The next day I'm sitting in the living room trying to finish a paper when Gwen wanders in. She's cranky and it shows from the way she's stomping around, but she's pretty much always in a bad mood, so it's nothing new. Everest eventually got up and went to talk to her last night. I thought they resolved everything, but maybe not. Gwen also might just be blowing off steam over something else, and now that Everest’s off at work I get to deal with her on my own.
"What's up?" I ask after she's paced the room several times.
"I'm looking for my anthropology book," she grunts. "Did one of you guys move it?"
"Uh, no?" I tell her, but it comes out more like a question. I don't think I moved it at least. I don't know when I would have.
"Well, it's not where I left it!" she exclaims, getting even more frustrated.
I set my laptop down and stand up. "Maybe Everest put it in your room for you?" I offer. "Or you left it in his room?"
"Ugh, he's always moving shit around!" Gwen hisses.
She stomps off and returns a few minutes later with a book in hand. I guess I was right. It was probably in her room. She moves into the kitchen and slams it down on the kitchen table. I don’t know why she won’t just study in her room.
“So, where was it?” I call.
She reappears in the doorway and scowls. “On my desk.”
“Everest probably took it up there for you.”
“He should’ve told me then!”
I want to tell her to stop picking at every little thing he does, but I don’t want to stir the pot.
“I’m sure he just assumed you’d find it,” I say, trying to close the conversation.
“Okay, but it doesn’t work for me to just find it whenever! I don’t have free time to just search for shit!” Gwen balls her hands up into fists. “Like, I get that with his job he gets to stop thinking when he comes home for the day, but it’s not like that for you or me!”
I don’t know why she’s trying to drag me into this. I think she’s completely overreacting. She barely had to look for five minutes.
“I wish he’d go to school,” she continues, sounding exasperated. “Then at least he’d get it.”
Ugh. She’s brought this up before and I don’t really care to hear it again. Everest not going to school doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that he moved her textbook.
“He doesn’t want to go to college,” I reply sharply. “He wasn’t going to college when you met him and he doesn’t want to go now.”
“I know,” she mumbles more quietly. “I just thought he’d change his mind or something.”
“Why would he change his mind?” I ask. “He doesn’t like that kind of stuff at all. He hated high school. It’s pretty miraculous that he and I even got out of the place we grew up in. Most people just stay there.”
“Well, I mean what’s he even doing?” Gwen grumbles. “He has that job but I mean obviously he doesn’t want to work there forever.”
“Maybe he does. Let him figure it out.”
“Okay, but you don’t have to really worry about this. You’re not dating him. It doesn’t really matter to you what he does.”
“Of course it matters to me,” I say. “He’s my best friend. I’ve been a part of his life for as long as I can remember. You, on the other hand, have only been dating him for five months. You don’t know if you’ll be dating him forever.”
She looks mad at that, but she doesn’t try to argue with me. She must know I’m right on some level. This is such a shallow argument.
“So, if you love him, you won’t care that he’s working in a grocery store,” I continue. “That stuff won’t matter. It’s not like he’s struggling financially. He does fine. If he’s happy, you should be, too.”
“But what if he’s not happy?” she argues.
“You don’t know that, though. If he’s not, then he’ll say it eventually. Only Everest knows what’s best for himself and we just have to trust him because it’s just not for us to decide.”
Gwen chooses not to respond to that and instead leaves the room. I guess that means I’ve won, but I don’t really care. I’m not trying to prove a point or anything. I just want her to leave my friend alone and stop giving him a hard time over stuff that doesn’t even matter. Fortunately, she seems to figure out that I’m not in the mood to put up with her complaining because she doesn’t try to talk to me again.
She’s right, I’m not dating Everest, but I’m also not dating her. I’m not going to humor her in the same way he does.
When it gets later in the evening, Everest comes home. Gwen doesn’t waste a minute telling him about how it took forever for her to find her book. He apologizes and doesn’t try to argue with her. He says that in the future he’ll make sure to tell her if he moves her stuff.
I wish he’d stick up for himself more, but he won’t. He’s always been like this. He’d rather just end a fight by giving in than let it go on longer than it has to. It gets hard to watch, but I also know it’s not my business. I wouldn’t feel right jumping in after he already put an end to things.
I nod to him from my seat on the living room sofa and he nods back but doesn’t say anything. He’s probably tired. He heads into the kitchen and then exits a couple of minutes later with a mug of something steaming.
He sits down next to me and then looks my way. “You studying?”
“Pretty much done,” I tell him. “We can watch TV if you want.”
Everest sets his mug down on the coffee table, reaching for the remote. He hands it to me and says, “I’m going to change out of my work clothes, you can pick something.”
When Everest returns, he’s wearing plaid pajama pants and a grey t-shirt. He flops back down beside me and then calls, “Gwen?”
She appears in the kitchen doorway a moment later, hovering in place. “Yeah?”
“Come hang out with us,” he says. “You’ve been studying all day, right?”
She shrugs and he pats a space next to him on the opposite side of him. “Come sit.”
With that, she bounces towards him, sitting down and draping her legs over his. She seems pleased. Maybe she just wanted attention? I don’t know. I don’t get her.
Gwen leans her head into the crook of Everest’s neck and I watch them out of the corner of my eye while I flip through Netflix and wait for one of them to decide on a show. Her long black hair wraps around his shoulder and falls down her back. She’s in a good mood right now, but she still somehow looks sour. Really, she always looks sour. I think that’s just her face.
She’s got this extravagant style that I’d never seen before going to college. It involves a lot of black paired with colored hair, animal print, and really, really short bangs. Now that I’ve lived in the city longer, I’ve seen more people who have taste like her, but it definitely caught me off guard at first. Most of the people I grew up around wore blue jeans and whatever shirt was most comfortable. Gwen had to explain to me that where she’s from, Seattle, this is what all her friends dressed like.
Since I still haven’t decided on something to watch, I hand the remote back to Everest and he puts on a cooking show.
“Really? Yawn,” Gwen asks with a laugh.
“Hey, I like this one,” Everest justifies.
Everest’s a good cook. He’s very precise. Gwen shouldn’t complain, especially since he cooks for her so often and she seems to like everything he puts in front of her.
“They’re so lame,” she says.
“Well, I’m pretty lame, so I guess it fits,” Everest replies, reaching forward and grabbing his mug off the coffee table. He puts it to his lips and takes a sip.
I snort at that and Gwen gives me a dirty look, but I don’t know what she wants me to say. Everest is a huge dork. He’s been a dork since day one. I don’t know what she could have possibly expected from him.
We don’t offer to change the show to something else and I guess eventually Gwen gets fed up because she wanders back into the kitchen to do schoolwork. Everest doesn’t try to stop her and instead keeps staring dully at the screen.
“You good?” I decide to ask since usually he’s chatty and right now seems pretty lifeless.
“Yeah,” he brings his hands to his face and rubs his eyes. “I’m just worn out. It was busy today.”
“They’re the worst.”
I think about Gwen and I’s conversation earlier about Everest liking his job. I did mean it when I said that what’s important is that he’s happy, but I have noticed lately he’s seeming less and less so.
“Do you like working there?” I press, and Everest shrugs.
“It’s fine, it’s just getting kind of monotonous. It might be time for something new.”
“I’ll help you look if you want,” I offer.
Everest tilts his head towards me and gives me a little smile. “Thanks, man,” he says.
“Do you have any ideas?” I ask him.
I wonder if he’s been thinking about this for a while or if he's just now starting to consider it.
“Hm…” he muses. “Not really. I just want something that I’ll enjoy… Something that actually suits me, y’know? Something that won’t stress me out.”
I nod, trying to come up with some sort of idea… but I can’t.
“I’ll help you look next weekend if you want?” I offer.
“Sure, thanks,” he says again. “That’d be cool. I’ll try to give it some thought this week and maybe look online.”
“Yeah. Maybe something good will fall into your lap.”
“We’ll see. Damn, I hate job hunting…”
“Yeah, it sucks,” I agree, though I can’t really speak from experience. I haven’t had a job since I was a kid and all I did was deliver the morning papers.
Everest doesn’t say much else and after a while sort of curls up onto the couch, resting his head against the arm and a pillow. I consider telling him he should go to bed because I know he’s going to pass out, but decide against it. I’ll wake him up later when I’m ready to sleep too.
The show finishes and I lean over, gingerly pulling the remote out from under Everest’s arm. He doesn’t wake up though. He sleeps like a rock.
While I’m gathering my laptop and textbooks up, Gwen appears in the doorway. She spots Everest asleep on the couch and purses her lips.
“Everest,” she calls him, and when he doesn’t respond she moves across the room and pats him roughly on the head. “Wake up,” she says in a demanding tone. “I want to go to bed.”
Everest’s eyes pop open and he blinks a couple of times, stretching and then sitting up. “Sorry,” he says groggily. “Did I conk out?”
Gwen doesn’t even bother to answer. “Let’s sleep in your room tonight,” she tells him instead.
“Okay,” he agrees, before turning to me, “G’night, Ian.”
“Sleep well,” I tell them both before they disappear down the hallway.
Everest’s bedroom is on the first floor while mine and Gwen’s are on the second. I guess this means I have the upstairs to myself tonight.
I keep channel surfing for a bit and then decide I’m tired. I turn the television off and haul myself up the stairs for the night.