The Silver Linings Playbook Chapter 19
I’m at the Crystal Lake Diner with Tiffany; we’re in the same booth as last time, eating our single-serving box of raisin bran, drinking hot tea. We did not say anything on the walk here; we did not say anything when we were waiting for our server to bring the milk, bowl, and box. I’m starting to understand that we have the type of friendship that does not require many words.
As I watch her spoon the brown flakes and sugared raisins into her pink lips, I try to decide whether I want to tell her about what happened at the Eagles game.
For two days now I have been thinking about that little kid crying, hiding behind his father’s leg, and I feel so guilty about hitting the big Giants fan. I did not tell my mom, because the news would have upset her. My father has not talked to me since the Eagles lost to the Giants, and I don’t see Dr. Cliff until Friday. Plus, I’m starting to think Tiffany is the only one who might understand, since she seems to have a similar problem and is always exploding, like on the beach when Veronica slipped and mentioned Tiffany’s therapist in front of me.
I look at Tiffany, who is sitting slouched, both elbows on the table. She’s wearing a black shirt that makes her hair look even blacker. She has on too much makeup, as usual. She looks sad. She looks angry. She looks different from everyone else I know – she cannot put on that happy face others wear when they know they are being watched. She doesn’t put on a face for me, which makes me trust her somehow.
Suddenly Tiffany looks up, stares into my eyes. “You’re not eating.”
“I’m sorry,” I say, and look down at the gold sparkles in the table’s plastic coating.
“People will think I’m a hog if they see me eating while you watch.”
So I dip my spoon into the bowl, drip milk onto the sparkly table, and shovel a small mound of milk-soaked raisin bran into my mouth.
Tiffany nods and then looks out the window again.
“Something bad happened at the Eagles game,” I say, and then wish I hadn’t.
“I don’t want to hear about football.” Tiffany sighs. “I hate football.”
“This really isn’t about football.”
She continues to stare out the window.
I look and confirm that there are only parked cars outside, nothing of interest. And then I am talking: “I hit a man so hard – lifting him up off the ground even – I thought I maybe killed him.”
She looks at me. Tiffany squints and sort of smiles, like she might even laugh. “Well, did you?”
“Did I what?”
“Kill the man.”
“No. No, I didn’t. I knocked him out, but he eventually woke up.”
“Should you have killed him?” Tiffany asks.
“I don’t know.” I am amazed by her question. “I mean, no! Of course not.”
“Then why did you hit him so hard?”
“He threw my brother down to the concrete, and my mind just exploded. It was like I left my body and my body was doing something I did not want to do. And I haven’t really talked about this with anyone and I was hoping you might want to listen to me so that I could – “
“Why did the man throw your brother to the ground?”
I tell her the whole story – start to finish – letting her know I can’t get the big guy’s son out of my mind. I’m still seeing the little guy hiding behind his father’s leg; I’m seeing the little guy crying, sobbing, so obviously afraid. I also tell her about my dream – the one where Nikki comforts the Giants fan.
When I finish the story, Tiffany says, “So?”
“So I don’t get why you’re so upset?”
For a second I think she might be kidding me, but Tiffany’s face does not crack.
“I’m upset because I know Nikki will be mad at me when I tell her what happened. I am upset because I disappointed myself, and apart time will surely be extended now because God will want to protect Nikki until I learn to control myself better, and like Jesus, Nikki is a pacifist, which is the reason she did not like me going to the rowdy Eagles games in the first place, and I don’t want to be sent back to the bad place, and God, I miss Nikki so much, it hurts so bad and – “
“Fuck Nikki,” Tiffany says, and then slips another spoonful of raisin bran into her mouth.
I stare at her.
She chews nonchalantly.
“Excuse me?” I say.
“The Giants fan sounds like a total prick, as do your brother and your friend Scott. You didn’t start the fight. You only defended yourself. And if Nikki can’t deal with that, if Nikki won’t support you when you are feeling down, then I say fuck her.”
“Don’t you ever talk about my wife like that,” I say, hearing the sharp anger in my voice.
Tiffany rolls her eyes at me.
“I won’t allow any of my friends to talk about my wife like that.”
“Your wife, huh?” Tiffany says.
“Yes. My wife, Nikki.”
“You mean your wife, Nikki, who abandoned you while you were recovering in a mental institution. Why isn’t your wife, Nikki, sitting here with you right now, Pat? Think about it. Why are you eating fucking raisin bran with me? All you ever think about is pleasing Nikki, and yet your precious Nikki doesn’t seem to think about you at all. Where is she? What’s Nikki doing right now? Do you really believe she’s thinking about you?”
I’m too shocked to speak.
“Fuck Nikki, Pat. Fuck her! FUCK NIKKI!” Tiffany slaps her palms against the table, making the bowl of raisin bran jump. “Forget her. She’s gone. Don’t you see that?”
Our server comes over to the table. She puts her hands on her hips. She presses her lips together. She looks at me. She looks at Tiffany. “Hey, sister sailor-mouth,” the server says.
When I look around, the other customers are looking at my foulmouthed friend.
“This isn’t a bar, okay?”
Tiffany looks at the server; she shakes her head. “You know what? Fuck you too,” Tiffany says, and then she is striding across the diner and out the door.
“I’m just doin’ my job,” says the server. “Jeez!”
“I’m sorry,” I say, and hand the server all the money I have – the twenty-dollar bill my mother gave me when I said I wanted to take Tiffany out for raisin bran. I asked for two twenties, but Mom said I couldn’t give the server forty dollars when the meal only costs five, even after I told Mom about overtipping, which I learned from Nikki, as you already know.
The waitress says, “Thanks, pal. But you better go after your girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” I say. “She’s just a friend.”
Tiffany is not outside of the diner.
I look down the street and see her running away from me.
When I catch up to her, I ask what’s wrong.
She doesn’t answer; she keeps running.
At a quick pace, we jog side by side back into Collingswood, all the way to her parents’ house, and then Tiffany runs around to the back door without saying goodbye.