“So what about Jay? Did he ever move?” June was lying on Illy’s couch, waiting for Steve to pick her up for dinner with his parents and flipping through one of the old National Geographic magazines Illy had salvaged from her days working at the library. Illy was always amazed at how June managed to look totally stunning and totally comfortable at the same time. She was even letting her elegantly pinned up hair get squished into the couch cushions. Illy knew if she didn’t love June so much, she’d be consumed by raging jealousy.
“No, not really. He made a few sounds now and then. Laughed at Simon’s valkyries-”
“Were the valkyries supposed to be funny?”
“No, not really,” Illy admitted.
June looked up from the magazine, eyebrows raised. Illy avoided eye contact. She knew that June thought Jay wasn’t exactly pursuit-worthy, but she hadn’t ever met him. She didn’t know him like Illy did. Although Illy was realizing that she didn’t know him that well herself. She had really thought by this point they would have at least gone out for coffee, if not pledged their eternal love.
“Okay so it was an off night for Jay. We all have those, right? But everything else about the evening was so great. Everyone loved my Oreo truffles, they said nice things about my poem, and I stayed for almost an hour after, talking to Sally and Danny and The Whistler.” June looked up again. “I don’t know her name. I missed my name-asking window. But she whistles.”
June smiled, then dropped the National Geographic on the floor. “Where is Steve? We’re going to be late and I’m sure his dad will blame me for holding Steve back in every area of life.” June laid her hand across her forehead Scarlett O’Hara style. June and Illy had watched Gone with the Wind every Sunday night of their grade twelve year and its influence lingered. “If I could only say something intelligent when we’re with his parents they might realize that I’m not just a giggling idiot, but they always talk about ‘the market’ and their farm investments, so what am I supposed to say?”
“You giggle about their farm investments?”
“Well, chuckle politely and maturely. What else can I do?”
Illy had to laugh. Somehow June often managed to come across as timid and unintelligent, when really she was one of the funniest and smartest people Illy knew. Everyone in June’s department recognized that she was one of the upcoming experts on Nellie McClung but early twentieth century prairie feminism just wasn’t a topic that came up very often at dinner parties.
“Not to mention his mom only wants to talk about the books she’s reading, which are always poorly written biographies about uninteresting people. Like the other day she was raving about the Dan Rather story and she even brought me a copy of a Gloria Estefan memoir.” June stood up and put on her coat.
“Oh no, did you read it?” Illy lay down on the couch and pressed her head into the couch cushions. She was just so curious to see if she could actually pull that off and still have hair even half as cool as June’s.
“Of course I didn’t read it. Who has time for Gloria Estefan memoirs in her life? But now she’ll ask me about it and I’ll probably panic and say I read it and after ten minutes of giggling and talking about my childhood dreams of being a pop star, I’ll be exposed for the lying brainless fraud that I am. I’m going to wait outside. We’re really late. Bye!” She disappeared into the hallway, still rolling her eyes at the debacle awaiting her at the restaurant.
Illy lay on the couch for a few minutes, rubbing her head around for good measure. When she walked to the bathroom mirror she was disappointed, but not really surprised, to see that her hair was flat and frizzy and looked exactly like she’d spent the afternoon rubbing it into couch cushions. She sighed and reached for a scarf to cover up the mess, then stood in the bathroom realizing it was Saturday night and she didn’t have a single thing to do. She considered writing, but writing in the evening was so impossible. She always ended up either falling asleep in her chair or writing something that felt brilliant and inspiring at night but transmuted into self-indulgent nonsense by morning. Illy stared at the grey scum ringing the bathtub and knew that what she really should do was clean the bathroom, and probably her whole apartment. But even cleaning seemed more like a morning activity than an evening one. She needed the sunlight streaming in open windows and a big mug of coffee to really get in the cleaning mode, so it would have to wait. Apparently every responsible activity was best done before noon, which really made for very little available productive time. How in the world did other people get so much done?
Thinking about being productive reminded her of her mother, of course, and she realized she hadn’t seen her mother in quite a while. She might even be missing her mother a little bit, which was a sure sign of extreme boredom or pending emotional breakdown. Without analyzing which was more likely in this instance, she grabbed her keys, blew a kiss to Fern and headed to her parents’ house.
Continue Reading: Chapter Nineteen