[the people we love make clumsy, shaking, graceful humans. the waiting. the loss. the reclamation. a combination of various tumblr requests:
1. aria, emily, & hanna talking to spencer about sexuality, quinn, love, etc.
2. frannie & quinn discussing life and specifically faberry. also sisters.
3. santana & rachel speaking about faberry. santana being santana.
title from a gorgeous art piece by johanna billing]
This is How We Walk on the Moon
you'd come to earth again
you say, I've been
to the door & wept;
it says, what door
—Brenda Hillman, "December Moon"
It's probably logical that it happens in a hospital waiting room. You're all home over Columbus Day weekend—Aria from Amherst, Hanna from Parsons, Emily from Notre Dame—and Aria's brother calls her from his friend's house and says he broke his arm but he's drunk and he'll get in trouble if he calls their parents so he sort of needs her to come take him to the hospital so he can sober up.
Since you don't get to see too much of each other—it's junior year and you're all getting increasingly busier—you decide to go together; plus you're already used to waiting rooms. To waiting.
You're all wearing each other's sweatshirts, as has become an unspoken tradition. You're in Aria's purple at the moment, in the pleather chairs, your feet tucked under you. Emily is talking about her swim schedule for the upcoming year—you go to meets when she's close by—and Hanna interjects with something about making swim apparel for competition more fashionable. Aria laughs.
Your phone rings, and Quinn's stupid selfie from one time you were cuddling lights up your screen. You don't know why she's calling you, but it's not been a good couple of weeks lately. Usually you'd not answer because you're in a waiting room with your best friends, but you're not entirely sure it can wait.
You lift Aria's ankle from your lap and hold up your pointer finger, step away from them while sliding your finger to answer the call.
There's nowhere to really go, so you kind of just stand with your back to the room, staring at a corner, kicking at a plastic trashcan without malice.
When you answer you hear Quinn sniffling.
"Hey, honey," you say quietly.
"I'm sorry to bother you," she says.
"No no, it's okay."
"It's going too fast," she whispers. "It's just colors and words and my hands are shaking and I'm thinking of the implications of selective—natural selection on Bloom's canon and—"
"Quinn, baby," you interrupt. "Breathe. Take a deep breath."
She does, shakily.
"Close your eyes and just feel yourself breathe."
"Okay," she works out roughly.
By now you can feel them staring at you. "Think of the little baby giraffes."
"They don't die from—from the fall," Quinn says. You can picture the way her eyelashes clump together from tears, the shake of her hands on days like this.
"Mhm. They're tough little things."
"I'm sorry," she says again.
"Hey." It still surprises you sometimes how gentle your voice gets. "Don't be sorry. You're you."
"I'm feeling better," she says. "You can go."
"Okay. Text me. Be safe, moron," you say.
"I love you so much," Quinn says, and her honesty scares you sometimes.
But you smile—you know how to be brave in waiting rooms—and say, "I love you too."
You press the lock button on the top of your phone and take a deep breath before you turn around, walk back to the chair you'd been in before. Aria is staring at Emily, Hanna looks like she's about to start laughing. Emily is looking at you.
They're all silent.
You sit down and Aria pats your knee. "So, Spence, we're waiting."
You sign. "I met someone."
"Obviously," Hanna says. "We need details. Is he cute?"
"Um." You sort of blanche at the question, running a hand through your hair. "Well. We met in a seminar about—"
Hanna shakes her head. "Blah blah boring Yale class. We want real details, Spencer."
"I wouldn't mind hearing about the class," Aria says, "but whatever. Important aesthetic qualities first to please Hanna."
Emily quietly stands and sits on your opposite side. "Hey Spencer?"
She takes your suddenly jittery hands.
"Is she pretty?"
After a few seconds, you nod.
Aria's face breaks out into the doofiest grin and Hanna starts laughing.
Emily gives you a hug and Aria scratches your back gently and Hanna kisses your cheek.
"We're glad you told us and obviously," Hanna says, motioning in the air with two fingers, "Emily's already busy banging the ladies, so."
Emily's face tints red and Aria rolls her eyes.
Emily says, "Hanna means we really don't care."
"I mean we don't care what gender of person you bang. We still care who you bang," Hanna clarifies.
"Hanna," Aria says through a laugh. "Spence." She rubs your shoulder. "Care to enlighten us on this development?"
You bite your bottom lip. "I like, well. I like people. Boys. Girls. Just, people."
"Okie dokie," Hanna says. "Back to the important information of the evening—Is she pretty?"
You laugh. "She's gorgeous," you say, and Aria's eyes grow wide in amusement at the tone your voice takes when you say it.
"Pictures," Emily instructs.
You take out your phone and flip through various pictures of the two of you together. Quinn is beautiful, in this very classic beautiful way that no one you've ever really known has filled so fully. You know in some ways it hurts her, how perfect the lines of her body, her face are. She very rarely believes you—you can tell in the way she kisses you—when you tell her that you've never seen anyone as special.
"Damn, Spence," Aria says. "She's more attractive than like. Anyone."
Hanna gives you a high five.
"And—she goes to Yale so obviously she's smart," Emily says, which by now you know is a segue.
"She's a junior too. And she's studying poetry and philosophy," you say.
"Oh Lord," Hanna says.
"You'd like to ramble with her, Aria," you say. "She's like, a professional at word vomit. But—"
"—Oh my god," Aria says. "Your face is doing the thing, Spencer."
"It is not," you say, but you feel the smile pressing at the corners of your mouth. "She's sweet. And funny. And has the longest eyelashes and she's such a good kisser. And she's annoying as hell—"
"—that's a given—" Emily adds.
"—But mostly she's just. She's just Quinn." You shrug. "She's ridiculously and absurdly smart. Her brain goes a little too fast some of the time. And she's very sad and I don't really think she's okay and she's been through lots so she's a little broken but. Um. I love her."
Hanna and Emily are smiling, and Aria looks at you wisely. "Are you in love with her?"
It almost breaks your ribs, the question, because you are and that's the worst and scariest thing that's happened to you in a really long time. You don't say anything.
Aria says, "It's okay, Spencer."
You've never been that great at loving. Not people, at least, not specific people. You get angry. Your brain gets in the way. Your fingers are too thin, tributaries too often desert dry and cracking with rain that doesn't reach the ground. You want to be different. You are not a whole thing. You want to be less restless, like you're learning to walk somewhere else, like you've found somewhere that's grace and graceless, turning turning turning turning, gravel and crater.
Maybe that's Quinn.
Your heart drops. Hanna's eyes get big. Emily raises her eyebrows.
"Yeah," you say. "I'm in love with her." In this, you know maybe you've lost already. You don't know what you've lost but it's something you had before and it was in the palms of your hands. Quinn loves Winterson and in Wonderland everyone lies and love is Wonderland isn't it—
"I'm glad," Aria says.
The lights everywhere are stunning, vanilla and chalk.
You say it out loud again, to make sure.
It feels like dissolving bones, lost mass. Anti-conservation.
It's probably logical that it happens in a hospital waiting room. It seems like a lot of your interactions around Quinn involve them, and today isn't so different, other than the fact that she's not actually coughing up blood or fevered or in an incredible amount of pain. You're just visiting for the weekend in New Haven, because Boston isn't too far away and because autumn at Yale is stunning, and she'd had a routine check-up scheduled.
Quinn's a senior, and you'd sort of sprung the idea of a visit on her last-minute, but she'd been happy enough over the phone. Her apartment is adorable in the kind of unique sort of way that Quinn has mastered: There's a suicide hotline magnet on her fridge next to a Walt Whitman quote, a list of all of her doctors' names and numbers tucked underneath a typewriter on a tiny desk in the corner of her bedroom, a few paintings and prints you'd given her over the years, this tiny ridiculous vintage table tucked into the corner of her kitchen so squished that you both sort of have to crawl into the chairs.
But she seems better, in this almost miraculous way, vibrant and gentle amidst the burning October leaves. She's become quite the cook, and it's fun to follow her around Whole Foods and watch her haphazardly search for things—you make a mental note to teach her how to organize a shopping list.
You don't like to think about it very often, but her head is pillowed against your shoulder and you'd not be surprised right now if she'd fallen asleep—you cannot count how many times Quinn has almost died.
She's your baby sister, and currently—the way she gets really intent and oblivious when she writes, how she pounces on crackling leaves in the wind while you walk to dinner, how she snuggles up to you when you share the bed in her apartment, puts her cold toes against your shins, this particular quiet cadence of her laugh—it's strange in the loveliest way because she reminds you so vividly of Lucy.
You brush her hair away from her eyes and she squirms against you. "You should've just gone to the art gallery. This is boring." It comes out breathy and warm—all childlike sleep.
"Nah." You wave your hand in the air. "I've seen Baldessari one too many times."
"That's funny, Fran. Hilarious."
You smile into her soft hair. "I like you better than him. There, more believable?"
"Probably not but I'll take it."
You sit for a few minutes, and Quinn plays with your fingers, humming a little.
She crinkles her nose. "I think I'd like to spend the rest of my life with Rachel," she says.
"I think so. Maybe not right now because I want to be good when we do. But. I think we could. Like, you knew with Robert."
"I did know with Robert."
"She loud and annoying and probably too organized for the way I put underwear away, but I think I'm in love with her like that." She twists your wedding ring around, then sits up to look at you. You realize that she's sort of asking for your approval, and it's probably the cutest and most heartbreaking thing she's done.
"You have an education from Yale, you're absolutely beautiful, you have a strangely warped sense of humor but that's to be expected, I suppose. You can talk about musicals and contemporary art like you have doctorates."
She shrugs. "Yeah, but. I've just—I've never been good."
"Quinn," you say. "Lucy." You seem to suck in a collective breath. "You're absolutely lovely. And you're getting lovelier by the day. You're so good."
"But what if—"
"Rachel knows you. She knows what she's getting into. She's pretty awesome, so you can give her a little credit."
You smile when Quinn laughs a little.
You're so in love with this new person, this old person, that Quinn is becoming. This bright, soft thing. With Lucy's glasses and her bitten fingernails. She's so beautiful, resilient.
"I'm your big sister. Of course," you say.
In that moment you learn something Quinn's known for a long time: Learning to walk again is a reclamation.
It's probably logical that it happens in a hospital waiting room. You've been waiting a while for this conversation, and you'd not wanted to have it with Quinn around. For obvious reasons.
"Rachel," you say, trying to sound friendly. She is your friend. You're Quinn's best friend and she's Quinn's girlfriend, so you're sort of stuck being her friend, even if you weren't already.
"Hmmm?" Rachel seems to be falling asleep, her chin dipping towards her chest. You don't blame her—you'd been at the hospital since about four in the morning, because Quinn's moronic body seems to be always sending her to the hospital at four in the morning.
"We need to talk," you tell her.
You've seen the way it's different this time, the way Rachel is just as loud and possibly even more annoying, if that's even possible. Quinn is quieter, though, and right now Quinn is very raw, very gentle. They're seniors, and it's March, and you think they've been together for about a month officially now. What you really know—most importantly—is that Quinn is getting better. She seems to still be getting better, and Rachel hasn't always aided in that before. You know that it was never Rachel's purpose to ruin Quinn. You know it was Quinn being Quinn, nothing less or more: Quinn rips herself open more than any other person you know.
The first time they'd tried to date had been a disaster. Which you'd seen coming: You'd seen Quinn's knees shake, the way she'd open her eyes during a kiss. She hadn't been ready, despite how hard she cried. You wanted to tug her back to you, say to wait, to grow, to possibly break completely and build again. But you don't. Quinn never listened, and really your main responsibility to her has always been to be there after she crumbles.
Spencer had filled some of that. In a way that was important for Quinn. In a way that—and you've learned this for yourself—taught her very importantly about love. About being in love. About all of the fullness that takes.
But you are Quinn's best friend, and despite teasing her constantly—she gets so flustered, still, and it amuses you much more than it should—you probably love her more than anyone in the world. You'd not been angry at Spencer for their breakup, because you understood and she was kind, but in many ways Quinn has been your responsibility for a while. Sometimes it strikes you that, other than your parents and Brittany, you've loved her for longer than anyone you've known.
Currently Rachel is humming, waiting for you to talk. Her bangs are in her eyes but she doesn't bother to brush them away. She's wearing one of Quinn's sweatshirts and you really don't want to ask exactly what they'd been doing while you were on a "walk" around campus that caused Quinn to need to come to the Emergency Room—A lot of things popped in her back, Rachel had relayed over the phone.
"At this point I'm decently convinced you're in love with Quinn," you say.
Rachel swallows. "Your deduction would be correct."
You want to roll your eyes but you don't. "I'm going to assume you know some, but not all, of what junior year was like for her."
Rachel nods. "I know she told you more. But I know it was hard."
"Rachel," you say. Harshly. "She'll never explain how hard it was to you. But—like, she overdosed on a bottle of Vicodin with a bottle of vodka."
Rachel immediately looks like she's going to cry, but she collects herself impressively. "I didn't know that." Her voice wobbles but it's still strong, loud. If you were giving, you'd describe it as brave.
You shake your head, pinch your nose. "I'm not—you shouldn't feel guilty. That's not why I'm—I won't let you fuck this up."
She sits up to her full height then. Glares at you. "I am not going to fuck this up, Santana."
"She's gotten good this year but she's Quinn so she—she just hasn't been nearly this good even since I've known her and I'm not going to let you anywhere near her if you can't handle that responsibility."
Rachel takes a deep breath. Puts her hands on the tops of your hands. "I want nothing more in the whole world than for her to stay better. I wouldn't be anywhere near her if I thought I couldn't handle that pressure." Rachel worries her bottom lip. "Plus. I'm good enough for her."
She says it with assurance, softly, but without doubt.
She shakes her head. "I know I'm not as smart, and no one is as pretty as her, and I'll never know how bad it was. Quite often I don't think I deserve her. But I am good enough for her." Her eyes start to water with something you recognize as Rachel Berry passion tears. "She's so fucking special to me—and I know to you too—and don't dare tell me I'm not enough. Because she's fucked up and I know that and I know I can't—I can't fix things. But I'm going to be here and I'm going to stay and I'm not going to run away. Good or bad."
You nod your head once. "I'll hold you to that, Berry. Also don't forget I can track you down anywhere."
She laughs a little watery thing. You feel a bit of yourself concede to her in a way you've not given to anyone before: Quinn has been your person to protect for a long time. But you know that she's not yours anymore, not in the same way. It's loss—one to rocks you—but it's also a gain. Something far away, something clumsy and treacherous and akin to weightlessness. Trust, maybe. Release.
You've been waiting for a very long time.