Normal People by Sally Rooney Read Online (FREE)
It was in Phantom that they met Paula Neary, their old Economics teacher. By then Connell was so drunk that his vision was misaligned, and beside every solid object he could see another version of the object, like a ghost. Paula bought them all shots of tequila. She was wearing a black dress and a silver pendant. He licked a line of salt off the back of his own hand and saw the ghostly other of her necklace, a faint white trace on her shoulder. When she looked at him she did not have two eyes, but several, and they moved around exotically in the air, like jewels. He started laughing about it, and she leaned in close with her breath on his face to ask him what was so funny.
He doesn’t remember how he got back to her house, whether they walked or took a taxi, he still doesn’t know. The place had that strange unfurnished cleanliness that lonely houses sometimes have. She seemed like a person with no hobbies: no bookcases, no musical instruments. What do you do with yourself at the weekends, he remembers slurring. I go out and have fun, she said. This struck him even at the time as deeply depressing. She poured them both glasses of wine. Connell sat on the leather sofa and drank the wine for something to do with his hands.
How is the football team looking this year? he said.
It’s not the same without you, said Paula.
She sat beside him on the couch. Her dress had slipped down slightly, exposing a mole over her right breast. He could have fucked her back when he was in school. People joked about it, but they would have been shocked if it had really happened, they would have been scared. They would have thought his shyness masked something steely and frightening.
Best years of your life, she said.
Best years of your life, secondary school.
He tried to laugh, and it came out very goofy and nervous. I don’t know, he said. That’s a sad thought if that’s true.
She started to kiss him then. This seemed like a strange thing to happen to him, unpleasant on the surface level, but also interesting in a way, as if his life was taking a new direction. Her mouth tasted sour like tequila. Briefly he wondered if it was legal for her to kiss him, and he concluded it must be, he couldn’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t be, and yet it felt substantially wrong. Every time he pulled away from her she seemed to follow him forward, so that he found himself puzzled about the physics of what was going on, and he was no longer sure whether he was sitting upright on the sofa or reclining backwards against the arm. As an experiment he tried to sit up, which confirmed he was in fact sitting up already, and the small red light which he thought might have been on the ceiling above him was just a standby light on the stereo system across the room.