Julia awoke listless. Her reasoning for getting out of bed at all was that in a day a lover of hers was coming from Massachusetts to see her. Books were scattered about the floor, her clothes needed cleaning, the litter box needed changing and there were many cum stains on her comforter that needed to be taken care of. Julia got out of bed at a more reasonable hour than usual to take care of these things, so as not to make a bad impression on her lover.
While folding laundry on her bed, Julia looked at the two sleeping cats buried in the heaps of clothes and was momentarily overcome with tenderness. She leaned forward and kissed them each on the head and in turn they each shut and opened their eyes very slowly at her.
“the cat equivalent of blowing a kiss,” Julia thought.
Julia’s phone rang in the other room. She did not hurry to answer it. She looked at the screen to identify the caller. Julia does not answer unknown or private calls. It was Robert. Julia had not heard from him in nearly a week.
“What up boo?”
“Not much, just walking home from work,” Robert said.
Julia discretely turned up the volume on her phone, as if Robert could see her and would be subsequently offended. Robert was a very soft-spoken boy.
“Do you want to come over and watch the Simpsons?” Robert asked.
“Yeah. I’m so glad you called. I’m bored and lonely. I’ll be over in a minute.”
“No, I am walking from Halsey, so . . . uh don’t leave right now.”
“Okay, I’ll do my hair.”
Robert hung up.
Julia busied herself for about 10 min by changing into something clean and more flattering, then fixing her hair and make up. Robert had sounded very slightly upset on the phone. Julia had a sense he was going to be a bit cranky with her, and maybe more so as the day went on. Most of Julia’s immediate family was bi-polar, and she had a sociopathic brother, so determining people’s moods was a talent of hers. She could easily predict how people were going to feel for several hours after she heard them say only one sentence. Julia was secretly very proud of this skill, but felt uncomfortable telling anyone about it.
It was a four-block walk to Robert’s house. A few weeks prior Julia had helped Robert apartment hunt for no good reason other than she had nothing to do that day and they had slept at Joe’s house the previous night after a party. Robert slept on the couch and Julia in Joe’s very small bed. Julia had been surprised Joe did not make her sleep on the floor. Once or twice in the night, Joe had slapped Julia for snoring. In the morning Julia intended to go home when Joe went to the library to work on his novel, but a small and uninteresting chain of events led her to spend the day with her new friend Robert, looking at places to live. Julia was excited and relieved when Robert decided to move into her neighborhood.
On Robert’s front stoop, Julia called Robert.
“Hey I’m here. Let me in.”
“Why didn’t you bring your keys?” Robert asked.
“I forgot them at home, they are on a different keychain.”
“Okay I’ll be down in a minute.”
Julia fixed her hair in the reflection as she waited for Robert to come down. He still sounded irritated and she thought looking nice might soften him a bit. Robert opened the door.
“Look, I brought you a present!”
Julia presented a screen-printed poster of the alphabet. Robert smiled and they went together up to his room, where they watched the Simpsons and drank smoothies. Robert talked on the phone to someone for 20 minutes and Julia felt bored and wanted to leave. She lied on his bed reading a small fanzine for Duran Duran. She was surprised to find out the drummer was quite the animal lover, but not a vegetarian.
A few hours passed this way before Julia and Robert went into the city to get pizza. Robert was vegan and Julia was on a budget so they needed to stop at two different places to get slices of pizza for each of them. It was tedious, and Robert’s mood was indeed getting worse as the evening went on.
“I want to die. I want to kill myself,” Robert said over and over again.
“No you don’t, stop saying that.”
“Yes I do.”
“If you want, I will push you down the stairs. I will kill you if you want to die. I would rather have to kill you then let you kill yourself,” Julia said very seriously.
“Thank you I think.”
Robert pet Julia’s head as they walked down the subway stairs. Julia was not sure if Robert realized that she had meant what she said. Julia got off the train first, to meet Joe for a movie. As she got off, she looked back at Robert and realized he did indeed look very sad.
Julia sat for a 15 minutes reading Jane Eyre before Joe arrived at the movie theatre. She spent a few minutes in the bathroom fixing her hair and lipstick. She liked to look nice for Joe. She could see in Joe’s expressions that he also appreciated when she made attempts to look nice for him. Julia was sure that they both felt very good about this unspoken interaction.
After the movie, Joe and Julia walked to different trains. When it was time to split directions, they stood on a corner and talked for some time about many things. They were honest and candid with each other. Julia wanted to pick up Joe and carry him around, but instead they talked and said goodnight and parted. As she walked away from Joe, Julia felt calm.