He balanced the laptop on his lap and slid himself down until his chin met chest. Video Annette put down the book and picked up another. What he hadn’t noticed before was her corduroy blazer, her hair up in a bun. She was into this. She looked like a person who found things for a living. Head up, eyes strong. And an angular jaw that he would never have noticed if he hadn’t seen her dressed as a librarian.
“Do you need help finding something?”
“Yes,” Gian said out loud, not sure what else to do.
“Would this interest you?”
He watched her slide her fingers along the book’s spine, then open the cover. She opened like there was plenty of time. Like this book was very important. It made his eyes heavy. All over his head he felt a funny fuzzy. A I’m High/Invincible kind of fuzzy. But inside the fuzzy was a tiny Mole: maybe he was a Weirdo. He was watching a woman on the Internet touch a book. He had called one of the guys at Coats Express a Weirdo because he said he liked watching his wife make breakfast. And Gian had smirked when he said it because Gian was Number One In The Store at the time, and could give out consequence-free smirks.
He closed his eyes and the fuzzy pushed the Mole into a corner.
In the darkness, her hands walked onto his head. High stepping, playful. They twirled his hair. They hopped down his cheeks. She said everyone loved this. He breathed softly, “Yes.”
Annette had said to let her know. He had her number. But he couldn’t figure out where to start, other than he wasn’t just a guy in the crowd. Before he at least had a Tutor My Ma On The Laptop pretense.
He wasn’t one of those Internet Web World guys who’d written little notes underneath her video. Guys with Weirdo names: GuyFaux and FuzzyFan79 and RandomFandom.
I feel electric when I watch this.
You’re a lifesaver.
He was a real guy who had watched her video (as requested), and by the way it was off the charts. It had knocked him out cold, in his own bed. He didn’t have to spend the night tossing on the couch, with PBS begging for money and Ma nattering at Planet Earth. Wondering if Julie was snuggling up to some guy.
Annette looked great in it.
But it would be easier to say if he didn’t have to say it to her.
At the arcade he commanded the boys to Windex the games. He told Rocky the Tech to go get more coffee. He nodded to the unemployed men who filed in on weekday mornings (he never actually talked to them). He pulled Ben aside and said, “Make sure everyone knows the back office is off limits, okay? You’re a Trooper.”
Gian locked himself in the back and got 100% Invincible with the door to the bay open. The ocean air rolled in sticky, smelling of salty garbage, and soon, pot.
With Julie, there were moments when she wanted to talk. About Night Court and Top Gun and opening a pizza place one day. In bed, knees under chin talks about Tom Cruise and Sicilian pies. She’d mash her cheeks into her knees and talk like a mush.
But to Julie you could say too much.
He picked up the phone and dialed Annette. While it rang he said loudly, “Rip off the Band-Aid.” The other end picked up.
“Hi, it’s Gian.”
“Ohhh,” Annette’s voice came through a little cold, a little Okay, So?
“I just wanted to say, really quick, thank you for helping my Ma, and also that I fell asleep to your video.”
“Oh, wow” she said, suddenly sounding excited. He leaned forward, unconsciously pressing the phone into his ear.
“It was like fuzzy all over my head.”
“You know it’s nice to actually hear that. I usually only get to read those little comments under the video.”
“That’s why I wanted to call you.”
“Did you feel anything else?”
“Oh yeah. It knocked me out like you said it would.”