This is Toby. In the morning, he wakes up at seven—or, really, at twelve past seven, because the time to which you set your alarm is hardly ever the time at which you physically get up— puts on some sort of acceptable-looking clothing (always black slim Gap jeans, the style named after some mysterious man named Kyle), quickly gargles a cupful of Listerine, occasionally confused with vodka, dyed blue and stored in Listerine bottles, and runs out the door in a rushed attempt to make it to at least the last twenty minutes of his History of Art lecture —the first forty stopped being important a long time ago.
The first forty minutes are important to most students, but not to Toby. Most students would have lived at home, had real dinners with real parents or friends or parents-of-friends, but Toby sat in front of a broken TV with a working VCR, hummed the theme to House and ate popcorn out of a Doritos packet—he never bothered to buy a bowl. He looks like a type, but his type would have been sleeping with girls from the age of thirteen, women from the age of fourteen and models from the age of sixteen. Instead, he hid deep within his ten-year-old sleeping bag, which he didn’t want to share with any girls or women or even models. Toby liked sleeping alone.
Picture Toby in his sophomore year at college—he meets a girl, her name is Lennox. Lennox is sitting at a table across from Toby at lunch on a Wednesday in October, drinking green tea from a bottle. Toby looks over at Lennox, takes a bottle of green tea out of his battered backpack, and wonders about starting a conversation. He takes a deep breath, walks over to Lennox’s table and asks to share it. Though the cafeteria’s half empty, Lennox says yes, maybe because she noticed his green tea too, or maybe because Toby looks like a type. She’s seen him in the History of Art lectures before, she says, always the last one to shut the door to the lecture hall about ten minutes into the class. Toby thinks that he’s never seen Lennox, and he wonders how that could even be possible, because Lennox seems like a girl that Toby could share things with.
They share her brand new King bed in her brand-new two-floored apartment in an ‘up-and-coming’ district of Chicago. She introduces Toby to all her long-legged model-type friends (who go by names like Paris and Heidi, but are actually called Heather and Pam), and they talk about relationships being a ‘brand-new’ experience for Lennox, hardly being able to contain their excitement at this ‘brand-new experience’, while subtly slipping their phone numbers into Toby’s left coat pocket.
Toby smokes one of Lennox’s Parliaments on another Wednesday morning that same October—Lennox smokes Parliaments, but Toby can only afford Newports. The king bed doesn’t feel even a little bit empty—Lennox is sprawled across it, having already kicked off the duvet, Toby’s t-shirt reaching just to the middle of her thigh. Toby’s already late for the first twenty minutes of his lecture, but he wants to stay another twenty, or another forty perhaps. He wants to go to the diner with Lennox and share breakfast and a coffee (coffee in the mornings, green tea in the afternoons), maybe share popcorn at the cinema (she couldn’t resist a ‘Large’, though she said she wanted to fit into size 0 jeans like Heidi and Paris can), then go out and share a beer at Jimmy’s, share a few (but never only a few) Parliaments and share hours and hours on end with each other, because Toby loves sharing things, if it’s with Lennox.
Sharing a bed with Lennox seems different than sharing a bed with his three foster-siblings and ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’, who really weren’t anyone’s mummy or daddy, sharing popcorn with Lennox isn’t like it was with Amanda in seventh grade—Toby remembers her attempting to ‘seductively’ put a piece of popcorn into her mouth, her knee-high socks and an uncomfortably placed hand on his thigh that he was glad to shake off after 121 minutes of ‘American Beauty’ (Amanda thought the themes in it were ‘intelligent and mature’, just like she was, but Toby only thought of how to slyly move Amanda’s hand off his thigh), and sharing a beer with Lennox is nothing like with Jake in sophomore year, though they mainly used to share the blue-dyed vodka, while they talked about nothing, which seemed like everything and anticipated never seeing each other again after only two more short years.
The day after summer starts, Toby turns up at Lennox’s apartment to find an eviction notice on the door. Her phone is off, for the next sixteen weeks at least, and eventually Toby stops trying, tells himself that he doesn’t even like sharing—both her bed and his time, and searches all of his coat pockets in a confused attempt to find ‘Heidi’s’ number. Her phone is off too.
Seventeen weeks and three days after the day after summer starts, Toby bursts through the rusty metal door into a narrow hallway with a single flashing light bulb hanging off an electrical cord, sees Lennox at the other end of the hallway and freezes.
She is here, wearing her knackered Converse and his T-shirt. She is here, leaning against the wall and sheltering the sparks from the lighter with her bony hands (she can fit into size 0 jeans now), trying to light a Parliament she has just taken out from behind her ear. She is here, in the hallway to the tattoo shop where he works, in the same exact spot where he used to see her at about 4:17pm every afternoon, but in which he hasn’t seen her for about seventeen weeks and four days.
Here she is, ‘here’ being a spot at the end of the blackboard hallway, marked by fading white chalk lines that she drew on one of those ‘4:17pm’ days, and ‘here’ being also a place in his mind, out of which she has only recently moved but now seems to have managed to return to.