Friday, February 26, 2010

48.) Chinese Lunch Buffet

Soundtrack Song - Carolina Liar, I'm Not Over

There wasn’t much I could do. I was stuck on the couch, for the most part. It was too cold to go out and do anything outside, and even if I had wanted to do anything, I really couldn’t be that mobile. I had crutches, but they were hard to use with a cast on my left arm; I even borrowed a wheelchair, but it was too hard to fold it up and take it places. I was, literally, stuck on my couch. It was a struggle just to manage the stairs on my own, so I pretty much lived on my couch.

Despite that, even if I could have gone out and done stuff, I don’t think I would have wanted to anyway. It had been weeks since my accident—weeks since Kris walked out and never looked back—and I was still upset. When he left the hospital that day, I was downright fuming with anger. In the hospital room, I had meant every word when I said that I wouldn’t want to see him again if he left. And leave he did; Kris didn’t call or show up or otherwise try to contact me. I didn’t know how he could go from so sweet when he helped dress me, to not caring enough to leave. He left for good, just like I told him he would be doing.

However, the truth of the matter was, if Kris would have called or shown up, I would have taken him back in a second. When I gave him that ultimatum, I thought that I could be strong enough to follow through, but I wasn’t. I was definitely still angry, but I missed him like crazy and I would have given anything to see him again. I didn’t want to be the one to cave, but damn, I wanted him to succumb to the longing, if he felt it at all. I missed everything about him: his hair, his eyes, his accent, his kisses, and even his stubborn, preachy personality that was totally driving me up a wall. At least when he preached to me, that meant he cared. Er, I thought.

I didn’t have any one to talk to about it, either. Tubby didn’t want to listen to me, because he hated that I missed Kris. He got angry every time I brought it up or mentioned it. Once or twice, I thought about calling Kelsey or Heather, thinking that they’d understand. After all, they’re girls, and they’d be a lot more sympathetic than Tubby. But in the end, I decided not to call them. They were Kris’s friends, not mine. It didn’t feel fair. Even though they’d probably understand him and know how he was doing, it felt almost like spying on him. And did I really want to hear if they told me he was doing just fine, without me?

And of course he’d be doing fine without me. He obviously didn’t miss me. Or even care enough to wonder about how I was doing. All I could assume was that I was like a little pet project for him—something to do on the side when he wasn’t tied up with hockey. I was like a science experiment, or a psychological trial, and I didn’t turn out the way he wanted. So he dropped me.

Even knowing all that, if he were to show up on my doorstep this very minute... I’d take him back without question. I’d give him hell for the hell he put me through, but I’d welcome him back with open arms. If he would tell me that he needed all three weeks to think and have space, I would have accepted it. Yes, that makes me lame. But I just missed him so much. I ached for him, physically, mentally, emotionally. When I thought about it, I really hadn’t known Kris that long, but it didn’t take much for him to make this incredible, indelible impression on me.

I had about a week before my arm cast could come off, and about three more before I could get a walking cast on my leg. And I couldn’t wait; as far as I was concerned, it couldn’t happen soon enough. There was only so much of this I could take. I was spending my time watching crazy YouTube videos and seasons of Spongebob Squarepants while drawing on my casts with Crayola markers, eating ice cream and chips, and drinking Mountain Dew. I would have imbibed something harder, but there wasn’t a drop of alcohol in the house, and I couldn’t leave to get any, either.

“Do you want me to help you get up the stairs? Jo, you need to shower. Seriously. I can smell you from here,” Tubby called from the hallway. He must have left himself in.

“You’re smelling Cheetos, not me,” I yelled back, never tearing my eyes away from the television screen.

“When is the last time you bathed?” I shrugged in response to this question, not really knowing the answer and not really caring enough to figure it out. “Gross. Come on. Stop being such a lump. Shower, get dressed, and let’s go do something. You need to get out of the house for a while.” I shrugged again, not caring enough to even state a response.

Tubby, finally getting fed up with me, walked into the living room and grabbed my right arm. He pulled and hoisted me off the couch before he bent down at the knees, wrapping his arm around my legs, and lifted me onto his shoulder. “Tubby! Put me. The fuck. Down!”

“It’s been three weeks,” he grunted, carrying me up the stairs.

I balled my hand into a fist and pounded at his back, but they were like love-taps to him. “I don’t care how long it’s been. Stop manhandling me!”

He didn’t say anything further until he set me down in the bathroom. Before he slammed the door shut behind him, he growled, “Fucking wash yourself.”

Angrily, I pulled the tank top over my head. I ignored the reflection in the mirror staring back at me. I had full-blown roots and bags under my eyes. My hair was greasy and limp, and I looked like I hadn’t seen the sun in months, not weeks. I’d never admit it, but Tubby was right. I did smell.

I ran a bath and carefully lowered myself into the tub, with my left leg hanging over the side. Every other time I’d done this, it had been more like a sponge bath, but I realized how disgusting I felt so a bath felt necessary. Soaking in the water felt so good—better than I expected—as I rinsed away the thin layer of grime on my skin and shaved for the first time in a long while. Once my right-hand fingers and right-foot toes were wrinkly and pruny, I tried to push myself up enough to sit on the edge of the basin. However, I lacked the foresight to think that the ceramic would be slick. I was stuck.

“Tubby!” I hollered, not seeing any other option.

After a minute, he cracked open the door. “Yeah?”

“Help me, please. I can’t get up.”

He had the decency to look away as Tubby offered me his hand. He was strong enough to pull me up without having to watch what he was doing. I grabbed my towel, wrapped it around my naked body, and then leaned on him step out of the shower.

I wrung out my hair. “Thank you.”

“Feel better?”

“A little,” I replied with a slight smile.

“Good. We’re going out for Chinese.”

Shaking my head, I told him, “I don’t think I want to go anywhere. It’s just too hard to get around. Let’s just order in. What do you say?”

“I say, we’re going out. You’ve been in this house for way too long. You need a change of scenery. You need to do something instead of just sit around and wallow. He left. It’s not the end of the world. You’re better off without him, if that’s how he’s going to treat you, Jo.”

I sighed and reached for my comb, brushing my hair for the first time in a while. “You shouldn’t talk about things you don’t know nothing about.”

“You know I’m right.”

“No. I know you’re wrong.”

“Listen. Kris was good for you—I won’t argue that. I was glad to see you open up to someone. You know that, because I thought you were doing great. I was happy for you. You were being you again, for the first time in years. But if he doesn’t want to be there for you at a time when you need him most... if he can’t be there... he doesn’t deserve to be there for you in the good times, too.”

“Please just stop,” I whispered, giving up on my hair. I braided a pair of pig-tails, and then grabbed a black skull cap to hide my roots. Hopping into the other room, I pulled open some drawers in search of some clothes that would fit, despite the casts. Even though it was December, I chose a short, denim skirt. None of my pants would fit with my cast.

I found a purple, hooded sweater in my closet, and slipped into that. The cast stretched out the sleeve, so I yanked it up to my elbow to expose the cartoons drawn on the plaster. I probably looked ridiculous.

“I mean it, you know. You need stability. And he’s got you on this emotional rollercoaster.”

“And I meant it when I asked you to stop,” I barked. “Do you think you’re helping? I can’t help it that I miss him. If I could just flip a switch, then I would. But it’s more complicated than that. I don’t know why you can’t get that.”

Then I hopped back into the bathroom to apply some make-up. I wanted to cover up the dark circles under my eyes, if I planned on going out in public. It was more like a public service than for my own benefit; no one would want to see me looking like that.

When I finally felt that I was presentable, Tubby sighed and turned his back to me. I grasped his shoulders and jumped onto his back, and he let me ride him piggy-back style down the stairs, out the door, and into his black Jeep. It was very unladylike, but I didn’t care; it was convenient and easy, which was a change from the way I had to struggle to navigate through my house.

Even though he said all kinds of things that I didn’t want to hear, Tubby was always there for me, to lean on—figuratively as well as literally. I wrapped my arms around Tubby’s neck and kissed his cheek. “I want you to know that although you’re driving me up a fucking wall, I love ya, Tubs. You’re the bestest friend in the history of friends. Every girl should have a Tubby.”

“Sounds good to me, because I’d like to have every girl.”

I snickered as he set me down and opened the door for me. The air was cold against my bare legs—at least, the parts of my legs that were bare—and the wind cut through my sweater. I missed my jacket, but I hadn’t yet decided what I was going to do with it, whether I was going to see about getting it stitched back together. As much as I wanted his jacket back in jacket form, I knew that it wouldn’t be the same. I wasn’t sure what was worse: no jacket at all, or James’s jacket, pieced together as a bitter reminder of my accident and all those horrible consequences.

We pulled up in front of Ming Cho’s, where we used to eat at least twice a week, before my schedule got busier with Kris. Ming Cho’s had a cheap all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, and Tubby prided himself on getting his money’s worth, every time. I latched onto him again, and he carried me into the restaurant. Our corner booth was open, and it was just like old times. The waitress recognized us and made small talk. We ordered our drinks, and then Tubby pushed away from the table.

“Sit tight, I’ll grab you some food,” he offered. “Whadya want?”

I shrugged. “You know what I like. Whatever. Oh! But definitely crab rangoons if they have them. I love those things.”

He nodded and headed off to the buffet line, and I read my Chinese horoscope. Romantic, charming. Uh huh. Graceful, soft-spoken. What a laugh! Passionate but jealous lovers. I hissed, that one hitting close to home. I immediately looked away from the place mat as I felt the breath sucked out of my lungs. God, I missed Kris.

I missed him so much that I was hallucinating. I could have sworn that I saw him at a table across the room. But that couldn’t be. What the hell would he be doing here, at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant? Catching myself staring at his doppelgänger, I forced myself to look away, just as the waitress brought over our drinks. She poured me a mug of oolong, and I grabbed a packet of sugar to sweeten it.

Dumping about half the packet into the steaming tea, I slyly glanced back up at the table to look at not-Kris. The rest of the people at his table looked familiar, too: Jordan, Heather, Tyler, Kelsey, Alex.... Fuck, it was Kris. And he totally caught me looking at him. I focused my line of sight on the mug in front of me, clenching my jaw.

For the past three weeks, I had missed him. I was angry at him, but I missed him so much. And now he was just yards away from me. I wanted to talk to him, but I certainly wasn’t going to go over there. Then again, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to talk to him anymore. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know what I wanted to say.

But it didn’t look like I was going to get a say in the matter right now, because he was making his way over, and I had no clue what he was going to say or what was going to happen next.

13 comments:

  1. WeeekS?! Kristopher Letang... :(

    I am anxious to see what he can possibly have to say to her after hanging her out to dry.

    I want a Tubby. A guy who loves me enough to carry me cause I can't walk and knows me enough to make my plate of Chinese and helps me when I can't get out of the bathtub. He is literally fantastic and such a well written character. While I love my guy friends I would never trust them to supply me with anything resembling an ordinary meal.

    Fantastic update, excited for more.

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  2. every girl does need a tubby...

    great great update

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  3. I just had this feeling that she was going to see Kris. I give her credit for not trying to get out of there as quick as possible, even though she misses him. And I'm only saying this because he didn't call for three weeks, I really hope Tubby gives him a hard time.

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  4. KRISTOPHER LETANG, You get over there, buck up like a man and apologize, damn it!

    Tubby = What a guy :) I love him.

    But seriously Kris, 3 weeks and he never even called to make sure she was doing fine? Jerk.

    I love this story and I can't wait to see what he's actually going to say!

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  5. dude i want a tubby!
    just sayin

    great update, as usual :)

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  6. ohshit. ohshit. ohshit. ohshit....
    ahhh what's she gonna say?!?

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  7. please update asap... i am begging you! lol
    and kris kris kris... smh.

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  8. Go Tubby! give Kris hell lol

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  9. I'm ashamed of you Kris! Weeks!!

    But I don't buy that Kris and his friends being at a hole in the wall Chinese Lunch Buffet is a coincidence. I don't how or why but I think Tubby had a hand in this.

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  10. God. I didn't think Kris would stay away for three weeks!! THREE WEEKS!!
    That's forever!!

    And I can't believe she let herself go so badly..but I guess it shows she's human and might just love the boy.

    Soooo excited to see what's going to happen next : |

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  11. Tubby is my hero...'nuf said!

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  12. I really really dislike cliffhangers. and Kristopher, you silly boy, Jo should slap you, and then take you back.
    I want a Tubby in my life.

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