Natalie Lind Writes It All Down For Posterity #10

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I’m walking back to my room when I pass Jean-Baptiste Febreau’s propped open door and see him staking out the hall a little farther down, dressed in his workout clothes with headphones plugged in his ears, jogging in place. I stop to stare at him, and to glance in his single room: which has a super-sized photograph of Salvador and Gala Dali occupying half a wall with the remainder filled by a couple Magritte posters and postcards of Jean-Baptiste’s hometown in Belgium. He twitches one headphone off and asks me about life. That approach transitions into him asking me about Kesia, with me shrugging a lot, and me learning that he’s trying to utilize the more classical forms of modern dance now. He detects that I don’t care much about this news so he shifts to a topic he assumes stands a better chance of creating common ground: “So now Bernadette’s messing around with Jeff, that means Kesia needs to refocus her attention right?” I narrow my eyes at him.

He says, “Anything that’s said in the hall is common knowledge. You can’t put up a piece of parchment board, call it a door, and think anyone’s going to have any secrets.” He leans against the wall and grins. “Though Bernadette has voice modulation issues. But your other friend there, he’s way better at the sneaky act.”

“Oh really.”

“Except you can really play Trivial Pursuit only so many nights a week. And it made me think.” He lives right next to Warren so I ask how he’d describe the thickness of the walls and he seems to think they get thinner at night because that’s when he hears his ex-roommate, in the single on the other side of his, snoring “like a hippopotamus with the dry heaves.” I tell him I bet he’s glad he’s not sharing his room with Chuck Marks this year, and he tells me I have no idea how painful it was, having to listen to The Lion King soundtrack seven hours a week. When I mention that Stravinsky probably wasn’t Chuck’s idea of a good time either I get a look that tells me we’ve exhausted the conversation and I say I’ll tell Kesia he said hi and I go to my room.

“You know you could date Jean-Baptiste,” Bernadette tells Kesia.

“That’s almost worse than telling her to date Warren,” I say.

“What’s wrong with Warren?” Bernadette says. “I’m pretty sure he’ll grow out of the pot dealing. It’s got to be a phase.”

“I don’t need to date anyone. I’m politically aware and I have my feminist issues. I’m involved in the world: maybe the two of you should try something like that.” Kesia scowls at us. I don’t take it personally but Bernadette goes defensive and insists we are involved in the world too. She looks at me for reinforcement on this and I shrug.

Bernadette says, “I campaigned for John Kerry, Kesia. You put your absentee ballot in the mail without postage.”

Kesia turns on me, “The most Natalie here ever does is wander around insulting vegans: how is that progressive politics?”

I tell her she’s exaggerating but that as long as she doesn’t get mixed up with the people trying to get Coca-Cola off campus we’re good. I see she thinks that’s my version of a weak joke so I tell her she wants to boycott every corporation that does stuff she’s uncomfortable with she’ll be living in the Yukon without electricity or indoor plumbing or clothes, fashioning crude implements out of tree branches and hunting down her own food. She isn’t amused by this either: she says, “How is anything I do not better than you sitting around on your tush complaining all the time?” And because I think she has a point I refrain from floating my student org idea `Us Poor Kids Occasionally Arrive At College Too’ and sink down in our guest chair and fight through the nicotine withdrawal.

It’s three hours later when Bernadette notices I haven’t gone for a cigarette in a day and a half. “That’s pretty strong willed; I’m impressed. Maybe you should use some of that psychology on your caffeine problem.”

I don’t tell her that Masha has been trying to get me to quit or that a few days ago she told me I need to stop smoking by the time she shows up for Thanksgiving. And Masha isn’t sending me the occasional twenty-dollar bill anymore, so it’s not like I have the choice.

“You’ll be glad you did this,” Bernadette says.

I nod. I ask her about Jeff. She shrugs and flips through Kesia’s cat calendar. I say, “You really shouldn’t encourage Kesia to view pursuing Warren as any kind of plan.”

Bernadette nods slowly. Then asks, “Why?”

I don’t answer and she hardly seems to notice. She’s staring at a large photograph of a domestic shorthair, but in a few minutes she looks up and says, “Natalie, I asked you why.”

I refer her to Jean-Baptiste.

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