I made two horrible mistakes. The first was to forget to get Lester's new phone number before he left for a week and a half on a business trip. I usually call him every other day to update him on what movies are worth watching, which are not, how the ferrets are fairing at work, and the ratio of cute girls to people who look like they are probably sex offenders at the library. The ratio is rarely pretty.
The second mistake was to invite Anna over. It was six days post-Lester-departure, a day off of work, and I had just watched my fourth movie of the day, Edward Scissorhands. That's when I thought about Anna, and considered inviting her over. Instead, I tried to put on I'm Not There which I had just got from the library, but couldn't get past twenty minutes of it. Quickly, I dialed Anna's number and casually asked her if she wanted to come over for a bit. She agreed and said she would need half an hour to get here.
In the meantime, I got out my two peacock feathers and practiced balancing them simultaneously on each palm of my hand. I should have thought about a plan for being with Anna. We have never just hung out alone together. She was no Lester.
"Hello," she said at the door, stepping in.
"Hello," I said.
She took off her shoes, balancing herself with a hand on the wall, and left her jacket beside her shoes. I've never been more aware of her body until that moment.
She sat cross-legged on the wooden floor, opposite the television. I sat in the same manner opposite of her and she smiled at me.
I thought about telling her how many days it had been since I showered, but decided against it. "How was work?" she asked.
"I didn't have it today." She blinked. "But in general, well. Some of the fish are getting too grown up and fat to be sold. Some birds are molting."
She didn't say anything. I was about to ask her the same question, but she pointed across the room and asked, "Are those peacock feathers?"
"Yes. I just took them out before you got here."
"Why do you have them?"
I smiled, happy she found something interesting to talk about. Sometimes I don't think I'm eccentric enough to be friends with two fine artists like Anna or Lester. "They're very useful in relieving stress. They help calm me when I'm nervous. All I have to do is try balancing them, one on each palm. The only way to maintain balance is to reach a state of unconcentration. If you focus on one more, the other will fall. But then if you try to concentrate on the falling one, the other you had been concentrating more on will fall because you are now concentrating on the falling one. You must concentrate on neither or both to obtain balance. So when I find my thoughts unbalanced, dominated too much by any one thing, I break out the peacock feathers."
"So why did you break them out before I got here?"
My smile left. She had me. "No reason."
"Why would you need those peacock feathers for me?"
"I guess I've been thinking too much."
I was silent.
"Is that why you invited me over?"
"No. Lester's gone."
"You invited me over because Lester is gone?"
"I don't know."
Her tone of voice was something I have never known. "I'm gonna go," she said and I watched her silently, as she put on her shoes and jacket.
And she was gone and I didn't really know what I had done. Her tone scared me though and I went immediately to bed in order to escape thinking about it.