"Okay," she says. "I'll give you five minutes."
"We just—I mean, I came here to help you, I guess. We want to bring you home."
She rolls her eyes and laughs. "Right. Whatever. Perfect."
"You look. What do you think—are you judging me? You bring my dad out here, and, and what—" she rubs her nose and talks fast. Even though it's cool in here, beads of sweat have broken across her brow. "I mean, what do you know? We're, like, lab partners freshman year? So you know me or something?" She has heavy gray rings under her eyes. I can't get over her eyes.
"Do you wear contacts now?"
"No." The question confuses her. "Look." She makes an encompassing gesture over the room. "Do I look like I need help?" She scratches the dog. "I mean, I haven't done drugs in almost a year." She stares at her toenails, painted purple. On her ankle is a cuneiform tattoo. "I haven't made a movie in four months. I mean, I don't think I'm even going to again. Probably. I've got offers for, like, TV and stuff." She tugs her hair and brushes something off a sofa cushion. I remember the hair-tugging. She always did do that. There's so little I recognize here.
"But you're not happy. You're better than this—"
She throws up her hands. "See? This is what I'm talking about. You come out here and what, because you don't like the way I live my life?"
"No. You come on. Really, Bobby. I have news for you. The world's a lot bigger than Port Arthur, Texas. Okay? A lot bigger. How I make my living isn't your business, and it sure as hell isn't that asshole out there's."
She frowns sarcastically. "My dad." She rubs her nose. "But it's my life. Mine. You need to worry about your life, right? Do I tell you how to live your life? What do you do, anyway?"
I hesitate a moment. "I work for Lone Star Environmental. I monitor groundwater."
She claps. "Wow. Super. Never left town, right? Never went to college, right?"
"I don't know, not yet, but—"
She puts her head in one hand and laughs. "I cannot believe you actually came all the way out here. I cannot believe you brought my father here." She stares hard at me. "You've got a lot of nerve."
I look at the pictures on her walls, paintings of peaceful vistas and lonesome shorelines, and all I can think of is to try and convince her of what I still know. "I saw you once. It was sophomore year. Early sophomore year. I guess you didn't have eighth hour back then, but it had just rained, and I was waiting for the bell to ring, you know? Bored, the sky that weird gray, sunshine but no blue, and I just wanted to go home."
She picks at her thumbnail.
I keep my eyes on the landscapes while I talk. "And I looked out the window, and I saw you. You were walking across the football field in your uniform, and you'd taken your shoes off—and you were taking your time, kicking up water with your toes. I could see little splashes of it. You would spin around now and then. You were looking up at the sky, and in the glass I'd lose you in the sun. You know, where the sun flared up in the glass? And you'd step out of the light, kicking water, in your skirt, looking really distracted. And it wasn't that you were beautiful—you were, but it wasn't that." All my stored years coagulate into language, and I believe she can yet be reclaimed. "I remember thinking that I knew what was distracting you. You know? Even though I couldn't name it, or put words to it, I had this sense, this real calm feeling, and I used to be pretty nervous, I guess, but a feeling—like the world was a good place, because I could see it with your eyes."