cr: Dinner Series
Chapter: When You Think "Stomach Medicine," What Are You Doing?
I put my face in my hands. “I can’t ride a bike, I can’t bake cookies, and I’ve never hugged someone who isn’t wearing a shirt. I haven’t even hugged that many people who are wearing shirts. I’ve missed out on some truly basic life stuff, and, it’s just too damn late for me to learn it. I mean, I’m twenty next week. I’m just way too old and it’s way too late.” I looked up and frowned again. “And, and, the shirtless part? The crazy thing is I work in a hotel. Which is, like, the one place people tend to be shirtless much of the time. And hugged much of the time, too.” Fair Finley wants to be more direct; it's one of the through-arrows of the books. But she's not quite direct enough yet, at this point, to speak plainly about her level of experience with men and life. I'm okay with her lack of candor here; she's known Gomery Overbove her whole life but they've only been keeping constant company for a few days at this point. Still, her saying she's never hugged anybody who isn't wearing a shirt is quintessential Fairese: She's revealing something personal and important by approaching it from the side or bottom or back, rather than head-on.
Also, it seems that is a common trait at the end of your teens: Feeling like you've missed some major milestones as you head into your twenties. Fair's milestones are kind of quirky, but we likely all had our own (or will have our own, if 20 is still ahead for you. Trust, you'll make it through just fine, promise.)
“You’re not on anyone else’s timeline. Only your own.” Gomery's even voice is very, very even here.
“So you should appreciate it for what it is.”
“I do. Mostly. It’s mine.” I shrugged. “Do you, like. Like your timeline? So far?”
“Mostly.” He smiled. This little snippet is a companion, in my mind, to Sutton Von Hunt saying in the next book that her regrets are her own. Essentially we're not going to like everything in our timelines or histories but we should appreciate 'em for what they are and be okay with "mostly."
“I think I’m just tired right now.”
“Tired on the inside or tired on the outside?” Two totally different things, of course.
“Tired right now. But I’ve been tired for a whole lot of right nows.” I had "tired for a long time" here for a long time, but it read flatly. "For a long time" has been a common sentence-ender, well: For a long time. I wanted something that was more offbeat and Fair-y and I found the solution in what was already there in what she says: "Tired right now." Actually, a lot of answers to the ideas I want to tweak or polish are already buried within the sentence I want to fix. Not to get too deep! But it is true. The answer is right there and if it isn't? Probably the whole sentence has to go and I have to write something else, entirely.
Gomery watched the fire for a minute. “Ms. Finley? I’d like to not not touch you. If you’d like to not not touch me.” This is just one of those junctures when I long to slip out of the room and leave those two alone. I know. Ridiculous. I'm also curious about what he's thinking as he stares at the fire. I don't believe he's turning his next potential move over and over in his head. I think he's having more of a mind-expanding, heart-softening Moment, capital M, where he's flashing back to some run-of-the-mill run-in with his hotel neighbor, when they were 15 and 16, and he's remembering some early fluttery feeling he had about her, and he's reaching back and pulling that emotion, like a long, springy cord, from the past, and plugging it into the experience he's having with her now. And that satisfying connection -- it sounds like "thwick" -- is making all of the synapses in his head thrum like Wilshire Boulevard when all the neon signs start to buzz and pop come sundown.
Forgive me if this sounds obtuse or annoying. That's pretty representative of the sort of diffuse intangibles I'm thinking about, in the back of my brain, as I write the books, for better or worse. Erf.
Every burstable point inside me burst all at once. But I squared my shoulders and took a breath. “Without our movie star in the audience? Won’t that be totally awkward? If it’s only you and me? And, like, will we whisper or not? And what will we whisper about? Physics or club sandwiches or what?” The sound of every burstable point bursting all at once is "bew-bew-bew." Also, "physics or club sandwiches," in my heart, summarizes the yin and yang of the Wilfair world. The expansive and the everyday. Also, Fair keeps talking here because she is GIDDY and her thoughts are just flapping all over the damn place, like a thousand colorful streamers hung over a used car lot during a weekend super-sale.
“Come here and hug me, Fair.” He unpocketed his pinecone, placed it on the hearth, and opened his arms. One of the last, last, last things to make it into "Redwoodian." This hug. When I sat back and looked at the nearly done book from a mile away, there was something essential missing. Fair and Gomery already had a "hug" of sorts a little earlier, but Prior Yates was there and it was, sort of, um, hesitant. For a good long while I thought that should be the only physical contact of the book, between these two, but it ultimately wasn't enough for me. Because Mer and Fair kind of slide into that first hug, warmly, and nicely, but neither is like "okay, we admit it, we are hugging now." And I felt the book lacked that honest, I-don't-want-to-whisper-with-you-I want-to-hold-you moment. There's no mistaking "come here and hug me, Fair." They're embracing, and admitting to the act, not simply whispering at close range in order to touch.
Have I told you before how when I read something or watch something I always want more of the time between when the characters share that initial Important Glance and their first kiss? And how that stretch of time in a story is often far too short and abbreviated and skipped-over for my greedy, semi-fusty, semi-courtly tastes? Do I need to tell you any of that, if you've read the Wilfair books? Hoo boy. There are many books that do this well, for sure, but I want more. Greedy me.
So I did. Then I remembered something and stepped back.
“That’s it?” He pointed at his tie. “There’s hardly any new cheese on me. A new strand or two. Pretty paltry.” Press harder, get closer, stay longer, is what Gomery is saying here. Obvs.
Also, about the shredded cheese showing up on Gomery. The common indicator that two people have been close, in a story, has long been lipstick. If a guy has a bit of lipstick on his cheek, there's likely been a lipstick-wearer in his immediate vicinity. I wanted something analogous to lipstick for Fair and Gomery, but not lipstick itself. Something more Wilfairian, meaning, yes, something a bit quirky. I moved away from make-up and thought about what Fair might have on herself that could eventually end up on the front of Gomery through close contact. Lint? Not noticeable. Fuzz? Same. A loose thread? Same. Shredded cheese? Yes! Sticky enough, noticeable enough, and Fair is rather messy in her zeal to help the kitchen staff cook (and she's rather messy overall).
Gomery comments on her being covered in grated cheddar earlier in the book but he never suggests she should clean up. I like a person who doesn't care if his potential sweetheart is not entirely put-together or not, as long as she's near.
“I totally forgot to tell you. The hairy guy warned me not to think of stomach medicine when I do hug someone I know. Someone who isn’t wearing a shirt. And now that’s all I’m thinking about, how I’ll be thinking about stomach medicine, if that moment ever comes.” We've all thought about stomach medicine during some critical moment, whether that moment was romantic or a job interview or a speech. Right? Oof. I have.
“You were thinking about stomach medicine just then?” He's not really that shocked. He's also starting to get that Fair Finley has a mouth wall in front of her brain that's constantly going "zoop." That, of course, is the sound that a mouth wall makes as it drops, allowing any daft thought to be voiced.
“Sort of. Sorry.” Your "sorrys" are running out, Fair Finley. Enjoy them.
“But I’m wearing a shirt. And a robe.”
“Are you up in your head a lot?” Gomery again addressed the dying fire.
“Ha. You think? Monty claims I’m all out of touch. The girl in the big tower. But he doesn’t know my big tower is right here.” I tapped my temple. Guilty.
Monty’s cousin crossed his arms. “Even the guy on the ground finds it difficult to get out of his head from time to time. No big tower required. Experience speaking.”
I looked at him and my look said, “This probably won’t ever happen, but maybe one day I’ll be thinking about stomach medicine in your sleeveless arms.” The term “sleeveless” nearly tore my snood into a shred of strings. I like the word "bare" but "sleeveless" is more Ms. Finley.
His look said, “Hold on. Did you say you’re taking my pool earlier?”
Outside, the snow stopped falling.
I feel close to this moment. As mentioned, these are some of the final words I wrote on "Redwoodian" so I'm sentimental. There's a lot of thwicking going on here -- plugging in and connecting -- that I needed, needed as a reader and not a writer. Hugs are commonly joyful, but Fair is talking about living inside her head and they both reveal that they haven't loved everything in their timelines, so it isn't all "wheeeee!" here. Which I like -- a nice hug that isn't solely about "this feels good." The books have plenty of "wheeeee!" because I love the "wheeeeee!" but this is just a quiet sharing moment near the fireplace where personal things are being revealed and accepted.
cr: Dinner Series