There has so often been talk of the value of being able to record all of one’s memories as they go along, to be able to objectively and truly remember something as it happened without that pesky annoyance of “putting your own spin on it.” What people don’t seem to realize is that even if we’re not yet at the point of recording everything from behind our eyes, the ability and inherent desire of others to film what we do, often unbeknownst to us, serves as a plenty accurate record to fulfill the account of “how it actually was.”
Lily, on some level, was always aware of how it actually was between her and Restin. That is to say, rather abusive. In such a way that, with hindsight, she had almost wished that he had been physically abusive instead. But no, it was all verbal in its underminement and barbedness. Perhaps the only other person who could ever really see, therefore understand, just what it was like for Lily to live with someone who could at one moment be all sweet and honeyed with promises of changing and, the next, turn into his true caustic self, was Restin’s brother, Paul. Good-natured Paul, three years Restin’s junior.
He was twenty-four, therefore hopelessly single and unaware of how to treat a woman, let alone “keep one,” as he referred to it. No, instead of pursuing women with much consistency, he preferred to come over to Lily and Restin’s apartment, where, at least, he could observe some simulation of monogamy. For that’s what it ultimately was between them, “playing house” at an age too early to fully understand what they had gotten themselves into. Theirs was a relationship of convenience when it wasn’t one of necessity.
Lily believed that maybe only Paul could see that as it was happening–he didn’t need the benefit of retrospect to comprehend that her dynamic with Restin was one doomed. Still, he likely knew that to tell her as much was not his place, plus, he so enjoyed the free home-cooked meals he got whenever he was over on weekends. To rock the boat between them would only cause himself trouble, for it would likely also signify Restin moving in with him in his Upper West Side bachelor’s apartment. And that was the last thing Paul needed, his older, more oafish brother cramping his style, his potential for one-off fucking. So he said conciliatory things about Restin’s behavior when Lily confided to him about it, when maybe he should not have. Maybe he should have spared her a couple more years of pain by telling her that Restin was never going to change, in fact, would only get worse if his behavior was indulged as Lily seemed so wont to do. She herself couldn’t even say why, save for that she believed it would eventually make him see that there was no one better for him. No one who could ever or would ever be more obliging to his mood swings and dips.
When Paul was a part of their rapport, forming the tip of an essential trifecta to making the relationship continue to function, they were at their best. It gave both Restin and Lily the dilution they needed to swallow one another’s personalities without too much bitterness. When Paul was gone, the palpable void was almost unbearable.
Lily, who Restin had often deemed as being uncouth before instilling within her certain “conditioning” (e.g. showering daily, thoroughly cleansing the dishes, etc.), had amended herself greatly in her time with him. Restin had done nothing but slowly unpeel more layers of his psychosis. His fastidious need for everything to be clean and orderly without himself wanting to lift a finger to make it so. It was left to Lily to render things, as best she could, as he wanted. Still, the apartment seemed to have a sheen of filth upon it that could never be cleansed, almost as though defying Restin on behalf of Lily.
One weekend, instead of Paul coming over as usual, he invited them to have dinner and to spend the night at his place. It was a rare occasion and they decided they ought to take him up on it despite knowing the dimensions of his space weren’t exactly accommodating for three. Restin packed a small overnight bag for both of them–he could be so effete that way. Lily would have been happy to bring nothing and wear the same clothes the next day for whatever jaunt they ended up embarking upon.
Paul greeted them warmly when they arrived, having placed a plate of cheese and charcuterie out on the table for them, as well as a bottle of wine with three glasses next to it. It was uncannily proper for Paul.
“What’s with all this fanfare?” Restin demanded suspectly as he stuffed his face with a piece of parmesan he had wrapped in salami.
“Nothing, brother, I just wanted to pay you guys back for all the times you’ve had me over.”
Lily smiled at him. It was quite sweet, actually, Paul trying to express gratitude. He quickly negated it by farting. “By the way,” he said, “the toilet’s on the fritz so I wouldn’t recommend taking a shit.”
And with that portent, their evening together began, with many glasses of wine poured and reminiscences made–mainly ones between Restin and Paul involving their parents. It left Lily feeling somewhat excluded as usual. Yet she didn’t mind, it was pleasant to see Restin in such a jovial mood, so prone to bouts of surliness as he tended to be with her. But whenever Paul was around, it was as though a sense of calm fell over Restin. That is, until later that evening when whatever ingredients Paul had put in that pasta carbonara seemed to tear their way through Lily’s intestines. It wasn’t like her stomach to be so sensitive to food, and the last thing she wanted to do was the one thing Paul had cautioned them not to. She figured she could wait for them to fall into the stupor of smoking Paul’s weed together before she ventured into the bathroom to make her attempt at relief.
But it was all becoming very urgent and she couldn’t hold it before the first inhalation was made. She squeezed it all out in a furor, hoping to be “quite quick” about it, as Alan Rickman in Love Actually would say. And yes, how quick it was. One moment she was looking behind her at the contents of the toilette, thinking, “It’s not that bad,” and the next water was overflowing everywhere, tipping Paul and Restin off immediately. Paul knocked on the door.
“Yo Lily, you didn’t actually–” and then he whipped the door open with his iPhone camera, filming everything that was about to transpire. Restin passed by bearing a look of extreme disgust, as though asking himself, “How could I possibly be having sex with this person on the reg?” It was a look that Paul captured on camera and one that Lily would replay over and over again (she had made Paul send it to her) whenever she got depressed and started thinking she missed Restin. She would fast forward to that look of sheer contempt in his eyes, followed by him telling Paul, “You see what being with her does to me? It stresses me the fuck out. I gotta get out of here.”
And he did. Left the apartment to Paul and Lily, the former being generous enough to plunge the…situation, being that he was no stranger to the quirks of his own toilet, as each one is very specific to the owner it gets used to. Humiliated, all Lily could offer in return was to do the dishes as Paul went about remedying her bathroom explosion.
When he emerged, he promptly sat down to smoke his blunt, the only release that could cleanse what he had just endured. Lily turned around to face him, a sheepish countenance evident.
“Look, it’s fine. Everybody shits.”
“Did you see how horrified Restin was by me? I didn’t even do anything egregious. It’s not like I did something unfixable, you know? Why does he have to treat me like I’m a monster?”
“It’s his way,” Paul said, exhaling. “You gotta take it or leave it.”
In the end, Restin was the one to leave it. That is, Lily. He broke up with her soon after, and she reckoned it was precisely because she had called attention to the fact that women shit. He didn’t want them to, along with portraying any other bodily human foible. But at least she had access to that immediate playback of the entire crux of the relationship. Maybe it was better that the world of technology hadn’t yet come up with how a person could record everything through her own eyes. This small snippet was cringeworthy enough.