Sunday, January 22, 2006

...if only you were older, and more mature, and less psychotic..

December 18, 2005

Sometimes it seems like everything is the way it used to be.

Tim and I talk most every day, but as soon as the conversation turns serious, one of us tells the other to knock it off. We talk, laugh, and flirt like we always have, but nothing more ever seems to happen. It's maddening.

I don't know if I'll ever give her the letter I wrote. I just want to see her and tell her face to face how I feel. We've talked about "stopping by" or "getting together" a couple of times but it's never happened. At this point, I have my eye on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If we can't reconcile then, when can we?

"I thought you were coming over to bring me my skillet," Tim says on the phone.

"I'm not ready to talk right now."

"Who said anything about talking?"

"You want me to just give you the skillet and leave?"

"If you want to."

"Do you want to talk to me?"

"About what?"

"Tim," I say, impatiently.

"About us?"


"I don't know. I'm not used to - reconciling."

"Me neither!" I laugh. She laughs too, and I'm glad that we feel the same way.

"We'll talk soon. All right?" I ask.

"OK," she says. "Are you going to talk to that chick?"

"Holly? Yeah. Any advice?"

"Just tell her you wish you could be together, but it's bad timing. Make sure you say that: bad timing. It works for me."

"You've had stalkers?"

"Oh God, yeah. You guys can get pretty clingy sometimes."

"Bad timing, eh?"

"Bad timing."


I love the mall at Christmas. There's nothing like 20-foot Christmas trees, Paul Bunyon-sized wreaths hanging from the angled ceiling, and stampedes of frenetic soccer moms running each other over for the last Xbox.

"Why won't you take the coupon?" a man complains at an Auntie Anne's kiosk.

"You have to buy three pretzels for that, sir."

"That's fucking bullshit," he replies.

Isn't it funny how people get so mean around the holidays? The only reason they come to the mall in the first place is, ostensibly, to buy gifts for loved ones, to celebrate the spirit of Jesus' birth. And evidently, they intend to bask in the love shown to us by that little baby boy, even if they have to snap someone's neck in the process.

Chris and I walk up to The Body Shop on the second floor, and Holly is there in her apron, amid the massage oils and scented candles. She sees me immediately, and she glares angrily for just a second before her face softens into a big grin, as if she tried to hold back but couldn't.

She trots through a maze of browsing customers and stands on her toes to hug me, then kisses my cheek longingly, holding her lips to me for so long that I find myself pushing her away.

"Hi, Chris," she says with a glance at his face, shaking his hand limply.

"Can we talk to you for a minute?" I ask, and she looks from my face to Chris's, and then back again.

"Hold on," she says. She walks behind the counter and whispers to an older woman who nods. "Let's go!" she says, pulling her apron off, and we wade into the wall-to-wall foot traffic.

"Holly, things are getting a little out of control," I say.

"You're the one who won't return my messages. You're being rude!"

"I don't have anything to say to you, Holly!"

"But sometimes I just want to make sure you're ok or something, and you won't even call me back."

"Holly, you don't need to check on me. We're not together. You're really great, and you're gonna make some guy really happy someday, but it's just... bad timing."

"What do you mean, bad timing?"

"I mean, the time just isn't right for us. It just feels wrong. At a different time, at a different point in our lives-"

Chris glances at me. He doesn't look happy, and I'm not sure he's pleased with the direction in which we are going. "Holly, look, you've done some inappropriate things. Some of those emails you sent Steve were... pretty scary. And the door... I know if it was me, I would have called the police."

"Steve raped me. If he calls the cops, I'm gonna report him," she snaps, looking angrily at me.

"He raped you?"

"If the girl is under 18 it's automatically statutory rape."

"Holly, the age of consent is 16 in this state."

"No it's not."

"Trust me, it is. And even if it was statutory rape, that doesn't give you the right to stalk him."

"So you're calling the cops on me now?" she says, her face going pale.

"We don't want to call the cops. We don't want to call your parents either. We don't want to call anyone. But you have to cool it on the stalking."

"What do you mean, my parents?" she says, wide-eyed.

"We don't want to call anyone," I say. "If you give me your word that you'll stop calling, and emailing, and visiting, then it stops right here. But if your parents get involved, they're probably going to take your car away, and you might not be able to work anymore. From what I heard, they needed a lot of convincing to get you a car in the first place."

She looks at me for a long time, with the wounded pout of a little girl.

"OK," she says.