Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List

Page 18


Track 1
Bon Jovi: “Livin’ on a Prayer” I don’t know what to say to her.
She has such bad taste in music.
So I say, “It’s against the co-op board’s rules to take naps on the couch in the lobby lounge.”
From her fetal position, lying on the lime-green couch, Naomi flashes me that feral look I would never dream of trying to tame. She’s more than a little baked, so the hotness of her stare is cooled by the dull glaze around her hazel eyes. “You’re not going to give me shit about that, are you?” she asks me.
“Do you need help getting upstairs?” Surely she’d rather sleep in her own bed.
“Please let me sleep it off here instead of up there with Mom.”
At four-thirty in the morning, the insomniacs have finally been put to bed. It’ll be another hour before the Wall Street slaves dart through the lobby, shove their dry cleaning at me for pickup by the laundry service later in the morning, then rush out the door to make or lose their millions—or someone else’s.
If Naomi stays on that couch, preferably awake, I’ve got a good hour alone with her. I never know with Naomi whether she wants me to engage her in actual conversation or wants to limit us strictly to text messages and knowing-but-not-knowing glances. There’s so much about her I’d genuinely like to know.
“I don’t mind if you rest on the couch,” I tell Naomi. “But I am bound by the doorman code of conduct to inform you of the co-op board’s will.”
I can’t believe it’s my life that I work by a doorman code of conduct. The co-op board’s will. I can’t believe I spoke those words aloud.
Naomi never said a word to me other than “thanks” about the mix I made for her. The one I basically bled my guts onto.
I do recognize that not everyone feels as bound by the implicit playlist-exchange code of conduct as I do. That’s why the code is probably implicit only to me.
She must not understand. Greater even than my desire for her to consider me as more than her doorman is my desire— no, my need—to hear, in great detail, her every single thought about each single song, each artist, each lyric: Which songs did she like, and why? Which ones has she listened to most and which ones does she find herself skipping over automatically? The order of the songs—did she notice the flow? Admire the transitions? Feel my beating heart inserted into each track?
Or am I just asking too much?
Maybe she just hasn’t listened.
Maybe if I understood why she casually gave me a mix in return comprised of . . . in the interest of kindness, I’ll call them “highly suspicious” rather than “totally lame” song selections, my desire to forget this interlude of our tenuous connection could wane.
I take my doorman jacket off and place it over her shivering, goose-pimpled arms.
“I am going to give you shit about Bon Jovi, however,” I say.
Track 4
Britney Spears: “(You Drive Me) Crazy” “It’s a great workout song!” Naomi defends. “But if you want to know why I put it on the mix, the answer is that I didn’t have a lot of music to choose from. I’m just not into that stuff. Pretty much the only music I own is songs Ely liked or songs I downloaded for listening to when I go running.”
There is no sigh loud enough to express my profound disappointment in Naomi.
“Gabriel.” She pauses, then points her finger at me. “I will take you down if you disrespect Britney or Bon Jovi. Not because I like them that much. But cuz there’s nothing wrong with them.”
Nothing wrong. Just nothing particularly right.
But man, I respect the fight in her. Naomi can play tiger all over me anytime she wants.
Track 5
Dixie Chicks: “Don’t Waste Your Heart” It’s probably a waste of time asking Naomi how she could even conceive of producing a mix that transitions from Britney Spears to the Dixie Chicks with no toner song in between.
She was probably thinking about Ely and not me when she chose that song.
Asking a wasted girl too much is probably a waste anyway.
Wasted girls generally turn me off—it’s not the wasted part so much as the desire to get wasted—but this one’s buzz has broken down her usual guard. Maybe that’s a good thing. Girl’s got issues to deal with, and better she should speak them than smoke them or, next step, snort or shoot them.
Tired and baked, she confesses, “I thought Ely would be my first. You know? Isn’t that stupid? I waited for him. He never waited for me, though. Like my whole life, I couldn’t keep up with him. At school, at dating. Especially at being with guys. He was always streaking ahead.”
I guess I can understand how you’d want to get wasted if the person you loved your whole life not only didn’t want you but didn’t wait for you.
I guess I might want to help her understand that there are better ways to deal.
Track 7
Green Day: “Poprocks & Coke” I’m not sure I want to know how this song slipped into her mix.
Is Naomi one of those pre- or post-fans? Meaning, does she have a love of Green Day starting with their early album Dookie, or is she a listener who discovered them only after the twelve-year-old-girl set embraced “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”?
Naomi yawns. “I don’t know. Catchy beat for a stoner song?”
“What?” This is sacrilege. Catchy beat, sure—but it’s a song about devotion and longing and not about getting high. I sit down at the empty end of the sofa. It’s tempting to place her feet on my lap and offer her a foot massage, but aside from the doorman code of what would be extremely unbecoming conduct, it’s more tempting to find out how Naomi could be so musically misinformed. “What makes you think it’s a stoner song?”
“Poprocks. Coke.”
“That’s just the song title. The actual words Poprocks and Coke aren’t sung once in the lyrics.”
“Oh.” I can never tell when Naomi looks at me if it’s really attraction I sense underneath her gaze, or just disinterest. “Is it really that important?” She shuts her eyes.
Of course it’s that important.
I can see the rise and fall of her breasts as she breathes underneath my jacket.
They are also important.
I want to, but I won’t give up on her.
Track 8
Destiny’s Child: “Bootylicious” I don’t think she’s ready for my jelly, so I let her catnap. Watch her.
When she came home tonight, before she took refuge on the lobby sofa, she approached me at the doorman station. I was supposed to be watching the feed from the security monitors outside the building, but really I was watching Court TV. I figured Naomi would do her usual act when she appears at my doorman station—bore into the center of my soul with her eyes and then say nothing more to me than “hey” before walking away, confident (correctly) that I’d be paying close attention to the sly strut of her hips. Maybe she’d send me a suggestive text message from the elevator.
“Hey,” she said, gravel-voiced. Bloodshot eyes.
I nodded and said nothing. Ready to jump up and catch her should she fall.
I expected her to walk off toward the elevator. Instead she announced, “Tonight we were going to put Robin-guy on trial for crimes against womankind, so Robin-guy said, ‘Okay, but only if I can film it,’ which goes to show why he needed to be on trial anyway, right? God, so self-absorbed. But Robin-girl— I really hope she breaks his heart, I really do—was like, ‘Well, we need an impartial jury,’ so I went, ‘Gabriel should be the judge, because he’s an archangel.’ ”
This is what worries me. The unoriginal associations Naomi makes with names as well as songs.
But she’s thinking about me when I’m not there. Now I know that.
I like that. It dilutes the worry and replaces it with hope.
“So why didn’t you come find me so I could preside?” I asked.
“Robin-guy went to find his Super 8, but he found his water bong instead and then we forgot about the trial.”
My dad thinks I’m missing out on a great growing experience by not going to college, but I suspect he’s mistaken.
As Naomi naps on the sofa, I take her in. She may sleep in a fetal position, but her silky hair falling over the sofa armrest and her bare legs exposed below her short skirt are damn sexy and damn well not child’s play. Her sleep is anything but peaceful. She breathes unevenly and her body jerks. I imagine lying in bed next to her, stroking that hair, my leg wrapped over hers, holding her and soothing her.
She smells like marijuana smoke. It’s not a bad smell. Just a sad one.
If I was her boyfriend, I’d keep her stimulated in much healthier ways.
Musically. Physically. Spiritually.
Track 11
Belle & Sebastian: “Asleep on a Sunbeam” Mesmerized by watching Naomi asleep, I must have dozed off myself. I wake up to the sound of footsteps on the marble lobby floor.
Ely stands before us, alone. Where’s the boyfriend?
As weird as it is to see Ely returning home alone, it’s also a relief. It would be awkward if Naomi were to wake and see Ely. But if Bruce was standing here also—just plain painful.
It must be a song Ely liked.
It’s Ely’s turn now to absorb the vision of Naomi, crunched up on the sofa. Ely’s eyes take in her hair, down to my doorman jacket covering her body, then on to her feet, and finally his eyes move over. To me. Next to her.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here. It’s not like I’m worried about Ely exposing me for breaking the doorman code of conduct. He’d be doing me a favor, getting me fired from this job.
It’s that the silence hanging between us, the awkward and painful glance we share, acknowledges that I’m sitting in his seat.
I start to stand up, but Ely shakes his head and gestures for me to stay seated.
“It’s cool,” he whispers.
I watch him stride away to the elevator.
At five-thirty, I have to wake her. I gently tap on her ankles. “Naomi,” I whisper. “People are going to start coming through anytime now. You’d better get up.”
She opens her eyes and smiles lazily at me. “You’re a nice face to see first thing in the morning.” She’s still baked— content—but the guard is still down.
She’s happy to see my face upon waking. That’s something.
Naomi sits up, stretches her arms, then rises from the sofa. She hands me back the doorman jacket. “Thanks” is all she says. Guard rising back up. She walks off toward the elevator without a good-bye.
We can’t go back to “Hey.”
“Hey, Naomi,” I call out after her.
She turns back around. “Yeah?”
How can I know if I’m asking too much if I never actually ask?
I stride over to the elevator. I ask:
“Did you like any of the songs on the mix I gave you?”
The elevator door opens. I step inside and beckon her in. If someone has dry cleaning to drop off—well, it can wait until I return downstairs. I hit the button for the fifteenth floor.
“I liked that Kirsty MacColl song,” she says as the elevator climbs up. “I didn’t know anything about her ’til I listened to that song, but I liked that song so much that I got one of her CDs.”
Bingo, as the building residents like to say. If I had chosen one song on the whole playlist for her to like best, the Kirsty MacColl song would have been it.
“Which Kirsty MacColl did you buy?”
“I didn’t buy it. Mom Susan ‘borrowed’ it for me from Ely’s collection.” Naomi puts her index finger to her mouth. “Shhh, don’t tell. Hey, you know what? You and Mom Susan. You both like cowboy songs.”