Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 5, Part 2

If there was one thing she loved about Lynette, it was that she didn’t have to be polite with her. Greg made her feel trapped in a sort of stunted formality, like the kisses she’d been forced to give her great Aunt Julia when she was a child. It was the weird, forced brush with the face and body of a stranger, those kisses; the feel of light old-lady whiskers, the strange foreign smell of White Shoulders or Anais, Anais mixed with cigarette smoke and coffee. With Lynette, it was like the visit with great Aunt Julia had ended and she was able to run and shout and break the good China. This often quickly ceased to be enjoyable, but it never ceased to be liberating. Now, with Greg gone from the house for his Trivial Pursuit night, Amy was alone in the house and almost giddy with freedom as she called Lynette.

“Oh, you torture me,” Lynette intoned, sending a goose-bump thrill of complicity up Amy’s arms. “You made me wait twenty five minutes, you bitch.”

Amy’s emotions tended to vacillate wildly where Lynette was concerned. The secrecy of this affair shamed and obsessed her in equal measure; each of these emotions somehow fueled and perpetuated the other. She was fairly certain she didn’t love Lynette, whose perfect self-absorption was like an exotic animal Amy enjoyed watching up close, and she was positive Lynette didn’t love her. It was strange—she’d never been with a woman before, and she was surprised to discover the attributes she’d always associated with love between women – gentleness, empathy—were completely lacking. Even worse, she understood that these were not the qualities she was looking for.

Amy had seen the way Lynette could lash out at her, was capable of a sort of kneejerk verbal hostility that on occasion had knocked the wind out of her. This woman, who professed to love Amy, had happily reminded her that she was no genius and average in bed. She had little to no sympathy for Amy’s grief over P.J., which Amy found shocking and yet somehow fitting. It was amazing to her that she had managed to find the one person in the world—a woman, at that—who refused to coddle her, refused to view her, first and foremost, as that woman whose baby had died. Women are more than baby factories, Lynette said, as though such feminist cant had anything to do with the loss of a person Amy had loved. Once, she’d even reminded Amy that P.J. technically wasn’t blood-related. Sometimes, Amy really did loathe her, and yet she was drawn to her with an urgency she had little control over.

“I’m sorry, Lyn,” she said gently, hoping to appease her. “You know he doesn’t leave for Trivial Pursuit until 7:00. I can’t very well sit there and carry on some conversation with you while he’s sitting there looking at me.”

“Oh, as if he would even notice,” Lynette spoke sharply, but with a touch of happy sarcasm that suggested she felt a little bit better. “He’s too busy talking about his damned blind moles or whatever.”

Amy laughed at how close to the mark Lynette had been. “Tonight it was boll weevils, actually,” she said, plopping down lengthwise on the couch. “A fifteen minute discourse on boll weevils and dung beetles.”

“Jesus.” Lynette’s laugh was capable of a very seductive musicality when she was not angry, and the sound of it cheered Amy. “Dung what? Do I even want to hear this? I just ate, you know.”

Amy launched happily into a mocking recount of Greg’s trivia, feeling only slightly guilty at her betrayal of him.

“There is a monument to the boll weevil erected by the residents of Enterprise, Alabama,” Amy recited in an attempt to mimic the childlike didacticism of Greg’s trivia voice. “Although this insect plagued them for years, feeding on their cotton, it ultimately helped the residents of the town end their dependency on cotton, and pursue farming and manufacturing.”

“Lovely,” Lynette said with a chuckle. “I think you should erect a monument to Greg, for helping you end your dependency on men.”

“See, there’s where you’re wrong,” Amy said. “I never was dependent on him in the first place.”

“Right.” Lynette’s voice was becoming impatient; she’d never been one for talking on the phone; she enjoyed action, not talk. “Then why did you stay with him all this time?”

Amy knew she’d have to say the improbable thing; the thing that would make her sound sappy and weak and the very emblem of all that this woman despised. But she had to say it, because it was the only explanation. “I loved him,” she said.

“I’ll be over in ten minutes,” Lynette said.

Amy tried to do some work on the new account, the one she’d lied to Greg about. She liked to retroactively make her lies as true as possible. Her next task for this particular job was to create the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Amy had an aversion to FAQs, an unfortunate sensibility for a Web designer. She thought they were inherently dishonest. After all, these weren’t genuine questions being asked and answered in good faith, but a scripted, manipulative way of repackaging advertising copy. For example, a Frequently Asked Question might be Does this pill have side effects? And the answer would be No! It is very well tolerated. On rare occasions, some highly sensitive individuals may report some nausea. A person might be puking up his guts, but if so, it was his own fault for being such a highly sensitive baby. FAQs were treacherously brilliant; they allowed the collective voice of the people to challenge a product or service, without the unwieldiness of actual people asking actual questions. These staged questions, advocates for the common man, demanded the truth. What about this? You’re going to have to sell us on this, sir.

Her new client was a maker of electric dog fences, and the FAQs for this Web site were predictably engineered toward easing consumer concerns about juicing their dogs up with thousands of volts of appreciation for their own backyards.

“The behavior modification module may produce a sensation that is uncomfortable or perhaps surprising to your pet, but it will not hurt him,” the Web site cooed in response to the anticipated question, “Will it hurt?” Subsequent inquiries pertained to whether the product would burn the dog (While the device does not generate enough power to induce burns, injuries that resemble burns may occur), and the relative cost-effectiveness of an electric fence over other materials. (Unlike chain link, an invisible fence will never rust.)

Amy sighed, and wondered when exactly her life had become so full of questions and answers that were so empty.

Her musings were interrupted, and not by the expected interruption of Lynette’s percussive knock. Instead, it was a mild, diffused rattling that seemed ridiculously feeble by comparison. It took a moment for her mind to process the familiar sound of keys. Her first improbable thought was that Lynette had managed to get a copy of her house key, which would represent a whole new problem to contend with. But before she had time to reject this unlikelihood, she saw Greg’s face, wearing a sort of sheepish surprise at being home again so soon after he’d left.

“Frank’s wife went into labor,” he said with a shrug, and shuffled toward the couch. His casual, half-conscious couchward navigation was that of a man who had no idea that this couch, this room, his wife, had been claimed for the evening by someone else. That person, nevertheless, was on her way.

Attempting to remain calm, Amy reminded herself that the panic signals that caused her hands to tremble were being sent to her by an unfeeling mass of flesh inside her skull, a pulpy nerveless amateur in matters of emotion. She decided simply to ignore it and all of the misguided reactions it was recommending for the situation. She retreated into the bathroom with her cell phone, hoping to catch Lynette before she showed up. She turned on the bathroom sink to drown out the sound of her phone call. In the beginning of their marriage, Greg had had the quaint habit of doing the same to prevent her from hearing any undesirable sounds. Back then, they had both wanted to remain, in each others’ eyes, the amazing, singularly fascinating person with whom the other had fallen in love, to transcend the ugliness and ordinariness of daily life. As Amy thought about it now, maybe that had been their first mistake.

The water in the bathroom was loud, but not loud enough to prevent her from hearing the knock on the front door. When it happened, she’d just hit send on the call to Lynette’s phone, and soon after the knock, she heard the phone ringing outside the door.

“I’ll get it,” Greg called. She stood there in the bathroom with the rushing water and Lynette’s robotic voice mail asking her to leave a message. She turned off the water and walked slowly out of the bathroom.

There would be questions.

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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