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“Did you have an argument?” she asks, nodding at my laptop.
I shake my head no but don’t say anything more.
By Sunday the urge to check my e-mail is acute. I imagine my in-box overflowing with subject-less e-mails from Olly. Is he asking more Fast Five questions? Does he want some company, refuge from his family?
“You’re OK,” Carla says on her way out the door that evening. She kisses my forehead, and I’m a little girl again.
I take Alice to my white couch and settle in. Carla’s right of course. I am OK, but, like Alice, I’m just trying not to get lost. I keeping thinking about the summer I turned eight. I spent so many days with my forehead pressed against my glass window, bruising myself with my futile wanting. At first I just wanted to look out the window. But then I wanted to go outside. And then I wanted to play with the neighborhood kids, to play with all kids everywhere, to be normal for just an afternoon, a day, a lifetime.
So. I don’t check my e-mail. One thing I’m certain of: Wanting just leads to more wanting. There’s no end to desire.
Life is Short™
Spoiler Reviews by Madeline
ALICE’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Spoiler alert: Beware the Queen of Hearts. She’ll have your head.
Makes You Stronger
There’s no e-mail from Olly. Not one. I even check my spam folder. This shouldn’t bother me and it doesn’t. It doesn’t bother me a lot. In the interest of thoroughness, I refresh my e-mail three more times in about two seconds. Maybe it’s just hiding somewhere, stuck behind another one.
Carla walks in as I’m about to refresh again.
“I didn’t think you’d be able to unearth that thing,” she says.
“Good morning to you, too,” I say, squinting down at the screen.
She smiles and begins her daily unpacking-of-the-medical-bag ritual. Why she doesn’t leave it here overnight is a mystery.
“Why are you frowning? Another dead cat video?” Her smile is toothy and wide, very Cheshire-catlike. Any minute now her body will disappear, leaving just a grinning floating head in its wake.
“Olly didn’t send me any e-mails.”
I believe nonplussed is the word for her expression.
“All weekend,” I say, by way of illumination.
“I see.” She puts the stethoscope in her ears and the thermometer under my tongue.
“Did you e-mail him?”
“Yesh.” I talk around the thermometer.
“Don’t talk, just nod.”
She rolls her eyes and we wait for the beep.
“Ninety-nine point eight,” I say, handing the thermometer back to her. “I basically told him not to write. Am I being ridiculous?”
She motions for me to turn around so she can listen to my lungs but doesn’t respond.
“How ridiculous?” I prompt. “On a scale of one to ten, one being perfectly rational and reasonable and ten being absurd and certifiable.”
“About an eight,” she says without hesitation.
I’d been expecting her to say twelve, so eight seems like a victory. I tell her so and she laughs at me.
“So you told him not to write to you and then he didn’t write to you. This is what you’re telling me?”
“Well, I didn’t say DON’T WRITE in big, bold letters or anything. I just said I was busy.” I think she’s going to make fun of me, but she doesn’t.
“Why didn’t you write to him?”
“Because of what we talked about. I like him, Carla. A lot. Too much.”
The look on her face says is that all? “Do you really want to lose the only friend you’ve ever had over a little bit of heartache?”
I’ve read many, many books involving heartache. Not one has ever described it as little. Soul-shattering and world-destroying, yes. Little, no.
She leans back against the couch. “You don’t know this yet, but this will pass. It’s just the newness and hormones.”
Maybe she’s right. I want her to be right so I can talk to him again.
She leans forward again now and winks at me. “That, and he’s cute.”
“He is pretty cute, right?” I giggle.
“Honey, I didn’t think they made them like that anymore!”
I’m laughing, too, and imagining a factory with little Ollys coming off an assembly line. How would they ever keep them still enough to package and mail?
“Go!” She slaps my knee. “You have enough things to be afraid of. Love can’t kill you.”
No Yes Maybe
Monday, 8:09 P.M.
Madeline: How are you? How was your weekend?
Olly: fine. good
Madeline: Good, but busy. I mostly did calculus homework.
Olly: ahh, calculus. the mathematics of change
Madeline: Wow. You really weren’t kidding about liking math?
Madeline: I’m sorry about my e-mail.
Olly: which part?
Madeline: All of it. Are you upset with me? No, yes, maybe?
Olly: no yes maybe
Madeline: I don’t think you’re supposed to use all the answers.
Olly: why’d you send it?
Madeline: I got scared.
Olly: of what?