Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List

Page 8


“Leave us,” Naomi commands Bruce the First.
So much for his hubris. Bruce the First jumps to his feet and grabs for the dog. “I think I’m finally ready to fall asleep.”
“Are you still here, Bruce the First?” Naomi snaps, sitting up and pointing at the door. “DID I NOT JUST SAY ‘LEAVE US’?”
He’s gone like that and I must probe Naomi deeper. “And Ely says he’s scared of you? Huh, go figure.”
Now, alone with me, she cries. She sputters. “Ely . . . betrayal . . . how could he kiss a Bruce? . . . he’s all I’ve ever had . . . no, Ely, not Bruce Two!, who cares about that Bruce? . . . I’m all alone now . . . I knew it would happen eventually . . . how could we survive our parents and my lies and his complete lack of desire for me and my complete not lack of it, but still . . . fuck . . . [sob sob sob] . . . I love him, friend or brother or whatever shade of Ely . . . sure we’ve gotten in fights before, but this is different . . . it just is, Robin . . . it’s like a sacred trust that’s broken . . . [sob sniffle sob sniffle] . . . don’t you have a Kleenex-brand tissue, cuz this generic one you have here is really harsh on the skin . . . no, I’m not lying . . . [real Kleenex found and offered to her, snort and blow, sob sob, snort and blow] . . . thanks, Robin . . . you’re the closest friend I have left now . . . Naomi & Ely—we’re lost to each other now.”
I really should text-message that other Robin about Naomi’s presence here tonight; he wants to make a documentary about her and call it Hot Child in the City, but the real-time footage of her at this moment would be too sad and vulnerable and potentially flamingly soap-operatic, so I don’t. Instead I sit down next to Naomi and let her cry it out onto my shoulder. There, there, city girl. Gosh, her hair smells good. It’s weird, because Velmas aren’t supposed to have this kind of problem, but my heart pounds a little harder with Naomi pressed against me, and it’s not like I have any desire to be one of those college-girl experimental lesbians, but Naomi does have some magnetic effect on people. I can understand why that other Robin chases her for film footage and not me. Fascinating.
Name-twin powers truly can activate—the shape of he- Robin stands at the lounge entrance as if he knew me-Robin was summoning him. He’s wearing that blue Hawaiian shirt that makes me feel like I can almost smell the flowers pictured on it. The husky, sweet, imaginary scent those flowers give off could almost inspire a Velma to flip out into some very Daphne-style drunken antics. Aloha.
“ ’Sup?” he asks.
How strange. My mouth feels parched and water is not going to cut it right now, because what I crave is taste. It’s probably for the better that I am not a party girl and the only fizzy drink I can stomach is ginger ale. Back home there is this place called the Lost Dog Café that makes the awesomest ginger ale, with like fresh ginger. You have to drive all the way to Binghamton to get it, but it’s completely worth the trip.
He-Robin’s eyes investigate the room. “Where’s your other half, anyway?” he asks Naomi. “Isn’t it like some law that if you’re out and about in the middle of the night, the Ely appendage is with you?” His blue eyes, lit by shirt, light up bluer still, sparked by idea. “Hey, I know people on the twelfth floor. You just say the word and I will get the karaoke machine down here for you and Ely to do High School Musical again.” He holds up his text pager. “I know the people and I’ve got the necessary accessories, if you know what I’m saying, to get a scene happening in here.”
Say yes, Naomi, I think, please say yes. With the other Robin here, there’s a wild and amazing party just waiting to happen.
“No way,” Naomi says. “Lame-ass parties in this dorm building are what started all the trouble in the first place.”
Robin snorts. “No one from Bruce’s floor has ever figured out how a girl like you ended up making out with an econ major like him at that party here last semester.”
“He’s an accounting major,” Naomi corrects.
“Dude, you don’t even know your own boyfriend. Bruce is an econ major with a possible minor in accounting. He hasn’t decided yet. He’s also intrigued by anthropology.”
“Dude,” Naomi shoots back. “Guess I don’t have to give a fuck, seeing as how Bruce is not my boyfriend anymore.”
“Makes sense.” Robin nods knowingly. “You’re way out of his league. Everyone said so. But seriously, I hope there’s not some trickle-down negative aftershock of depression if you dumped him, because I was going to hit Bruce up to help me study for my—”
“Shut the fuck up, Robin,” Naomi says. “Can you not see I’m in mourning? Show some fucking sensitivity.”
God, I love Naomi. She talks to boys so easily. I don’t know how she does it. She’s like a miracle worker.
“Knew I shoulda brought my Super 8 downstairs,” Robin mutters. “Naomi mourning Bruce. Woulda been classic.”
“Mourning Ely. ELY!” Her flip-out moment ends with the vibration of her cell phone. She wipes the tears from her face, embarrassed, then opens the phone. She looks up at me. Mood stabilized. “Text message. From Gabriel the hot doorman.” That doorman is a fine specimen of hunk, even to a Velma like me, who normally wouldn’t notice such endowment, I mean such shallow observation of one man’s resemblance to either of those main guys from Aerosmith (not the drummer, the other two), who both simply ooze sexual appeal no matter how geriatric they get. I could aspire to be a Daphne if I thought it would attract the likes of either of them to me, or that Gabriel guy, or even the other Robin guy. I’d be a Daphne from Albany for any of those guys. Crazy!
“You text-message with your doorman?” I ask Naomi. I might officially worship her now.
“Yeah, but don’t tell Ely. Gabriel’s currently number two on the No Kiss List.”
Tears, welcome back.
“You gonna be okay?” I ask Naomi, pulling her into another embrace.
She nods onto my bosom, I mean my sensible sweater, stifling a sniffle. Then she looks up at me, goddess face, resplendent in the glow of tear-stained cheeks. “Gabriel’s shift just ended, and he’s headed over to some club on Avenue B. He’s in this band called The Abe Froman Experience. Their set’s gonna start in about an hour. That’s gotta be a better diversion than any dorm party that could be brewing here.”
A Velma is obligated to remind Naomi, “I thought you wanted to slow down.”
“Vrrroooommmm,” Naomi answers. “Wanna go, Robins?”
What am I doing in this closet?
Surely, when Ely told me not to leave, he didn’t mean to stay in here.
After a good two minutes (I count to 120), I step out. I don’t close the door behind me, though. I look in and see all of Ely’s pretty shirts. They look like they’re made of wrapping paper.
I shop at the Gap. I don’t even have the body for Aber-crombie’s non-muscle wear. I own three pairs of jeans and rotate them. (For those, I splurged and went to Banana Republic.) What am I doing here?
I know Ely’s not toying with me. I trust him. But I also feel that life is toying with me. This can’t be right. The Cosmic Screenwriter is doing this as a joke.
Ely would never fall for a guy wearing a Gap button-down and Banana Republic jeans. Especially not L, 34/32.
And I would never fall for a guy who was . . . well . . . a guy. That was the script, right? I mean, I’m all for falling for the person, not the gender . . . but this is not exactly where I thought I’d be. I won’t lie: I’ve definitely thought about the guy thing before. And then I’ve dismissed it. Until this. This won’t be dismissed.
I know I should leave. Just go. Because there’s a point where a mistake turns into a big mistake, and I should probably come to my senses before I get there.
But of course, come to my senses makes no sense. My senses are happy here. Or they will be, when he comes back.
I wonder if I should still be hiding. I crouch down to look under the bed, to see if maybe I could fit there.
And that’s how I find it.
The mother lode.
At first I don’t get it. I see all the plastic sleeves, and since the lode’s under the bed, my first reaction is, He keeps his porn in mint condition?
Then I reach in and pull one out.
It can’t be.
But it is. It looks like he has every single X-Men comic published in the last ten—no, twenty—years. None of the desperate spin-offs. Just the core series. Wolverine. Jean Grey. Emma Frost. Mmmm . . . Emma Frost.
The X-Men were pivotal heroes for me. Before them, I always liked the more conventional superheroes, the ones like Superman and Batman, who had their “normal” alter egos— their Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne lives to hide behind. But the X-Men were different. They were always exactly who they were. Wolverine couldn’t shave himself and put on a tie and go to work at a newspaper. Rogue couldn’t touch anyone, whether she was at school or at war. Cyclops couldn’t change out of a cape and attend fancy dinner parties. No, the mutants were full-time mutants. Their powers and their weaknesses were all out in the open.
That appealed to me.
I was never allowed to collect comics. My mother didn’t like the clutter. She said I should donate my old comics to poor children who didn’t have any comics of their own to read. How could I argue with that?
Ely, clearly, has a different philosophy.
I leave the comics in their plastic sleeves. I can’t violate them with my fingerprints. Not without asking.
But I look at the covers, all the Jim Lee scenes, so many different shades of mutant. There are even star stickers stuck onto a few of the sleeves. Ely’s favorites, no doubt.
I never would have guessed. Underneath the wrapping paper, there’s an X-Men heart. Uncanny.
I’m so transfixed that I don’t hear the footsteps or the door opening. But I sense a presence in the room, because I look up from my side of the bed and see one of Ely’s moms hovering over it.
“Hello,” she says. She does not seem particularly startled to see me.
“Hey,” I say, starting to stand up.
“No, no—you can stay there. I’m sure you’re just waiting for Ely. Make yourself comfortable.”
And that’s it. She turns around and leaves.
Which makes me wonder if this happens a lot.
Which makes me wonder why I’m still here.
I mean, I know Ely’s slept with a lot of guys. Naomi has certainly mentioned what a boyslut he is. Whenever we were together, she boasted on his behalf. Not just the sex part. Everything. The boys, I sensed, were disposable. Naomi was granite. And Ely was granite to her. There was no way for me to compete with that. So I let her talk. I always let her talk. Mostly about Ely.
Do all the boys feel like this? I mean, is this the way it usually goes?
It’s like I’m joining a club. The Boys Who’ve Fallen For Ely Club. Hundreds throughout the greater metropolitan area. Every year they have a potluck and compare their broken hearts.
How long do they usually wait for him in situations like this? An hour? Two? The whole night?
I’m not even supposed to like boys.
But, yeah. Here I am.
I lie down on the floor. Close my eyes. I can hear a television in another room—maybe his moms’, maybe from the apartment downstairs. If I can hear them, can they hear me? I’m really nothing but a heartbeat and thoughts right now. Not restful or restless. The rest.
“You could use the bed, you know.”
I open my eyes, and Ely is smiling over me. So damn sexy that I can’t help but love it and fear it and resent it and want it.
“What time is it?” I ask. Did I fall asleep? Am I really awake?