“It’s okay,” her saying it making it so, her leaning against him, nudging him with each careful dab of the cotton swab, so familiar, forgiving, allowing him to breathe, speak.
“I don’t know what happened, I must have slipped…”
“You cut your head on the door,” said Babe gently, “when you passed out.”
“Think of it,” his heart tipped, “I came to ask if you needed help. Me!”
He wiped more vomit from the face-down side of him and spoke through the side of his mouth without the bruise. Once he started talking he couldn’t stop. He told her what he’d seen, told her how awkward he felt, how awkward he was and had always been, in fact, how uneasy he was with simply being alive.
“It’s not that I am afraid of life, it is just that I am uncomfortable with being alive, always have been. There’s been a mistake - this can’t be mine, this life.”
It ran out over his lips and onto the floor. He did it with bitter pride. He spoke and she listened and the more he spoke the more softly she attended to his wounded head. Every waterlogged word that came out of that guy’s mouth there at Babe’s kitchen table took another barb out of the hooks on the lure she was supposed to be. Oh yes.
Lure. That’s how corny the whole thing really was up until today.
That’s what Gus had wanted. She didn’t know why, but Gus had been sufficiently cruel to convince her of his sincere spirit. Bait, anyhow, as he put it. And it hadn’t really been the threat, the cruelty, no, no - not for Babe. It was the boy, Crawly.
Crawly had asked Babe to humor Gus; asked as he rolled off her late one morning, his sweat stuck to her supple flanks. “He’s got his shitty little murder plan, make him happy. Keep him off my back and let the old man think what he wants to think, ‘kay-Babe?”Believe it. Wheezing little feint just fresh out of pimples. Banging Babe. Backspinning with delusory visions of vengeful romance, true love, punch-drunk cupidity; stupid ass Crawly, he didn’t fall for Babe, he fell for her falling for him. He needed, she provided.