freaking amazing, right? Today, I finally get around to talking about the results of my Bookbub ad. I get into the numbers and what they mean. You won’t want to miss this one.
And now, The Problematic Virtue…
After fifteen solid minutes of reading about Zarathustra, Brian wanted to shoot himself. Maybe due to the utterly bland and uninteresting way this particular biographer spun the story, or maybe due to the million things on his mind, but Brian just could not endure it for another second.
Sitting in the grass with Graham, with their backs up against a tree near the Willard Hall dorms, Brian soaked up the feeling of the sun on his face. Brian closed the painful book and took out his cell phone. He had an urge to call her again. His personal rule, calling or texting more than twice means being a stalker, was easy to follow for the first few days, because he kept assuming she would return his initial calls. But several more days had gone by, and no word. If he could not reach her before Spring Break, he would have to wait at least another week.
The temptation overcame him, so he walked out of earshot of Graham and dialed her number. It rang and rang, and then went to voicemail. A nagging voice told him to hang up without leaving a message, but she would see that he called anyway, so might as well. “Hey, it’s me. Forget about the restaurant the other day, it’s no big deal. But I need you to call me. It’s important. Please. We need to talk about this.”
As Brian returned to his friend, Graham slid his books back into his bag and stood up. “I’m off, mate. This proff will have my head if I’m late again.”
“Hang on a minute,” Brian said, “this will only take a second. I just need to ask you something. This is going to sound totally random, but you’re a guy who knows a lot of people, especially the ladies, so… you don’t happen to know a girl named Megan, long brown hair, crazy neck tattoo? Very attractive?”
Graham muttered the name to himself a few times. He pointed to his own neck. “Like a curvy triangle, like part of a bigger tattoo?”
“Oh yeah, mate, I know that girl. She was in a Psych class I had last semester. Actually sat right next to her often. I’d never forget a perfectly-rounded bum like that.”
“Is she married?” Brian asked as his neck muscles began to tense.
Graham screwed his face up, searching his memory. “Didn’t wear a wedding ring that I can recall, but, now that I think of it, I do remember her telling me about how she got engaged. Seemed like a nice guy, from what she told me. What a shame, to be taken off the market so young.”
Brian sat down in the grass, feeling a hundred pounds heavier. He grasped a handful of cold grass, and ripped it out of the earth. Scritch. The grass slipped through his fingers, a few blades at a time, and then he picked it up again. He had not wanted to believe Alex, but all other options had disappeared now that he had independent confirmation.
“What is it, Brian? What’s wrong? Do you know her?”
“Nothing’s wrong. Don’t worry about it. You’re going to be late for class.”
Graham began to walk away but stopped in his tracks, then turned back. He wrung his hands together and his expression turned sour. He opened his mouth, but could not seem to say what he wanted to say.
Graham’s face was pained. “What?” Brian said.
“I didn’t know if I should say something before, because you seem to be dealing with it and I didn’t want to bring it up. But I don’t want you to think I don’t care, so I thought I should say something. I was sorry to hear about Heather.”
“Heather Robson. You guys used to go out, right?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, Brian,” Graham said as he knelt in the grass. “Heather is… ahh, gone, mate. They found her in the bathroom of some bar in Denver. Cocaine overdose. I’m so sorry. I had no idea you didn’t know, or I would have already told you. I only found out myself this morning, and I just assumed you knew and wouldn’t want to talk about it.”
Brian buried his head in his hands. No, no, not today. This can’t be happening. He wished he could pretend, but he could not fake this one. His mind full of mush, “you’re going to be late for class,” were the only words he could speak.
“I’m so sorry. I should have asked you about it the minute I saw you today. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, it’s okay. Just go to class, Graham.”
Graham fished in his pocket for a pack of cigarettes, opened it and took out a joint. He held it in front of Brian’s face. “Look, mate, I’m sorry about all this. I’m sorry you didn’t know. Here, take this.” He pushed the joint under Brian’s nose. Brian lifted his head up from his hands, the sunny day momentarily blinding him after the darkness of his hand-cave. “Take it,” Graham said. “It’s not going to make you feel better, but maybe you can forget about all this for a little while. I’m sorry, but I have to go.”
Brian languidly extended a hand and received the joint. Graham smiled a sad smile, patted Brian on the shoulder, and walked away. Brian turned the joint over and over in his fingers. The buds of a plant, wrapped in paper, sealed with spit. He tore off one end, and twisted it until baby chunks of pot buds slipped from the end as it moved back and forth. He pinched it between each thumb and forefinger, tearing it until it broke open, spilling the contents onto the ground.