Tip of the week:
a ranty kind of public service announcement about an abhorrent thing I saw an author do on social media the other day, then I ramble about whether or not promoting books on social media has any effect at all. I recap my recent Thunderclap experience.
And now, The Problematic Virtue:
Megan finished the dishes and began the arduous task of cleaning the microwave. She shared the house with Derek Wiles, who had proved himself a terrible roommate. He never washed the dishes and rarely took out the trash. Instead, he always had his thug buddies over for beers and Xbox, and they never cleaned up after themselves. When she had moved in with Chris, she took for granted that Wiles would move out. A foolish assumption, because she and Chris never actually discussed it, and now with Chris gone to Fort Riley in Kansas, soon to ship off overseas to destinations unknown, she was stuck with his low-life, domestically challenged brother.
Before the incident at the Sigma Nu house, she had blown up at Wiles after letting her resentment simmer to a boil, and he promised to do better. He took out the trash the next day, but after that, he transformed back into the same old Wiles. Now, with Wiles knowing her secret shame, she hesitated to say anything else about the chores. After she had kissed Clay on the basketball court, the next time she saw Wiles, they discussed what had happened. Wiles agreed not to tell Chris, and an uneasy truce formed. She hated the fact that he had something to hold over her head.
Megan retrieved her engagement ring from next to the sink and slid it back on before she sprayed down the inside of the microwave with a vinegar-based cleaner from Whole Foods. She still accidentally scraped the shiny hunk of metal against everything she touched, even though she and Chris had been engaged since summer. She took it off when she went to the gym, under the pretense that she did not want it scuffed, but a part of her knew that she wanted to pretend to be single when she was there. A cheap thrill.
She finished the microwave and thought about organizing the refrigerator, but decided she lacked the motivation. The half-empty boxes of congealing Chinese food could wait. Instead, a long bath would be in order. As she changed into her bathrobe and gathered some scented candles to place around the tub, her phone vibrated. She picked it up, and a text message from Chris prompted her to get online so they could chat.
When the towers fell in New York, she feared he would get called up, but months passed and Chris still remained. When he finally did get that phone call to report, they went from discussions about having a summer wedding at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and a honeymoon on a remote beach in Hawaii to infrequent phone calls and glitchy video chat.
She booted up her aging laptop and started the chat software.
PFCWilesChris: Hey hon. Turn on your webcam. I have something to show you.
MegsOK: will do just a sec
She plugged in the webcam, and checked her hair before allowing the video to broadcast to him. When she enabled the video, the window opened, and there sat her man with a tentative smile. He wore a tight white t-shirt, and his substantial biceps seemed to want to escape from the bottom of the sleeves. “Hey sexy,” he said.
“Hi yourself,” she said, “how is Kansas today?”
“Windy, but I’ve actually been indoors most of the day. Thank you for sending me that package.”
“I thought you could use some more boxers. I washed them already for you.”
“I noticed, and I can tell you’ve been wearing them.”
“How?” she said.
“The front buttons are all buttoned.”
“What does that… I don’t get it.”
“That only happens when you wear them. Guys don’t button their boxers.”
She smiled. “And what qualifies you to speak on behalf of your entire gender?”
“You already know that,” he said with a wink. “What have you been getting up to?”
“I had my Developmental Psych final this morning, then I went for a run, and then a couple hours at the library. And I’ve been cleaning this filthy house all evening. Your brother was supposed to help me, but he went out right after I got home. I told him two days ago that we needed to clean, and he’s been ducking me ever since.”
“Do you want me to say something to him?” Chris said.
Megan worried that Chris relaying a message like that might endanger the truce. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s not necessary.”
“I’ll talk to him. He didn’t say anything about it when I talked to him yesterday.”
“Figures,” Megan mumbled. Then it registered that Chris just said that he had talked to Wiles. Not good.
“What he did tell me, though,” Chris continued, his smile souring, “was that he saw you at a frat party last weekend talking to that Sigma Nu guy Clay.”
Damnit, Derek, what did you tell him?
“Yeah, I was, but nothing happened.” The words spilled out of her mouth with surprising ease.
“You know I don’t like that guy. Derek said you were sitting next to him on the couch. He said Clay gave you one of his beers.”
Megan let out a huge breath, but recovered quickly so Chris would not see. Wiles had spared her. “C’mon, Chris, it’s not a big deal. He was there, and he said hi. We were talking about class. Remember, we have the same major?”
“I don’t want you talking to that guy.”
Megan slapped her forehead. “I can’t believe you’re making a big thing about this! I know you’re out there playing Army in bum-shit Kansas, and you’re all helpless because I’m in Colorado, but it’s not anything to get excited about.”
“I believe you,” Chris said, “I guess I just get–.”
“Jealous?” she said, rubbing her temples, but with a forced smile on her face. She held up her engagement ring to the webcam. “I wear this for you, Mister Army Man, I wear it all the time. Everybody knows I’m Chris’ girl.” Even then, saying this aloud, a pang of uncertainty about getting married struck her.
“Why don’t you come up and see me next weekend?”
“Really?” she said, “is that allowed?”
“Yeah, it’s no problem. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be here.”
“What does that mean? Are you coming home?”
Chris shook his head. “No, hon, I’m not.”
“I don’t know yet, they just told me to get ready. They’re shipping a lot of guys out to the Philippines, from what I hear.”
“Going to see the world?” she deadpanned.
“I’m supposed to find out soon, but I’m not sure how much I can tell you.”
“Are you serious?”
“Maybe, I don’t know. Come see me. I’ll put you up in a motel. It’ll be fun.”
The thought of a weekend with Chris in a motel enticed her. “And what will we be doing there in Kansas?” she said. He held up a Polaroid picture, but the grainy video obfuscated the image in the photo. She leaned in closer to the computer screen and said, “what am I looking at?”
“I said I wanted to show you something. That’s the church,” he said, “where we’re going to get married.”