“Yes?” He heard her take in a breath.
“Am I too earnest?”
“Mark, why are you calling me?” Brady quietly scolded.
“Brady, just answer the question.” He rubbed the top of his bowed head.
“Yeah.” She managed to clip the vowels.
He laughed. “Oh fuck woman! Give me something here!”
“Yes. You. Are,” she staccatoed.
“And that’s wrong because ...” He drew out the word into a drawl.
“I don’t want to have this conversation.”
“Okay then.” His free hand scratched the scruff on his cheek and he sat straight. “I’m sorry I bothered you. Bye.” He pulled the phone from his ear.
He heard her sigh. “It’s wrong because you’re unrelenting. It’s too challenging.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“Mark? You asked me and I’m not going to debate it.” Her voice held firm.
Brady exhaled and picked up a glass and took a sip. “The thing is Mark, that being earnest is a good thing. It’s a great thing. But it’s difficult thing to be around.”
He started to interrupt her, “Okay but ...”
“Shut up,” she countered. “Why do you ask me something and then interrupt me to tell me I’m wrong?”
“Okay then,” Mark shifted in his seat. “You’re dead right. I’m listening.”
“I understand that it’s important for you to be honest all the time.” Brady put her glass down. “But you have to understand that a lot of people don’t want to be honest. Honesty is difficult. So if you’re honest with them, then it’s difficult to be around you. And so they don't always want to be around you.”
“I don’t understand why people don’t want to live in reality.” Mark leaned over and picked up a piece of gum. He pressed the phone against his shoulder and balanced it with his ear. This left two free hands to push the piece through the plastic. “What happened to gum in a foil wrapper? Huh? What was wrong with that?”
“I’m sitting here pushing gum through bubble wrap instead of just unwrapping the wrapper. It irritates me. Slide and punch.” He shoved the naked piece between his lips. “I don’t feel it’s fresher!” he said as he gummed.
“Are you finished?”
“Yeah, sorry.” He used his tongue to stuff the stick on the side of his mouth. “Okay go.”
“So are you following me? Do you get that people don’t want to face reality every single moment of their lives?” She took a sip.
“Woman I love following you,” Mark sighed. “You’ve got a beautiful ass.”
“Look Mark, focus here or hang up,” Brady huffed. “Don’t get cute. I’m not in the mood.”
“Okay you’re right. And I get what you mean. I think it’s wrong though.” He took a drink of water and diluted the flavor of his gum. “Why waste time not being real?” He spit the gum out of his mouth and into the trash can. “Why let the moment pass?”
“Have you ever considered that most people want the moment to pass?” He heard exasperation in her voice. “You know honey, many people wait and hope for the moment to just pass by. They just want to live through it.” He heard her light a cigarette. “And you’re always standing there telling them to learn from it or mark it or something.” Brady exhaled. “People don’t want lessons. They don’t want to learn all the time. And you stand there and say, ‘synchronicity! It’s all synchronicity!’ And usually people either want to get away from you or slap you.” She took another puff.
“They want to slap me?” He sat aghast.
“Yes. I’ve wanted to slap you many, many times.”
“And you have.”
“Why go there?”
“Because it’s true.” He sat up straight and stretched his spine. “I’m not angry about it.”
“Okay but that’s my point. You know how badly I feel about it! Why bring it up again?”
“Hey, no. You’re the one who brought it up again. You did. You just brought it up again.” He took his hand and rubbed his chest.
Brady interrupted. “Just stop for a minute Mark. Why do you have to be some sort of record keeper? Who asked you to be?”
“What’s wrong with remembering history?” he asked. He bent his head and held it in his free hand. “I care about you enough to remember the things that happened between us.”
“Oh shut up!” she snapped. “Don’t act like it’s some sort of a romantic gesture. You remember everyone’s history.”
“No that’s not true.” He shook his head. “I just remember. I just pay attention. It’s not like I’m sitting here with a score card or something. I just know what’s going on around me.”
“Yes, and at first that seems flattering.” She took another puff. “And then it’s like being a specimen. And the way you act as if God is teaching you something makes me feel like a teacher’s aid.” She took another puff. “Mark ...”
He interrupted. “Exactly. My name is Mark. I feel the obligation of my name. You know that. I want to leave my mark. I know I don't want to stand around and not mark the moment when the synchronicity of Divinity occurred.” He caught his breath and leaned back on the bar. “So see? That’s what’s different between us.” He sat up and picked up his glass.
“A belief in synchronicity?” she snidely suggested.
“Yeah, exactly. I do believe it. I do believe that God puts people in our paths to teach us things. You can act like that’s some sort of omnipotent manipulation, but I think it shows how hands-on God is with us. You know like a real Father.” He took a drink. “I like the idea that God’s in every aspect of my life. Well, because He is. Brady, I like recognizing the synchronicity of the two of us.” He took another drink and put down his glass. “That’s what synchronicity is. It’s seeing God's presence in all events.” He heard Brady take a puff off her cigarette. “Goddamn I want a cigarette!”
“Then smoke one Mark,” she huffed. “You’re an adult. If you want one, just smoke it. Who cares?”
“You. You’re supposed to care.”
“Well I do.”
“You still love me?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Well, do you or don’t you?”
“We broke up Mark. We’re not together anymore.”
“Yeah. So, answer me. Come on baby. Do you miss me?”
“And this exactly proves my point! Why do you have to make this moment intense? Why does it have to BE - A - MOMENT at all?” Her voice rose to the height of capitals.
“Because it is a moment.” Mark stood up and started walking around the room. “Because you damn well know that I never call first! Never once. And I called up and asked you something intense Woman. And you know that!” He raised his arm perpendicularly as he pointed out the points he made. “And you fucking know that I’m swallowing my pride here and I’m bending over, so this is one of the biggest moments in us. And you know that!” He stopped walking and bent at the waist until he was in half. He took a big breath, stood straight, and continued. “And I think you playing this silly-assed game with me is so fucking cruel I can’t believe it. So…”
“So what?” she whispered.
“So.” He urged, “do you know this moment or not? Are you getting it? Do you see the whole hat-in-hand thing? Don’t fuck with me. Talk to me.”
“Yes I see it. I get it Mark. I get it. I just don’t know what to do with it.”
“Here’s what you do.” Mark took a step forward. “You say you love me. Because I love you. So. Say the words.” He took a step forward and urged her like a coach speaks to a football squad. “Come on Brady! Take the risk! Throw them out here and give them to me. Say the words! I need you to take the risk. Do you get it? I love you.”
“I get you love me.”
“Oh fuck you!” he heaved. “Say it.”
“No,” she whispered.
“Brady, I've called you up. I've been hurt too. But baby, I'm taking the risk.” He resumed coaching her. “Look. Synchronicity. You. Me. Here. Now. Forever. Do you get it?”
“No,” she whispered.
“What? You don’t love me?” he whispered. His voice lost its nerve. Ironically, because he was so nervous.
“I didn’t say that.” She took a puff.
“Then you do love me.”
“Of course I do!”
“Then why won’t you say it?”
“Because you’ll hold me to it.”
“Hell yes I'm going to hold you to it!" He softened his voice. "Hell woman, I just want to hold you.” The words caught in his throat. His pride worried she might just be caught up in the moment.
“Then come over.”
“I’m grabbing my keys. Am I staying?”
“Yes, but bring a toothbrush.”
“What did you do with my toothbrush?” Mark grabbed his keys and his wallet off his desk.
“I cleaned the grout on my tub.” She nervously laughed.
“Okay I’ll grab mine.” He walked toward the bathroom. “I’ll be there in what? Like 30. You want me to stop and pick up anything? I'm hungry. Have you got anything to feed me?”
“Yes I have food,” she laughed. “My mother sent a pie home with me!”
“Which kind of pie?” He pulled on his jacket.
“What? Is she mad at you or something?” Mark laughed. “My God! Who the hell eats shit like that? Hasn’t your family ever heard of pumpkin pie? It's an American holiday! Mincemeat pie is even an odd maybe. Pretty much it's a pumpkin sort of occasion. What? Aren’t you people Americans?”
She released a hearty laughed. “I’ve missed you Mark. Get over here. I’ll find something to fix.”
“I can't believe we didn't spend Thanksgiving together.”
“Okay baby, I’m walking to my car.” He closed his door and locked it. “I love you Brady.”
“I love you too,” she whispered.
“I heard that!” He pushed his phone onto his belt as he pushed a lump back down his throat. He knew for that moment, they were an us again.