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me. Just then I notice the professor down in front of the screen looking up towards the booth. Laurie turns and sees the same thing, picks up her bag and runs down to her seat as I dim the lights. Later in the week, Laurie invites me over for dinner. Matt’s gone out someplace, so she and I are alone. Whenever I expect one of these get-togethers to be difficult, they turn out to be quite pleasant. In the past, I might have felt under pressure to behave myself, a tension that can often lead to trouble. These days, I just feel acceptance. We’re in a kitchen area, and I don’t feel bad about the fact that it’s somebody else’s kitchen, as I stand there while Laurie gets some bowls down from the cupboard, and the dog circles my legs, licking my hand. The shades are still up on all the windows, and twilight has swiftly elided into night while we’ve been talking, a reminder that it’s getting dark earlier these days. The house is old and mostly open space, divided by shelves and bookcases into discrete areas. I can tell the place is hard to heat, because I can feel the encroaching chill at the edge of the warmth, though I’m very comfortable. Laurie’s lighting a wood burning stove in a small sitting space just off the kitchen. When I offer to help carry things into the dining area, she doesn’t tell me to just sit down, like I’m company, but let’s me share in the activity. I carry the stew pot from the kitchen to the dining area, as Laurie glides about the house pulling the shades and lighting candles with quick well-practiced movements, then follows me to the dining room table with the bowls, spoons and glasses. I set the pot on the ceramic tile in the middle of the table. Laurie runs off again, turns out the kitchen light and comes back. How easy this is, I’m still thinking, because it’s really sneaked up on me. Is this how normal people live? Without that wildness, that feeling that I’m outside of everything, that the handle I use with people will always be the rough handle, not the smooth one. I’d lost that sense that there can ever be an easiness with people. 32

Laurie blows on her spoon, watching me looking at her, and I think maybe I should say something. She watches me think that. Then she says my name. After a while she starts talking about the film, a subject she can’t get enough of, and just by mentioning Matt’s project, it’s as if the film were rolling as she speaks. “But it’s embarrassing,” I tell her. “I look bad.” “But isn’t that why it’s a good performance? `Cause it’s supposed to look bad?” “I don’t know. It bothers me.” “What do you mean? You’re not like that in real life.” Laurie acts as if she’s talking about a book on a shelf in some other room, but there are no other rooms on this floor. I’m out in the open here, and that thing I’ve brought from inside myself is walking around tripping over chairs, interrupting our dinner. He’s not civilized like us. You can’t take him anywhere. He’ll say the wrong thing at any moment, lives for the opportunity, loves confrontations, doesn’t trust anyone. You don’t want to get involved. I’m the only one around here who seems to know that. “Why?” she says, putting her spoon down. “Do you feel like you’re being dragged back to that?” “I don’t want to feel that way.” “But I’m asking you, do you feel that way?” “A lot of the time. With the film and everything.” “What do you mean, and everything? Do you think any of it has to do with me? With my drinking?” “No, it has to do with my drinking. I mean it’s the first time I’ve ever acted, here I am making up the dialogue, and nobody can look away.” “Ughhh! You’re bumming me out over here,” she says, throwing her spoon down. “It’s only acting.” “Yeah, but it lingers.” “But I mean—we’re OK, right?” she says, standing up, starting to clear, but pausing when I don’t answer right away. “And you’re nothing like that in real life.” Tired of hearing about myself, I get up and start helping her, but she continues. “I mean, you don’t act like that

Profile for Katya Cummins

Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

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