Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 7, Part 2

She heard Lynette’s voice before she actually saw her. Standing behind Greg in the doorway, she would have had to lean around him to catch a glimpse, like a grinning child popping aside to take credit for faux rabbit ears in a photograph. She didn’t want to take credit for anything right now. She would simply wait.

First she heard Greg’s slightly baffled voice – “Hi, can I help you?” followed by Lynette’s unctuous upper-hand tone, feigning surprise. “Oh, you must be Greg. Hi. My name’s Lynette…”

“Oh, Lynette -- hi!” Amy willed herself to wait for Lynette to identify herself before acknowledging her by name; so many “Greg, sweetie, this is my pottery instructor, Lynette.”

“Oh, hey,” Greg said, smiling, now reoriented to the situation, certain of his place in it. Amy met Lynette’s mischievous green eyes, which were torturing her with bemused calculation, deciding what to do. Please, Amy tried to convey.

“So, based on the pottery Amy brings home, I’m guessing you teach the remedial course,” Greg’s blustery voice telegraphed the unexpected pleasure of teasing two attractive women. Lynette looked at Amy, and it seemed that her glance contained a blend of contempt and pity. “I’m not sure whether that one purple thing Amy made is a deformed measuring cup or a water bowl for a hamster on hallucinogenic drugs.”

Lynette laughed, her shiny black hair falling forward like a shadow over her face, which was achingly and annoyingly flawless. Amy felt a pang of desire, mixed with relief at Lynette’s merciful complicity so far. Was it possible that Lynette was acting out of consideration for her, protection of her? Did Lynette, on some level, genuinely care? “You know, I get a lot of students like Amy,” Lynette said. “Her problem is a lack of focus. She’s very creative, but I don’t think she has the slightest clue what she’s trying to make.”

Amy laughed, hoping she didn’t sound as bitter as she felt. “So I end up making a mess, is what you’re both saying.” She hoped her skin didn’t reveal her agitation, as it often did, through discolored splotches along her neck and collarbone.

Lynette held up her hands in mock-innocence. “Hey, I didn’t say anything,” she said. Amy was surprised at how easily Lynette engaged and dazzled Greg, this man whom she had often discussed with such venom and rivalry. It was like watching a charmed cobra, almost comical in its appearance of dancing, when in reality its every sinew is tensed for the attack. Greg, the hapless quarry, was nevertheless enjoying the show.

What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?” his voice now brimmed with the exalted tones of trivia-speak, the proud wonder of a know-it-all child. Amy sighed both in exasperation and relief.

Lynette cocked her head, mildly curious. “You’ll have to clarify that a bit, Greg.” She was flirting, but with condescending predation, like an older man flirting with a not-so-bright young bimbo; the Big Bad Wolf dressed in grandma’s kerchief. “Wild ecstasy – are you talking about sex or drugs?”

“He’s doing trivia,” Amy blurted, then rushed in with the requisite explanation. “Greg is a huge trivia addict.” It felt wrong somehow, offering up this wifely apology for Greg to Lynette, her lover. It seemed like bad etiquette, as if there could be a proper etiquette for this nightmare. “Greg, Lynette didn’t come here to play trivia with you. She doesn’t want to hear this.”

“No, no, go on, Greg,” Lynette insisted, feigning interest as anyone in her situation would feel obliged to do. “I’ll take the bait.” Yet obligation was hardly one of Lynette’s driving forces, Amy knew: the only things she ever felt that she had to do were the things she wanted to do.

Greg, perceptive enough to recognize a captive audience when he had one, didn’t wait for further encouragement to continue.

“That quote is from a famous poem that was written about a piece of pottery, actually.” He said this triumphantly, the actually spoken as a vindication, as a retort to Amy’s implied accusation of silliness and irrelevance. “It’s something both of you ought to know, being pottery buffs and all. Anybody know what it is?”

Listening to the familiar rising inflection of a trivia question being posed, Amy felt herself involuntarily lapsing into that kind of bored comfort that generally accompanied Greg’s questions. It was a kind of lulled, fissured brain usage that she’d perfected, in which a large part of her mind could be freed up for other thoughts while still dimly acknowledging him. But this would not do; she willed herself to snap out of it before it cost her. This was not just Greg droning on in his soothingly familiar voice. This was Lynette she was dealing with; Amy couldn’t afford to relax. The situation could change at any time.

“I give up,” Lynette said. In this, Amy recognized yet another inherent lie, since Lynette only ever pretended to give up. “The only poetry I know of that’s even remotely related to pottery is that ‘dish ran away with the spoon’ nursery rhyme.”

Greg laughed, his voice fat with the infinite patience of a knowledge-swelled mentor. “That’s certainly a creative guess, actually, but no,” he said. “It’s from Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats, written in 1819. It was said to be inspired by Greek artifacts that Keats saw at an exhibition.”

“Oh, right,” Lynette nodded too deeply, too rapidly, to be reacting naturally. “I read that back in high school. Which, obviously, was a very long time ago.”

Greg’s smile, contemplating Lynette, was like a musical note that hung in the air, an ellipsis at the end of an unfinished thought. There was the sense that the smile was left over from something; that it had lingered past its time. Amy wondered if he was sensing some of Lynette’s disingenuousness, or whether he was simply spellbound.

“Lynette, would you like to come in? How rude of me,” he said, shaking his head in self-reproach. Amy felt her stomach lurch in agony; a full evening of Lynette and Greg together was impossible.

Lynette locked onto Amy with a well, should I? smirk but then shook her head, a movement that added to her coltish beauty, even gave her the appearance of humility. “No, thanks, I’ve got errands to run, but just thought I’d come and pick up your ashtray, Amy, for the beginner’s exhibition.”

Amy blushed at the mention of the ashtray, which was a private joke between them. She’d complained to Lynette -- a habitual smoker-- that kissing her was like licking an ashtray. As a joke, she’d made Lynette an ashtray and painted the words lick me on it. This ashtray was in Lynette’s apartment, had been for months, they both knew it. Clearly, Lynette hadn’t been able to resist this small measure of torture.

“Oh, that thing?” she scoffed. “I’ll go look for it, but I don’t know that you’ll want it.”

“An ashtray?” Greg laughed. “You made an ashtray? Since when does anybody here smoke? Or maybe, Lynette, you’re just being kind by putting some kind of functional label on one of Amy’s….things. Theoretically, they could all be ashtrays, or bowls, or say, massive tumors…maybe it’s all a matter of interpretation.”

“Yeah, well,” Lynette’s voice was now like a sleepy purr. “I think this one is pretty distinctive.”

Amy listened to the lighthearted, half-hearted banter between these two people, one of whom knew the full extent of what they shared and one of whom didn’t. She heard, to her surprise, the ancient tonality of the male-female dynamic, the flirty teasing back-and-forth, although Lynette had not touched a man since college. It was strange to observe her outside her normal context, to see how she probably behaved in the world outside their little haven. Or was it just part of the act?

“I think I broke it,” Amy said. “But how about this one?” She held up a red, gourd-shaped implosion that had originally been intended as a dip bowl. Its uneven rim didn’t provide enough structure to actually contain much of anything.

“That’ll work,” Lynette said, taking the bowl in her slender fingers—fingers that had come here in search of Amy’s clitoris, not these crumbling oddments. She winked, a gesture made especially sexy by her unassailable confidence and said, “Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Greg.”

“Likewise,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing greatly improved pottery in the future.” He closed the door, a vague smile still stuck on his face like spilled food that he’d failed to wipe off.

“Geez, I can’t believe she just showed up like that, huh?” Amy said, rolling her eyes. “I wouldn’t have figured her for the drop-by type.”

“Well, I think it’s nice to meet one of your new friends, Ame. You should have them by more often,” he said, looking at her with an intense curiosity that made her nervous. “She was nice. I liked her.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t exactly call Lynette a friend. And she certainly isn’t nice,” Amy said, snorting crudely at the notion. She saw Greg looking at her with unconcealed puzzlement in his eyes.
“Well, if she isn’t nice,” he said, “then exactly what is she?”

Amy didn’t know how to answer this. What was Lynette? More to the point, what did Lynette mean to her, and was she worth what she was doing to Greg, to their marriage? She didn’t know for sure, but she doubted it.

That night, exhausted from the close call and from the exertions of dishonesty, Amy drifted into a shallow semi-sleep, into which the memory of her surprise baby shower again asserted itself. On that night, she’d helped Greg clean up after the party, a party she hadn’t even known she was having. They’d laughed together as they’d recalled the highlights of the day.

“So, I liked when Jessica asked you who your obstetrician was, then got all flustered and said, ‘I mean, who’s the, um, birth mother’s obstetrician? Do they tell you that? Does she live around here? Well, I liked Dr. Friedman a lot, if you want to….pass that on to her.”

Amy had laughed. “Yeah, she wasn’t quite able to dig her way out of that one.”

“She would’ve needed a crane,” he’d said, grinning and shaking his head.

“Greg,” she’d said, watching him disconnect a pink-and-blue double helix of streamers from the dining room table. “This was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I love you.”
He’d stopped what he was doing, and he’d come over to kiss her, the streamers falling onto the front of his shirt and making a rustling sound between them like paper hospital gowns as they moved closer together. “I love you,” he said. “We’re about to have our little family, Ame. The worst is behind us now.”

And she kissed him with her heart full to bursting with hope. She’d kissed him to seal the future and punctuate the past, and to embrace it all and take it in fully, to accept the blessing that was almost too wonderful for her to bear.

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

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