By Deb Olin Unferth
BY DEB OLIN UNFERTH
finally figured it out and I said it: You want me to leave?
I said this because I did have small evidences. The day before they had gotten a little meaner, one of them especially, the bigger one, the one who had earlier been my champion. But I didn’t understand. I had been having such a nice time. I was bewildered. Why did they suddenly not love me?
And then the next morning it happened again. The big one had a mean look on his face. The other figured she didn’t need to have an ugly look on her face because the big one was taking care of it, so she could just stand to the side and look on, bemused. But I was so stupid, I still didn’t understand. I looked at the littler one as if to say, Why is he acting this way?
It finally occurred to me: You want me to leave?
Of course he wants me to leave!
You do? I said.
They’d been wanting me to leave for days already! Didn’t I realize? What was I thinking, to be taking over in there like this, hanging around all day? Anyone else would have had the courtesy to clear out days before.
Oh, I’m very sorry! I said. I’ll leave right away!
They were private people, after all, and I should know that. And I’d been in the way continuously, what a headache for them both! Other people came to stay and they were no trouble. Other people were gone before either of them woke, took over the room for only two or three days. And when I was there, I just expected them to be with me all the time. They had no idea I’d be such a hassle.
The big one followed me up and down the stairs while I tried to pack up my stuff.
You don’t have to explain, I kept saying. I assure you I get the point!
But the big one went on. How could I not see that he was trying to work? Didn’t I see that the room I was staying in was the one that the little one worked in? Didn’t I see her working in every room in the house, carrying her computer around like a homeless person in her own house? They needed the room I was in. And he was certain I’d heard them talking about how the little one’s parents were coming and were going to be in that room next week and how they were going to get no break from visitors.
I’m going, I’m going! I shouted, throwing my things into my bag. I understand! I said, jumping on my suitcase to get it shut.
They had no idea I’d just be staying there for so long, so unbelievably long, they just had to put their foot down. How could they have known that I would do that? That that was my plan, to show up there and just stay and stay and stay and be so demanding on top of it? What, with my weird eating habits, my slothful oversleeping, my pedestrian reading tastes, my inability to learn a single word of the language of their country. For Christ’s sake! There were places I could stay that weren’t so expensive!
I have money! I cried. Really I have plenty!
Not to mention—did he need to remind me that they hardly knew me? How many times had they even met up with me before this interminable preposterous visit? Aside from the few times that we all ran into each other at events or because of people we had in common, how many times, he wondered, had they phoned me up and made a date to see me—only me individually?
I don’t know! I cried.
Twice! said the big one. And the first time didn’t really count because it was my husband they wanted to see, not me. And the second time didn’t count either because they wanted to see me just to find out why my husband and I had split. So frankly, said the big one, neither time counted, and even if they both had, it would not have amounted to such a strong friendship that it would mean I could descend on them in this manner. Get out!
I do understand! I said. Of course, of course! I said, running down the street, him behind me. He was following me down the street now, raising his arms to the hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and quaint inns that stood all around us. On every corner, sometimes two side by side. Come stay here, welcome, welcome, signs everywhere read.
I assure you, I cried over my shoulder, I do see what you mean! You get no argument from this quarter!
What could possibly be the matter with me? the big one marveled. What kind of a person behaved this way? There was a name for women like me, he called as I ran off. .
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