[This is Chapter 3 of an ongoing piece of fiction. Chapter 2 is here.]
1. Confess and repent
Kara didn’t know, maybe she was losing her mind. After Evan came back from Seattle, they’d had a long talk on his sofa. She loved long talks. She dug in and concentrated on listening. She knew that listening wasn’t her strong suit.
Evan had learned something about his mother that had robbed him of his smile, she couldn’t figure out exactly what, she wished to God she knew, it killed her that she didn’t know.
What is it? You can trust me.
I know I can, but…
That’s what I’m here for.
…but I need to sit on this one for a bit.
That’s why we pair up in this life.
Then why don’t you tell me?
It’s just that—
Is it something about me?
No, it’s just that some things take time to process.
I love you, sweetie, but you have to learn how to trust.
The look on his face broke her heart.
It was like the ancient Rapa Nui written language. They have ancient writings, but nobody knows what it means because the Spanish conquistadores killed all of the scholars by 1888. Today, we look at the writings, but they’re absolutely impenetrable. That was sometimes how Evan seemed to her.
Kara thought about it after she left his apartment, as she was driving around town, as she was soaking in a hot bath. She wished that there were an Evan-to-Kara dictionary. She’d heard there was a scientist who had identified 4,000 expressions in the human face, and that there was a meaning for each one. But Evan’s facial expressions meant nothing to her.
There were so many things that Kara wanted to do with Evan. Go on a train trip with him. The idea of bumpy train sex seemed like the most exciting thing in the world. Life was all about rhythm, she knew, figure out how his rhythms counterpointed with her rhythms and make a song, and whether that song was a good song or a tired-ass clunker. Rhythms explained everything. Once, she had stood onstage with her lead guitarist playing a solo behind her, and just from the rhythm, she realized that his girlfriend had just broken up with him. She turned around and looked into his eyes incredulously.
Really, her eyes said.
Yes, he nodded.
It was all there in the rhythm: details and concepts, math and emotion, pink and zigzaggy and booyah, everything.
The next morning, Kara wrote up a list of other things she wanted to do with Evan, too. She so liked lists.
- Hike in Red Rock Canyon till we’re knackered.
- Sing him my best songs. In the living room.
- Not talk about coke ever.
2. If you can’t love, at least pretend to love
After a set in the casino, someone with a loving face came right up to Kara and killed her with kindness.
Oh my goodness gracious, your voice is such a blessing. You songs open up my heart, I can’t tell you how much. We’re from Indiana.
But, Kara thought as she showed her lovely smile, she still lived in a crummy apartment and drove a crummy car. Sometimes she heard somebody on television, some real person in an interview, who said to a girl, I will transform everything, and he did. The guy who married Mariah Carey. The guy who married Celine Dion.
I want to meet one of those guys, she thought. I could pretend to love him, too.
Sometimes Kara wracked her brain for something that would change things—a new song, a new band, new chops, a new writing partner. But the thought that tortured her was—What if I need a new heart?
3. An eye for an eye
Last year, Kara had thrown a Thanksgiving dinner at her apartment. Her boyfriend Harris was there, helping with the cooking, as only the best boyfriends do, ones you could imagine helping you get into your wheelchair when you’re 90. Holiday aromas filled the air. There were boiling cranberries and a discount turkey in the oven, and on the TV on mute, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Kendra was the first to arrive, and pretty quick, Kendra zeroed in on Harris. Months later, certain phrases were impossible to get out of her head.
Kara never told me you were so cute.
Isn’t anyone else coming to this Thanksgiving dinner? Kara, don’t you have any friends?
Oh, that’s just my cleavage. It’s a little bigger than my sister’s.
When they were 15, Kendra said to Kara, Somebody’s always gotta lose with us. Kara said, No we don’t. Kendra said, We’re twins. That’s it. You either win or you lose.
Two weeks later, Kendra and Harris were a thing.
I love you dearly, Kara, but I’m not going to apologize, Kendra said. Harris is not well suited to you. That’s my professional opinion.
For months, Kara felt drawn to religion solely because she had an Old Testament phrase rolling around in her head like an earworm: an eye for an eye, an eye for an eye.
4. The Unbearable Sound of My Own Heels
It was 8 at night and Kara was on her way to surprise Evan at his apartment, but for some reason, she veered into a Catholic church. Inside, it was so empty and shadowy that it made her think of an ancient Italian cathedral she’d read about once that had a splinter from the True Cross. She couldn’t imagine being that close to Christ. She walked up the aisle and the tile echoed off her heels, the proof of her own aloneness. Kara had never felt close to Him, only far away, so far away that He’d always been nothing more than a vague concept. Written on a piece of paper. Stored in a vault. Bolted to the bottom of the sea. On Jupiter.
The sound of her own heels hurt her so much that she started to cry.
There was a young priest there. He patted Kara on the back and said, There, there. They ended up at Ichabod’s for a late dinner, and then at her place at 1:30 am. They nestled together on the sofa and he was saying, I’ll tell you everything, and then he did, not like Evan, who wouldn’t talk. The priest was young and handsome like Jesus, but humble and kind like no handsome man ever is. When he took off his clothes, Kara saw he had a scar on his side.
Is that where the centurions stabbed you? Kara joked.
He became solemn and spoke softly.
You know, there’s a lance in St. Peter’s Basilica that they claim is the lance that the soldiers used to stab Jesus.
Yes. And another one in Paris. And other ones in Vienna and Krakow and Istanbul. So don’t worry about feeling far from God.
Kara pushed her head into his chest. There was so much consolation in his attitude towards despair, as if despair were simply proof that we can be happy. She made love to his despair more than anything else. Afterwards, their conversation settled upon their pasts. He talked about trying to please his Mexican father, who was so obsessed with not going to hell that his son wondered what horrible thing he had done. His father had indeed done a horrible thing. One day, he discovered what that sin was: him. That’s what made him join the priesthood.
It was my way of committing suicide, he said.
Kara talked about what was consuming her, the old love that was ruining everything.
Harris left me.
Oh no. Tell me what happened.
What, you mean…last November?
Yes. I always think about him when I’m making love to Evan. Sometimes I start crying when he’s making love to me and I have to make an excuse, like I say, ‘Oh, I’m only crying because it’s so awfully beautiful.’
You do what you have to do.
I mean, I do what I have to do.
Of course, I paid her back…
My sister. She dug a grave in my heart.
It’s so beautiful that you apologize. I wish everybody would apologize to me. All the time.
I’m a great apologizer. Give me a sin and I’ll apologize for it. I’ll apologize for Saddam Hussein’s sins. I’ll apologize for the weather. Hey, you want to do some more blow?
5. Love limitless
Five days later, Kara made a list.
- Organize papers
- Do delicates
- Never go back to church ever
Kara loved making lists. She did it because her life was a shambles. She made lists and she sang for the same reason: so that she could live with the chaos. Singing elevated the mess into art. She’d heard that in ancient Greek, chaos comes from the word yawning, which meant that every time she opened her mouth to sing, chaos came out.
6. Control issues
Kara was out shopping with her friend Riley Ann, who was a costume designer for performers on the Strip. They were eating frozen yogurt in the mall and talking about clothes. One thing they had in common was they loved to talk about clothes. Another thing was sobriety.
So how are you doing with your twelve steps? Riley Ann asked.
Kara had forgotten that Riley Ann was her AA sponsor, they had so much fun together.
I don’t know.
That doesn’t sound good.
I mean, look, the Big Book says to be “searchingly honest.” Why can’t we just be honest? Isn’t that a bit obsessive, I mean, like, trying too hard, to be “searchingly honest”?
You are too much, Kara, that’s why I love you. What brought that up?
Oh, I guess I’m having a little trouble with control issues.
You really want to know?
I’ll be searchingly honest, then, all right?
Okay, here it is. I want Evan to talk to me. It kills me that he holds back secrets from me.
You think he’s cheating on you?
Could be. All men are dogs.
What are you going to do about it?
And then Kara began to cry and people at other tables started peering over their shoulders.
I just…I just….
I just love him so much.