Not If I See You First
“Gabe. Is Gabe a guy you’ll have to look over your shoulder with?”
“I guess so.”
“But I miss hanging out …”
“He said things weren’t hot enough for him. Give the guy points for breaking up before he went to Spain to have a fling without cheating, but he loses them again for trying to worm his way back to you now that he’s back, to see if a summer alone—were you alone?”
“To see if losing him for three months might have changed your mind about whether you wanted to put out to keep him.”
“He never said that. I don’t think he’s trying to be sneaky—”
“We already know he’s sneaky. He was your boyfriend; didn’t he know your work schedule? And he texts you while you’re at work saying We need to talk. He knows you have to reply to that. And when you do he says you guys should talk in person, knowing you won’t be able to wait. Then he breaks up with you on the phone, saving himself the awkwardness of doing it face-to-face but making it your fault. If he wasn’t sneaky, he would’ve just waited till the next time you were together.”
“The point is,” I say, “if he wasn’t happy before, why would he be happy now? Either he’s changed or he’s hoping you have. Have you changed?”
“I don’t think so.”
“He hasn’t either, sorry to tell you. People don’t change. They just learn from experience and become better actors.”
Sarah says, “I don’t know if this helps, but we’re here every morning if you want to talk.”
I hear shuffling and footsteps.
“They’re gone,” Sarah says.
“How’d it end?”
“She looked confused. The usual cognitive dissonance. She wants to get back what she thought she had, knows it’s not really there, really wants it to be, and is struggling with how much to rationalize to get it back.”
“Wait, what the hell just happened?” Molly says. “Regina walked up and told you all that and you’ve never even met?”
“It’s something we do,” Sarah says. “Everyone at Adams knows. We listen to anything without being judgmental—”
I snort but Sarah ignores me.
“—and we offer unbiased observations and advice. We do a pretty good job of keeping things confidential …”
“Is she looking at me?” I say. “I keep the sensitive stuff quiet, but part of the value we provide is knowing things about other people. For instance, we were helping—”
“Parker!” Sarah snaps.
“Fine!” I say. “I wasn’t going to say any names.”
“You guys …” Molly says. “Well, I was going to ask if you’re serious, but Regina … I mean …”
“She said you knew about her breakup,” I say. “She talk to you?”
“What’d you tell her?”
“I mostly agreed with whatever she said. It seemed like what she needed.”
“Of course. When he’s dreamy, he’s dreamy; when he’s a jerk, he’s a jerk. A lot of people need that, but they also need the truth they usually can’t get from friends. Talking the way we do is tough for people to do and stay friends.”
“She means the way she talks,” Sarah says. “And yes, it’s absolutely hard to stay friends with her talking the way she does.”
“Ouch,” I say. “But it’s what people need; that’s why they come to us. They don’t have months or years to do it the old-fashioned way, professional-like. So Sarah starts it off right and then I cut to the chase.”
“How did this even start?” Molly asks. “You guys sitting out here … How do people know?”
I wait for Sarah to answer. She doesn’t.
I pivot my head to face her. “Go on, Sarah. Tell her.”
“God,” Sarah says in her eye-rolling voice. “The bitchiness I have no problems with … but the smugness … ugh …”
“Fine,” she says. “One of the unexpected side effects of Parker going blind was how she got … less and less sensitive about what she said to people because she couldn’t see them flinch. Then freshman year a few people came back and thanked her for being so blunt, saying they later realized she was right and it really helped them. And here we are, two years later.”
“See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” I turn back to face Molly. “She even sold herself short. We’re a team because those things I say to people, most of them I wouldn’t even know if Sarah didn’t tell me. It’s like I said, she’s the eyes and the brains, I’m just the loudmouth.”
“Wow, you’re like Good Cop, Bad Cop Psychologists,” Molly says. “You should charge people five cents a session.”
“Yes!” I say. “We used to put out a coffee mug with Lucy on it saying The Doctor is IN, but it broke a while ago.”
“Maybe it’s time for a confession,” Sarah says without sounding at all remorseful. “I broke that mug on purpose.”
“You did?” I’m genuinely shocked. “Why?”
“She’s right about what she says to Charlie Brown but she’s totally heartless about it. That’s not us. Lucy’s a bitch.”
“But that’s perfect for you guys,” Molly says. “Each of you are half of Lucy. You’re the insightful psychologist half, and Parker, you’re …”
I laugh. Can’t deny it. Don’t even want to.
My locker combination is easy: zero-zero-zero, and there’s a bump on the dial by the zero. I have a separate padlock that takes a key since I can’t tell if someone’s looking over my shoulder. I asked them to disable the combination lock but they said they couldn’t without damaging it—which I don’t believe—so I asked if they could at least make it the easiest combination. Now I get the joy of unlocking two locks every time I want in my locker.