Natalie Lind Writes it All Down For Posterity #15

By Anna Chastain

You have stomach flu, is Masha’s suggestion over the phone.

I do my usual disagree: “Yeah, maybe. Except not so much the stomach. And not so much the flu.”

“So you’re saying you don’t feel sick?”

“Well I don’t feel great.”

I feel worse in a minute because Masha says she wants to quit Harvard Law and maybe move herself back to NYC and stay with her grandparents and experiment in new wave abstract expressionism or move herself back to Maine and stay with her parents and self-start a business breeding schnauzers. She says, “Those dogs make the cutest puppies in the world.”

I go negative on both these ideas. I say, “I don’t threaten to leave here and move back East and serial-sponge on you.”

“But you want to eventually don’t you Natalie?” and it’s sort of friendly the way she says it but it’s some kind of warning too. It’s the first time she’s tried to lay motive on me. “It’s not like I can’t see that’s why you want me to be a lawyer and eventually go corporate but maybe that’s not comfortable for me.”

When I’m off the phone Bernadette doesn’t see this as a big deal. “You didn’t want her to go to Harvard Law originally did you? And probably she’s just in a slump. I think about leaving here once every six or seven hours but I never get even two blocks from campus.”

Kesia says, “That sucks.”

Kesia’s called a truce over Jeff. She and Bernadette share a raincoat again. She and Bernadette have synced up against Toby. “He’s supposed to be our fourth best friend,” Bernadette says, “but he’s stopped communicating his information.”

Toby shows up at our door at 8 p.m. opening and closing his big innocent eyes and telling us he’s writing a paper on written suggestion and naturalized same-sex eroticism in the 1800s mid-century pastoral. Kesia just stares at him. Bernadette says, “And you told me I couldn’t make an argument linking Nijinsky’s imbalance to his artistic acumen: you have some nerve.”

Toby smirks.

Bernadette says, “I can’t love you the way I used to Toby. It feels like you lied to me. It feels like there’s a trust issue in the room.”

Toby hasn’t fully committed to coming in so he’s standing there with the door open. Timothy Fruit passes by and then retraces and waves and walks off again. I’m about to suggest Toby come in and let the door close, or, alternatively, that he walk another dozen steps along the hall to Warren’s room, when this kid we’ve never really seen before slouches by and reads the open door as an invitation to a conversation.

“Hey,” he says. “I live like two doors down, I’ve seen you guys on the stairs but I guess you aren’t big fans of our lounge?”

“It smells like ketchup,” Toby says.

The kid says his name is Len.

Kesia’s the first one to notice we should provide our first names as reciprocation. Toby just doesn’t bother.

But Len says, “Have you guys heard about the pink eye?” and that gets our attention. He says, “It’s not like it’s at epidemic status but it likes to spread itself around you know. Like right now I’m carrying hand sanitizers.”

“Pink eye is a six-year-old thing,” Bernadette says.

“I’ve heard about four people, that’s all I’m saying.” He smiles agreeably.

I see Toby scrutinizing him around the eyes. Bernadette rubs her right eye doubtfully and then stops, clasps her hands behind her back, and says: “Fuck it.”

Kesia says, “See that’s all it’s gonna take right there.”

Len says he’s going to eat block cheese in a friend’s room so he walks off and Toby comes in and lets the door close.

Toby asks me how I’m feeling.

Bernadette says, “I think it’s more front-page news the days Natalie feels really good.”

“It’s not stomach flu,” I tell him.

Bernadette says, “Toby, you never tell us shit about yourself anymore.”

Kesia says, “Some things aren’t our business.”

Toby says, “I need to tell Warren about the pink eye. I’ll see you guys.”

Kesia watches him leave. She says, “You know not a lot is happening, are the two of you noticing this? Not a lot is going on in my life. Sometimes I’m good with that because so much that could happen is just stuff going wrong. And sometimes I just want to bitch-slap the wall.”