I shrugged. You couldn’t force someone to see something. “Maybe so,” I said. “But they wouldn’t have your bandana—like the exact one you have, in the exact placement.”
Jolene’s face puckered as she thought. “I have good taste, yo.”
Sometimes I wondered if she took anything seriously, or if life was one big experiment for her.
I knew Fig. I’d been watching her watch us for months now. When you’re a shrink you’re in the habit of diagnosing people as soon as they made eye contact with you. Except Fig rarely made eye contact. She was funny. It was a defense mechanism, but still effective. I mentioned how funny she was to Jolene once and she raised an eyebrow at me.
“When? She never says anything funny to me,” she said.
That’s when I knew for sure that Fig gave different things to different people. For me, she was levity and nostalgia, listening to the stories Jolene told me to shut up about, tossing my humor right back at me. To my wife, she was a sounding board, especially about that fucker, Ryan. Ryan went to college with my wife and had recently reemerged in her social circles, reaching out more than an acquaintance would. I didn’t know how Fig caught wind of him, but she asked Jolene about him every day, wanting to know if he’d texted and what about. She pushed Jolene to talk about his looks, his personality, their background. I watched it all on Jolene’s iPad, which was synced to her cell. I’d bought it for her one Christmas, and the novelty had lasted about a week before it got lost underneath a pile of papers on her desk. She preferred to read real books and everything else she did on her phone or laptop. Lucky me. I got to sit in the front row as my wife texted our neighbor about the boy she wished she’d been interested in over a decade ago. A decade before me. I mostly caught up on their texting on my lunch break. I’d sit at my desk and eat the yogurt Jolene sent, as I scrolled through their texts, Fig’s and Jolene’s, that is. Not Jolene’s and Ryan’s—their texts were boring. He was blandly a gentleman.
Fig: Look at his lips. Great kisser!
Jolene: Could be sloppy.
Fig: Oh my god, just admit it. He’s hot.
I dropped yogurt on my phone and couldn’t see Jolene’s response, but it was already time for my next client.
“So, you’re acknowledging it?”
“No,” she hissed. “I’m not acknowledging anything.” She shot me a look that told me to shut up, so I did. I’d let her see for herself. It was right there lurking along West Barrett Street. I thought about all the Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers’ movies I’d watched. The crazies on your street always had talons and scary faces. West Barrett’s crazy had a manicure and all of my wife’s clothes.
We were standing at the window in the living room, the one that overlooked our strange neighbor’s house. It was cold outside, the window icy to the touch. We’d been having an argument about Fig five minutes earlier at the dinner table. Too many glasses of wine, and I was on edge with the whole lawsuit thing. Jolene was insisting that Fig was misunderstood. I was insisting that Fig was bat shit crazy. I don’t know why it was so important for me to show her what a fake Fig was, but I’d set my glass of wine down and calmly asked her to log her Fitbit steps.
A few weeks ago, in order to get in shape for the summer, a few of us had jumped on the Fitbit train. Jo and me, Amanda and Hollis, Gail and Luke, and, of course, Fig. We competed in challenges together, logging our steps into our phones at night before bed. That way we could see who was ahead and well … take more steps. At the end of the week the person with the most steps would be announced. We’d all congratulate the winner, some of us more begrudgingly than others, and try harder to win. It was working—I’d lost five pounds since I put the thing on my arm.
Jolene, a perpetually busy person who never sat down unless it was to write, was shaming the rest of us, doubling our steps before we’d even had our lunch. Her only competitor was Fig, who’d dropped thirty pounds since we’d met her. It was during the first challenge I noticed that every time Jolene logged her steps in the app, Fig would log hers seconds after. Like she was checking to see how far off she was. If Jolene was up in steps, the light in Fig’s spare bedroom would turn on and she’d hop on the treadmill until she had a lead. If she fell behind Jolene in steps later that day, she’d go for a run around the neighborhood, grim determination on her already pinched face. I saw her go on four separate runs in one day, all to beat Jolene. It became my private amusement. Everyone knew women were competitive, but Fig took it to an admirably psychotic level. Not that I blamed her. Jolene’s lack of competitiveness was infuriating. While everyone was trying so hard to win, she was barely putting in any effort. It was me who informed her when she won the weekly challenges, and instead of gloating or fist pumping, she threw out a detached “Cool” and went about her business.
Surprisingly, after downing the rest of her wine, she’d complied without asking any questions.
“Now go in the group chat and tell everyone you’re going to bed.”
I’d dragged her to the window, her cold fingers intertwined with mine, the Malbec we’d been drinking on her breath.
I held the shades open with two fingers, as she leaned forward, peering out with concentration. I could smell her, the rose perfume she wore and her skin. When I smelled her skin I got hard, it had been like that since the day we met. I kept shooting sideways glances her way to monitor her expression. She’d see it. In a second she’d see it. Then I’d be right.
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