He blew his smoke out the window. Soon enough, he was Invincible.
The goodbye with Annette would be at least 85% good. She obviously didn’t care about the real life embarrassments. Plus, this was not a date. This was tutoring Ma on Computers. When Annette got up to go, he would stand at the door Invincible. He would smile at Annette very coolly and shrug, See You Around.
When he came back downstairs, Ma said, “Look Gian, I’m being Interactive,” and smirked a You Know What I Mean. (He’d told her, “You’ll be more Interactive with a laptop. You can stop vegging out on PBS all the time.”) Annette was giggling a little loopy. Ma had probably been refilling her glass because, since her seventy-first birthday, she repeated things.
Annette slurred something. Ma’s nose ticked. Annette’s laugh was like Julie’s, right before the Kicking To The Curb, and right after the cop found the eight ball in his pocket.
“I’m tired,” Ma said. “I’m tired,” she said again.
Annette’s laugh was not necessarily a bad thing, or a good thing.
Ma said “I’m tired” again and Annette got the hint and closed the computer. Then Ma gave Gian the Attention Can’t Stay On Me Forever look. She was always telling him, “You know I’m reasonable.”
“You know Gian used to work in the garment district,” Ma said.
Annette nodded, her face pursed, How Did We Get Here? or maybe, Okay, We’ll Go There. Gian couldn’t tell.
“I sold fur coats,” Gian said, very cool and nonchalant.
“He was number one in the store!” Ma blurted out, 100% not helping.
“Wow,” Annette said, unenthusiastically? It was tough to figure out moods when Invincible. Which was not necessarily a bad thing. “Do you still work there?”
Gian shot Ma a Thanks For Taking Them Down This Mole Infested Path look.
He smiled while he pulled out a cigarette. Ma’s nose ticked. He lit the cigarette and tried to take a very cool and nonchalant drag. Ma’s nose ticked again. Annette looked on, expectantly? The smoke pooled between them.
“I left. For political reasons,” he said.
“Where do you work now?”
“I manage a store in a growing retail chain.” Mole: whacked.
“He manages the arcade in Caesar’s Bay,” Ma said, and then went straight into her Coughing Fit. She was always telling Gian, “I can’t stand a lie.” And smoking. Now Annette was maybe thinking he was a Weirdo because he managed an arcade.
“The world . . . the world,” Ma coughed. He could feel Annette’s What Are You Doing? He put out the cigarette.
“So you work at the community center full time?” he said. He held his head in his hand and forced a yawn of I’m Asking For No Particular Reason. Ma covered her mouth and, just like that, stopped coughing. Annette glanced from Gian to Ma and took a sip of wine.
“You like it . . . ?”
“It pays the bills.” She tossed her brown hair. Definitely sultry-ish. “But it’s not the only thing I do.”
Gian bolted right up. Even Ma got googly-eyed. Annette smiled like this was Star Search, all green eyes and white teeth and Knock-Out.
“I make videos for stress relief and as an aid for sleep,” Annette said.
Definitely, she was 100% drunk.
When Julie was 100% drunk she would crawl around on the floor, grab shoes, and scuttle them around the room. If he said anything about it, she’d spit and call him a hypocrite.
“Would you like me to show you?”
Ma topped off Annette’s glass. Gian wanted to shoot Ma a Look How Drunk She Is, but Annette was looking right at him.
“Umm, I’ll have to hook up the VCR,” he said.
“Oh, we don’t need that. I put them on YouTube.” Gian had heard of YouTube like he had heard of Turkmenistan.
“What channel is this?” Ma asked.
Annette re-opened the laptop. “It’s a new thing,” she said. Gian leaned in. Ma braced herself as if this was Tron and they were going to be sucked into the computer. Annette turned the laptop around.