"Well? It just... It looked really painful."
When someone sees the tattoo and asks Rebecca where the other freak is, she must admit she is the only one. "I am the whole pair of freaks," she says, and laughs. Cathy falls into the rhythm and the time slips away. "And how many people would see that, would you say?" Rebecca grins and yells: "A lot, Cath. A lot! A lot of explaining!" Cathy loves it, laughing; Cathy checks her watch.
Rebecca notices, and screams. "Why do you keep looking at your watch?" Why, when time has stopped? "Got somewhere to go? Besides middle age?" Yes. "No!" Rebecca runs to her purse and pulls out two huge plastic pairs of sunglasses -- "You packrat!" Cathy yells -- and the girls put them on. Cathy's are heart-shaped, pink diamonds around the rim; Rebecca's are darker and more square. Sexier, less flirty. They thrust their shoulders back and Marlene can't wipe the smile off her face.
They sit in her house full of shadows and a dead man's clothes, eating other people's misfortune and tending wounds and talking about death and age and children. To see her here, in the Jamison's house, full of light, free of twenty years, laughing and talking over her best friend, shoulders back: Marlene has never met this girl. She loves her fiercely.
"We, I mean we wore these, we wore them everywhere. We wore them to the Heart concert. We wore them everywhere. We thought we looked so hot," they say. Cathy turns to Rebecca, like a well-rehearsed vaudeville duo, which is what they are:
"And apparently you did," Cathy smiles. "Because you met that guy at the concert, and then I had to get a ride back to the campus with those sorority girls... The sorority girls who I just recognized even though I... Yeah, you should be sorry." Rebecca grins; this is their story. "I've been wondering all these years, did you get home okay?" Cathy throws back her head and laughs. Yes. Yes, she did get home okay. No, it doesn't matter.
But before there was Rebecca there was Sean, she'll think later. After the party, she'll think it in the silent rooms. And after Rebecca there was Paul. And now there is Lenny and there is death. Somebody to carry her, and to be carried. A surprise that is a burden and a burden that is a surprise joy. Another way of defining yourself against something wild. Did she get home okay? Yes. But where she goes from there is no concern of yours.
The big question is this, as she compacts her life to portability, to make sense of it: What happens when there is no other wild one? When the wild one is you? Jerky fits and starts, awkwardness, blunt rudeness sometimes and harmless backslides. Attempts again and again at extemporaneous living: To collapse the splitting selves into one authentic Cathy. To give Paul her stability and take a measure of his wildness in turn so that they can both go on their journeys more whole.
First Sean and then Rebecca and now Paul, she thinks: And all of them are on a freight train with a top speed of one million miles an hour. And me, standing here, as it passes by. When I've spent my whole life begging them to slow down for me: I get off the train, and the train keeps going.