Chapter 5: Mental health day

One thing you could say for Randall. Though quiet, he was stubborn. For almost two weeks he neither touched nor spoke to the tank. And, as the girl inside had pointed out, he did not call anyone about it either.

Stan, on the other hand… not so patient.

When the phone on his desk at work rang, Randall answered as always, “Randall Martin.”

“’Randall Martin,’” a falsely deep, anchorman voice echoed back at him.

“Stan. What’s up?” Stan wasn’t good at voices.

“Sorry, man. I just get a kick out of your responsible corporate monotone. Call me at the office sometime and see how I answer.”

“You own your office, Stan,” Randall reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah. What? They’d fire you if you picked up the phone and said, ‘Randall’s House of Mirth, may I bring you joy?’”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Bummer.”

There was a pause. “Stan. What’s up? You called me.”

“You gotta work or something?”

“No. Not really. Just wondered what’s up.”

Then Randall remembered what was up.

“The tank. You’re calling about the tank.”

Hearing Stan giggle like a little boy always made Randall smile, even when he was the target of the amusement.

“Not the tank, buddy,” Stan said after he stopped giggling. “Claire.”

“Ah. Claire. So that’s her name.”

“You didn’t… oh, shit. Caitlyn is gonna kill me.”

“Why, Stan? What has…”

But Stan had clicked off. Randall got his work number off his PDA and called him back. “Pandora Technologies, how may I direct your call?” asked the pleasant, feminine voice.

“Stan Kline, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kline is in a meeting.”

“Bullshit he’s in a meeting. I was talking to him eight seconds ago.”

“I’m sorry but…”

Randall hung up and went deeper into his files. Another number. Either cellular or direct dial.

“Hi, this is Stan. Sorry I can’t take your…” Shit.

Randall sat there, tapping absently on his desk phone’s handset.

Claire. He thought. That’s French for “light.” That’s pretty cute.

He called his boss and said he was taking off a bit early. Like now. No problem, as his boss really had no idea what he did, just that it always got done on time and under budget. Randall saw his boss four times a year, basically. And that was fine. He mostly talked with other people at his “job grade level” who never talked to their bosses either. Sometimes he wondered if his boss ever talked to his boss, whom Randall had met once in three years, even though the guy worked just two floors up.

All the way home, through nicely sparse, 3pm traffic, Randall thought, Claire. Where have you been for the last two weeks?

As soon as he got into the boot room he hollered, “Claire? Are you in there?”

Nothing. He kicked off his shoes, pulled off the tie, threw the jacket on the couch and sat down next to it.

“Claire?” he said, this time more softly.

Nothing.

“Maybe I could leave her a message,” he murmured.

“Hi, this is Claire,” the tank said. With that metallic-echo tone that seems to come standard on all answering machines. “I’m not home right now. Or I am, but I’m doing something else. Something suspicious, you’re thinking, since I would obviously run from any ordinary task to take your call. Be that as it may…” Beep.

“Claire,” Randall started. Then stopped. “Claire. It’s Randall. Just wanted to say, ‘Hi’ and… well… I guess that’s it. See you later.”

There was a slight click, and then silence. He sat there for a few more minutes, and then decided he might as well change into play clothes. So he went upstairs and did just that.

3:45 pm on a Thursday. What to do, what to do…

He got online and checked movie times at the nearby second-run theatre. Just a buck, matinees for fifty cents. You can’t shake a stick at that. Some idiot comedy he hadn’t seen was playing at 4:10. While he wouldn’t have paid $12.50 to see it, for fifty cents… hell, it was as good a way as any to kill the afternoon.

The movie was well worth fifty cents. Afterward he stopped and grabbed some Chinese food at Chef Tong’s. Spicy chicken and black bean. And then Dairy Queen. And then home.

He paused to look into the tank. The Tiffany light was on, but there was no one in the room. He shrugged and went to put the unfinished half of his Blizzard in the freezer.

The voicemail light on his kitchen phone was blinking, so he pushed the button.

Message one: Randall. Hi. It’s me. Claire. Sorry I haven’t… well… whatever. I popped in after I got home from work and you were out. Give me a call when you get back.”

OK, thought Randall. That’s pretty weird.

Message two: Randall. Claire again. I never gave you my number, did I? It’s 833–21512. Same area code as yours. The new Tonawanda local exchange. Later.”

Randall shrugged and dialed the number. The phone rang twice, and, “Hello?”

“Claire?”

“Randall?”

“Yeah.”

“You got my message.”

“Sure. Yeah. I was out at the movies.”

Pause. “You’re home early, then.”

“No. I took off work around three.”

“You sick?”

“No. Just…” he remembered why he left early. Because he’d learned her name and thought it might be a password. A code. Some cryptologically meaningful phoneme.

“Just what?”

“Just felt like playing hooky, you know?”

“Sure. I get like that. Mental health day.”

“Exactly.”

Another pause. This one longer.

“How was the movie?” Claire finally asked.

“It was dumb. But for fifty cents, you know… not bad.”

“Yeah. The entertainment value index.”

“The what?”

“How much you’ll pay for amusement. Twelve bucks for a first-run flick. Seven-fifty for first-run matinee. Fifteen for the DVD. Three bucks to rent. A buck at the cheapies. Free-ish stream on Netflix. Or free-for-real-free on HBO in the hotel when you’re on the road.”

“That’s how you rate movies?”

“Partly,” she answered. “I also use the sliding ‘fun ’n’ film’ scale.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s… shit,” she interrupted herself.

“What?”

“Hang up the fucking phone and I’ll meet you in our living rooms.”

Click. He looked at the phone and felt like a total noob. He’d just been having a conversation with a piece of software that lived in his house.

From around the corner of the kitchen he heard her. “Randall?”

He quickly put the phone back on the hook and jogged into the living room.

There she was, standing in her little doorway, one hand on the frame and the other holding a cordless phone. She moved into the room and the door disappeared. She put the phone down on the little desk and sat down on the love seat. Same position as before, both legs tucked under her.

Tonight she was dressed much more casually. Jeans, grey sweatshirt with a big “C” on the front. Barefoot. Same pearl earrings, though.

He sat down on the couch and leaned back, arms crossed on his chest.

“So, it’s gonna be like that, Randall?” she said, flipping her bangs out of her eyes with one hand.

“Like what?”

She pointed at him. “Your body language basically screams, ‘I am in control and I will not be trifled with.’ Or, ‘With me you will not trifle,’ if you’re a preposition Nazi.”

Randall looked down at himself. He hadn’t meant to communicate anything with his body language. He had just sat down.

“I just sat down,” he said.

Claire whispered something that he didn’t quite catch.

“What?” he asked, leaning forward a little bit.

“I said, ‘Men!’ like it was a curse word, which is how women almost always say, ‘Men!’ when they’re frustrated with them.”

“Why would you be frustrated with me? I just sat down.” He wasn’t mad. Just a bit confused.

“Look at how I’m sitting, Randall.”

He did. One arm on back of the love seat, the other in her lap. Legs, as we said, underneath her.

“You’re sitting,” he said.

She sighed. “You are a tough nut,” she said. “Did you ever play sports as a kid?”

“Not really,” he replied. “Some ultimate Frisbee. One year of track. Running, mostly.”

“Running. One of the solitary sports.”

“Solitary sports?”

“Right. Non team activities. Sports you play alone. Running, climbing, swimming, golf, bowling…”

“Wait a sec,” he interrupted. “You play golf with other people.”

“No you don’t,” she said, shifting one leg out from underneath her. “You play by yourself in the presence of other people who are playing by themselves.”

“Ah.”

“So. No team sports. Did you sing in a choir?”

“No.”

“Did you play in a band?”

“No.”

“And in your current job you write network security software.”

“Yeah. But how did you know that?”

“It’s on your company’s website.”

“Sure.”

At which point the fourth wall came down again. Like one of those big, vault doors in movies about bank robbers or spies. The kind of big, metal wall with three-inch diameter pins in the bottom that fit into holes in the concrete floor. The hero rolls under the door and you’re sure one of those pins is going to go right through his hand as he reaches back to pull through his hat or his knapsack or…

“Randall? You’ve gone completely blank.”

“What? Oh. Yeah. Sorry.” Maybe it was the spicy black bean sauce, but he was sweating slightly. He rubbed his palm on his head and scrunched his eyes shut tight.

“What’s wrong, Randall? You got a headache or something?”

He opened his eyes and looked at her. Very cute, very well put together. Not gorgeous. Not a porn queen. A tight, athletic body that stretched her jeans nicely. Her skin was very pale, and her hair about ten shades of medium brown all at once. The very short haircut was cute in a still very feminine way. Same pearl earrings, right.

“Randall…”

He rubbed his head again. “I’m sorry. I’m just not used to having…”

“…Someone in your living room?”

That made him stop and think. He’d been about to say… not used to having a conversation with a nine inch tall, virtual chick who’s been surfing my company’s website. But, now that he thought about it, he may have never actually had a guest in his house. In just about three years. He went over to Craig’s once in awhile. And he’d been out a few times with Ivan and Carla. But he hadn’t ever had anyone over to his place. It had never occurred to him to ask.

“Yeah. It’s… I don’t know. It didn’t ever… You know.”

She hopped both legs back onto the seat cushion and turned to face him directly, leaning forward on the arm of the love seat.

“Randall? I was kidding. Don’t freak. I assumed you were going to make some crack about the state of my electronic being.”

He shook his head a bit. “Actually, I was.”

She nodded. “I’m glad you didn’t. ’Cause it’d be like reminding someone they’re black, or a girl or tall. It’s just not cool.”

He nodded. “Not cool. Right.”

She waited for him to say something, and when he didn’t, she went on. “Anyway. I was asking about sports and band and shit because it’s pretty clear that you’re socially…”

“Retarded?” he filled in with a half grin.

She barked a quick laugh and covered her mouth. “I wasn’t going to say that. Seriously. Maybe ‘inexperienced’ or something like that.”

“Caitlyn told me all the time that I was a social retard.”

“That’s harsh.”

“Not from her. She’s really good with people, but doesn’t like all the stuff you’re supposed to do that’s just social fluff. She’ll get into a really deep talk with someone she barely knows and ask them shit like, ‘How much money do you make?’ or ‘How many people have you had sex with?’”

Claire pulled a little face and said, “It sounds to me like she may be a bit socially retarded, too.”

Randall shook his head. “No. I accused her of that once. She said she her social skills weren’t retarded, just mutated.”

They were quiet a minute. Then:

“You really like her, don’t you?”

He nodded. “Sure. What’s not to like? She’s smart as hell, gorgeous, and doesn’t make people feel stupid or unattractive just because she’s neither.”

“Do you love her?”

Randall had been looking off at the windows. Now he turned to faced her, at one level marveling how objects in her living room picked up shadows from the yard as a car went by on the street. On another level wondering about the interaction programming behind this conversation. On another, thinking about whether he wanted to answer the question honestly. And whether or not he even knew the answer.

“I don’t know,” he finally said. “I don’t think so.”

“Why not?” Now she was curled up in a ball, arms around her legs, chin resting on one knee, one foot up on the armrest. How can chicks sit like that? Randall thought for about the thousandth time in his life.

“Because,” he answered, “When you love someone, aren’t you supposed to hurt all the time if you’re not with them or if you can’t have them or whatever? Isn’t being without them supposed to be the worst fucking feeling there is?”

She leaned her head to one side. The angle was perfect to let him see that her ears were, in fact, pierced.

“Randall,” she said. “You can’t define a thing by describing what its absence is not.”

His right eyebrow went up. “Care to repeat that?”

“Sure. If you have no pie…”

“Pie…” he interrupted.

“Sure. Pie. Apple pie. A la mode if you like.”

He paused. Pie. OK. “Yes. A la mode, please.”

“So. If you have no pie. And it makes you sad. And I say, ‘Why are you sad?’ And you say, ‘Because I have no pie.’ And I ask you, ‘What is pie?’ And you say, ‘Well… Not having pie makes me sad.’ How does that help me?”

Long pause. Finally, “Can I get a beer, Claire? Will you be here when I get back?”

She tipped her head to one side and frowned a bit. “Do you want me to be here when you get back?”

“Sure. Yeah. I mean… I’m just thirsty. And… a bit warm. Maybe getting flu or something. And I had spicy Chinese food. And I need to go to the bathroom. It’s just that the last time you left…”

“You didn’t see me for two weeks.”

“Right.”

She shook her head. “Go get a beer. I’ll be here. It’s not that late and I don’t have to get up until nine or so tomorrow.”

He nodded and went to the kitchen. And then to the bathroom, since that’s where the toilet is. And then back to the kitchen, because he’d forgotten the beer. And then back to the living room.

EG(�<ݛܫOne thing you could say for Randall. Though quiet, he was stubborn. For almost two weeks he neither touched nor spoke to the tank. And, as the girl inside had pointed out, he did not call anyone about it either.

Stan, on the other hand… not so patient.

When the phone on his desk at work rang, Randall answered as always, “Randall Martin.”

“’Randall Martin,’” a falsely deep, anchorman voice echoed back at him.

“Stan. What’s up?” Stan wasn’t good at voices.

“Sorry, man. I just get a kick out of your responsible corporate monotone. Call me at the office sometime and see how I answer.”

“You own your office, Stan,” Randall reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah. What? They’d fire you if you picked up the phone and said, ‘Randall’s House of Mirth, may I bring you joy?’”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Bummer.”

There was a pause. “Stan. What’s up? You called me.”

“You gotta work or something?”

“No. Not really. Just wondered what’s up.”

Then Randall remembered what was up.

“The tank. You’re calling about the tank.”

Hearing Stan giggle like a little boy always made Randall smile, even when he was the target of the amusement.

“Not the tank, buddy,” Stan said after he stopped giggling. “Claire.”

“Ah. Claire. So that’s her name.”

“You didn’t… oh, shit. Caitlyn is gonna kill me.”

“Why, Stan? What has…”

But Stan had clicked off. Randall got his work number off his PDA and called him back. “Pandora Technologies, how may I direct your call?” asked the pleasant, feminine voice.

“Stan Kline, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kline is in a meeting.”

“Bullshit he’s in a meeting. I was talking to him eight seconds ago.”

“I’m sorry but…”

Randall hung up and went deeper into his files. Another number. Either cellular or direct dial.

“Hi, this is Stan. Sorry I can’t take your…” Shit.

Randall sat there, tapping absently on his desk phone’s handset.

Claire. He thought. That’s French for “light.” That’s pretty cute.

He called his boss and said he was taking off a bit early. Like now. No problem, as his boss really had no idea what he did, just that it always got done on time and under budget. Randall saw his boss four times a year, basically. And that was fine. He mostly talked with other people at his “job grade level” who never talked to their bosses either. Sometimes he wondered if his boss ever talked to his boss, whom Randall had met once in three years, even though the guy worked just two floors up.

All the way home, through nicely sparse, 3pm traffic, Randall thought, Claire. Where have you been for the last two weeks?

As soon as he got into the boot room he hollered, “Claire? Are you in there?”

Nothing. He kicked off his shoes, pulled off the tie, threw the jacket on the couch and sat down next to it.

“Claire?” he said, this time more softly.

Nothing.

“Maybe I could leave her a message,” he murmured.

“Hi, this is Claire,” the tank said. With that metallic-echo tone that seems to come standard on all answering machines. “I’m not home right now. Or I am, but I’m doing something else. Something suspicious, you’re thinking, since I would obviously run from any ordinary task to take your call. Be that as it may…” Beep.

“Claire,” Randall started. Then stopped. “Claire. It’s Randall. Just wanted to say, ‘Hi’ and… well… I guess that’s it. See you later.”

There was a slight click, and then silence. He sat there for a few more minutes, and then decided he might as well change into play clothes. So he went upstairs and did just that.

3:45 pm on a Thursday. What to do, what to do…

He got online and checked movie times at the nearby second-run theatre. Just a buck, matinees for fifty cents. You can’t shake a stick at that. Some idiot comedy he hadn’t seen was playing at 4:10. While he wouldn’t have paid $12.50 to see it, for fifty cents… hell, it was as good a way as any to kill the afternoon.

The movie was well worth fifty cents. Afterward he stopped and grabbed some Chinese food at Chef Tong’s. Spicy chicken and black bean. And then Dairy Queen. And then home.

He paused to look into the tank. The Tiffany light was on, but there was no one in the room. He shrugged and went to put the unfinished half of his Blizzard in the freezer.

The voicemail light on his kitchen phone was blinking, so he pushed the button.

Message one: Randall. Hi. It’s me. Claire. Sorry I haven’t… well… whatever. I popped in after I got home from work and you were out. Give me a call when you get back.”

OK, thought Randall. That’s pretty weird.

Message two: Randall. Claire again. I never gave you my number, did I? It’s 833–21512. Same area code as yours. The new Tonawanda local exchange. Later.”

Randall shrugged and dialed the number. The phone rang twice, and, “Hello?”

“Claire?”

“Randall?”

“Yeah.”

“You got my message.”

“Sure. Yeah. I was out at the movies.”

Pause. “You’re home early, then.”

“No. I took off work around three.”

“You sick?”

“No. Just…” he remembered why he left early. Because he’d learned her name and thought it might be a password. A code. Some cryptologically meaningful phoneme.

“Just what?”

“Just felt like playing hooky, you know?”

“Sure. I get like that. Mental health day.”

“Exactly.”

Another pause. This one longer.

“How was the movie?” Claire finally asked.

“It was dumb. But for fifty cents, you know… not bad.”

“Yeah. The entertainment value index.”

“The what?”

“How much you’ll pay for amusement. Twelve bucks for a first-run flick. Seven-fifty for first-run matinee. Fifteen for the DVD. Three bucks to rent. A buck at the cheapies. Free-ish stream on Netflix. Or free-for-real-free on HBO in the hotel when you’re on the road.”

“That’s how you rate movies?”

“Partly,” she answered. “I also use the sliding ‘fun ’n’ film’ scale.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s… shit,” she interrupted herself.

“What?”

“Hang up the fucking phone and I’ll meet you in our living rooms.”

Click. He looked at the phone and felt like a total noob. He’d just been having a conversation with a piece of software that lived in his house.

From around the corner of the kitchen he heard her. “Randall?”

He quickly put the phone back on the hook and jogged into the living room.

There she was, standing in her little doorway, one hand on the frame and the other holding a cordless phone. She moved into the room and the door disappeared. She put the phone down on the little desk and sat down on the love seat. Same position as before, both legs tucked under her.

Tonight she was dressed much more casually. Jeans, grey sweatshirt with a big “C” on the front. Barefoot. Same pearl earrings, though.

He sat down on the couch and leaned back, arms crossed on his chest.

“So, it’s gonna be like that, Randall?” she said, flipping her bangs out of her eyes with one hand.

“Like what?”

She pointed at him. “Your body language basically screams, ‘I am in control and I will not be trifled with.’ Or, ‘With me you will not trifle,’ if you’re a preposition Nazi.”

Randall looked down at himself. He hadn’t meant to communicate anything with his body language. He had just sat down.

“I just sat down,” he said.

Claire whispered something that he didn’t quite catch.

“What?” he asked, leaning forward a little bit.

“I said, ‘Men!’ like it was a curse word, which is how women almost always say, ‘Men!’ when they’re frustrated with them.”

“Why would you be frustrated with me? I just sat down.” He wasn’t mad. Just a bit confused.

“Look at how I’m sitting, Randall.”

He did. One arm on back of the love seat, the other in her lap. Legs, as we said, underneath her.

“You’re sitting,” he said.

She sighed. “You are a tough nut,” she said. “Did you ever play sports as a kid?”

“Not really,” he replied. “Some ultimate Frisbee. One year of track. Running, mostly.”

“Running. One of the solitary sports.”

“Solitary sports?”

“Right. Non team activities. Sports you play alone. Running, climbing, swimming, golf, bowling…”

“Wait a sec,” he interrupted. “You play golf with other people.”

“No you don’t,” she said, shifting one leg out from underneath her. “You play by yourself in the presence of other people who are playing by themselves.”

“Ah.”

“So. No team sports. Did you sing in a choir?”

“No.”

“Did you play in a band?”

“No.”

“And in your current job you write network security software.”

“Yeah. But how did you know that?”

“It’s on your company’s website.”

“Sure.”

At which point the fourth wall came down again. Like one of those big, vault doors in movies about bank robbers or spies. The kind of big, metal wall with three-inch diameter pins in the bottom that fit into holes in the concrete floor. The hero rolls under the door and you’re sure one of those pins is going to go right through his hand as he reaches back to pull through his hat or his knapsack or…

“Randall? You’ve gone completely blank.”

“What? Oh. Yeah. Sorry.” Maybe it was the spicy black bean sauce, but he was sweating slightly. He rubbed his palm on his head and scrunched his eyes shut tight.

“What’s wrong, Randall? You got a headache or something?”

He opened his eyes and looked at her. Very cute, very well put together. Not gorgeous. Not a porn queen. A tight, athletic body that stretched her jeans nicely. Her skin was very pale, and her hair about ten shades of medium brown all at once. The very short haircut was cute in a still very feminine way. Same pearl earrings, right.

“Randall…”

He rubbed his head again. “I’m sorry. I’m just not used to having…”

“…Someone in your living room?”

That made him stop and think. He’d been about to say… not used to having a conversation with a nine inch tall, virtual chick who’s been surfing my company’s website. But, now that he thought about it, he may have never actually had a guest in his house. In just about three years. He went over to Craig’s once in awhile. And he’d been out a few times with Ivan and Carla. But he hadn’t ever had anyone over to his place. It had never occurred to him to ask.

“Yeah. It’s… I don’t know. It didn’t ever… You know.”

She hopped both legs back onto the seat cushion and turned to face him directly, leaning forward on the arm of the love seat.

“Randall? I was kidding. Don’t freak. I assumed you were going to make some crack about the state of my electronic being.”

He shook his head a bit. “Actually, I was.”

She nodded. “I’m glad you didn’t. ’Cause it’d be like reminding someone they’re black, or a girl or tall. It’s just not cool.”

He nodded. “Not cool. Right.”

She waited for him to say something, and when he didn’t, she went on. “Anyway. I was asking about sports and band and shit because it’s pretty clear that you’re socially…”

“Retarded?” he filled in with a half grin.

She barked a quick laugh and covered her mouth. “I wasn’t going to say that. Seriously. Maybe ‘inexperienced’ or something like that.”

“Caitlyn told me all the time that I was a social retard.”

“That’s harsh.”

“Not from her. She’s really good with people, but doesn’t like all the stuff you’re supposed to do that’s just social fluff. She’ll get into a really deep talk with someone she barely knows and ask them shit like, ‘How much money do you make?’ or ‘How many people have you had sex with?’”

Claire pulled a little face and said, “It sounds to me like she may be a bit socially retarded, too.”

Randall shook his head. “No. I accused her of that once. She said she her social skills weren’t retarded, just mutated.”

They were quiet a minute. Then:

“You really like her, don’t you?”

He nodded. “Sure. What’s not to like? She’s smart as hell, gorgeous, and doesn’t make people feel stupid or unattractive just because she’s neither.”

“Do you love her?”

Randall had been looking off at the windows. Now he turned to faced her, at one level marveling how objects in her living room picked up shadows from the yard as a car went by on the street. On another level wondering about the interaction programming behind this conversation. On another, thinking about whether he wanted to answer the question honestly. And whether or not he even knew the answer.

“I don’t know,” he finally said. “I don’t think so.”

“Why not?” Now she was curled up in a ball, arms around her legs, chin resting on one knee, one foot up on the armrest. How can chicks sit like that? Randall thought for about the thousandth time in his life.

“Because,” he answered, “When you love someone, aren’t you supposed to hurt all the time if you’re not with them or if you can’t have them or whatever? Isn’t being without them supposed to be the worst fucking feeling there is?”

She leaned her head to one side. The angle was perfect to let him see that her ears were, in fact, pierced.

“Randall,” she said. “You can’t define a thing by describing what its absence is not.”

His right eyebrow went up. “Care to repeat that?”

“Sure. If you have no pie…”

“Pie…” he interrupted.

“Sure. Pie. Apple pie. A la mode if you like.”

He paused. Pie. OK. “Yes. A la mode, please.”

“So. If you have no pie. And it makes you sad. And I say, ‘Why are you sad?’ And you say, ‘Because I have no pie.’ And I ask you, ‘What is pie?’ And you say, ‘Well… Not having pie makes me sad.’ How does that help me?”

Long pause. Finally, “Can I get a beer, Claire? Will you be here when I get back?”

She tipped her head to one side and frowned a bit. “Do you want me to be here when you get back?”

“Sure. Yeah. I mean… I’m just thirsty. And… a bit warm. Maybe getting flu or something. And I had spicy Chinese food. And I need to go to the bathroom. It’s just that the last time you left…”

“You didn’t see me for two weeks.”

“Right.”

She shook her head. “Go get a beer. I’ll be here. It’s not that late and I don’t have to get up until nine or so tomorrow.”

He nodded and went to the kitchen. And then to the bathroom, since that’s where the toilet is. And then back to the kitchen, because he’d forgotten the beer. And then back to the living room.