Building Friction (Part 25)

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"So wait, let me get this straight. You're saying that Stripes was a better movie than Lost in Translation?" I paused between sips of my iced mocha to pose a question that I never thought I'd be asking.

"Um, DUH." Geoff blew across the top of his steaming cup of coffee. "Comedy is much harder to pull off than drama. Hell, I'm tell you that Murray was even better in Caddyshack than he was in that pointless tale of nothingness." Geoff studied the plastic cup in my hand. "How can you drink that frozen sugar?"

"Because I can drink it right away rather than needing to wait for my beverage to cool down. Back to the topic at hand. Fine. Forget Murray. What about Carrey?"

We were sitting across from each other at a small coffee shop just a small walk up from the theater. The tiny plastic topped table between us quivered under its uneasy little legs. The irony was not lost on me.

When the movie had ended, we'd picked up a conversation on the movie. It happened so fast, I wasn't sure what was happening until the moment we were standing in line, placing our orders. Geoff and I actually had a great deal to talk about if you limited it to the extent of our movie knowledge. Oddly, while talking with him about films, it felt like I was talking to an old friend. The bizarre aspect of it made me pause a few times, but the conversation was already in motion like a gyroscope. It had started spinning, and it was going to keep on going that way.

"If you're asking me whether or not I think Jim Carrey is a good actor, you might want to rephrase the question." Geoff pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket and handed one over to me. I took it and allowed him to light it for me.

"No. What I asking was whether or not you considered him to be better when he was in a serious role or when he was in a comedic one." I took a long drag.

"Neither." Geoff's eyes sparkled, even in the dim glow of the hanging lights over our heads.

"Bullshit. You've got to pick one," I pursed my mouth, but it was more a mock irritation than a realized sense.

"Who says? Why is there not a 'neither' option? If I don't like an actor, I don't like an actor. I shouldn't be forced to judge his or her acting ability on which movie I despised them least in," Geoff glared back at me. The corner of his mouth had just a hint of a curl to it.

"Fine. Whatever. There's no point in trying to have a discussion with you," I started to stand.

"You think having a discussion is you posing questions and expecting me to answer them in a way that suits you best? I don't know if I would call that a discussion. I think it would be more like a forced confession. All hail under the ruler, Queen Chloe! She decrees that there shall be no 'neither' option! Discussion closed!" Geoff held his arm up over his head and waved it around in a mockingly royal fashion. "Just sit down and finish your sugar slop. We can just agree to disagree on this one, OK?"

I narrowed my eyes at him, looked at the half-finished cup in my hand, and sat back down. "Fine, but once this is gone, so am I."

"Fine." Geoff agreed. "Now tell me your thoughts on Kaufman."

I smiled instantly. "Obviously Eternal Sunshine is my favorite," I began.

"Well, obviously. I bet you're going to tell me now that you identify with Clementine." Geoff sipped at his coffee gingerly.

"And I suppose that you are going to have an opinion on that," I rolled my eyes.

"You would suppose correct." Geoff smiled warmly before launching into his explanation of why my identification with the character was so trite.

Our conversation carried on long past the last sips of coffee and into the hour when the clerks at the shop came to pull the table and chairs out from underneath us so they could stack them up and go home. Their actions spurred me to realize how long we'd been talking. Time had escaped us, and I suddenly felt smacked in the face with it.

"Jesus! I need to get home and go to sleep. I've got to work tomorrow!" I began to walk hurriedly back to the parking lot where my car was.

"Hey, slow down! I'll walk with you. It's dark, you shouldn't be walking alone," Geoff caught up next to me.

"I'm fine," I insisted.

"Well, think of it as me just walking back to my own car and they happen to be parked close to each other. I'm headed in the same direction, that's all." He shoved his hands down deep in his pockets.

I walked in silence, but felt his presence like a heat source next to me. I blinked my eyes hard, listening to the dry click that my contacts make when they've been in for too long. Our feet clicked on the pavement, echoing off of the deserted stores in the shopping center as we walked past them. The distance to our cars seemed vast. For every step I took, they appeared to move farther away.

Finally, when we reached them, I went to put my keys in the lock wordlessly. Geoff stood close by and paused.

"It was, well..." he stammered. I couldn't remember when I'd seen him at a loss for words.

"Yeah, it was." I opened my car door and started to climb behind the wheel.

"It was, wasn't it?" I looked at Geoff's face as I settled into my seat. His eyes were bright and clear, containing an expression of child-like giddiness. He smiled in a way that I hadn't before seen.

My lips trembled as I weakly returned his smile and then closed my door. He stood next to my car for a second and then walked over to his own. I sighed hard and turned the key in the ignition. As the engine was warming up, I lit a cigarette and rolled my window down halfway. I waited until I saw him get into his car and then slowly pulled out of my parking stall and towards the road.

When I arrived home, I went to put my cell on its charger and discovered that I'd missed a text message from Matt. "Hope you're enjoying the show," it read. The time was posted for almost immediately after Geoff and I were exiting the theater to get coffee. I was stricken with an intense wave of guilt.

"You didn't do anything wrong, Chloe. You just had coffee with the guy. You just had a conversation with him about movies," I was talking to myself out loud, attempting to soothe the knot forming in my stomach.

Yeah, a 2 hour conversation. With the guy that your boyfriend beat up at the beach because he was being a dick to you. There's nothing wrong with that.

"Oh, shut up, brain," I muttered and walked to my bedroom, slowly peeling away my clothes.

I crawled under my sheets and pulled them up tight around me. "I didn't do anything wrong. I just didn't want to listen to that idiot talk through my movie. And I'm a good person. I was just doing someone a favor."

So? You didn't have to talk to him for 2 hours. That's going above and beyond being just a "good person."

"Well, I don't care. I'm not going to feel bad about it. I'm going to see Matt at work tomorrow and give him my congrats on his promotion. I'll probably never speak to Geoff again. And even if I do, it will just be another innocent discussion of movies. That's our limit. That's what we can manage."

You're delusional.

"Yeah, so?" I squeezed my eyes shut and started to count backwards from 200, focusing on the numbers in my head, visualizing them. Trying not to think about Geoff. Trying not to remember how much we'd laughed during those 2 hours. Trying to put my reality to sleep.

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I was in the middle of eating lunch in my empty classroom when I heard my cell singing to me in my jeans pocket. It was Steph's ring tone, so I pulled it out and flipped it open.

"Talk to me," I shot out, munching on a bite of salad.

"I heard something interesting," Steph's voice was laced with a strange undertone.

"What's that?" I continued to munch on the greens, shifting them around with my fork and trying to find another garbanzo bean to spear.

"You know Cara's kid sister? Lesley? She works for that small movie theater over on the other side of town?"

I dropped the fork and gripped the phone with both hands. "OK. So how much do you know?"

"I know that you arrived by yourself. That Geoff came with some Barbie doll chick, and that said Barbie bailed after the first movie. Something about seeing you talk to Geoff and her. Some pushing. They didn't know what was said, but after Barbie left, you two went into the theater together and came out together, all chummy." I could hear Steph clicking her gum into the receiver.

"He had a date from hell. Asked if I could help him get out of it. I made something up, she took off. We both enjoy movies..."

"Uh huh. So let me ask you something." The wet snapping was beginning to grate on my nerves.

I sighed. "What's that?"

"Why is it that your cars were the last ones that she saw left in the parking lot? That seems like an awful long time to be talking to someone you can hardly stand." Snap, snap, snap.

"Look, Steph. I wish I had an easy answer to give you. I wish there was some simple explanation, and there is, but I know it won't be the one that satisfies you. We talked movies. We had coffee, which we split the cost for. I drove home, went to sleep. That was it. I also wish that I could go places without getting spied on. Do you have any idea how creepy this feels right now?" I shifted nervously in my seat.

The snapping stopped. "Do you have any idea how creepy your behavior is?"

"Whatever. Look, I really don't want to have this conversation with you right now. I only have another 15 minutes to finish eating, and I don't want to spend it getting heartburn, so I'll talk to you tomorrow, OK?" Listening to my own voice, I sounded weary as fuck rather than adamant about not being fucked with.

"Fine." Steph sighed and the snapping returned. "You bringing Matt over tomorrow?"

"No, he's got to work. But I'll come over and you can argue with me all night, provided you give me enough Jaeger. How's that sound?" I leaned my head against my palm.

"Alright. I'll see you tomorrow then."


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"Hey you!" Matt swept me up into his arms the second he saw me come into the store.

"Be careful!" I gently chided him. "I've got food. Don't make me drop it!" I held two bags of Thai food up as proof.

"I thought we were going somewhere to eat," Matt raised an eyebrow at me.

"We are. We're just bringing the food with us. Now tell them you'll be back in an hour." I waited as Matt went to clock out and then rejoined me. We got into my car and drove up the block to a local bar where I knew the owner. As we strolled in, Jessie, one of the bartenders waved to me.

"It's all set up!" she hollered.

"Thanks Jess!" I hollered back over the din. "Come on!" I urged Matt and pulled him to a side door with stairs that wound upwards.

I'd arranged to have a table and chairs set up on the roof. There was a couple of candles floating it a wide mouthed vase and a small boombox situated near-by. Matt stopped, keeping my hand in his and forcing me to stop as well.

"You arranged all of this?" he asked, his voice in soft awe.

"Yeah, I know the people here. The owner is a fan." I pulled my hand loose from his and went to place the bags of food on the waiting table. "You deserved something special after all of your hard work in getting that promotion. I thought this would be a good way to celebrate. Do you like it?"

"Wow. Yeah. Of course I like it. This is probably one of the coolest things that someone has ever done for me." Matt pulled me in and kissed me hard. I let my head fall back and received the passion from the embrace.

"Well, then I need to try harder, because this really isn't all that cool. It was just short notice cool, that's all." I smiled broadly.

I walked over and pressed play on the CD player. 311's "Grassroots" started playing. Matt grabbed at his chest.

"Oh, now you're REALLY going for my heart!" he exclaimed.

"I didn't have it already?" I asked before he was on me again, arms holding me tight.

"Well, if you didn't, you certainly do now." He kissed me again and held me tightly. "Man am I really sorry I couldn't make it last night."

I tensed against him. "Why?"

He held me at away from his body for a second and studied my face. "Because I really miss you when I can't be with you, and missing last night meant missing at least 4 hours of your company, that's why. Although..." He glanced around at the set-up. "If this is something I got because I couldn't go, then maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. Perhaps I'll have to thank Aaron for being a flake."

I swallowed hard. "Perhaps," I agreed quietly. "Let's eat before the food's cold and you need to go back.

With that, we sat and divvied up the meal. Matt chowed down and I pushed my noodles around on my plate with my chopsticks, feeling like a complete heel as I saw the joy in his face and halfheartedly smiled back at him.

I was right. It DID mean something, didn't it?

I held a hand over my mouth and tried to smother the thoughts of Geoff out of my brain.

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