Order Amid Chaos
Lily gave him the dead-face, the expressionless, stony eyes-cheeks-mouth-chin. The face that told him everything he needed to know, most importantly that Lily would presently remain speechless. The face that warned he wouldn’t like what came out, once her voice returned. Which it always did.
“Skip. Perhaps I should clarify: who has 1,468 unread emails and doesn’t feel like things are slipping? That maybe, just maybe, he or she has signed up for an unmanageable bunch of newsletters? That perhaps one has developed an unhealthy attachment to debris and detritus? That in fact, this volume of email represents not so much being well-connected, but instead, a sort of floundering?”
The account contained thousands of read messages, too, ones Skip had clicked, read, replied to, then left to clog his in box, a string of subjects/ senders/ dates that scrolled down several screens like a very deep well.
“So, how often do you delete,” Lily fished, thinking of the things they’d swapped. Dirty things, angry things, sweet things. Flirtations, plans and descriptions. Exchanges dating back practically forever, or at least as far as 25. Lily tried to imagine why Skip, who often scolded her for failing to let go, and for attaching too much weight to physical objects, might revisit those messages. She imagined similar ones he’d saved from other senders, other loves, and whether he re-read those messages, too.
“It’s email,” he replied. “You never have to delete.”
Good grief, thought Lily. Who says such a thing?!
Once, Lily’s home was tidy; it was really nice and clean. It smelled consistently delicious; sometimes there were cookies in the kitchen, bananas dangling on a hook above the sink. The space was never fancy, but it had sparkle and shine. A tray was laid for mixing martinis, although she rarely did. Flowers filled a vase. Blinds were raised and lowered, blankets were folded, a mat was draped over the tub.
Then, Lily got a boyfriend, got Skip, and everything changed. He was a bear crashing through her rooms, a gale of hair and laundry and dishes knocked askew. He introduced things with skins, wrappers, strings and caps, which he spilled and dropped and misplaced.
He said that if he gave up parts of himself that seemed gross and unsophisticated to Lily, this might be a dangerous bargain, might cancel out another part from which great things came. Like, what if being on time made him dull; being tidy killed his ability to make a perfect soup; returning phone calls made him lose his excellent giggle? “You never know,” Skip warned, “It could happen, I could be punctual but so awful to hang out with that you’d never invite me around.” Lily kind of liked this idea, a cautionary tale about true nature, but still she huffed as she vacuumed up a smashed cup.
They joked that they were like these two characters in their favourite Japanese cartoon: Lily the clean white bunny with nice, organised ears; Skip the sloppy one with wobbly eyes, the one that doused a wheatfield with poo in Episode Three. The bunnies lived in outer space, piloted a bulbous air-ship and went many places. The Lily bunny navigated while the other was in charge of picking destinations. From those bunnies, Skip and Lily formed an analogy for “us”, and sometimes, they mimicked the characters’ high-pitched, animé sighs to wordlessly convey how they felt in real life. Like most in-jokes, this was all slightly precious, and was the only sickly-sweet joke they indulged.
The cartoon bunnies loaned charm to their discord, as Lily grew tired of picking up, washing up, making up. The bunny joke made it seem sweet to come home to bed linens baled in a wad, or a drain clogged with gunk that might be cereal, might be spit. The bunnies helped Skip ignore that Lily had become another character, too: Wendy Darling, fond of mothering and petting, nurturing and bossing, of heaving great sighs about how her work was never done. Wendy Darling, who was welcome in Neverland but compelled to make sure socks were darned, bellies were fed, and the cap was placed over the chimney each night so the crocodile, pirates and savages wouldn’t know where the Lost Boys slept. Meanwhile, the Lost Boys tucked their wooden daggers into their belts and played and played and played.
Lily didn’t realise until much later, that by the time they started kidding about animé bunnies, Skip’s heart had already withdrawn, and, like Wendy, Lily had grown too old to hang out in the Lost Boys’ camp.