Inspired by the weekly writing challenge. In hopes to get a little bit better at narrating my posts.
My latte is thick with foam, and as it envelops my spoon for one final stir, I find myself wishing I too could submerge myself in a soft, deafening layer of warm milk. I imagine myself floating under the surface, my body wrapped in a heated dairy-hug, my ears filled with sweet, crackling foam.
The slut slams her oversized leather purse down on the table. It hits the surface with a moist, suctioned thwap, like hot sweaty thighs peeling apart or a plastic wrapper sliding off of a defunct popsicle. She jingles dramatically down into her chair, her earrings, bracelets, and keys all chiming out of tune.
“It took more than forty-five minutes for me to find a space. It’s the neighborhood, I told you, it’s not the kinda place you wanna go for a quick drink. A drink here is never quick. It’s always a production. If it’s not the parking, there’s construction. And if it’s not the construction it’s the restaurant, like it’s closed for renovations on the busiest week of the year. But you chose this place and you know I’m trying to be nice, so here I am.”
She offers a grin. The skin and cosmetics around her teeth pull back, revealing a bleach-white smile, but the rest of her face does not move. The smile lines under her eyes never materialize, and her thinly penciled brows stay at their expectant 45-degree angle, as if her hello is also a question.
Before he has a chance to respond, she bulldozes on.
“You already ordered a drink, huh? I know I’m late but you coulda called or text to ask if I wanted something. The coffee here is so bitter anyways. I bet they’re out of those smoothies. I like the packaging but they’re so small so everyone buys two at a time and by 3pm there’s nothin’ left in the case for anyone else.”
She jingles her hand in the air wildly, cueing a loud orchestra of bangle bracelets that refract a rapid flash of light around the room. “Can I have a kale shot an’ a glass of water? No ice. And also a low fat cinnamon muffin? You don’t sell gum, do you? OK, just the shot, the water, and the muffin, thanks.”
“Anyways,” she continues, “I know you wanna talk but I’m just gonna be blunt here. I’m not really interested in hearing anything you have to say. It’s bad enough I hadta drive all the way out here to listen to you, but I want you to know now before this conversation even starts that I don’t think you’re going to be able to say anythin’ that changes my mind.”
The man’s voice, which comes out surprisingly deep, only says her name, in a stern, parental tone.
“I’m serious! You’ve been sucha douche for the past six months, and I’ve been so kind and have put up with it all. You expect so much of me but you’re not willin’ to give anything in return. And then what happened with my mother. I’m not even going to go into detail about how much that hurt me. I’ve had to think about that day, every day, and it was you that made it so terrible. That was supposed to be one of the best days. . . . and I think that’s the worst part. You were just so inconsiderate, like always, and took that best day away from me.”
Her order arrives at the table and she swats the waitress away with the back of her hand.
“And that’s not even the worst of it. Now I’ve had friends asking what happened, and it’s not like I’m gonna talk about it with anyone. I’ve felt depressed and anxious almost every day. I’m not sleeping well. I’ve gained four pounds. And on top of that all I don’t have you around anymore. So I’m relying on myself for everything. And it’s really not fair for you to walk in and out of my life at random, like you have this power to choose to one day to be a dick and the next day my boyfriend. That’s not how it works.”
His first sentence is short and firm. “You’re not being fair.”
“I am being fair! Do you know how hard I worked to make our relationship good? I surprised you with that dinner on Valentine’s Day. I bought the second coffee machine that you asked for. I didn’t even want that. I was so nice to your family when they were in town, I acted like they were my own. And now you just wanna throw that all away. And you don’t even have the balls to tell me. You just act like a douche because you know I’m gonna get mad at you, and just walk away. Well I’m not that stupid and now I want you to account for your actions. So say something.”
“You know I never intentionally hurt you. You know I’ve done my best to look after you.”
“Ohh, by what? Takin’ out the trash? Always making sure we have milk in the fridge? It’s you that likes the milk, not me.”
“You drink it too.”
“Yeah, but only the fat free kind. And you always buy the 2%.” Her face softens, and for one millisecond, she appears as if she is capable of human emotion. Perhaps she had a happy, fleeting thought. Or maybe she just felt her phone vibrate in her purse.
Either way, he has found an opening. He speaks carefully, firmly, with reason behind each word. “Listen, I don’t want to argue or bicker anymore. I want to work to make things right, but we both have to do this together.”
“Well I need you to act like we’re together, not like you have been, like you don’t even care about me.”
He takes a deep breath. “We can work on that.”
“Fine, ok. But there’s something else I wanna work on too,” she rushes on, “whenever I talk, I feel like you’re not really listening to me. Like you’re tuning me out or just outright ignoring what I’m saying. And it’s nasty and rude. And if we’re being serious, like you say, if we’re considering raising a family together, I want them to know how to respect each other. I want them to listen to what the other one is saying. No, I don’t want that. I need that. You know family values are so important to me and I really thought, when we first met, they were important to you too. So can you help work on this one thing?”
He smiles. “I just want us both to be happy.”
He extends a long arm around the table, grabbing her chair by the seat and pulling her, bumpily, towards him. The chair screeches against the floor. Her legs hit the table and some of her water jumps out of the glass, but she doesn’t notice. All she sees is this man who somehow loves her.
Two weeks later I see on the 10 o’clock news that she’s missing. That she’s been missing for some days. That there are no leads. I think about her loud mouth and her colorful appearance, and wonder how she could have gotten lost.
I still sometimes see him in the coffee shop, brooding over his extra-hot latte. Usually he’s alone. Sometimes he has a book or a stack of papers he flips through. But mostly he just sits there. And he holds his coffee. And smiles.