Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
In an Overcrowded Bar
“We don’t talk. We bludgeon one another with facts and theories gleaned from cursory readings of newspapers and magazines,” Natasha said.
“I read that somewhere, I am certain,” Gabriel replied.
“Our references and theories are stale. That you and I are having this conversation, to showcase how civilized and worthy we are of each other, even that’s stale. All I wanted is to sleep with you.”
“I concur. Let’s get out of this overpriced bar.”
Conversations over Coffee
“‘Let’s get coffee and catch up’ is code for ‘let’s fuck each other’s brains out.'”
“True. I can’t help it though. You’re so beautiful. Every time I see you, I forget what I’m supposed to be thinking or doing.”
“Okay, as long as you can keep the cheese to yourself, you are welcome to meet me at my place with some frappucino in 30 mins. Make sure to coat it with whipped cream and strawberries.”
“You shouldn’t have said that. I have an overactive imagination. I am thinking about what else I could do with the whipped cream.”
“I know. Two can play your game, you know.”
After Some Mindblowing Sex
“Did you have a bad childhood?”
She thought about her youth. The vacations in the Seychelles, selling mango salad with her brother at the school fair, nightly hugs from loving parents, violin lessons from professional concert pianists from the Orpheus orchestra, and approval to drink rosé at 15 during Sunday brunch.
“It was the childhood everyone dreams of.”
“Then what makes you so jaded?” he asked.
“Too much perfection gets boring very fast,” she replied.
“I want you to remember me, always. Can you promise me that?” he said.
“It’s difficult to forget you. You sleep with one foot over my legs, your clothes are in my dryer, and your food is in my fridge”
“You know, remember in a happy way, a way that makes you smile.”
She frowned. “Let’s not be silly,” she said. “I don’t see why my future self has to be poignant, given the pain we shall eventually cause one another.”
He closed his eyes and turned away from her.
“Fine,” he said. “We’ll be unromantic, we’ll fuck. I’ll burp half-way through it, and you can cut your nails and do something outrageous like yawn while I’m inside you, and that’ll all be perfect. I’ll just act like the crazy sexual predator you think I am.”
He laughed as he said this, but the laughter was plastered only on his lips. She felt a sudden surge of tenderness as she stared at his hazel eyes. He looked away.
“Let’s make love,” she said, “No more fucking.”
The Question of Forever
“I’m so happy to see you. What’s the secret behind you looking so radiant all the time?” He followed this sentence with a kiss, not realizing it would be the last time he kissed her. In the next twenty minutes, she would shatter his perceptions of affection, support, and love.
No, at the moment they met under the blooming cherry blossom tree near the Gandhi statue in Union Square, he was completely unaware that their usual petty bickering was not normal bickering, the Tiffany engagement ring- a deep bluesapphire because she hated diamonds- safely nestling in his left coat pocket.
“If I tell you all my secrets, you’ll find me boring. You’ll leave me to go have 2.5 kids with an I-banker.”
Minutes later, he was asking her, “Really? Why? Don’t you love me?” He stubbed out his cigarette. The fumes burned his eyes.
“I like you too much, and I can’t risk liking someone so much. I think people should always leave before they are left themselves.”
“What if there’s no risk?”
“There’s always a risk.”
“You’re killing my soul,” he said. “So our expiration date is the day I propose to you?”
“I never said I loved you. I don’t know how you could be so presumptuous about such vague and elusive terms of describing what is essentially abstract and personal, and what I said from the beginning that I have never believed in,” she said.
She began to walk away.
She thought of her parents’ multiple affairs, of institutionalized traditions, and mostly that she’d said too much to him, without saying anything at all. It was an unbearably hot day, and she was cold. Why did he have to ruin things by trying to trap her when things were going perfectly well, when they had all but been living together in name?
He was still shouting. People were looking. She hunched up her shoulders. The noises were not receding.
She started jogging, then running. She ran from 14th to 18th Street before realizing that she was wearing stilettos.
Jars of Pickle
After she left him on his knees in Union Square, Gabriel called his mother. For the first time in 23 years, 7 months, 11 days, 3 hours and 2 minutes, he cried.
When he was done, she asked, “Honey, did you finish the pickle I sent you?”
“I just thought that she was different.”
“26 year old girls who wear leopard prints enjoy breaking hearts, and they’re good at it, no buts. How many jars of pickle do you want?”
“Why did you and my father get divorced?”
“After a while our routine patterns became stale. I started avoiding him in the house. Difficult, given how small the house is. I needed to get out, live my life.”
“What about me?”
“Children cannot fulfill you. They just distract you from confronting yourself. Sure, I was proud of you, your successful career, your entrepreneurial spirit. Even that you were dating leopard print what’s-her-name? But living vicariously, that’s rubbish.”
“Mom, I’ve been with her for so long. She was even home for Christmas! You cooed over her the whole time.”
“Courtesy, my dear. Never mistake politeness for compassion.”
“But then, how do you measure a relationship? The number of months you sleep next to each other? Vacations you took together? The euphoria you feel, as though your tummy is flip-flopping when you see the other person? Or by the fact that the thought of leaving becomes laudable?”
“Why do you still want to measure when you have been discarded, like putrid bacterial chicken that’s been forgotten in the fridge for too long?”
Ants on the Aloe
When she left, she reveled that she didn’t have to think of herself as half of a ‘fated’ metaphysical whole.
Months later, she sat in her kitchen slicing fruit.
Upon tasting her salad, she realized she had mistakenly cut her fingers.
Without warning, the void where he would have consoled her and they would have laughed at her clumsiness glared menacingly at her.
She fought the taste of blood in her mouth, and looked at her painting of a bowl of raspberries.
There had been a time when everything radiated life. The skies she painted had been light, complete with rolling hills, pleasant villages, and majestic poplars. The pastoral paintings were buoyant, lively.
Now, she was angered. She slashed her paintings with black and red strokes that night. Part of the red came from her own life. The magic in the pictorial abstractions she was muddled, and the only reality left was the dismal regret she felt, for something she couldn’t pinpoint.
The ants arrived suddenly.
She didn’t immediately know whether she would kill them or let them live.
She was sitting on her windowsill when she felt one on her left foot.
There were many black ants eating the aloe vera plant at the end of her foot. She suddenly recalled that she had bought the plant a year back, with Gabriel. They had been poring over antique books for his store at the Brooklyn Flea market, and suddenly, they saw a number of plants. She had been so excited she had spontaneously kissed him.
She swept the ants away from the aloe with her hands, away from the sill. Some of the them fell into the neighbours’ fern garden, but some escaped, scattering over edges and into creaks.
She closed the window. Outside it was raining. She wondered whether rain made ants want to escape from the ground, and that was why they had climbed past two balconies, to find more plants.
In less than a day, the ants were all over her bedroom. The window remained closed, as did the doors. And yet, the ants were on her nightstand, in the drawers, on the lamp switch. She woke up with ants on her face at night. She shivered and sprayed the room with bug spray, and slept on the couch. In the next week, the ants ate all her plants. The exterminator came, but the ants multiplied. Finally, when a sandwich revealed six black ants, she decided it was time to check into a hotel.
Then Natasha finally decided to allow herself to think about him. As she stared at the cheap reproductions of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” she was inspired. She began writing him a note.
She scratched out words, added others, and giggled like a little girl, through the process of writing this note.
What was happening to her, she wondered. Finally, she decided to apologize in person.
About an hour later, she pulled her car to a stop across the street from his house out in Ronkonkoma.
The living room lights were on, and curtains drawn.
And he was kissing her colleague Tina.
Her colleague, who she had introduced him to.
Natasha stood there in shock, watching them undress through the open curtains. Why were the curtains open? She wondered. It was as though her feet would not allow her to move, and her ex wanted her to see everything
“Natasha, what are you doing here?”
Mrs. Miller! Why was the woman always around at the wrong moment? Thankfully Mrs. Miller was too hunched over to see in through the window.
Natasha grinned, mumbled about leaving some stuff behind, ran back to the car, and drove away.
Divergence and Convergence
“Look, you could have taken the time to get over me. But instead you were thinking with this new girl, ‘she’s fabulous, I’ll spontaneously combust into being available and over my ex.’ This put irrational pressure on Tina. She now had to get you over me, and you were doomed to constantly compare us. It’s unfair to have to live in a previous girlfriend’s shadow.”
“How was I supposed to know that you would come back? Thank heavens Mrs. Miller saw you! Jesus, I’m sorry.”
“Sometimes ‘sorry’ means ‘hurry the hell up and accept my apology so I can stop feeling bad about it.’”
“I made a mistake. I really am sorry. Stop torturing me.”
“You made a mistake, true. You thought I would be okay with just a lame apology. You never tried to get me back.”
“How could you say I never tried? You just devalued two years of my life. Do you remember what you told me? You said you thought that I was above such mediocre tendencies after spending so much time with you.”
“Did it occur to you that keeping you at bay was my defense mechanism? It’s easier to push you away than acknowledging you. It’s easier to make you hate me. Through downsizing you, I validate my anger with you for trying to endanger what was perfectly acceptable terms of endearment. I leave you emotionally crippled in future relationships. You’ll second guess your actions because you will think you’re not good enough. This satisfies me.”
“How could you say that it was perfectly acceptable, what we had? Do you even know what I love about you? How you’re absolutely oblivious to what others make of you. It intrigued me, always. I wondered why you are so quiet. And Jesus, what’s wrong with me? I want to kiss you right now, you know that? What else could I have done? You weren’t there. She made moves on me.”
“Really, now? It was you who were unzipping her dress. Anyway, this is not my problem. Get the hell out.”
“Look, it took me forever to track down where you are. Why are you even on the West Coast? I thought you hated the overtly friendly people in California, and they were not your type. You owe me some time. Look at my baggy eyelids. They, and the proof that I took a red eye is enough to showcase I love you.”
“What happens after you say you love me? Do we get a happily ever after?”
“Sweetheart, there’s no such thing as ‘happily ever after.’ We’ll get married, pursue our careers, buy a house. After 11 years, we’ll run out of things to say to each other, and have affairs. We’ll gr0w old together with bitterness, arthritis, and lung cancer.”
“No, but these endings are common. The possibilities of how to fail are endless. Can I ask you to join me for some coffee?”
“Yes, that’s entirely possible.”
Author’s note: This fictitious narrative was based on a number of Facebook status updates. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. My goal was to write stories in 400 characters or less. This is the culminated effort.