you kidding? Have you seen how proud they are of how you’ve been buying and renovating these houses, at the crew you’ve built and the money you’ve been making?”
“Thanks, honey. I needed to hear that, and I couldn’t have done it without you..”
“..and that’s be-cause?”
“..because,” Georgia repeated the phrase he loved to hear, “you’re not only good in bed, you’re a financial genius, God’s gift to Accounting.”
“’Great.’ ‘Great in bed.’”
“Right, but we still don’t have anything in common.”
“Okay, I’ll keep playing, but only because it’s late and I’m not thinking clearly.”
“Entertainment. I like to watch TV. You like to read.”
“You read stuff.”
“The ads in the Sunday paper don’t count… although I do spend a lot of time on the Internet, reading blogs and the cable news websites. You read actual books.”
“And this is a material difference?”
“No.. Not all by itself. Gimme a break. There’s a collective point I’m trying to make here.”
“Okay. I’m can do this. What’s next?”
“What about it?” Greg was thinking it might be a trick question.
“You need it. I don’t even like it all that much. I’m busy out of my mind and meanwhile my boyfriend is taking his time.”
“I thought you liked it.”
“Do you remember the garage sex we had, that we were talking about during the monologue? The time we spent in the kitchen…”
“..before I blacked out.”
“Yes. That was foreplay for me.”
“So I’ve been wasting time all these months we’ve been sleeping together?”
“Soooo, we could have had, like two or three times as much actual sex?”
“Two times would be my guess. ..I think I just need to have sex more frequently than most women, so far as I know.”
“And you’re just telling me this now?”
“To be honest, I got tired of waiting to figure it out for yourself.”
“Well, good. Thank you for keeping me in the loop as it were. ..So good news, we now have in common that neither one of us gives a hoot about foreplay.”
“That reminds me,” it just occurred to Georgia, “Language.”
“We both speak English.”
“I use the full array of traditional four letter words. Your idea of cussing is to say “hoot.”
“Fine. I’m drawing another line. What’s next?” Greg folded the first page over the top of the pad and drew three more vertical lines, hurriedly, not so straight this time.
“Where do we each prefer having sex?”
“In bed, in the shower and on the couch,” Greg was quick to list his choices, “in that order. As for you, after what you just told me, I’m guessing pretty much anywhere.”
“We don’t have a couch, just a futon.”
“Well then we need to get one. ..Music. How ‘bout music?”
“You like country,” Georgia shook her head from side to side, sighing slightly in the process, never having understood his appreciation for boring (her opinion) music. “I, on the other hand, like to rock and roll,” which she said while doing a little dance with the top half of her body.
“You make us sound like Donnie and Marie, only with less teeth.”
“Just write it down.”
“Are they friends of yours from the office?”
“They’re a brother and sister act. I’m a little bit coun-try,” Greg sang in a bad falsetto, and then, “And I’m a little bit rock and roll,” in his normal voice.
Greg turned his head to look at her, feigning distain.
“And we never go dancing.”
“That’s because neither of us looks cool dancing, as you were just demonstrating so aptly.”
“’Aptly’? Who says ‘aptly’?”
“Anal people who read books. Let’s keep going. It’s only a matter of time before I pass out.”
Georgia thought for a moment. “..Personal habits. You’re compulsively neat, but don’t mind cleaning up after me for some reason, which, I admit, is a point in your favor. I, on the other hand, am somewhat less neat.”
Georgia was on a roll. “..Personal hygiene.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“He only shaves once ever other day or so. ..Stubble can irritate my skin.”
“I had no idea you were so sensitive. And you shave under your arms and legs how frequently?”
“Good point. Let’s move on.”
“Let’s not.” Greg was exhausted, literally. “Here’s the deal.”
“You’ve stopped writing.”
“You’re the most important thing in my life. ..You’re also the most important thing in your life.”
“No interrupting. That’s something else we have in common.”
“Are you kidding?! I do care more about you than I do about myself. Really. ..I know. Hard to believe. But I do. It’s true.”
“I was crazy about you that day in the garage, and I still am.”
“Yes,” now it was Greg’s turn, “but in a good, meaningful way. I never get tired of hearing her voice. Something about it makes me feel good. And you make me laugh, not so much right now, but most of the time. For a guy like me, the only one of his ethnic group that’s not naturally funny, that’s a bigger deal than you might imagine. You’re extraordinary and, at the risk of blowing a really good thing, I have no idea why you go out with me. I even like the way you reach out for me, touching my elbow and knees in the middle of the night.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. I do that in self-defense.”
“…So, are we done?”
Georgia didn’t answer immediately, but then, “Yes,” her voice serious, almost determined.
“No, I mean ‘Yes.’”
“Yes, we’re done?! Are you kidding?,” Greg seldom got excited, but was on the verge of losing his calm. “One of your screwball friend’s personal life hits a pothole, and our relation tanks?!”
“No, bozo.” Georgia turned to face him. ‘Yes,’ I’ll marry you.”
Greg put his mouth on pause while he looked carefully at Georgia’s face, one feature at a time. “Are you asking me to marry you?”
“No. I just assumed, you know, by inference, I just assumed you were asking me, and I was responding. In the affirmative.”
“Uhhhh, I was. Yes, that’s exactly what I was doing. For the record, just to be clear, ..will you marry me?”
“Okay then, can we get some sleep?” Greg tossed his pad and pen onto the floor, reached up and turned off the light on his nightstand, sliding under the sheets and turning sideways toward Georgia who was still sitting up. “I love you.” It was something, the last thing he said to her every night, reaching over to touch her side while he closed his eyes.
Georgia turned off her light, but didn’t scrunch down, the only light in the room coming from the TV and the city lights outside their third floor windows.
“You know,” Greg mumbled into his pillow, “I can feel you staring at me.”
“Which one of us is telling his parents first?”
“What difference does it make?”
“Which one of us?”
“Okay,” Greg shot up. “Rock, paper, scissors.” And they did it.
“Good,” Greg said victoriously. “Your parents first, Saturday morning over breakfast.” And he was down on his pillow, eyes shut.
A minute later, “I think you cheated. ..I don’t know how, but I never win. There’s just no other explanation.”
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