my facial muscles. I couldn't. I then resolved to never wear my hair back off my forehead again. I became paranoically convinced that Virginia's oddness was rubbing off on me.
I am by nature a patient person, but I suspect that patience only extends to the people of whom I am fond. I could have nursed Milton or my mother through an illness, but not others. I am no Florence Nightingale, or Mother Theresa. I stress out too easily to endure continual martyrdom. Temporary martyrdom, maybe. But Milton, with his pleasant face and his capable manner could take on the problems of the world and still sleep like a baby. Virginia, in an almost animal-like way sensed this and began to test him.
Milton gave Virginia our phone number at the beginning of the semester, ostensibly for study group purposes (which was crap‹for all her insanities, Virginia was quite smart and could have made excellent grades on her own). Virginia called us that same night, chattering about a movie she had seen in the third grade. It was about children who had disappeared through holes in the time-space continuum and had to be rescued by a Guatemalan priest. After he was finally able to hang up, Milton had no idea why she had called.
This began a pattern of never-ending calls. She would never speak to me except to ask for Milton. She called several times a day and said nothing in particular every time. We began to be held hostage by the phone and started to use the answering machine to screen calls. One time she called at 3:00 in the morning, and fearing an emergency, Milton picked up. Virginia began prattling in an excited fashion, but Milton interjected mildly, telling her the time and explaining that since we had both been asleep and preferred to return to our previous state, this was not a good time to talk. Virginia begged him to leave the phone off the hook in bed with us so she could at least hear him breathing. Milton agreed, figuring that a phone that was off the hook could not ring and wake us up again. The next morning I picked up the receiver to see if she was still there. I heard a faint sound of moving water, and then I heard the flush of a toilet. I sighed.
She heard and eagerly asked, "Milton?"
"No," I said, "it's Ellen."
She asked for Milton and I gave him the phone. He looked at me desperately and smiled, as if to say that Virginia was a very silly person and that I should try to keep talking to her. I selfishly refused to bail him out. After all, it was Milton who let Virginia sleep with us all night.
I began to hate her.
Our linguistics class met on Halloween night, and although there were parties everywhere, Milton and I had decided to go home and study. He had a paper due in a week, and I had a Russian literature presentation to prepare. We were sensible. We cherished good grades.
Few people were in class that night, skipping it for more festive activities. Virginia came in late, looking more disturbed than usual. The professor became aware that he wasn't going to be able to hold anyone's attention for very long and dismissed the class early. Milton and I gathered our books and began to leave. We reached the door right behind the professor and for a split second it looked like we were home free, but before we made it out, we heard Virginia whimper.
We turned around. Virginia's face was screwed up as if she might cry. I was sick of her. She had invaded our lives and created chaos where there used to be calm. It didn't occur to me then that she had been invited. We grew tense every time the phone rang. Our real friends were annoyed because we never answered the phone. We fought all the time because I thought we should set limits and tell her to stop, but Milton would not do it.
I wanted to leave her there to whimper alone. Perhaps she might find a particularly pleasant janitor to whom she could attach herself. I wanted to tell Milton to leave her there to snivel in the dark, but I couldn't. Just as Milton, with his stray dog heart couldn't be mean to Virginia, I couldn't let him know how mean I really was. I didn't want to reveal that I had such ugly thoughts in my head. Resigned to his fate as a nice guy, Milton asked, "What's wrong, Virginia."
"I can't tell you," she said.
"If you can't tell me, how can I help you?"
"I'm afraid to walk to my car," she said.