“The Persuasion,” p. 55
When Tonin returned from Europe, he and his father renovated the apartment which principally involved a plenteous supply of oak—counters, bookshelves, desktops, headboards, and sofa frames—but because they were contrarians who argued aesthetics as other men did sports, they integrated much birch, cherry, pine, maple, and pear too. Lumber, artists. It was a gallery.
I should have been excited to finally be moving in.
Even deliriously happy.
Besides, this was the day when people would finally recognize me as an adult. I’d been impersonating being a kid ever since I was involuntarily promoted to grown-up the day my mother died. Here I was, certifiable, an adult—a college graduate, 22 years old, formally moving in with a funny, kind, beautiful boy-man whom I had to admit that I loved in some measure, whose family loved me...
But…once again, when least expected: The Saboteur.
J.H. was like a cold sore. Without warning since I’d left Oxford, there would be a breakout. Typically, it began as a very small itch, receding without requiring so much as a scratch. The farther I got from the Oxford train station, the fewer the lip prickles. Only a few hideous eruptions, with pulsations, blood, and cracking edges, infestations that forced a question: was I being honest with myself (and with Tonin), then another, that the only reason I was in the fight was because J.H. had rejected me, or if the only reason I was with Tonin was because of J.H., or if what I longed for was J.H.’s mind, or if I was just a terrible person. Or only the first.