Chapter: Do You Remember When We Stood in That Hallway?
Part I: Commentary: Smart Snobs
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. Did I get a ruler out, while writing this, to determine how close would be, ummm, interesting? No comment, except that it is hard to keep a numbers nerd away from her ruler.
And we traded atoms again. In fact, several of my atoms had broken free from my form and were ricocheting off the walls of the hallway and zinging past my head and zinging past his. While writing "Redwoodian," I thought a lot about how a powerful emotion isn't like this passive lump that sits out there. "Happiness" isn't one static single thing, nor is "excitement" nor the blues. Emotions are like little hives fully of buzzy bees, and while the hive forms the whole emotion, each bee represents a memory or experience or anecdote contributing to that emotion and the larger singular unit.
But how to say that? We aren't made of buzzy bees -- well, I'm not, but maybe a doctor has never looked closely enough -- but we do have an atom or two or two million or 78 thousand framillion. So it seemed fine for Fair to lose a few of her atoms in this heady moment, given that she has several million more holding her together. Mostly.
I shrunk into the wall. “What if. What if once all of this is resolved, and you don’t sell me your pool and Motel Fairwil, or you do, and either way you don’t hate me, what if you and I met at this time, in the middle of the night, so no one at The Wilfair sees me, and we met at the pool and we, um, did this kissing thing then? Because it feels like it should probably happen at the pool. To, like. Make things right. Symbolically.” The smile I summoned was small and anxious. Ohhh, Fair and her obsession with symbolism. She's a little obsessed. Exhibit A? The mint dish that sits on The Wilfair Hotel's front desk. The mint dish represents how she's felt about her role at the hotel. The mint dish is pretty and a little ornamental and a little pleasant but ultimately unimportant (hence her new rallying cry, "The mint dish can go to hell!"). So it doesn't surprise me a whit that she'd suggest the pool as a very symbolic place to get close with the guy she's trying to take the pool from. ***Symbolism***
His sudden exhale revealed shock. “So, you’ll meet me at the pool, regardless of how this all plays out, and I can kiss you then?”
“If you don’t resent me.” Fair! Dang. The four words "I can kiss you" just showed up in the last five words Gomery said and you bust out "resent" in your next statement? I mean, I know why, Fair, I do, but TIMING.
“All right, let’s try and use ‘resent’ a little less from here on out.” Gomery unhipped his hand and put it on the back of his neck. “The hotel looks down on the motel.” The unhipping of his hand=confidence waning. Also, I think I wrote a post on this, but Gomery says "all right" and Monty says "okay" almost always. I know, the little things. Obsessive over details to, erm, an unhealthy point? Don't answer that. :)
“No, we do not!” This is one of my personal smile lines. I just love how indignant Fair is here and how quick to answer. She has a complicated relationship with having more than her neighbors, materially more, and when any conversation with one or both of her neighbors touches on this topic, or even seems to, like in this case, Fair flips out and overreacts.
“I mean physically. Someone might see you from a window, regardless of time of night. Your brothers. If I don’t see Wil or Bo at your windows, it isn’t a day of the week. Are you all right with having a moment that should be private be less so?” Gomery's question cuts to Fair's quick. She's spent a lot of her life on view, so now that a fun private moment is a possibility for her, she needs to consider how symbolic she'd like things to be -- aka kissing at/in the pool -- vs. how private she'd like things to be -- kissing anywhere away from Wilshire and Fairfax.
“Um. I don’t like my personal life playing out in front of any employees or guests. Um.”
The long dimples reappeared, an indication the dimple’s owners believed this venture wasn’t beyond hope. “There are the tables. How about under an umbrella?” The Motel Fairwil has those slightly saggy shade umbrellas that have the retro piping and fringe. Love those.
“But can’t the whole motel see that area?”
“I suppose.” Fair can be exasperating person, no doubt, but Gomery is determined to not get exasperated with her exasperation.
I brightened. “How about under the diving board?” Hello!
“Under the diving board,” he repeated slowly. The dimples, his forehead pi-sign scrunch, and his usual easy grin had no idea what to do with that information; each facial gesture appeared and disappeared in succession as he processed the suggestion. Several things are occurring to Gomery here, most of them pleasant.
“It’s in the pool but it’s, like, almost totally hidden. If anyone looked down from above, from, like, a hotel window, they’d only see hands holding onto the diving board. Only our fingers gripping the edges. It’s hard to tell who someone is just from their hands.” Fair thinks she has hit upon the solution. There's privacy under a diving board. She's not really thinking here about what exactly it might mean to be under a diving board with someone she likes, in her bathing suit. Rather, she's all efficiency and "I've got this wrapped up."
“Our hands. Holding onto. The diving board.” His eyes grew huge. Gomery gets the more intimate implications Fair hasn't yet fully embraced.
“You know. Like.” I raised my hands over my head and gripped an invisible plank. My stance was similar to the classic, arms-in-the-air ballerina pose, though it was far less “Swan Lake” and far more “motel pool.” I'm a complete glutton for two characters having a silent gesture they can make, in public, among other people, that will remain private to them. So the moment that Fair made diving board arms, and gripped the not-really-there plank, I knew we'd see this a few more times.
The man in front of me didn’t breathe. Then, after several seconds, he put a finger up. “Give me a moment please?” He swiveled, walked to the end of the hallway, shook his arms, then shoulders, rolled his head a few times, cleared his throat, and then returned. “I think I can get behind this plan. It’s.” He didn’t finish his thought. I'm going to leave Gomery to his private thoughts, but let's assume he's having a bunch of them at this juncture. A bunch.
“It’s a good idea, right?” Fair doesn't ask for Gomery's approval too often, and vice versa. They just generally have it, and know they have it, and when they don't, they hear about it from the other person. But I was okay with her asking here, because, hell, they're planning a soggy-suited assignation under the motel pool diving board. This is some serious stuff! Wink.
“It is a very good idea, yes, but under a diving board seems more appropriate to a fiftieth kiss, not a first. Are you sure?” Gomery's totally right. That's why I love that Fair, in a bout of high-spirited innocence, pitched the idea without fully considering it.
“Maybe give it more thought. The umbrellas are great by me. When can this happen?” Gomery is not exactly fibbing here, but trust: The umbrellas are now his second choice.
“Let’s, uh. Get home and figure out the pool.” I don't know if readers notice, but both characters refer to "our corner" and "home" in a mutually inclusive fashion; Monty might, too, once or twice. It's true, though: They do occupy the same corner, and their buildings connect. Still, they could say "you go home and I'll go home and we'll figure stuff out." I don't like that as much. I want them both to feel co-proprietorship over the corner.
“We can figure that out right now. Just ask, Fair. Don’t mouth it and don’t insinuate. Please. Ask me if you can buy the Motel Fairwil and its pool.”
“I, uh. I, uh.” I fell silent.
“You?” A person on the receiving end of a marriage proposal couldn’t have had a more tense face than Gomery Overbove did at that moment. Tense face=unsurprising lack of dimples.
In all the times Fair Finley swung by Motel Fairwil to ask them to stop doing something -- turn the neon down on their sign or open the pool later, because early morning splashing was waking Wilfair guests -- Gomery could not have foreseen this weird exchange with his weird neighbor. But as it's happening he's likely thinking, "well, of course this is how it was always going to play out."
And he's all right with that. Because when you're dealing with someone who lives in the world of her head, then a spontaneous peck over at the art museum, in the Impressionist room, is too unmanaged and unplanned.
These books aren't about the loosening-up of Fair Finley, at all, because I don't want to change that about her, and I'm not sure it could. I like our wound-up hotel heiress in all of her overthinkingness. But I ultimately want Fair to be okay with... the ambiguity of whatever's next.
She can't manage everything. And I swear, if she tried to tell Gomery where to put his hands on the diving board, I'd probably throw my computer mouse across the room.
cr: Christopher Sessums