Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List

Page 11


I’ve created a monster. I only started the bingo nights at my building to fulfill my high school community service requirement. I figured we’d get ten residents max, all over the age of seventy, we’d meet for games like five times and then like forget all about it, and I’d get my school credit and be done with it. But noooooo. Everyone wanted in on bingo— everyone from the building, the block, the borough. I didn’t count on that variable, and now it’s, like, out of control with hipsters here. Whatever happened to billiards as the hot group game of choice? People, I’m trying to get into Harvard here— not start a revolution!
Che, I mean She who leads us, is she who shall not be conquered—our resident bingo caller, Mrs. Loy, who cares only about bingo and not at all about the Naomi-Ely-Bruce1-Bruce2 quadrangle. Mrs. Loy is loyal only to her dog and to my brother, who treats her dog more like a sister than he does his own sister, she who happens to be me. Back in nineteen hundred forever ago, long before she moved to Manhattan to marry old what’s-his-name, Mrs. Loy once competed in the U.K. Caller of the Year Competition, which is like this big-deal contest where bingo callers compete for a cash prize and the chance to call the numbers in Las Vegas, as well as to become the bingo “ambassador” for Britain. Mrs. Loy didn’t win, but she seems more than happy to settle for serving as our building’s bingo ambassador so many years later.
“Dirty Gertie!” she calls out. The only way to thin out the ranks of our game’s burgeoning popularity was to require players to learn U.K. Housie slang. Room occupancy deference to fire department hazard codes.
“What number is ‘Dirty Gertie’?” Bruce my twin brother asks me. Thirty-fifth percentile on the PSAT. His mathematical experiment was to choose “All of the above” as the answer to every fourth problem. Boy needs to get a good night’s sleep. Otherwise, he’ll be lucky to get accepted at SUNY–So Far Upstate You Might As Well Be In Canada, eh?
I cross out the number 30 on his card. I have to do everything for him. I’m five minutes older. The burden always falls on me.
Mrs. Loy spots me in the crowd and I know what number will be called out next. I cross out the number 1 on my card well before she calls out, “Kelly’s Eye!”
Next up is “Two Fat Ladies!” and I would so have bingo if number 88 was on my card. I avoid looking directly up at Amstel Not-So-Light Susan and Ginny, because that would be too obvious. They’re not really fat, even, they’re more just . . . relaxed, not heterosexually emaciated, like most of the other building moms, e.g., my mom, Naomi’s mom. I’m glad they worked things out, although my parents voted against them in the co-op board dispute, because Mom and Dad wanted to buy the moms’ apartment, directly downstairs from ours, and break through to build us a bi-level apartment. So I’m sort of grateful to the moms as well, since I really could not get behind my mother’s menopausal plan to adopt a contingent of special-needs babies from Macedonia once Bruce and I take off for college. My mom breaks down in sobs when salesclerks at Bendel don’t recognize her. I don’t think she could handle the pressure.
“Heinz Varieties!” That Other Bruce across the room is close. I can feel it. He just crossed out number 57 on his card. How a guy that bland and nice got caught up in the Naomi & Ely situation beats me. I mean, Ely’s hot, but not that hot— except when he’s paying me top dollar for my Gremlin aka Titanium Man’s appearance in vintage X-Men vs. The Avengers #1.
If That Other Bruce reaches bingo before me, I will not be happy. I wonder if he’s miserable when he’s trapped in the elevator with Naomi and Ely at the same time. The freeze is so cold between Naomi and Ely, both Iceman and Emma Frost are shivering from their silence.
My Bruce points at my recently delivered burger and fries container. Food is strictly forbidden on the bingo tables, but since I am not only the master of this game but also fix most every resident here’s computer when it breaks down and consequently know all the sordid details of their online porn, gambling, and illegal music-downloading addictions, nobody dares call me out on my rule bending.
“Are you going to eat your fries?” Bruce asks me.
“Can I have some, then?”
“No.” I push the container farther out of his reach.
Mrs. Loy calls out, “Man Alive!”
My stupid brother’s fry distraction causes That Other Bruce to beat me at finding the number 5 on my card. “Bingo!” he calls out. Now I’m furious. That Other Bruce is joyful. He waves his card in the air, smiling. He turns to Ely and they share a quick, celebratory kiss. Not the lip-to-lip kind, or the tongue kind—it’s only a quick cheek kiss, but still, that does it for Naomi. I bet it hurts way more for your ex–best friend to steal your boyfriend and then have their thing turn out to potentially be true love than just to lose the friend and the boyfriend to a casual fling. I’d feel sorry for her if she wasn’t such a bitch about manipulating my brother because of it. Right now Naomi looks like she’d want to throw herself into Terri-gen Mist, which for those not properly schooled in the Marvel universe is a mutagenic, or mutation-causing, substance discovered by the Inhuman scientist Randac. It is potent enough to cause any living organism to mutate from exposure to it.
Naomi responds to the kiss by purposefully, scarily, turning to my Bruce. She places her hand at the back of his neck to pull him back in, and BAM, once again my brother has forgotten all about our parents’ lectures on safe sex and disgusting PDAs. Ewww. . . I should have given him my fries; maybe that would have kept his mouth too tied up for his and Naomi’s lip-to-lip, tongue-swirling display.
That’s it. I’ve had it. I’ve lost a bingo round I was thisclose to winning and my brother has publicly revolted me for the last time. Mr. McAllister is handing out new cards, but I’ll sacrifice the next round to end this nonsense contest once and for all.
“NAOMI!” I say.
She’s already forgotten my brother as she detaches her mouth from his and leans in front of him to reach for a fry from my container. “What is it, Kelly?” she asks, dipping the fry into the ketchup before taking a bite.
Bruce is sitting right between us, but I speak to her as if he’s not there. I think even in the womb, I knew this was the best method for dealing with him—by going around him. And if his post-contact-with-Naomi crotch pops one up in full view of me, he is banned from this game and from my protection from this day forward. Boys are so . . . so . . . useless.
“Naomi,” I say. “How would you feel if someone you liked teased you into thinking you had a relationship you in fact don’t have?”
I understand that I should be more tactful with my words, but clearly I’m not the only person concerned with Naomi’s behavior. Everyone at our table stops paying attention to Mrs. Loy long enough to see Naomi’s reaction. Naomi is a powder keg waiting to blow, a Rogue waiting to happen, and no one wants to miss the explosive transformation. She’s so . . . so . . . ripe.
Naomi actually thinks about my question. I give her credit. She looks over to Ely and That Other Bruce, who are now intently staring at their game cards so no one would dare think they cared about observing Naomi’s make-out moment with my brother. Ewww, again.
“You’re right,” Naomi states. It’s spooky how beautiful she is—it’s like her hazel eyes have gotten deeper and more alluring from all the crying they’ve obviously experienced lately. All eyes are on her beauty as she stands up from our table. She’s wearing low (very low)-rider jeans with a tight (very tight) T-shirt that says THE ABE FROMAN EXPERIENCE on it, and her exposed belly exposes a new belly ring that has the elevator rejects on the Ely side of the game room salivating from the view of it. She looks down at my seated Bruce. “You know I love you, right? But not the way you’ll ever want me to. And the temptress routine can get tiring, and I am all-out exhausted these days. So get over me, okay, Bruce? Move on. And, Kelly, I owe you thanks for setting Bruce and me free from recycling this game over and over. You’re a good girl and I hope you get into Harvard one day, I sincerely do. Because I sincerely know what you’re talking about, and the answer is, it feels like shit, and I shouldn’t be causing someone else to feel that.”
I can’t believe that lying wench is capable of such sincere compassion. I don’t think she’s messing with us, either. I think she actually had a revelatory moment, and I think I actually inspired it. I think her hurt has inspired a new direction. Maybe a better one.
Trust Ely to tip the moment, of course. That wench can’t just let Naomi’s rare moment of decency go by without ruining it. He turns to Bruce the Other and plants one on his lips, a deep one this time. Even the Lesbian Nation appears mortified. Bruce the Other looks like he wants to die from the public display. I heard he wasn’t even gay ’til Ely. Trust Ely to take the moment too far, and to push his new boyfriend too soon— not just out of the closet, but too far out into the happily happening world of West Ninth Street bingo.
Naomi says, “I get it now. Ely was the lie.” Then she very loudly proclaims, looking up at the ceiling like she’s calling out to God, but Lord have mercy, it’s not like every bingo player in the room doesn’t understand exactly to which he her words are directed: “AND THE STARBUCKS ON SIXTH BY WAVERLY IS MINE!”
And having so spoketh, Naomi runs out of the room. Through the clear window on the community room door, I see Gabriel standing outside. Waiting to comfort her. Now there’s a situation that could be way more scandalous than the Naomi and Ely breakup.
I fear for Naomi’s new quest for truth as much as I hated her old quest to conquer my brother.
It can’t last longer than a minute. I just have to  the room, walk out the door. But it’s like I’ve suddenly overdosed on Saint-John’s-wort. Because while it’s not unusual for me to have twenty-seven thoughts at once, it’s definitely unusual to be hearing every single one of them pass through my mind in the time it takes for me to leave a room.
1 Walk. Just. Keep. Walking. Don’t look at anyone. Don’t look at the ground. Focus. Straight. Ahead. Just. Keep. Walking.
2 Okay, you pussy-teasing faggot, do you know what I’m going to do to you? I am going to take back that boy whose lips you are currently fellating, and I am going to   you pictures of him doing things to me that he’d never, ever be able to do to your  Every time you step out of the elevator, I’m going to make sure that he and I are jammed together on the other side of the wall, releasing moans that are going to make you scramble to find some porn. I will take him by the  and lead him away from you, and I will make you watch every. fucking. moment.
3 This is too much. This is too far. This isn’t really happening.
4 I showed you mine and you showed me yours. Kindergarten. Maybe first grade. Mom was in the other room, watching her soaps (before our lives became one). You had to pee and I went in to watch you. It was curiosity. That one place where we were different. Only that one place. Otherwise, we assured each other, we were completely the same.
5 Are you happy now, Kelly? Did you get what you wanted?  , I can’t stand you. I hope you get into your poison Ivy League school and disappear into a physics lab and never return.
6 It’s the shoes. If I hadn’t chosen these shoes this morning, none of this would have happened. The pumps are to blame.
7 I kissed Bruce first. People are forgetting that. I kissed him first. That has to give me some kind of right, even if he ends up being gay.
8 I have printed out every e-mail you ever sent me. And that horrible year, when Mom would disappear and Dad would fume and cry and yell, all I could do when you weren’t home was go to my room and take out the box and read something stupid about the velour pantsuit that Mrs. Keller wore to school that day, and how you thought it made her look like Barney’s bastard love child, and I would find myself smiling, because even though the  was falling apart and our parents had turned our lives into a  , I honestly believed that you were the only family I needed. My future family.