Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chapter 33 / Laptop

“What’s that?”
“It’s a laptop. Computer. MacBook. New this year.” 
1994 laptop
“What does it do?”
“—It helps me think. On screen, on a battery, so it’s wherever I am. Look—“
Annie had been standing next to Andrew at the big table near the kitchen. He drew her onto his lap and put his arms around her to reach the keys of this tiny computer. “I have files here for the radio, for myself . . . if you like it, I’ll get you one.” 
“Why is it better than my notebook?” Annie patted the spiral-bound notebook she had brought. 
“—It’s just as quiet. And your notes are typed up. You can move them around. Make something out of them. I used to be digging through pieces of paper, looking for the thought I had, or the interview. Can you think on screen?”
“Yes. I had to learn. And I write faster than I used to. But I like not being able to work for the newspaper unless I’m in the office.” 
“Work for yourself then. Write your novel. This probably wouldn’t interface with the newspaper anyway. What do you use there for word processing?”
“Wordstar?” As if she had said fountain pen. “And you don’t have email there.”
“It’s perfectly fine!” 
“Oh-kay . . .”  
—I’m sorry. For snapping. I’m not good with change.” 
“Are you kidding? You are Ms. Change.” 
“Technological change then. I love my notebooks.”
“And you are the better laptop, by far . . .”
They had that conversation on Monday, or Tuesday or Wednesday; they moved through the week like plants rooted in the sea, their motions gentle, their voices low. Even sex was more luxurious than heated, as if by doing everything slowly they could extend the time. 
Annie woke with the light and started coffee and her notebook. Andrew got up around seven and stared at his screen. Around 8 they took a walk on the beach, setting out to see a different beach every morning. After an hour of that they were starving, so they drove down the road to Provincetown, where they had found a breakfast shack with basic eggs and a carafe of coffee for each of them. Annie got a table while Andrew bought newspapers, and then they skimmed the front pages, hoping there was no news that he had to cover for the radio. That week, there wasn’t. 
“What will I do if people stop killing each other,” he said on Wednesday, frowning at the Boston Globe
“—Write fiction?”
“Not my strong point.” 
“Punditry then.” 
Andrew winced. 
“I mean analysis. We need analysis.”
“I’d rather report. But, I have an idea. Let me think about it. Then I might run it by you.” 
“Oh boy!” 
“And you, Ms.? You are amazing to watch, the way the words flow from your pen without getting clogged up in your head.” 
“The newspaper hands me the plot of a novel every week. I think I’ve chosen one.” 
They set a goal of never sitting on the sand in the sun, which meant a siesta in the afternoon, some combination of sex, sleeping, and reading. In the evening, they went out in search of dinner, alternating between the family scene of Wellfleet and Provincetown, where Andrew said he had not smelled so much aftershave since he was in high school. 
“Do you think there’s anywhere around here to go dancing?” Andrew said one Wellfleet evening. They had squeezed onto a bench as they shared cups of ice cream. 
“Probably at a gay bar in Provincetown. We could look around tomorrow. Ed and I went to a lesbian bar once for a show. It was fun. But there was no dancing.”  
As they considered this outing, and their ice creams, chocolate and fresh peach, a little girl, about three, with strawberry blonde curls, approached them on her tricycle. Her pert blond mom followed close behind, stopping and starting, pushing the cycle gently to make the pedals move. 
And just as they all paused and watched, the little girl got it: that if you put your feet on the pedals and pushed, you were under way, you were moving. Her face lit up and she crowed delightedly, taking off on her tricycle with her smiling mom trotting behind.  
“Wow,” said Andrew softly.
“Don’t you want that?”
“I just had it . . . it was glorious, and I don’t have to own it.”
They were silent for a moment. “We should talk about this,” said Annie. 
“Let’s talk about it when we get home.”
“Home?” She laid her cheek on his sleeve.
“To our glass house.”
Annie sat up. “Even during an adventure, we must not postpone the difficult.”
“Even Warren goes on vacation. In my head, anyway. It’s hard to imagine him here. His dark intellectual presence in the sun.” 
“But maybe he’s a—polka champion, or famous in the world of Irish wolfhounds. You probably wouldn’t know, right?” 
“God, I hope not.”
                                   *           *             *
“Let’s sit outdoors,” Andrew said when they got back to the house. The moon, which had started as a sliver on Sunday, was expanding over the trees. Annie waited until Andrew had lit a cigarette. 
“OK,” said Annie. “Let’s start with the facts. I can’t have children. You can’t have unprotected sex. We aren’t going to make a baby.” 
“Adoption? Any aged kid—thirty, if you want.”
“No! Oh Andrew—” Annie found herself close to tears.
“I’m sorry. I’m having a good time here, it’s hard for me to be serious.”  
“Just hear me out for a minute. I look at that pretty mom—prettier than me—"
“—and feel no envy. But it’s not just a not-feeling. I’m relieved, and I feel like I did something right. Maybe I’m selfish; fine, I didn’t inflict it on anyone else. Except, possibly, you.  
“I feel like you’re still thinking I’m some normal person, we’re some normal couple, who will do A and B and C. While out there are millions of normal single women, and divorced moms with cute little boys and girls—"
“Someone else’s mess.” 
“You’d manage. You’d fall in love with the mom and set up a six-person softball game for the kids, the way you did at Kathleen’s, and the little boy would adore you for life. 
“That’s what you want, right? That’s what we all want. Someone to adore us.” 
“You could adore me,” said Andrew. “Knowing that I adore you.”  
“I’m getting there, Andrew, I should warn you. And I’m also getting to where, when you leave in five years to marry a 30-year-old who wants children, I’ll be all right. I’ll say vaya con Dios and go on without you.”
“No.” Andrew shook his head. “No. If you want to talk about this, we can talk about it a hundred times. 
“But, another fact: when you were collecting Chloe to take her to dog camp, you scooped her up and gave her a big sniff, behind one of her fox-like ears, and she grinned her hound grin, and I thought, that’s it. That’s what I’ve got. A girl who is tender and sweet and doesn’t want children. 
“And I’m lucky.” 

Copyright © 2015 Debby Mayer