something good can work (sometimes)Posted: July 5, 2010
Her eyes are full of nothing but contempt, but I can’t bear to look away.
“I’m done.” She says, staring out into the afternoon sky as rendered by a large city and slightly grimy glass. The air tastes like steam and clove cigarettes and it takes all of my effort to resist a cough. Light filters in through windowpanes, illuminating specks of dust floating in their best imitation of a summer tempest and creating pinstripes on the floor. She is leaning against a wall painted a shade of blue that I didn’t pick, her right shoulder a vertex of the triangle formed by the forty year old wall, the cold, wooden flooring, and her slender, gracious body. “With you,” she continues, “It hasn’t been the same since.” Plumes of gray rise towards the ceiling, emanating from her breath. I watch them float, my mind blank and my mouth most likely agape. “What is it that you want?” she finally asks, breaking my gaze. The door behind me clicked to a close not five minutes ago. That same look has stayed on her face from the second she heard my greeting, and those were the first words that were spoken from her crimson lips.
“A drink.” I say, and she reluctantly obliges, retreating to a hallway behind her which leads towards the kitchen. I take a seat on a creaky old wooden chair, on which I’ve probably sat for the amount of hours it takes for the Earth to take its well rehearsed lap around the Sun. The arms are lacquered, and I can feel some familiar cracks in the otherwise pristine surface. Its color reminds me of her hair, as does the color of the table in front of me. Atop it lays a white mug, stained with lipstick. Next to it, a hardcover novel that I haven’t gotten around to reading, and on top of that, a cellular telephone. I resist the urge to grab it and instead look around the room for what she had replaced. A spot on her coffee table reserved for photo frames seemed emptier than usual. “I ran out of sugar,” she says, under her breath, “so I guess this cup is going to be a bitter one. You don’t mind, do you?” Her voice seems calloused.
“Oh, not at all.” The lighter gray floating into the ether from the cup placed in front of me replaced the darker smoke from her clove, which had vanished. “You know me.” I hesitate taking a sip. “This isn’t poisoned, is it?” She’s resisting the urge to slap me in the face, I just know it. It’s comments like these that always annoyed her. “You’re doing that thing, again…” she trails off, fumbling for a pack of cigarettes. “Where you come here, tell me we need to talk about something, and start making stupid jokes.” It was next to an ashtray, coincidentally next to a scarf that I bought for her. Inside the pack was a purple lighter and the few filtered Marlboros that were left. “Next thing you’re probably going to do is ramble on for a bit about yourself, or some story, or how I should really cut back on the nicotine.” She knew me too well. “It’s typical you, Simon. Just drink the goddamn tea, you’re lucky the kettle was already on the stove when you decided to show up.”
I take a minute and observe her body, as her eyes are directed towards the specks of paint in the ceiling, lips pursed with a thin white cylinder wedged between her left middle and index fingers. It was a familiar position. I take a sip, my eyes moving in the opposite trajectory of the mug approaching my mouth. She wasn’t expecting any visitors. Her toenails unpainted, her legs uncovered save for a pair of shorts meant to be slept in, nothing more. She’s wearing a shirt that I always seemed to love, an inside joke silkscreened onto bright red cotton. The apartment we were in felt colder than it used to, and I’m surprised she doesn’t feel the same way. She lifts her arms to stretch, the dim orange ember at the tip of her cigarette tracing the shape of a “S” into the air being stirred around by air conditioning. This causes her shirt to lift no more than an inch, and the moment I glimpse her navel I’m flooded with memories of her skin’s warmth.
“You’re done, huh? So where does this leave us?” I finally manage to say, after she flicks ashes into their proper holding area. “It’s been about a month since we’ve really talked.” I lean in closer, placing my elbow on the table and looking towards her eyes, which are still elsewhere. She chuckles, and mirrors my gesture while pointing an accusatory finger at my forehead. “You mean, it’s been about a month since you dropped off the face of the Earth.” I can’t help but laugh with her, as much as I hate to admit my transgression. “Among other things, I needed some time to think.” I finally manage to say.
She knew where this conversation was going, I could tell. “You know, I had a dream about you the other night.” Her interest seemed to be piqued while I paused to take a sip of tea, which was now a bit less than lukewarm. “We were sitting across from each other, much like this, and I just sat there for the entire dream listening to you list out all of my faults, all of the things I’ve done horribly wrong and every lie I’ve told so many times that I trick even myself into thinking they’re actually true.” For a second, it seems as if her eyes are sympathetic. “I’m… sorry?” She says with a hint of condescension. It takes nearly all of my willpower to prevent myself from breaking my composure. “Did I neglect to mention that we proceeded to have sex?” I lie, more to calm myself down than to be any sort of charming. She snorts, the same way she always did when I fibbed about being a superhero.
“You’re not the only human being in this world blessed with the ability to think.” I fake surprise and I can tell she’s struggling not to grin. For some reason, I notice that she had left her cigarette in one of the ashtray’s grooves, letting it burn slowly and release a constant stream of wisps. “Did you really think something between us could last? We’re like two trains trading passengers at the same station for a few minutes before setting off in entirely opposite directions.” She leans back in her chair and sighs a sigh that could very well be mistaken for a soft moan. “Look, if we go down this road, what then? You know that it’s probably a mistake and though our little experiment seemed all fun and exciting, and it was, until you pretty much disappeared, I’ve realized that I just don’t…” She trails off. “Let me get that out of your way, I’ll be right back.” She says, under her breath, pointing at the cup of tea that I have absent-mindedly been drinking. It’s empty.
I blink, and she’s in the kitchen. Feeling antsy, I stand and make my way to the hallway we were standing in what seemed like ages ago. The beams of light are on a different part of the flooring, making patterns with a pair of shoes left carelessly against the wall. She shuffles into my field of vision, and suddenly we’re standing in front of each other. She jumps back, startled. “What the hell, Simon.” The disparity in our heights is apparent when we’re two feet away. She looks up at my eyes, marbles of jade framed by locks of hair hastily brushed aside, and I’m suddenly struck with the urge to kiss her. Try as I might, I cannot shake the notion from my mind. She looks away, as if I’m the most predictable thing since the tides. “If you’re planning some ridiculous gesture, stop.”
She grabs the upper half of my arm, her nails ever so slightly digging into my skin. “I know you want to kiss me, but that’s a mistake.” She has enough foresight to know my subsequent, one word question. “I don’t feel the same way I do around you. Not anymore. And if I try to explain why I feel this way, well, I can’t even rationalize it myself.” She pauses for half a beat. “You’re the exact same person that I thought I fell in love with.”All I could do was awkwardly nod, pushing away the notion into the deeper recesses of my brain, only to have it start yelling. If only it was enough to know that at a certain point in time, her thoughts were in tune with mine, and I just wasted too much time. I try edging in closer, but her grip suddenly stiffens.
I yield to it, and make my way toward the door. The seconds it takes for my hand to reach the handle are agonizing. It lingers on the gold-colored metal, covering a distorted reflection of my face, waiting for her to say something that my mind knows she won’t say. “This really could have worked, you know.” I say, under my breath, barely audible. I take in the familiar scent of this home, the sweet aroma of tea and cloves, a hint of her perfume and paper inscribed with ink, turning the handle in such a manner than it creaks for three seconds.
After those three seconds pass, I hear another lukewarm apology coming from behind my back as I walk out the door, acknowledging that my words got to her safely.