The next day. Sitting across a small table from Tracy. Mugs between us.
It feels almost like I’m seeing her for the first time after a months-long vacation she and Ever took. Like they’d just got back from backpacking Europe. Or like they’d moved far away and here she is, back in New York, long enough for a visit.
But the problem is, there’s none of the shorthand I’m used to with Tracy, and I’m of course thinking of the Connie messages and Oliver.
At this point, I don’t know the story of the farm yet. All I know is, my friends are driving me nuts.
“Hi,” I say. I intentionally say it the way people do when they mean, Hey, hi, it’s me. I’m right here.
“Hey,” she says. She smiles. But it’s not warm. She has an audition in an hour and for the duration of our talk at Thin Cinema, I’m thinking she must be in character.
Because whoever this is, it’s not Tracy. Not entirely.
“How’s Ever?” I ask.
She smiles, genuinely. I’ve always loved to see her do this. It’s like she’s realizing she’s legitimately, wholly, content, when she smiles this way. As if she doesn’t smile for just anything.
“He’s good, really good.”
“So tell me about the farm. How was Oliver?”
We talked so much about Oliver leading up to their trip that I’m surprised at the half-interested glance she gives me. I feel like I’ve brought up something that’s long been out of date. I almost feel embarrassed.
“Don’t look at me like that,” I say. “Come on. Did you forget all the worrying we did?”
“No,” she says. There’s some superiority in her. I’m telling you. I see it. “Of course I remember.”
“And I thought it was big deal, but I don’t think it’s a big deal now. That’s all there is to it.”
But I can see that’s not true.
“Are you in character right now or something?”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. You’re just… acting awfully dismissive.”
“I have an audition in less than an hour. You know what that’s like. Come on.”
“Alright. I do. Sorry.”
“No,” she says. “Come on. Come with me.”
This is even more unexpected than the way she’s acting.
“To the audition?”
She smiles, shrugs.
“Why not? There isn’t a person alive who thinks I’m as good an actor as you do. How could it not help, having you in the room?”
I’m stunned. I’m also a little worried because whether Tracy knows it or not, she just knocked on a door that’s been shut for a long time inside me.
Or maybe it’s been open all along.
“Okay. What’s the part?”
She tells me about it. Sounds better than most. Tracy is trying out for one of the family members of a bridal party. It’s a wedding story, a kidnapping story, a scary story, too. It sounds awesome, actually. I wonder if there isn’t something I could try out for. But I’m not here for that. I’m here for Tracy. So I listen to her, and I watch her, and I’m so wrapped in what she’s telling me and how positive she is that I’m hardly noticing this isn’t the usual way Tracy behaves. Right now, who cares? Right? But I am noticing. It’s there, in the room with us, in the room with me, this distant sense that, while this is all fun and games for the moment, there will be an eventual reckoning. Do I sound dramatic? I told you I am. We all are. But this is different. If there’s one person I know better than I know anybody else, it’s Tracy. I know when she’s hiding something. What’s more, I know when she’s hiding it from herself.
There’s a reason she hasn’t told me yet what happened out at Oliver’s farm. And so while I discuss the part with her, I’m also unintentionally coming up with scenarios.
Maybe that’s because we’re talking about scenes and characters. I don’t know.
But like this:
Oliver told them something heavy, something they had to keep to themselves. Tracy can’t talk about it.
Another: there was an accident. Something bad happened and it’s got them all on edge. The others stayed out there to help Oliver take care of it. He couldn’t clean up the mess alone.
What am I doing?
“So the others stayed at Oliver’s,” I say, finding a downbeat in the conversation. Needing to ask for more.
Something changes in Tracy’s eyes. Either that or I’m looking way too close.
She doesn’t say, They were having so much fun they just couldn’t leave. And she doesn’t say, The party must go on. All she says is,
Then there’s that smile again. Unfathomably refreshing. And the word confidence flutters through my mind as if it were a living thing.
“Ready?” she says.
She got her bag in her hands, she’s ready to audition.
Then we’re up, walking through Thin Cinema, me and my one-time fiancée, and suddenly all I can think about is her current boyfriend. Not because I’m worried he’ll see us, catch me sitting in on an audition. Not because I’m worried he’ll see something deeper than that even, see into me, see how badly I needed this. I’m not even worried he’ll see how obviously glad I am to be near his girlfriend.
None of that.
I’m thinking of him because he’s the only friend, the only one in the circle I haven’t written, the only one who hasn’t left me a strange message or sat across from me in a coffee shop and acted unlike himself.
“Eyes crossed,” I say to her. Because that’s what we say. All of us. Never fingers crossed, that’s too sneaky. Eyes. Good luck for all to see.
“Eyes crossed,” Tracy says.
Then we’re at the door to the place and she’s pressing a buzzer, her back to me. I quickly write Ever:
Let’s meet up? Would love to hear how Oliver’s went.
Tracy turns to me as we’re buzzed in, she actually crosses her eyes, and we enter the building together.