Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 9, Part 2

But when faced with the layout of the alphabet, Lynette did not enter her name, or a cute nickname, but instead began gleefully spelling out the word FUCK. Upon entering the k, however, the computer instantly converted the configuration of letters into a completely extrinsic end product. “BAD BOY!” it editorialized.

“I was trying to spell Fuckface,” Lynette said ruefully, the bluish-gray light from the screen dappling her face like frostbite.

“BAD BOY?” Amy scoffed. “Why’d it do that?”

“Hmm, maybe we can try SHIT,” Lynette said, and proceeded to type her second-string profanity, only to have it intercepted once again by the disapproval of the machine. “BAD BOY!” it reiterated.

“Guess we’re in trouble, huh?” Amy said.

“See, this machine is sexist,” Lynette said. “It’s a sexist censorship machine that assumes it’s talking to a man.”

“Or a dog that soiled the carpet,” Amy said. “Hey, why don’t you try ASS?”

Lynette laughed. “Now you’re finally getting the hang of what trivia’s really all about.”

Making love with Lynette was a frantic endeavor offering elusive rewards, like finishing a marathon run only to be given a flimsy, office water-cooler cone of water. It was never enough.

Lynette smiled as Amy reached for her long, cool body, which was unapologetic and almost intimidating in its dazzling full-length stretch on the bed. It was the horizontal equivalent of a tall girl who refuses to forego high heels just to make her short date feel better. There was something decidedly casual about the way her body was sprawled, as though she had just woken up and was enjoying the sleepy physicality of the morning’s first stretch. Her ribs moved evenly beneath the expanse of her pale skin, their rhythmic emergence giving her the starved-looking sexiness of a drug addict. She was entirely at home in her own body; she comfortably inhabited the long, slender frame, the beautiful, heavy breasts, the surprisingly playful dusting of freckles. It was with this body that she communicated best, and so in a sense, she and Amy were continuing their conversation.

Next to Lynette, Amy felt small, small and hungry. She was the one who seemed to be asking for something in this exchange. Her small, sinewy body was tensed with intention, like a bow drawn back tight in its arrow. Unlike Lynette and her coolness, Amy was damp from exertion, her formerly chlorine-tousled hair now webbed with sweat. Her mouth moved over Lynette’s so automatically, their tongues interacting so semiconsciously, she barely knew they were kissing. Even though they were both lying down, Amy was somehow making all the effort.

It wasn’t always this way: certainly, Lynette was just as often the aggressor, and did not shy away from wherever her own seismic intensity might lead her. But lately, it seemed that Amy, whether in a dominant or passive role, was the one who was more in need, who was counting on this. This did not escape her. Nothing of the unfortunate nature of this affair escaped her, and when finally she collapsed against Lynette in a tangled heap, she was flooded with more shame than ecstasy. She rolled away from Lynette and lay back on the pillow of the monstrous bed.

Lynette’s bedroom, an airy, earth-toned space that always smelled like fresh wood, featured a mammoth King-sized bed with a curvy, Tuscan-style iron frame. It was the bed of someone who expected their bed to be seen. “That felt like an emergency.”

“Yes,” Amy said quietly, “I guess it was.”

“Hmm. I wonder what you’ll do when I’m not around to be your personal emergency room anymore.” Lynette’s caustic humor had returned to full strength; it never took long. It was, however, the first time she’d alluded to the end.

Amy considered the question seriously. “I guess I’ll have to learn to stop having emergencies,” she said.

Lynette looked at her with the same searching look that Beth had given her only hours before. “Yes, I imagine that’s exactly what you’ll do,” she said, propping herself up on the pillow by her elbow. “But do you know what happens when you just ignore an emergency?”

Oh, the riddling. Between Greg and his trivia and Beth and her guesswork and Lynette and her taunting, Amy felt that she practically quizzed herself in her sleep. “No, Lyn. What happens when you ignore an emergency?”

“You die,” Lynette said.

Had Lynette ignored her own emergencies? It was hard for Amy to say, because Lynette didn’t talk much about her life. What information Amy had managed to cobble together had been through observation--clues such as photographs in Lynette’s house, and her own relentless questioning.

What did she know about Lynette, really? She was an animal lover, for one thing. This was unmistakable, as evidenced by the collection of strays that ubiquitously moved through Lynette’s house. Dogs, cats, even a potbelly pig, the discarded trend of 1991. Lynette rescued whatever animal needed rescuing, nursed them back to health, gave them shelter. In a way, Amy found this encouraging; it suggested that Lynette was capable of compassion, maybe even love. But in Lynette’s case, the love of animals seemed to be an expression of preference—like someone who loves chocolate instead of vanilla, Lynette loved animals instead of people.

Once, on the street, Lynette had offered money to a homeless man splayed across the pavement, with an unshorn, grayish standard poodle sleeping beside him. Lynette had specified, as she’d pressed the bills into his dirty palm: this is for your dog.

“Animals don’t lie, and they’re loyal,” she liked to say, “which is more than I can say for most people.”

It was a curious thing: Lynette’s apparent identification with what she considered the purity and vulnerability of animals. These were hardly traits she shared, or so it appeared. Sometimes, though, the muted rage she expressed toward her parents, her father in particular, made Amy wonder whether Lynette had, indeed, been a victim of some kind.

The only person alive who Lynette seemed to love was her brother James, who’d been born with Down Syndrome. Their affluent parents had subsidized and forgotten him, and he was now 37 years old and living in a group home in Sherman Oaks. Lynette visited him weekly; she would bring him little gifts and talk to him. She told Amy that James alone was the repository for her secrets. She would sit there and spill everything to his inscrutable confessor’s face as he sat blinking in gentle, uncomprehending silence.

“He’s like a diary, but one that’s impossible to unlock,” she said. Amy couldn’t help but wonder what James might know about her.

Often, Lynette talked about how horrible and unredeemable the world was. She seemed certain that she’d get no argument on this from Amy, but occasionally, she took her point too far. “I think your daughter is lucky, in way,” she said once, her shocking insensitivity catching Amy off guard. “She doesn’t have to live in this shitty world. Things are getting worse all the time; you wouldn’t want to be raising a kid in this.”

It was a weak argument; Amy had always thought so. The world had always been too harsh to raise children in. It had never been a place for children, or for blind, featherless baby birds, or for premature buds that sprout under snow. It had never been a place for sensitive, misfit souls. Yes, the world was shitty, but it was also wonderful, and children who were lucky enough to grow up generally turned into adults who would give anything to stay in it. Amy felt tears spring to her eyes as suddenly as if she’d been slapped in the face. “No,” she said, simply. P.J. had been loved, and would have continued to be loved, protected and nurtured. “No.”

Now, Lynette was lighting a cigarette, one of her elegantly phallic 100’s, and talking about Greg. “He’s actually kind of cute,” she said, her dark, dramatic eyebrows arching over her jungle-green eyes. “He’s much more attractive in person than on TV, in that ridiculous uniform.”

Amy wasn’t going to take the bait, assuming that was what this was. Even if it wasn’t bait, she wasn’t going to take it. Whatever it was – gift, peace offering, taste of poison – she didn’t want it.

“Yes,” she said, simply. “He is kind of cute.”

“So, you have to wonder just how much he knows,” Lynette said casually, tearing the cigarette from her lips with a suction that sounded like a kiss.

“Knows? Knows what?” Amy sat up, feeling her face burning with a focused spike of shame. “He doesn’t know about us. You were there, you saw it.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure,” Lynette said, looking at her now with only a hint of her usual toying lassitude. This worried Amy even more; she seemed almost serious. “I think Greg’s the kind of guy who knows, even when he doesn’t know.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Amy said. And she didn’t. Amy only knew the things she knew. She didn’t believe that she had a rich wellspring of unconscious knowledge, she didn’t have layer upon layer of complexity that was not immediately accessible to her. She only hid things from others, not herself. She never considered Greg capable of hiding anything from anyone. “Well, you can go ahead and think whatever you want,” Amy said firmly, indicating that the conversation was over. She had a tone she took with Lynette, one that she knew could be reliably employed to call a halt to the torture. She used it now, and Lynette immediately backed off, smiling at her with an amusement that bordered on affection.

“Okay, Amy,” she said. “Okay.” They were quiet after that. They just watched the sun pouring in through Lynette’s window, mingling with dust particles as it hit the hardwood floor. The silence here was splintering and painful, Amy thought. It was a nice enough room, but it needed a TV.

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

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