Natalie Lind Writes It All Down For Posterity #19

By Anna Chastain

I walk a pile of newspaper out to the recycling bin in the lounge and when I get back to the room Bernadette has come in looking casual. She sits on her desk and slants her eyebrows at me and says, “It’s been a while since I’ve heard you talking to Masha: is anything going on with that?”

“No,” I say. “That cell phone she gave me lost service so I guess she didn’t pay it.”

“Will she be in Maine this summer?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Natalie, you’re supposed to tell me when you break up with people.”

“OK.”

“I tell you a lot of stuff.”

“Fine.”

I see her getting ready to tell me something else. Her forehead’s all creased and she’s swinging her legs in time with the dull thud from the music upstairs. “I have this little problem,” she says. “Like maybe I have this little problem. You can calm me down?”

This is not really the kind of thing I’m good at but I nod and shrug.

She says, “I should have my period now. I don’t.”

It takes me a minute. Bernadette’s allergic to the pill or something so she operates off one-type birth control, which had been working for her. “How many days late?”

“Four.”

“That’s not uncommon.”

“Let’s go with: it’s uncommon for me.”

“You’ve mentioned this to Jeff?”

“And there’s another problem.” She fidgets on the desk.

“I’m not so sure this would have so much to do with Jeff. You’re maybe not going to discuss this with Kesia?”

“Whatever. I think maybe you should rethink your thing with Jeff.”

She sends her eyebrows toward her hairline. “You’re supposed to be calming me down. This isn’t calming me down.” She scoots off her desk and says, “So I did a pregnancy test and I put it by Kesia’s little gardenia plant but I don’t want to look at it myself. You look at it.”

I walk over and look at it. I don’t touch it. “You aren’t pregnant. You should throw that away now. Kesia might come in.”

Toby comes in and catches the last of that and seems to have gathered some additional details through the door. “I’m glad I can’t get pregnant,” he says. “It makes things more relaxed.”

“Aren’t things generally more relaxed for you since you’re male?” Bernadette says.

“I don’t relax well.” He looks over at me. “You know what I mean.”

“We don’t nap,” I tell Bernadette. “I don’t know why that is: it’s not genetic.”

“I have an overactive mind,” Toby explains.

Bernadette sniffles a laugh. “Don’t get off on yourself. You two put away enough caffeine to jump-start an outer suburb.”

“OK.” Toby settles into our guest chair. “So I mentioned to my parents that my roommate next year has invited me to spend the summer in NY and it wouldn’t cost them anything and they’d be for it on the principle I’m not going to like working in a mail plant except Warren’s family isn’t Jewish, though I can always pretend I go to Temple the way I do here—”

“You don’t go to Temple here,” Bernadette interrupts.

“Yeah: I said I pretend.” He gives her a look. “The other thing is they don’t see it’s normal he’d invite me.”

“Can’t you just explain?” Bernadette retreats to her desk.

“No. Don’t you have a better idea?”

“No.”

“No,” I echo.

Jeff shows up then, dressed in leather with his hair gelled straight up.

Toby stops pouting and says, “I’ll think of something. At least I don’t have pregnancy scares.”

“You had a pregnancy scare?” Jeff looks at Bernadette with some surprise.

“Toby.” Bernadette fixes him with a glare. “I hope Warren gives you clap.”

Jeff says, “Except Warren’s actually reliable. Warren doesn’t piss around half in the can.”

Toby and I leave the room. We’re standing in the hall talking when Kesia shows up with some library books. I tell her Bernadette and Jeff are having a conversation we thought we shouldn’t sit in on and Kesia shifts the books to her other arm and says, “I thought they had reached the comfortable stage. Are they not at the comfortable stage?”