So right. Jason Geick, Chentell Darling, rebecca griffin, Alyssa Catlin, Sam Hayes (Taken with Instagram at The Grand Griff)
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From a book I’m working on called A Pursuit of Happiness
Call me a creep but I had gotten in the habit of eavesdropping whenever I could. I can’t say I knew I would tell Adam’s story, but I had a feeling, like a little bug pushing on something fastened inside me, that the things I heard would lay heavy, that my eavesdroppings—yes, eavesdroppings, would not be any sort of waste, but something crucial. I had a feeling that if I let that little bug push hard enough something stuck in my soul might move.
Adam and Stella sat in the jacuzzi, in the front of the plane. I had just taken one but had never asked anyone’s permission and was in the changing room. They didn’t know. I started listening a bit, and then I had stayed too long, forcing myself to stay the whole time. At this point walking out was not an option. I hid and felt awkward, but these are the things I do so I’ve learned to eat the awkward and in a strange way enjoy it, smiling, but not awkwardly—a little.
They talked and I sat naked in the changing room behind the vented wooden door because I had taken off my swimsuit just before they came in and putting my pants on would have been way too noisy. There was some splashing and I almost tried but it was too risky.
“Yeah, it’s been fun.” Adam’s voice came through clear as the splashing died down and they settled in.
“Are you two dating?”
“Yes. But no, not like that.”
“Uh, I don’t know.”
“Yeah I guess.”
“Yeah. We are.”
“Well she makes me happy. It’s good. It’s a good thing.”
“So why are you freezing up about it?”
“Yeah, your just…you’re just freezing up.”
“I don’t know.”
“Isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out…” he looked at the door.
June was sleeping in one of the beds further back in the plane but we could all feel her right at the door. Everyone knows intuitively that when you talk about someone they are twice as likely to show up. Either it’s fate or everyone’s got bad luck but neither make sense to me. June made him happy but I could tell he wasn’t happy with happy. They were silent for a bit and I started to feel like I was breathing too loud because I was nervous—not for myself, for Adam. His voice had changed and I could tell he was thinking and I was afraid he would say the wrong thing and his limitless guts would come surging into the room and we’d all drown.
“Oh, what about the bubbles?” Adam broke in. Phew.
“What about them?”
They laughed and I could tell the tension had dissolved and left behind their old careless chemistry.
“Well don’t you think we should turn them on?”
“I don’t care. I don’t even like bubbles.”
“They always pop.”
She giggled but then there was silence and I could feel something fogging it up. I peeped through the crack just in time to see Adam break eye contact and quickly hop out of the tub to turn on the jets. He turned and smiled before cranking them on full blast. She laughed and they fell back in sync with each other. He yelled something about this damn plane being freezing and tumbled back into the tub. The jets were loud so I couldn’t hear anything for twenty minutes. But I’m a space cadet and somehow I didn’t think to put on my pants and I regret that. I just sat there naked imagining what they were saying—the rapid descents and ascents between great depths and cloud nine or ten. They had that way about them. Transitions moved fast. A tear or a sigh could never hinder a laugh or a grin. They peppered most deep conversations with jokes.
When the jets went off after twenty minutes I could hear nothing and for a moment wondered if they had left, but they had only descended again. They had probably fallen fresh off some goony joke to crawl around in search of something. They now felt their way through unknown caves in the pitch black.
“Do you know what I mean?” she said.
“I feel like there is a part of me I can’t get to.”
“Like—I feel like my body isn’t me.”
“But, part of you?”
“No, like, different. I feel like I’m something else…but like I can’t get to it.”
“Yeah.” Adam was understanding but I could tell he didn’t quite understand. Yeah was well intentioned if not sincere.
“Maybe that’s why I’ve gone streaking so many times.”
“Or maybe it’s because you just want everyone to see you naked weirdo.”
They laughed again and she splashed him. “No, but seriously—because if I’m not by body, then I don’t care.”
“No no I got you don’t worry.”
He leaned in and thought in that way that you shouldn’t interrupt with words. “I’ve felt the same I think, like there are two things going on at once. Like there are two things and we know it but we act like its one thing.”
“Well, like—ok. Ok so right now, this time in my life is an example.”
“Yeah.” It seemed like he wanted her to pull the depths out of him, but she wasn’t going to and he knew it.
“Ok…so right now is the most exciting time of my life but also the loneliest.”
She didn’t say yeah because she understood a little bit I think.
“It’s two things…” he said, “but I act like its just the one, the first one. But it’s two things at the same time and I can’t always access the second one, but I know it’s there and it haunts me and it affects me I think—I cant get to it. Once in a while, but I can’t get to it. But, sometimes it gets to me I guess.”
I don’t think she had heard him like this and I don’t think he was comfortable. But there are two levels to everything and we all know it but we don’t. All the shit Adam had gained meant nothing to him at this point and he knew it but he didn’t. He was empty and full, tired and tireless. He knew the whole time that the ships and planes and parties and girls wouldn’t make him happy—then again he was convinced they would. His job was to be happy, and this was everything anyone could offer him. But there are two things that exist at once in contrast, and we know it but we don’t.
“So you’re more excited or lonely?” she asked.
“It’s not like that. I’m both, I think. And even it were like that how should I know? I can’t get to it, see.”
“Why are you lonely?”
“I mean, I’m not…not like that.”
“But you are.”
She could tell. She could tell and she was fishing now, not because she needed to know anything—she already knew. She was fishing because she needed balance, because she needed to make what existed disappear again, she needed to make what was said out loud retreat in silence. We all know it’s real out loud and not in silence—two things. She fished because she knew he would stop biting if the hook was too sharp. She fished because she knew what his loneliness meant.
They were two things between them I think. That very moment, like most, was two things. It was everything and nothing. It was anything and one thing in specific. It was climbing and diving. Running and stopping. Falling and fleeing, She was taken and so was he but they weren’t. There was nothing to be had between them but everything was already there. Nothing was there, but there was everything to be had.
She had shut him up all right. She dropped the line and he swam away. But the hook had sunk deep in his mouth anyway and surely the line would run out and snag him at some point.
I don’t know why he took that hook but I don’t think he had a choice and then again I don’t think he took it at all. He could have told you he did or told you he didn’t and both would have been true. But through the vent I could see it there shining in his mouth and the blood gushing out and him wondering how long his red supply would last—until the glint caught her eye. She smiled and splashed him and again and suddenly said, “I’m naked.” Quickly, she stood up out of the hot tub and she wasn’t naked and they laughed and I could tell it was sunny again somewhere. You should’ve seen the look on his face as she stood up, and then the look on hers. There was little she loved more than creating that look in people. “I’m burning up,” she said. “I’d rather be freezing.”
But you know this story because I’m still standing there naked. They hurry out of the hot tub and she goes to the other changing room—thank God. Then my relief is suspended by an equally weighty conflicting reality. Adam comes bounding to my vented door where my shadow spills through the cracks but he doesn’t notice because he is suddenly convinced that he is only excited and not two things after all. He flings open the door like the floodgates of his emotions and I am as naked as Stella at her nakedest. He screams in shock, then in terror. Twice, separated by a breath. He laughs like a scream only just as loud. He yells In horror and hilarity. “NICK WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN HERE?” Silence but my mouth wide open. “AND WHY THE HELL ARE YOU NAKED?
I run, aimless but surely on a mission. I am still naked. I escape the changing room and run out the next door where I see others who don’t have time to see me before I turn around and leap headlong into the steamy hot tub. Stacy comes out half naked to see the commotion and I think I am in the clear but the bubbles aren’t on. She sees me naked and I have no explanation because eavesdropping would not be good enough. No explanation. Questions. Questions unanswered. Furrowed eyebrows. Raised eyebrows on a stone wall. Two different types of laughter and she leaves. Adam turns on the bubbles on his way out and makes a dirty comment and we’re both laughing but he is still freaked out and frankly, so am I.
I explained later about the timing and how I was naked and wanted to leave but how it had gotten too late and I didn’t exactly include 100% of the story or even 99%.
“I just get this weird eavesdroppy feeling about it I guess.” Adam said.
“Yeah it’s just—nah…”
“Yup you were?”
“Oh. Ahh… Nope.”
“But it seems like maybe…like maybe you were?”
“So you were?”
“Oh—seemed like it.”
“Seemed like it to you or me?”
That was that.
I was eavesdropping but I wasn’t and that’s all either of us knew.