Appley decided we should have a talk last night, after the whole deal about almost dying and whatnot. I had to stay on her couch anyway because the side of my apartment was wrapped up in yellow tape. It looked like a Christmas present, only dangerous and potentially a crime scene. The police are swarming all over town searching for Willow and Noel, but there’s no sign of them. It’s like they’ve vanished into the smarmy city air. Anyway, I’m typing this from Appley’s computer. There’s cheese melted over the keyboard and cracker crumbs in between the spacebar and the first row. It’s gross and makes my fingers feel like they’re made of dive bar counter grime, but I can’t tell Appley to clean it. She’s nice enough to let me stay here, on her couch. She said I could sleep in her room, but I said the carpet was too… carpeted and she said, “I didn’t mean sleeping on the floor,” and then I caught the drift and said I’d sleep on the couch, for decency’s sake. The neighbors are already whispering their fool heads off. I don’t think they know when rumor starts and truth ends, or the other way around.
“We should talk,” Appley said, as soon as I woke up, “Because you almost died yesterday and I didn’t like it. You shouldn’t,” she sighed, “I would like you to not die.”
I said, because I was still blinking sleep from my eyes, “Okay.” Then Appley wandered into her bedroom and I went back to sleep for another hour, in which I dreamed of flowers and sausages. Now I’m awake again, sitting across from Appley at her dining room table. I wonder if she’ll let me type while she talks. This isn’t nearly as perilous as a bomb, I guess, but I can still hear a ticking timer in the back of my head, pressing like needles into my eyelids.
“Nah,” she starts, “I think I love you.”
“You’ve kissed me, like, a maximum of four times. You do not love me.”
“Don’t invalidate me. Just,” she reaches across the table and chomps her hand down on mine, “Just listen to me for a second. I have to tell you, at least, and if you don’t like it, I understand.” She nods, as though reminding herself that yes, she really would understand. “You can leave, you can find a new apartment, you can block me on all social media if you need to.”
“I don’t think I have you on social media. I called the landline.”
“Gosh, Nah, listen to me!” She pulls her hand back and leans in her chair. “Don’t you understand? I don’t know what’s going on, but I like having you around. I want you beside me. When I’m with you, it’s like,” she curls her fingers, thinking, “It’s like I’m so much lighter, all of a sudden. I don’t,” she looks up at me, “I don’t know how else to say that.”
“Are you done?”
She shakes her head, “No, I’m not. I like your apartment because even though you have stupidly bad taste in roommates, you always keep your space nice and clean and it never smells like vomit or… well, it doesn’t smell bad that much. And I like how you write on that blog and I know you think nobody reads it but I do.” Her eyes are bright. I’m typing and looking at her and thank goodness I can do both, because I think she’s crying. “I do.” She looks down at her hands. “I don’t even want to make you pay rent anymore.”
“Are you done?”
I nod. “Okay, can you be done for just a minute, then?”
“I think it should be five.”
Appley tilts her head at me, “What do you mean, five?”
“You said you’re in love with me after four kisses, I say the right number should be five. Five is solid. I wanna start this,” -whatever it is- “With a foundation. Listen, uh, Appley, you caught me yesterday. I don’t know how. That was great, amazing. I’m not,” at this point, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sitting at the table anymore, “Good with words, like you are. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know why you like me, love me, whatever. My own mother doesn’t like me, love me, whatever. I feel like I’ve been some kinda burden my whole life but maybe you’re right.” I pulled out the chair closest to Appley and I sat right next to her and I unrolled her fingers and laid them flat in my hands. “Maybe I do feel lighter when I’m with you.” I’m not even paraphrasing, I did say that. I turned into a whole poet at that dining room table. “Maybe you’re the parachute I needed while I was falling out of my apartment window.”
“Yes,” I said, “Five.” She kissed me.
“Do you think that worked?”
“No,” my eyes were still closed, “Best do six.”
“Wouldn’t seven be better?” She shifted her weight forward on the chair, “You know, for the best and most scientific results?”
And so for the larger half of that morning, we donated our time to science. The laptop eventually closed and it logged off my account and I had to start the entire blog entry all over again, pretending that I was in the present and past tense, which I was. I am. I always will be.
“Do you want to go get dinner?” We’re sitting on the couch in Appley’s living room. I’m happy-tired and my eyelids are heavy, sinking with me into the couch cushions. I don’t, actually, feel like going to get dinner. I want to stay here because here is one of the best, warmest, nicest places I’ve ever been in my whole twenty nine years.
“I can cook.” I’ve been cooking for myself, plus often roommates, for a long time. Roommates, that’s something I push out of my mind. I don’t feel like thinking about the future is very good for me. I feel like cooking for Appley is, however, beneficial to my health in ways I never thought possible. “What do you have in the kitchen?”
“Oh, just a few things here and there. I think we should go out.” She sits up straighter and places a warm hand on the side of my face, “I want people to know about us.”
That’s the thing, though, I don’t know what us means to her. Are we talking/dating/engaged/closer acquaintances/lovers/friends? There’s too many words filling up the space between us and I can’t very well reach out and get one. Appley, I know you’ll read this later. I hope we figure things out by then.
“And what, uh, what is us, exactly? Are you, do you,” I feel stupid and made of lead, like a teenage baby dunked in a pound of honey and left to dry for the vultures, “Girlfriend? Is that what you wanna be? Mine? My girlfriend, I mean?”
“If that’s not clear to you by now, Nah, I don’t really know what else to do.” She smacks my face lightly, tracing her long nails down beside my jaw, “So, what do you say? Let’s go get dinner.”
“Let’s stay home,” I start, but then I see how Appley’s face looks so sad when I mention doing something other than what she just suggested and everything in my body tells me to change lanes fast, “For a few more minutes.” She beams. “We’d hate to hit traffic, yeah?”
“Yeah. Okay, I’ll go get dressed. You-”
“I don’t have other clothes right now,” I remind her, “Because my apartment is a little bit in shambles.”
“Riight. Just wear this, you’ll be fine.”
I frown, “I look like a hobo.”
“Do you have a home at the moment?”
I think of my mother and how she hasn’t even tried to call to make sure I didn’t get blown up by a doll bomb. No, I don’t have a home at the moment, unless Appley is inviting me to share hers. “I do not.”
She stands up from the couch and gives me both her hands, “Well then, looking like a hobo will be mighty appropriate.” She straightens the ends of my dusty flannel jacket. “Wait here. I’ll be back.”
And while she was gone, Gina called me.
“This is Gina.”
“This is Cadoc Perry. Are you calling for me or-?”
“Is Apollonia there? I don’t know a Cadoc Perry.”
I didn’t know if it was Gina-who-took-my-last-dollars or some random Gina. “Were you at a karaoke bar a few days ago?”
“I gave you my last three dollars.”
I heard her realizing this on the other end of the landline. “Oh! That was you? Man, you don’t know how much I appreciated that. I really needed to get home. How do you know her? How do you know Apollonia?”
“She’s my,” I stared at the couch as though it could give me an answer, “I’m living with her. We’re roommates. There was an explosion at her building and my apartment took the main hit, actually, so I didn’t have anywhere else to stay. She was very kind to let me borrow the couch, though.”
“That’s Apollonia for you. Man, can I talk to her? I may have a job opportunity and I wanted her to be the first to know.”
But Appley, she doesn’t need a job. She has money. I need a job. I definitely do not have money. “I’ll take a message for her. She’s getting dressed right now. We’re going to dinner.”
“That’s nice, that’s super. It’s a small world, Cadoc Perry, it really is. Imagine! You’re the three dollar guy. I should have asked your name that night, I’m sorry. But will you take a message? I’d be very grateful.”
“I can, yeah. I’ll write it down.” I stuck my hand under the couch cushion and, moving past the dead cockroach colony and one sticky old lollipop, found a marker. “Ready,” I said, and Gina started to tell me all about the wonderful job opportunity she had for Appley. I wrote the whole thing down on the leg of my jeans. In retrospect, it was too blurred together for Appley to read, but that was okay. Appley never has to know about this job. She doesn’t have to know Gina called, either, or that I’m so broke not even the fake charities would want to support me. “Thanks, Gina,” I said, and she said bye and hung up the phone. All Appley is going to see is me getting a job and being successful enough to, if I need to, move out of her landlord’s cabin apartment. Appley wants someone who makes her feel light, not a burden. What best way to not be a burden than to get a job? And I will get this job. The interview’s tomorrow. I’ll need a new outfit by then, though, I can’t show up to an interview looking like, you know, the hobo I am.