HI MY NAME IS Candice: Candice on the couch
by Tony Noland
read PART ONE
Christopher watched Candice as she laughed. He was utterly taken by the way she gave herself over to the laughter, the way she threw her head back and put a hand on her stomach as she shook with it. “Ghostbusters” was one of his favorite movies, and he’d bought it on VHS, then DVD, then the widescreen version on HD-DVD and again on Blu-Ray. He could quote practically the whole thing, line for line.
Candice had never seen it. When she laughed out loud when Venkman shocked the guy in the psych experiment, Christopher’s own laugh had been more in nervous relief. All the best bits, so familiar to him that he only smiled at them when he rewatched it alone, were cracking Candice up completely. Venkman getting slimed, Ray sliding down the firepole, Egon saying “it would be bad”… they were only halfway in, and she loved the movie.
She loved “Ghostbusters”. Incredible.
He turned his eyes back to the screen and sipped his Jack and Coke. Actually, it was Maker’s Mark and Coke Zero; it wasn’t half bad, even though it was mixed much more stiffly than he usually drank. Candice had rolled her eyes when he offered her a glass of wine with dinner. Fortunately, she’d done it before he’d had a chance to casually mention that he recently secured a case of Frog’s Leap Cabernet from 2002, and at a very good price. He felt liked he’d dodged a bullet. The fact that he didn’t have any Jack Daniels prompted another eyeroll. When he said he didn’t have any Coke either, because he only drank Coke Zero, she crossed her arms over her chest and scowled at him.
“Yes,” she said. “I know.”
He’d paused, a frozen microwave dinner in each hand. The moment stretched, held, then broke when her lips twitched upward into a hint of a smile.
“Yeah, well, I’m almost out, though. I was going to pick up some more today, but… something happened.”
She smiled a bit more. He smiled back, and soon they were both laughing.
Now, as he sipped his second drink, he watched her laugh, sitting over on the couch, wearing his Yale sweatshirt and a pair of his gym shorts. It all felt surreal… not in the Dadaist, “conceptual art” sense, but more like “how the hell did I get here”. Or maybe “this is a scene from someone else’s life”. As he thought about it, this marked the first time in more than ten years he had watched “Ghostbusters” with anyone, and the first time he had ever watched it with a girl – woman! – in his living room.
Back in the grocery store, he’d tried to say something, anything to her, but she was so angry she wouldn’t listen. Standing amid the gathered crowd, soaked in soda pop, her eye inflamed, she was like an angry elemental, one of the ancient Greek furies. The manager, a bony woman with frizzy, bright red hair, was quick to tell Candice to let go of his shirt and to calm down, which made her even more angry. The turning point came when the manager apologized to him for Candice’s “atrocious” behavior, and then snapped at Candice to apologize as well.
Before she could respond, Christopher blurted out, “Are you kidding? I don’t blame her a bit!” Whatever Candice had been about to say, she bit it off and stood silently fuming. Everything moved fast after that. The manager told her to go home, and to be sure to clock out.
Candice yelling at him in the parking lot, making sure he knew that she not only had lost almost an entire shift’s pay thanks to him, she now had to stand in a chilly, windy evening for an hour to catch the next bus home, only so she could listen to her snotty roommate laugh at her sorry state.
His apology had evolved from an offer to pay for dry cleaning of her clothes, to an offer of a ride home, a place to clean up before she went home, as he did not live far from the store. She was angry and vengeful, and had accepted everything he’d offered and demanded more. It was only after they’d pulled up at his house that the actual logistics of it all became more real.
Yes, a chance to “clean up before she went home” was fine, but what did that mean? Once they were in the house, it was clear that just giving her some clean clothes wasn’t enough. Soaked and sticky, from her hair to her shoes, what she needed was a shower. As bizarre as it felt, he got her a towel and some clothes to wear while he ran her clothes through the washer and dryer.
It all blurred together in his memory, how one thing had led to another. Her coming out with damp hair, her face clean of makeup, her brown eyes unadorned, the left one still bloodshot. Standing in the kitchen, barefoot and in his oversized clothes, she looked younger. She also would have looked more innocent and somehow sweet if she had not looked so defiant. It was then that he realized that throughout it all, she had never seemed humiliated or embarrassed. If someone had spilled a bunch of soda pop on him in a public place, Christopher knew he would have wanted to sink into the earth forever. He never got that sense from her, not in the store, not in the kitchen, not when she was looking over his DVD collection while waiting for dinner to cook.
He had an insane urge to ask her how she did it, how she was so self-possessed. Instead, he sipped his drink, watched her laugh at the Stay-Puft marshmallow man and wondered what he was going to say when the movie was over.
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