"The thing is," he wrote, "I know the lyrics to 'How Are Things in Glocca Morra'. I know them and they were circling in my head, but to tell Isaac I would have had to, well, speak.
"And the thing is, Natalie, in all her hyper in-the-game mood, knew I was there in the corner of the room, waiting for a moment when I could cross the office unnoticed. I couldn't even stand in the corner unnoticed by Natalie. When Casey and Dan left to discuss battle plans and gather more beer, she turned around for absolutely no reason and her eyes locked with mine for less than a second.
"I didn't move and I am certain I did not blink. Half a heartbeat later she turned to Dana and I gained safe crossing -- safe crossing past the desks and chairs and bottles of beer that were scattered about this place I love."
His hands stopped moving on the laptop's keys, and here he was still, in this place he still loved, and he could hear them out there. He didn't even begrudge them their good time. This was their world first. He had joined it two years later than so many of the rest of them, and this place and this air that he loved were theirs to begin with.
"From where I'm sitting, I can hear them," he wrote. "Of course I can; I'm less than thirty feet from them, and Dan and Casey left the door open. Dana's voice is almost manic tonight; she's in a good mood. They're all in a good mood. Dan keeps glancing over here. I wish he would stop. I can brood in silence, and the only reason that I'm doing it here is that this is the only kind of silence I can take."
Even to Louise it was hard to explain. "And the thing is," he wrote, "the kind of silence I can take is the kind with all their voices in the background. That's what I know now. Dana's voice rising with that hyper mood that sometimes hits her. Casey's voice almost reluctant, no matter what he's saying. Dan sounds thoroughly annoyed with Casey, and Isaac is singing again.
"And Natalie. I can hear Natalie most of all, and it doesn't matter that she's barely speaking. I'm tuned in to her. I've trained myself to hear her voice first. And she knows, but doesn't care, about the angles of a parallelogram. And she knows, but doesn't care, that the reason I keep glancing up from this letter is that I can't seem to stop staring at her."
On these words he knew that this letter would never be sent. Louise was busy and she was tired and she didn't need every late-night thought of his weighing on her mind.
So the words became more free. "Louise," he wrote, and found it odd that his mind, in its strange state tonight, was amused by the act of calling a journal entry by his sister's name. "I remember sitting in the newsroom one night last year and writing to tell you how much I love this place. It was the first night they asked me to join them for drinks after the show.
"I didn't go. I intended to go, but before I even finished that letter, they had been asked to leave the bar. They came back here, because they love this place as much as I do. That was the first night Natalie and I --"
He hit enter, because he felt that hitting backspace and changing his line of thought would be a fallacy. No one would ever read this, so why not make it honest? At least, as honest as he could without ever finishing that sentence. And the thing was, he still had those blasted stamps, the ones Natalie had pressed into his hand that night. They were in a wooden box that he kept hidden in his closet. It was something he and Louise had started when they were small; treasure boxes, she had signed with glee when she was no more than six years old. Boxes in which to keep memories of perfect moments that were gone almost before they started. Moments like the night of Boogie Shoes and feeling truly at home for the very first time.
This was their office first, and they were playing a rowdy game, and he was sitting here.
"It'll blow over," he wrote. "Not this thing with Natalie -- that might never blow over, but this tension, this inability to have uneven numbers on the team, has got to blow over. Because they don't dislike me. Dana smiles at me, she brushes her hand across my face when she thinks I'm about to throw my headset to the floor and start screaming. And Dan and Casey feel guitly about this Celebrities thing. They wanted to invite me to play, but the thing is, that would be Natalie's call.
"Which brings us to Natalie, who can't forgive me yet for -- for what? For not wanting to live certain parts of her world?
"Which, oh my God, brings us to Jenny. And I really didn't think of that till now."
Jeremy leaned back and closed his eyes. "She sings 'Ballad of a Runaway Horse'," Dan hinted frantically a room away. "She sings -- oh, come on, Casey, she sings 'Casey's Last Ride'! Tell me you know it!"
"Emmylou Harris," Jeremy typed.
"Emmylou Harris," Isaac supplied, and the cheers went up from his teammates. Such a sport had been adopted for this group of sports experts. And there was a reason they were sports experts and not sports athletes. Hard to come by was a mental image of Kim or Elliot on a soccer field, yet in the world of useless trivia they excelled.
Ken Griffey, Jr., hit 56 home-runs in '97. Useless trivia, indeed. There was no way around his being one of them.
"Did you know," he typed, "that it is almost impossible to compose any sort of lucid monologue whilst listening to the constant sound of Dana Whitaker's voice?" He would bet that Louise did not know that. She had never met Dana, and when she did, she wouldn't be listening to Dana's voice. "Dana is conducting an experiment to see just how many things she can make Casey do. If she whistles, he's going to fetch, I can just feel it."
Now he was getting nasty. He was feeling the hour and the bitterness of sitting here knowing the answers. "D. Wayne Lukas," he wanted to scream. He wanted to burst into that newsroom and announce that D. Wayne Lukas was the answer Natalie could not recall. And if he did?
If he did, this night would go from where it was, a decidedly undesirable position, to even worse.
"I'm going to stop writing this letter, Louise," he wrote. "I'm going to stop before I write something I'm going to regret, and it won't even matter I'm the only one who's read it. This place is my world."
Jeremy looked up in surprise. Casey stood in the doorway, and Jeremy glanced at him only briefly. "Hey," he said quietly.
"Writing to Louise?" Casey asked.
"Just writing," Jeremy said.
Casey walked into the room and leaned on the desk. "A story?"
"Do you think we have a chance of winning this?"
"You've been listening?"
Jeremy met his gaze. "It's not exactly a quiet game that you're playing."
Casey looked away. "Right."
Jeremy stared at him with all the urgency he was feeling tonight that he couldn't shake.
"What is it?" Casey asked.
"How long is it going to be?" Jeremy asked.
"How long is what going to be?"
Jeremy shrugged and waved at the group in the newsroom. "Even numbers," he said at last. "How long are there going to be even numbers on the teams?"
Now Casey met Jeremy's gaze head on. "It won't be long," he answered.
Jeremy nodded slightly and turned back to the laptop's screen. "Louise," he typed. "I wasn't going to send this and now I think I will, because if I keep it, someone here who isn't me is going to read it. But please know that I don't expect an answer. And please know that I have no control of my senses tonight. And please know --"
He hit enter again. That was it. That was the end of the letter.
29 February 2000