Commentary: Smart Snobs


Stay Awhile
Chapter: Do You Remember When We Stood in That Hotel Hallway?    

      “Fair. Do you remember when we were talking here, and Prior Yates was next to us?” All of the Wilfair people have their little arcs, or big arcs, in some cases, and Gomery Overbove's journey in the series could be correctly defined as "breaking out" or "acting as confident as he feels." Because I suspect that we all feel pretty confident -- you do, right? -- but we don't always act on that, so we remain privately confident. Now some might argue that privately confident isn't confident, but I disagree. A lot of people just know that they could shine, if only they could get their gumption together, break out of their shell, and seize moments.
      Gomery's gumption starts to come together in "Redwoodian," the second book. And this line, from the start of the next book, says so. What he is referencing here, the conversation he and Fair had in the presence of movie star Prior Yates, was the kind of intimate conversation that someone wavering in their confidence absolutely would not mention, but he's feeling bolder.
      I cocked an eyebrow. “Like, twenty minutes ago? You make it sound like an old memory.” Urgh. I have a small block against "cocked an eyebrow," because, like "grinned," it can be overused. But it just fit here, so I left it, because Gomery is remembering something that only happened twenty minutes earlier in misty, it-happened-years-before terms. Hence Fair's dubious cocked eyebrow.
      “When does a memory graduate to ‘remember when’ status? Do years have to pass?” I've always asked this question. As I've said, the characters often do not speak for me, but here, yes, Gomery is asking a question I have.
      “Hey, Gomery. Remember when you asked me how long it takes a memory to graduate to a ‘remember when’ status?” I'm so fricking proud of Fair here, because she has every reason in the world to be a big nerve puddle, but she's on pointe, mentally. Enough so that she can make an immediate joke about a rather, um, esoteric topic involving the nature of time, memory, and shared recollection.
      Also, she says "hey." You know I'm an absolute freak for small shifts in language denoting changes in character. Fair isn't a big "hey" girl, at all, maybe with Sutton. This may be the first time she "heys" Gomery. She's feeling more easygoing.
      “Thank you.” If the Wilfair series is ever released wide, I daydream about subtitling it "Lots of People Telling Each Other Thank You."
      “For what?”
      “For being my kind of smart.” HERF. Damn, Gomery.
      A sleepy ski hunk in loose thermals wandered past us. “Yo. Lovers. Bathroom?” Ski model knows.
      “Down that hall,” I pointed. Lovers? An early draft of the scene to come had Fair bringing this word up to Gomery, in the way she does, with potentially embarrassing topics, but I decided it was a bit too much. (And, yes, I'm a glutton for "a bit too much," usually.) She was going to ask Gomery if he'd heard what the hunk had said but ohmigravy OF COURSE he heard what the guy said! Fair. FAIR.
      “Cool.” He baggy-butted off. You know how thermals do that? Yeah.
      I turned to my old foe and new friend. “Aren’t you being a smart snob? Choosing one kind of smart over all the others?” If I write a million Wilfair books, I'd devote thirty books to yapping about various kinds of smart. A topic that interests me.
      “A smart snob! That smarts.” He's thrilled. OF COURSE. Gomery. GOMERY.
      “Let’s go find Room 244 and see if there’s a giant, pointy building hiding inside. I will so throw that thing out if it checked in without a major credit card.” I strode to the elevator and pushed the button. When the buzzer donged, we stepped inside and moved to opposite corners. Fair Finley does not want her cool-person license revoked, which automatically happens if you make out with someone in an elevator, like in the movies.
     “Fair. Remember when we rode the elevator together at The Redwoodian?” He knows he's delighted Fair with the whole "remember when" joking, so, he's not nearly done with it yet.
     “If you remember something while it is actually happening, doesn’t the universe implode?” It's like a bathroom full of infinity mirrors, really.
     He stared at the floor numbers above the doors and sighed. “She called me a smart snob. A smart snob!” Still very, very thrilled. Maybe more thrilled than a half minute earlier. He's all red behind his ears, where the temple tips of his glasses sit.
     When the doors opened, I started down the dim hallway in the direction of room 244. On a dimmer, the dimness of The Redwoodian hallways would be about a three. Afterhours, that is. The lodge turns down the lights at 11 p.m., both for mood and electric bill reasons.
     “Wait, please.” He slid his index finger into the top of my evening glove, a move that halted my forward motion. I stopped and he pulled his finger out, giving me time to label a new brain folder How a Fingernail Feels When It Lightly Grazes an Upper Arm. This may be my favorite brain folder in all of the series. I admit it.
    “What?”
    “Do you feel one hundred percent sure about this? I’m thinking there’s a more complex reason behind those numbers. A hotel room’s almost too easy.” I ♥ percentage talk.
     I chewed my lip. “I’m seventy-four percent we should knock and see if those four people in the matchy-matchy clothes are inside.” As Fair is saying this, she's simultaneously wondering what Gomery might twenty-six-percent. She's hoping it is something cuh-razy and awesome.
    “Hmm, twenty-six percent. Let’s see. I’m twenty-six percent sure that the boiling point for platinum is 6900 degrees. I would have memorized that, normally, but that happened to be the day in class I asked out a girl who had a boyfriend ‘out of town.’" Gomery crossed his arms. “You don’t have a boyfriend out of town, do you?” A) I always look up any science-y facts that go in the books. B) Gomery's memory is accurate both on the degrees and that he learned that on the day he asked someone out in class. C) Arm-crossing is like my favorite "I'm goin' in!" move ever. It's protective of the heart, yep. And D) Fair Finley, you're needed at the This Is Heating Up Podium. Fair Finley. (Read that last part while hearing crackly microphone audio.)
     “Why I do,” I whispered. “His name is, is, is Gregory, and his family has a top-secret grilled cheese recipe he shared with me immediately.” Devious. Also, I kind of love fake boyfriend Gregory, and want him to show up later in the story, and surprise the fancy snood off Fair.
     My companion shook his head. “Dump him, Fair. I hate to say it, but ‘Gregory’ isn’t serious about you, if he’s just giving that grilled cheese recipe away.” Alysia's favorite things include A) her readers B) sour cream dip C) characters using proxies to explain their romantic intentions.
     “Wait. I heard quotes. Did you put voice quotes around my make-believe boyfriend’s name? He hates that. He hates that worse than the fact that, that, that he and I fought about, about me buying his, um…” Fair looooooves that Gomery put voice quotes around her make-believe boyfriend's name. I think she would have been crestfallen if he'd believed her. I mean, there's no way he'd believe Gregory the Grilled Cheese Heir story, but first-book Gomery might have politely changed the topic, sensing Fair might be embarrassed. Now? Yeah, that's not happening.
     “Hot tub?” SO not happening. Not only is Gomery going to not politely turn away from her made-up boyfriend story, he's going to add to it. Sly dog.
     Also, that they both know they're talking about Gomery? I may one day decide I no longer like licorice, and that I'm not keen on cartwheels, but I will always hold this moment close.
     “Yes, this one hot tub his family owns and I want. So he’s handing over the deed to me, no questions asked.” Fair's fusty to the end. "Deed" is a very old-fashioned concept, something she's heard in vintage films.
     His shoulders shook but he composed himself. “Do hot tubs come with deeds?” Third-book Gomery isn't going to let the fustiness go unnoticed.
     “You better stop picking on my, uh, hot tub-owning, grilled cheese-making fake boyfriend.”
     Gomery placed both cups on the hallway carpet and stuck his pinecone in the larger of the two. I sensed he was freeing his hands for something. “Fair. Remember that time at The Redwoodian, when we were in that hallway in the middle of the night?” Typing while looking through my fingers here. Not easy.
    “I remember. We were outside Room 244.” I glanced at Room 244.
    “That’s the memory. And remember you were talking about your boyfriend, Gregory—“
    “My make-believe boyfriend Gregory,” I corrected. Fair makes a lot of missteps in the books, little verbal oopsies, but her adding "make-believe" here was just what needed to happen. Usually when people correct other people about personal statements or facts, it is because they want to be better represented. But Fair is essentially saying "I was fibbing before, so please add that in." Which kind of makes me want to hug her.
    “Your make-believe boyfriend Gregory. Remember I took a step closer to you?” He took a step closer. You know when you stand next to someone on plush hotel carpet, how there's a little wave of rug energy between that person's feet and yours? That happens here, but Fair's feet are too preoccupied to notice, as they're listening to the rest of Fair's insides go "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!" at top volume.
    “I remember,” I breathed. I'm iffy about "breathed," because it can seem a little heaving-chest-y. But I'm okay with it here, because Fair's insides are definitely LOUD, and I like to picture her exhaling, just to hear herself.
    “Do you remember what I did next?”
    “No.” Fair tried to remember, briefly, until she remembered that they were playing that "remember as things are happening" game. Then she immediately sprung back inside the moment.
    “Remember I asked if I could put my hand on the wall behind you?” My old foe and new friend pointed over my shoulder. “Can I put my hand right there?” Gurgle. This line shows how very close he is to the wall. Arm's length, and Fair's in the middle.
    My eyes were at their most open setting. I nodded.
    He put a palm flat against the wall directly to my left and placed his other hand on his hip. His necktie hung in the space between us, slightly closer to my chest than his. I noted his curved inward position to be far more greater than than less than, a pose that seem to come naturally to the future architectural physicist. I also noted there wasn’t a speck of chalkboard dust anywhere in his vicinity, an observation that filled me with fidget. The necktie hanging between them, but slightly closer to Fair, was one of the last things to make it into "Stay Awhile." I'm glad I added it, because like three readers mentioned it as a favorite image. Also, his hand on his hip=growing confidence.
    “‘And do you remember, Ms. Finley, what I said right after I did that.’ Is what you said.” This is one of my personal favorite lines. Fair's about having an outer body experience at this point, but she's been listening enough to repeat what he just said.
    “Then remember how I said I was deciding if I should wait for you to kick me out of my home before I kiss you, or if I should just do it right then?” Oh good gravy. Just. Nope.
     I pressed up against the hall wall between Rooms 244 and 246. “That’s like my favorite memory.” I was so close to the wall I feared the flocked wallpaper would make a permanent impression on my upper back. Meaning I’d have tiny redwood shapes up my spine for the rest of my days. I'm so happy with Wilfair staying the cozy little world that it currently is, readership-wise, but if it ever got bigger I'd request a whole line of wallpapers, starting with tiny redwood shapes.
    “Memories don’t come much nicer,” Gomery agreed. “Question for you.”
    “Yep?” I squeaked. All of Fair's urges are basically on rope swings inside her chest at this point, the kind you sometimes see over country lakes.
    “Did you wait to kiss Gregory until the whole hot tub issue was resolved?” Gomery's getting down to brass tacks, regarding this kiss happening, but wisely: He's going back to the conversation that eased them into this point in the first place.
    “There was, um, more to it. I changed the lives of Gregory and Gregory’s family. And not for the better. And I didn’t want my decision, like, hurting my beginning with Gregory. Creating this horrible resentment. Because if the beginning, like, has baggage, what hope does the rest of a relationship have?” Fair. The overthinking. THE OVERTHINKING.
    “Having baggage, of some sort, is a product of life on Earth. It’s as common and predictable as the tides.” Thank you, Gomery.
    My voice dropped. “I don’t want to start something that will have to stop. Or will naturally stop, when resentment, and, like, bad feelings arise. And they do. They will. Over the pool. One hundred percent.” Fair tacks on "a hundred percent" there to soften what she's saying, because the two of them have been using percentages to flirt. But it doesn't really help a spiraling conversation.
    “You know, call me an optimist, but I’d hoped the word ‘resentment’ might be not, er, said quite so much right before I kissed you.” Gomery’s dimples were long and his grin huge, but his shoulders drew up. The confidence he’d clearly felt a minute ago had wavered upon me introducing the word “resentment,” a term that’s made the top ten list of pre-kiss whispers exactly zero times. I couldn't type this, nor can I read it, without drawing my shoulders up. Awww, Gomery! Hang tight, friend!
     I nearly mouthed my next few words. “I hurt Gregory. He can’t forgive me. He thought he’d be able to, but he can’t.” Literally, my hand is at my forehead here. Fair. I love you, I've known you for years now, and you drive me batty sometimes.
    “Gregory isn’t real.” Gomery's done with games. Third-book Gomery, bring it!
    “No.” Fair inner dialogue here is like "c'mon, get it together, you can do it, you can."
    “I am.” Zing!
    “Yes.” Things are back on track!
    He was very, very real. And two feet away. Maybe one foot, ten inches away. One foot, nine inches. One foot, eight inches. He leaned closer.  
     Once, a few years ago, Wil and Bo Finley both got the flu within a couple of hours of each other. Mr. and Mrs. Finley were traveling to The Yuletidery, to check a Christmas ball mishap, so Fair played nursemaid until her parents could rush back.
     Both boys told Fair they felt "throw-up-y" rather than "barfy," which is the more likely term a nine-year-old boy would use. But they're proper tots, the Finley twins, living in the fancy Wilfair, so "throw-up-y" seemed the politer word.
     This is all to say that Fair feels very, very throw-up-y at this point in her hallway escapade with Gomery. But that's what happens when a hundred urges are all simultaneously jumping from interior rope swings inside your chest and landing with a great big sploosh inside the lake at the pit of your stomach.

cr: Chris Hawes

7 comments:

Melbourne on my Mind said...

I squeed like a lunatic when I read this scene in the book, and I just squeed like a lunatic again reading your commentary on it. Seriously.

Caitlin #1 said...

When I saw this post in my RSS feed, my heart actually started pounding. No joke. I always have to read the end of this scene through my fingers, one eye closed.

Guuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Wilfair Book said...

How nice to be squeed/guhhhh'd on a Friday morning.

There's more to come with this scene, of course, so let's visit that second part in the next couple of weeks. DBA, ahoy! (diving board arms)

myrandaroyann said...

As I read this, I just couldn't stop smiling. :D M It just makes me so happy! I kinda feel like the Grinch, with my heart growing two sizes...except less painful, I presume...and I wasn't very Grinchy to begin with..:

:)

Diving Board Commentary?!?! *kermit flailing*

bess said...

This makes me feel many wonderful things - like Caitlin #1, I read it through my fingers - one of my favorite sections in the books.

Wilfair Book said...

Bess and Myranda -- thank you. I'm glad you've enjoyed. :)

Rosemary said...

I read a bit of this one night and kept getting distracted, so I told myself I'd revisit it on a night when I could really savor it, because it was definitely one of my favorite moments in the books. You didn't disappoint, friend. Gomery's confidence here makes the hair on my arms stand up.

Also this: "Fair Finley, you're needed at the This Is Heating Up Podium. Fair Finley."

That's it. I give up. I can't wait until right before Fairwil comes out. I'm rereading as soon as I finish the book I'm currently reading.

 
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