Bracing

“Why bracing?” Michael asks Lacey.

“It’s so masculine.” she says.

“What about a good green scent?” asks a male perfume hater.

“Make my day! I doubt she knows what she likes in men’s scent. She’s-She’s a liar!” laughs his rabidly jealous wife.

“These people don’t read your blog anymore?!” says another hater.

“Then who’s in the 200 or so people reading every week?” asks Lacey.

“No, it makes sense to think they’re probably still stalking.” says a bisexual woman.

“Anyway, it’s more like 100.” says Louis.

“Whatever.” says Lacey.

He laughs.

“Say, I do know what I like.” says Lacey.

“Eww!” says a hater.

“Why is that eww?” asks Lacey.

“Because it’s not a stoned, moderately wealthy loser with a gut and a narcissistic personality disorder.” says a conservative.

“More like upper-middle class.” says her cousin.

“Fair enough. Are you guys Republicans?” he asks.

“What if we are?” asks another cousin on that side.

“Shit!” says a conspiracy theorist.

“But like donate money Republican?” another one asks.

“Yes.” says Lacey.

“Why lemon?” asks a perfume hater.

“It’s sexy.” says Michael.

“Really?!” asks a Native American woman.

“Yes.” says Lacey.

Michael looks nervous.

Silence.

“Oops.” says a Christian hater.

“Oops why?” asks Lacey.

“Oops I messed-up.”

“How?”

“What did they do to seduce you?” he boldly demands.

“Are you sure you’re not trying to get off?” asks Louis if the Christian hater.

Silence.

“Whatever.” he says. He takes a deep breath. “No, really. What literally happened?”

Lacey thinks.

“It’s just like once wrote. I’m a very rational person. And that’s good. But in a world that doesn’t believe in ghosts…my wandering in my mind was just my imagination to me.” She thinks. “So I just closed my eyes, put myself back in the old mansion on Summit Avenue and wandered to fall asleep.”

“Totally sober?” he asks.

“Of course.”

“Just to look around?”

“Yes. It was just a pleasant thought.”

He closes his eyes. “What about when you met Scott?”

“Yes. But that was different somehow.”

“How?!”

“He more or less appeared to me. And I thought he was amazing. This was…wandering back in my mind somewhere I’d already been earlier that day. Physically.”

“Have you explored reality in your mind before?”

“My whole life.”

“So you were wandering around the halls in your head?”

“Yes.”

“And then some woman told you she knew someone you should talk to?”

“Yes. I was miserably lonely.”

“And she was nursing her sick daughter?”

“Yes.”

“And why did you listen?”

“Because I think I thought that God might using my imagination to keep me company.” She thinks. “Or I was desperate. Or more likely both.“

“Like a simulated reality? Like sims?”

“Kind of. Like Vanilla Sky.

“That’s nice.”

“Yeah. I was curious to see what my mind would invent.”

“Huh. Soin excruciating emotional pain…you met Louis Hill Jr.’s ghost?”

“Well, I met a blond, dapper man drinking whisky or some dark liquor. With slicked back blond 1920’s hair.”

“And from there these ghostly men started appearing to you?”

“Yes. 1910’s or 20’s? 30’s?”

“Did he look like Scott?”

“No. It wasn’t Scott.”

“What happened after they started appearing to you?”

“I don’t entirely remember. Let’s see… We’d just talk.” She thinks. “I didn’t want to be rude or offensive if they were real people.”

“So you talked to be nice?”

“Yes.”

“What’s wrong with men today?!” asks a Millennial. Angry and interrupting.

“Why don’t I like them?” asks Lacey.

“Yes!”

“They don’t seem masculine to me. They seem too perfect and boyish.” she says.

He laughs. “But your ex-husband didn’t?”

“On rare occasions I find a man who seems rugged enough to catch my attention. But they don’t-I don’t find them as attractive as men of the past.”

“So your ex-husband worked. But he wasn’t your ideal?”

“Yes.”

He cries. “It still felt like you could connect with him. But…not enough to stay married.”

“Yes. He’s very masculine by today’s standards though.”

He dismisses himself to go cry.

“So they just kept talking to you?” asks the Christian hater.

“So your ex just found an old Bentley? And shrugged?” asks a living man. “And decided to use it for everyday activities?”

“Don’t say that!!! Don’t say she’s a Bentley!!!” yells a herd of rushing haters.

“Whatever.” says Lacey.

“So! How’s getting off going?” someone asks of the Christian hater.

He scoffs insecurely.

“I just-How did they seduce you?!” he asks, frustrated.

“I’m trying to recall.”

“What do you remember?!”

She suddenly hears a man’s disembodied voice. He’s arguing with someone. Is that Lem or Lou?

His mouth drops open.

“Wait. So…what do you remember?”

“I slept with Lem.”

“Did he come on to you or did you come on to him?” he asks.

“He came on to me.“

“Why did you relent?”

“I was in love. And I was-“ She shrugs.

“He started it?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you relent?!”

“Because I was in love.”

“You did nothing to initiate the interaction?” asks a Native American woman.

“No. Well…actually, that’s not entirely true. Jack asked me who I’d have had an affair with if Joe had cheated on me.”

“And you answered Lem?”

“Yes! And that’s when Lem and I started talking.”

“He just appeared?! Out of nowhere?!” asks the Christian hater, aghast.

“Yes. At first I thought he might be gay. So we discussed what I like to eat at breakfast.”

“Umm. What?!” asks the Christian hater.

“It was very innocent. And I told him the sort of china I like to use.”

He laughs.

“Why don’t you assume that means he’s planning to sleep with you?!” yells a Boomer.

“Because it’s breakfast. I’ve discussed that sort of thing with my genuinely straight female friends.” Lacey responds. “And I thought he was gay.”

“Yes! It’s breakfast! …Breakfast!” says a male Boomer. “Breakfast means-“

“Not to a gay man.” says Lacey.

“But you didn’t think he was gay!” says the Christian hater.

“I didn’t know.”

“So you just assumed he was likely gay?”

“I didn’t necessarily go that far. But something sort of like that.”

“Why Lem?” asks a Boomer man.

“That’s what Jack said.” says Lacey.

“He was confused too?”

“Yes. It worried him, almost.” says Lacey.

“Why then?”

“I just found him…comforting and admirable.” says Lacey.

“He was handsome too.” says a Boomer woman.

“Yes. He’s my type, I guess.” Lacey says sweetly but with distant propriety.

“You can’t be a Greatest Generation member?” asks a perfume hater in increasing shock.

“Do I sound like them?” Lacey asks.

The Boomer nods.

“Well, that’s nice! Did it work out?!”asks a Boomer woman who feels like she’s talking to her mother.

“With Lem?” asks Lacey.

“Yes. Are you two still…seeing each other?”

The Christian hater hyperventilates slightly. He’s aghast. “He just-That’s-You have no idea how it started?!”

“Hey!!! Hey!! Wanna subliminally try to convince us she’s Marilyn again!?! You asshole!” yells a perfume hater at the Illuminati hater. “You sir are an idiot!”

The Christian hater agrees. “Why didn’t he see this angle?”

“No, I don’t know. It-I-“ She shrugs. “I guess he wanted to sleep with me?” she dares to wonder.

“Wait. Are you serious?” asks a Boomer.

Lacey seethes, losing patience. “About what?!”

“You really aren’t sure whether or not he wanted to sleep with you?” asks a Millennial.

“He consented. He led the entire thing. Passionately. But no. How do I know you aren’t a piece of rotting cheese messing with a figment of my imagination in an exhausting dream where everyone hates me?”

“But if he led the entire thing…passionately?!”she scoffs.

“Why do you feel the need to question everything she says?” asks the Christian hater.

“I don’t-She’s a liar?”

“She lied! Lem was gay!” says a triumphant gay man. Laughing.

“Wait. She’s a liar?” asks a conservative woman.

“Well! No!” yells a female Boomer charging into the conversation.

“Hi! No! She’s not a liar.” says another female Boomer.

“No! It’s possible it’s Lem.” shrugs the first female Boomer.

“But then was? He wasn’t gay?” asks the gay man. He looks suddenly insecure and shy.

“No! He might not have been gay!” Lacey says to him bluntly.

He seethes. Pushes his eyeglasses up his nose. Looks pouty.

“I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not helpful.” says Lacey.

He starts crying.

“Are you throwing a tantrum?” asks Lacey.

He shakes his head no and smiles.

“I might be wrong. You know? It’s…so difficult to know. And we have to worship and trust God. But…weirdest case scenario…he was straight and I can talk to ghosts with God’s approval. And apparently he finds me pretty.” she says matter-of-factly.

“I just thought he found Jack pretty!”

“I know. I did too. You’ll have to ask more about it someday of God. Or ask Him now, I guess.” she says.

“Yeah. Whatever. I like Michael better for you.” says another gay man.

“Really? Why?” asks Lacey.

“He’s-He’s…kinder.”

“What about Lou?”

“Yeah okay if you like his type.”

“He’s very handsome.” says Lacey.

“But you’re in love with Lem.” says a gay man.

“Yes. But it’s very confusing.” says Lacey.

“So it’s like if you were overpowered on a date?” asks the Christian hater.

“Yes.”

“You’ve never experienced anything like that while alive. Have you?”

“No. I’ve been attacked. And I’ve given-in. But those aren’t same thing.” Lacey says.

He looks disturbed. “Why aren’t you smiling?”

“Smiling?!”

“Aren’t they making you happy?”

“People don’t all have perfect unions.”

At 5 ft 8 inches tall he glares at her. “You’d rather have sex with a dead man who’s tall than a short living man?”

“No.”

“Are we really that insecure?!” asks the older man.

“Dead man. Dead man. Think about what you’re saying. Think. If they’re men…then it’s them as men I prefer. Not for shallow reasons either.” she responds.

“Why?!”

“Honestly?!”

“Yes!” he says in irritation.

“They just seemed more genuinely caring.”

He thinks. “So I seemed cold by comparison?”

“Yes. Or oblivious to me.”

“Cold how?!” asks the older man.

“He seemed…unaware of my needs as a person emotionally.”

He thinks. “Like what?!”

“Like…I was needing him to be more assertive and approach me the way you did. But instead he kept passive aggressively flirting.”

“So he didn’t bother trying to be more clear in his interest?”

“Yes.”

“What did I do wrong?”

“You seemed focused on yourself in conversation emotionally. I don’t think you either cared or realized how some of the things you said affected me.”

“Or I didn’t seem concerned when you shared your pain?”

“Yes.”

“Would you trust me to go on a date?”

“No.”

“Well…maybe he knew that he’d be distant in response to you sooner. It’s not that I’m slow. I just. I might not have cared enough.”

“And you think he knew that and secretly demured because of it?”

“Why don’t we care?” asks the younger man.

“I think by you both find me fascinating, but you can’t truly empathize on that personal of a level.”

“Nope.”

“And maybe I’m close to the two types of women you’re both looking for?”

“Which would be what?!” asks the younger man.

“The older man is looking for a more obviously voluptuous, vibrant, sensitive, intelligent but perhaps more down-to-earth brunette.” She thinks. “The younger man is looking for a quirky, industrious, down-to-earth, vibrant, sensitive, intelligent brunette.” She thinks. “I’m a brunette. I’m sensitive and intelligent. But I’m not vibrant or down-to-earth.” She thinks. “I have a few of the attributes you’re both looking for but it’s not me.”

“Why are they both looking for vibrant, down-to-earth, intelligent brunettes?” asks the loudest perfume hater.

“Maybe God just made them both to be looking for that for the survival of our species?” answers Lacey.

“How did you run into those two separately?” asks the loudest perfume hater.

“The algorithm.” says Lacey.

“I wonder if you do resemble the women they’re both searching for separately? For genetic reasons.”

“I’d bet yes.”

“Yuck.” she says.

“I’m glad I realized how father and son they could be on this blog yesterday.” says Lacey.

“Here’s the thing. If the Illuminati exists…there is Joe and Joe Jr. and…”. She shrugs. “Don’t trust. Search. Trust God. But don’t trust that things will just be chill and normal.”

“Maybe that’s why I can talk to ghosts?” wonders Lacey.

“God isn’t heartless.”

“True. But I don’t want to violate His trust, so to speak.”

“You mean with His grace? Yeah… …You really don’t find women attractive?” she asks.

“No.” Lacey says kindly.

She laughs. “See! That’s so easy! You can’t just talk like that?!” she says to the two men.

“Apparently not!” says the younger man.

“They don’t get it.” says Louis. “She has to be acknowledged as existing too and not just her as a reflection of them in some way.”

“He thinks it scares them to see how separate women are from them. Not that they’re necessarily narcissists.” says Lem getting Lacey to get tea and go shopping.