Tuesday, June 22, 2010


You had asked her to stump you and, like you knew she would, she did. Things had gone beautifully, the way they always do. It's one of your favorite things about her. Sometimes it's the only thing you like about her.

Now you sit in bed leaning back against the head board listening for the faint sounds of her crying, but as usual there are none to be heard. You can just make out her form bent at the waist, legs over the edge, the small traitorous movements of her shoulders the only evidence of her tears. There's a part of you that wants to reach out, hold her, place a hand on her shoulder maybe- any act of comfort no matter how small. But you know it would only make her cry harder so you sit in the dark and listen unable to pretend to drift off to sleep.

She says she has to go to the bathroom and gets up. The door closes. The light comes on.

You wonder if your both pretending you don't know somehow cushions this or if it's only a farce facilitated by your guilt. Guilt? You were hoping for casual indifference, but yes, you decide, guilt is the better fit. After all, you knew when you asked that she would do it. She always does it. And you knew that when you were finished she would cry because she always cries when it's over. Sometimes you think you won't ask again, but you always do.

The toilet flushes and the faucet starts. It'll be another five minutes at the fastest. Once she forgot to shut the door completely and when you passed it on the way to the kitchen you glanced inside. She was standing by the sink tears streaming down her face massaging the air where her left hand used to be. You couldn't ask her for a month after that. In fact, just thinking back on it makes you hate yourself a little. Knowing that she's in there now rubbing that absent appendage makes you hate her a little too.

The faucet shuts off and the light follows. You slide down in the bed and turn over, eyes closed. She climbs into bed and you can feel her looking at you. You pretend to be asleep. She's calm now- collected. If you looked at her, you think, you'd never imagine the past few minutes. But you don't look. She settles in. After she drifts off you remember that you didn't say goodnight.

She's gone before you wake up- a frequent though not constant occurrence for mornings after nights like the last. There's no particular pattern to it, but sometimes when she's not there you wish that she was, and sometimes when she is you wish that she wasn't. Today you're not sure.

You shower and dress and make your way to the kitchen. She's set up the coffee maker on her way out. Maybe you wish she was. There's a note on top of the spoons. You're definitely glad she isn't.

The note is new twist, one you're fairly certain isn't welcome- especially with your morning coffee. The two of you have never done notes before and the domesticity of it feels intrusive. You decide on black coffee that morning, but take the note out of the drawer. You put off reading it and settle into your first mug. The note could be important, you think. It could be goodbye, you think.

Goodbye. There's an unexpected sharpness to that. You stare at the note over your coffee mug. You take a deep breath you don't realize you're taking until it's expelled. You reach for the note with a forced casualness. You don't force yourself to read it so much as disallow yourself to skim.

An apology. Not goodbye at all. You catch yourself almost wishing it was goodbye. Her apologizing for last night is somehow offensive. Or maybe its accusatory? No, more than that. It feels like an indictment.

You grab your phone and start to call- to apologize. You stop mid-dial. You're not sure why, but you can't complete the call. You close you phone and stare at the note. You finish your coffee and use the note to wipe up the ring left by the mug. It's not a complete cleaning success, but that wasn't really the point. You toss the soiled paper in the trash and empty the coffee filter on top of it.

It's almost as if there was never a note at all. You decide to pretend you never got it. You'll figure out the details before the next time you see her. Maybe you won't even have to do that much. It'll be just like last night and all the other nights like it that came before. It's one of her favorite things about you, she's told you. Sometimes it's the only thing she likes about you.


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