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25. Of Wants, Humming and Indigestion
It's a beautiful Saturday morning, the sun is out in a bright blue, cloudless sky and the day calls to be spent outside, but Rory sits at her laptop and ignores it stubbornly, resolutely converting Jess's brainchild into digital form. She's made good progress since she started, and even though she'd vaguely planned to edit simultaneously as she transcribed, she abandoned this strategy in the process because she's found editing as impossible this time around as it was the first time she attempted it. It's the only stipulation he'd made, and somewhere on the edge of consciousness it worries her that it seems so difficult to carry out, but it somehow seems less of a priority in the grand scheme of things and so she sets it aside as a conundrum she'll grapple with later.
The transcription used to be an easy and highly enjoyable process until this morning; it was relaxing and interesting as she discovered nuances and meanings that somehow escaped her on the first read-through. These hidden gems always elated her because she firmly believes that precisely those late discoveries are the defining qualities of great books, the ones that you always come back to and read again, and somehow always find something new within the lines. In this manuscript, there are many, and she treasured each one as she came across it.
Today, however, something's different; she can't really concentrate and finds herself making numerous mistakes and twice as many typos as she used to before. She's as committed to what she's doing as she always was, but her mind is not in it at all, and unfortunately, this type of project requires attention. When attention continuously drifts to mental images that cut her breath short and make her skin bristle, the mistakes pile up quickly and any work quickly turns into an impossible mission.
After shaking her head clear for the third time in an hour, she gives up and indulges in the daydream that's been so persistently invading her mind over and over again ever since she'd come home last night, hidden in her bed and allowed her mind to bring forth that scene that she suspects she'll probably remember forever. She'd fallen asleep with it and dreams took it over to new glorious dimensions where all inhibitions easily fell away and the scene that started it all proved to be just that, a beginning that deliciously unfolded to a glorious, natural close that left an unknown smile on her face.
Waking up, however, proved to be nowhere near as glorious; suddenly she found her body making demands that, although familiar and recognizable, somehow multiplied in intensity and reached levels where they blatantly refused to be ignored. She'd tossed, turned, tried to read, washed her face, gulped down water, revisited the Civil war in her head and still, somehow, the demands persisted and proved impossible not to indulge so she caved in finally around dawn, reliving that dream with light touches and closed eyes, imagining he was there, watching it all with that reverent look on his face.
But that was hours ago and somehow so much easier to face in the darkness than it proves to be in broad daylight while staring at the screen that's full of words that suddenly make no sense. She rubs her eyes, shakes her head and takes a deep breath, but continues to stare ahead mostly blindly. Her eyes drift over the familiar details of her room, the books, the pictures, the posters, until they settle on the cork-board over her desk and roam over all the knick-knacks she has pinned up there over the years – absentmindedly at first, but suddenly she finds herself focusing and her mind instantly clears, hungrily drinking in the wisdom she tacked up there a million years ago, but it still applies and it resolves her current conundrum in a flash.
"Katie, I wanted to marry you. It was the only thing I ever really wanted. And that's the sin that can't be forgiven—that I hadn't done what I wanted. It feels so dirty and pointless and monstrous, as one feels about insanity, because there's no sense to it, no dignity, nothing but pain—and wasted pain. . . . Katie, why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world—to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want. As I wanted to marry you. Not as I want to sleep with some woman or get drunk or get my name in the papers. Those things—they're not even desires—they're things people do to escape from desires—because it's such a big responsibility, really to want something."
She suddenly knows herself inside-out and knows what she has to do. It's not an easy and simple thing, but just seeing it clearly brings immeasurable relief anyway. She closes the laptop with determination and sets out to take responsibility for her heart.
"What the hell is that noise?" Luke wonders, annoyed, and looks around the diner.
"You should really be more specific," Kirk says, looking up from his plate; Luke glares at him. "Well, we are in a diner, there's food being prepared, dishes being washed, plates being served, people talking…" Kirk continues, then drifts off, faced with another annoyed stare.
"I wasn't talking to you," Luke growls at him and looks around again, still listening.
Kirk clears his throat. "Well, then you should be more specific about who you're talking to. That's why we have names," he mumbles dejectedly.
Luke rolls his eyes. "Shut up and eat your burger," he bites back, dumping a pile of plates in the sink.
"Yes, the burger," Kirk nods. "It's somewhat dry."
Luke leans against the counter and squints at him. "You don't like the burger?"
Kirk swallows. "No, no, it's lovely, a pure gastronomical delight," he stammers and bites into it with a vengeance.
"Good, glad to hear it," Luke smiles icily and reaches for the coffee pot, but stops in mid-motion. "There it is again!" he exclaims and looks around wildly, trying to determine the source. Suddenly, his face pales; he takes two steps to the side and points a finger at Jess. "It's you!"
Jess ignores him and wipes another glass clean.
Luke leans closer. "Are you… humming?!"
Jess looks at him calmly. "You're insane."
"It stopped!" Luke declares, pointing again. "It is you! You're humming! And humming to something that's not a cacophony of drums and psychos abusing guitars, but actually vaguely resembles music."
Jess makes no comment.
Luke turns around. "Kirk!" he calls urgently; Kirk's burger drops back to the plate. "You have no life," Luke ascertains matter-of factly. "What's this music on the radio?" he asks, pointing up at the speakers.
"Um, that would be Shakira," Kirk answers obediently.
"And Shakira is…?" Luke lifts his brows inquisitively.
"Well, in a nutshell, a pop singer from Colombia," Kirk elaborates enthusiastically.
Luke rounds on Jess again, gasping. "You're humming to pop music!"
"I don't hum," Jess informs him, eyes narrowing, but an involuntary smile escapes him.
"She does this unbelievable thing with her hips," Kirk sighs dreamily.
Luke ignores him and gawks at Jess. "Did you just smile?"
Jess reaches for another glass, shuts Luke out of his head and thinks about last night. Another smile escapes.
"There it is again!" Luke points at him vehemently. "You're smiling, you're humming…" his voice drifts off and he scratches his head; a second later, he descends on Jess, squinting menacingly. "You're happy. What the hell did you do?"
"What?" Jess bites back, rudely yanked from his delicious daydream. "Will you back off?"
"You're happy. That can't be good," Luke declares, crossing his hands on his chest. "It usually means someone will barge through that door any minute and read me the riot act on keeping you under control. So, what was it and how much is it going to cost me?"
Jess shakes his head. "You need professional help."
"Maybe, but I doubt I'll be able to afford it once I cover your latest vandalism spree," Luke deadpans. "Spill, what did you pull that's made you so giddy?"
"Giddy? Are you serious? "Jess snorts incredulously. Luke continues glaring and Jess rolls his eyes. "Nothing, I was home all night. Will you lay off with the third degree?"
Luke scratches his head. "Nothing?" Jess spreads his hands. "So you're just…happy, for no apparent reason?" he adds suspiciously.
Jess frowns. "Who said I was happy?"
"The humming was a painfully clear indicator," Luke deadpans.
"I wasn't humming," Jess grits through his teeth and throws in a murderous glance for good measure.
"Kirk?" Luke calls over his shoulder. "You heard him hum, didn't you?"
Kirk looks up. "Uhm…", he starts, then quickly checks himself against two sets of glaring eyes and swallows. "Can I get some fries with this?" he asks weakly. Luke rolls his eyes. Jess smirks.
Luke scratches his head and just looks at him for a moment, then points another accusing finger. "You're happy. It's blatantly obvious."
Jess actually believes this might be true but does his best to look annoyed; Luke squints at him, studying him closely. "Did you see Rory last night?"
Jess make a heroic effort not to twitch even an eyelash and stares at Luke blankly. "I'm leaving," he announces calmly, grabs his jacket and marches off. Luke watches him go and suddenly feels a strange chill run down his spine. He turns back to the counter and finds Kirk standing by his stool, jerking his hips around.
"I wonder how she does it," Kirk wonders, confused, and twists his hips again experimentally.
Luke stares at him for a moment, exasperated, then points to the door. "Get out."
Lorelai has chosen this particular day for a historic occasion to cook and Rory can't decide if that's a bad thing or a good thing, considering the fact that she's about to run some major interference with that delicate maneuver. She spares a glance for the pots and pans steaming on the stove as she walks into the kitchen and sits down at the table, trying to decide on a suitable opening line. Nothing comes to mind and she sits quietly, secretly wringing her hands under the table.
Lorelai glances at her over her shoulder. "Wow, you're optimistic," she chuckles, stirring something in one of the pans.
Rory frowns, confused. "Optimistic?"
"Well, there you are, at the table, but I'd say lunch is at least several hours and at least one kitchen fire away," Lorelai shrugs, nodding at the stove.
Rory nods. "Yeah," she says quietly, then clears her throat and wrings her hands again. "Mom?"
"Rory?" Lorelai returns playfully.
"Can we talk?"
Lorelai turns and looks at her inquisitively. "Talk?"
"Yes, with a capital T," Rory sighs, nodding. Lorelai looks at her for a moment, then replaces the lid on one of the pans and turns around.
"Should I be sitting down for this?" she asks somewhat apprehensively.
Rory nods again, this time with more conviction. "I would," she adds, asserting the gesture.
Feeling a touch of serious anxiety coming on, Lorelai rounds the table and settles on a chair across from Rory, carefully watching her face. She looks slightly troubled but also somehow weirdly serene; it's almost a mature expression and it makes Lorelai breathe a little easier somehow.
"Okay, Talk," she invites with a small smile. "With a capital "T"," she adds, lifting her eyebrows.
Rory takes a breath; a good opening line stays evasive. "I think I need to see a doctor," she finally blurts out and watches Lorelai's face pale until it matches the slightly greenish tinge of the kitchen wall behind her.
"What's wrong?" she asks breathlessly as she jumps from her chair and crosses over to Rory's side, reaching for her forehead with a cold hand. "Are you sick?"
"What? No, I'm fine," Rory shakes her head, unprepared for such an urgent display of concern.
Lorelai frowns. "Didn't you just say you needed to see a doctor?" she asks, her tone only slightly less urgent.
Rory shakes her head. "That came out wrong somehow," she says apologetically.
"Okay, good," Lorelai nods, but presses her hand over Rory's forehead nonetheless before she steps back. "Okay, let's replay and have it come out right, shall we?"
Rory takes a breath and studies the table top. "What I meant to say was, I think I need to see your doctor," she rephrases carefully, stressing the possessive only slightly. It doesn't register and Lorelai shakes her head, still confused.
"Rory, we share the doctor," she reasonably points out the obvious.
Rory takes a breath, fights the impulse to crawl under the table and looks up at her mother. "Not this one," she says quietly. "Not yet, anyway."
The distinction registers this time around with painful clarity; Lorelai feels that hint of anxiety quickly erupt in a full-scale panic attack and briefly wonders if she should find a paper bag to breathe into, but at the same time, she's certain that the way she reacts to this statement and all its implications is infinitely important. It's the ultimate test of parenthood, really, and she regretfully foregoes the impulse to wail, lock Rory in her room, grab a knife from the counter and turn Jess into sushi. Instead, she makes a massive effort to school her features to echo the serenity that colors Rory's face and leans against the counter behind her, refraining to a soft "oh" for initial reaction.
"Oh?" Rory repeats, her eyebrows lifting. "That's it?" she adds incredulously.
"I'm digesting," Lorelai returns, rubbing her forehead.
"Right," Rory nods and returns to the table top. It's less than fascinating; she gets tired of looking at it quickly and redirects her gaze to Lorelai. "So, how's it going?" she ventures in a weak voice, half-expecting this weird composure Lorelai's exhibiting to crack at any moment and slip into a much more likely meltdown.
"Not bad, actually," Lorelai says, sounding surprised. "I think I'm ready to sit," she adds after a moment and returns to the chair she abandoned a moment ago. It feels like a lifetime has passed in those few minutes and in it she watched this almost-woman across the table sprout from diapers into adolescence in fast-forward, wondering where all the time in between had gone.
"Want me to get you some water?" Rory offers carefully, then rethinks the question. "Or, you know, a digestive?"
"I'm good," Lorelai waves the offer off, then chuckles. "As unbelievable as this sounds, I think you managed to pick the only opening for this conversation that has actually managed to make me feel relieved when I figured out what you were talking about," she says with a smile. "I would have expected that to be completely impossible, so, you know, kudos for that."
Rory shrugs. "I wish I could say I planned that," she smiles back.
Lorelai looks at her a moment, then decides it's time to face the music. "So, the doctor," she reaffirms.
"Yeah," Rory nods, determined not to blush.
Lorelai nods back in contemplation and Rory spares a moment to notice the sheer amount of nodding that happened in this conversation, which is beyond strange, since they haven't agreed on anything and she doesn't really expect them to.
"Is this doctor thing something in the better-safe-than-sorry area or, you know… better-late-than-never area?" Lorelai asks, careful to keep out any hint of accusation out of her voice; there's significant relief when Rory's cheeks erupt in red, very clearly answering her question long before Rory finds her voice. "So, better-safe-than-sorry, that's great," she continues quickly and even manages a smile.
Rory can't help laughing; Lorelai looks confused. "Sorry," Rory shrugs. "I just didn't expect you to refer to anything involving this particular subject as "great"," she explains with a smile.
"Yeah, well, that makes two of us," Lorelai sighs weakly and rubs her eyes again, trying to think of a way to ease into this frightening territory, but that doesn't seem to be one; the search is exhausting and seems futile, so she gives up on the gentle terminology and settles on tone instead. "You want to sleep with Jess?" she asks softly, carefully studying her daughter's face.
The words are out and somehow they don't sound as big as Rory expected them to, but that ultimately doesn't make them any less true; it just makes them more real somehow. They float over the kitchen table and seem almost tangible, and she's so taken with them that she nearly misses the fact that Lorelai actually managed to get them out without choking on them. Once she figures that out, Rory looks at her mother with unrestrained awe, but it somehow multiplies when she recognizes that there's a new incarnation of Lorelai sitting across from her; it's not just her mother, but also a friend, and this conversation somehow becomes easier.
"I'm thinking about it," she admits carefully, and takes a breath. "A lot," she adds reluctantly and steals a glance at Lorelai's face. There's no grimace there and she breathes easier.
"You're sure?" Lorelai asks, grateful for the honesty.
Rory looks at her. "Were you?" she asks back curiously, and Lorelai can't help a smile. "Good point," she concedes with a sigh.
Rory shrugs. "I'd say I'm as sure as I can be," she says simply and watches Lorelai nod again; there seems to be some sort of agreement in this nod and Rory holds it dear, thinking that in general, this conversation is somehow proving to be so much easier than she would have ever expected it to be. She feels weirdly comfortable in it and grateful beyond description to Lorelai for stepping out of the mother and into a friend so gracefully. She ponders this transformation for a while and it suddenly dawns on her there are answers to be gained here that she's not likely to find anywhere else.
"Is it complicated?" she blurts out suddenly, in a rush to get them. "Sex," she adds in the face of a slightly confused expression Lorelai displays, wanting to know and determined to ignore the blush she feels creeping up her cheeks.
Lorelai takes a moment to think about this; Rory feels her heart sink, thinking it definitely can't be very straight-forward if the answer needs that much contemplation.
"Sometimes," Lorelai says finally, "it can be complicated. It can also be wonderful, good, bad, meaningful and meaningless. It all depends on the people involved and their motivations." She shrugs. "There's no easy answer," she adds apologetically.
Rory nods, thinking she didn't really phrase the question correctly, and strains to find a better-suited word. "Okay, but is it complicated... technically?"
Even though she's half mortified by this conversation and its implications but does her best to hide it, Lorelai almost fails to suppress a laugh at this, thinking there's such a very Rory thought process behind that question. She curbs the impulse somehow and shakes her head. "No, not technically," she smiles. "When you get to that point, a lot of instincts kick in and things just sort of unfold…naturally", she adds, suddenly stupefied that's she actually aiming to reassure and briefly wonders if she's lost her mind entirely. She panics again, suddenly second-guessing herself, wondering if she's handled this all wrong, worried if she might have nudged when she should have pulled back by teeth and nails if necessary.
"Does it hurt?"
Rory's voice invades the inner struggle and Lorelai feels the panic subsiding as quickly as it arose. There's a hint of fear in the question and she remembers that fear vividly. She also remembers how Emily's pulling by teeth and nails proved completely ineffective and misplaced and she's suddenly sure this honest approach is better, healthier and more rewarding because she knows from experience that if she'd made a fight over this, she would have ultimately lost. If there's real desire, there would be no way to curb it regardless of what she said or did.
She smiles. "It's different for everyone," she says gently and for the first time since they started talking, she reaches for Rory, tucking her hair behind her ear. "But yeah, usually it hurts, in the beginning. But also, usually the pain is worthwhile later."
A disturbing sizzling sound comes from the stove and they both jump from their chairs in perfect unison, scrambling toward the pan that emits it, partially hidden by the black smoke that sneaks out from under the lid and looks decidedly dangerous. Having had abundant experience with similar situations after previous unfortunate cooking debacles, a well-rehearsed drill kicks in automatically – Rory opens the window, then rushes to the sink as Lorelai grabs the pan, throws it out and ducks out of the way as Rory launches a pitcher of water after it. There's a soft thud as the pan hits the lawn, then more sizzling as the water lands on top of it; after a moment, the sizzling subsides and they dare to come closer and look at the smoldering pile on the grass.
"So, burgers?" Rory lifts her eyebrows, setting the pitcher on the counter.
"Oh yeah," Lorelai nods meekly, swearing off cooking for the foreseeable future.
Quote used: Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
All writers love reviews, good or bad. They are precious insights into our readers' mind. They usually make us try harder. They often make us better at what we do. They always motivate us to keep going. They show us what we've done well, what we've done badly and what we could have done differently. Ultimately, they make us happy and they're the best way to say thank you.