Sometimes I sit on a piece of writing until I can get some emotional distance. This is also why sometimes I use the third person, even though I recognize that it’s serial-killer weird to do so.
This one I wrote after “I love you” yet before New Year’s Eve of this year.
The weather was dim and cool, rainy and just humid enough to make walking feel like a chore, even as they trudged through thick, sodden leaves towards their favorite coffee shop.
Well, one of them, anyway.
Old Soul steamed with the scent of wet jackets and dampened hair product. The windows were fogged over, adding to the tropical feel.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, casually perusing the chalkboard menu hanging over the counter.
“Always,” she replied carelessly, focused on taking off her gloves and tucking them into a pocket.
“Why do you never say anything?” he said, turning to watch her face. His expression was astonishment mixed with a little bit of anger, as if she had been keeping a secret from him.
And maybe she had.
“Because women are taught as girls that we are not allowed to be hungry,” she answered firmly, her jaw tightening into that stubborn pit-bull expression he had seen so rarely.
But he had seen it, enough to know that whatever she was thinking, it was serious.
“Why not?” He could not believe, was unable to even imagine, that this was a real conversation between them, in a modern world with WiFi and ten-digit security passwords and the technology to explore deep space.
“Because otherwise my market value diminishes, as it has already several times. Once when I turned twenty-five, then thirty, and again and more steeply at 40,” she replied calmly, nonchalant. The conversation could have been about the quality of oranges at the local food co-op versus purchasing from the seasonal farmers market.
“Your–market value,” he sputtered, thinking on how his tiny, bohemian mother (who had raised him with forcefully equitable beliefs) would react to hearing this conversation. “You are not a–” checked himself, barely in time,” –a horse on the market! You are a woman, a grown educated woman. You can eat whatever you want, be whatever size makes you comfortable.”
She looked at him, her eyes somehow wise and old and yet still the same as five minutes ago.
“People hire people who make them feel comfortable, more often than simply due to talent or ability. Looks are an important trading card; being better-looking and thinner is an asset. What if I were to date someone else? They will judge me, just like a horse on the market, before I ever even speak to them. It is just the way the world works, however much I may disagree.
And therefore I am always hungry, and I never eat my fill.”
But he had gone deaf at the words “date again”. He longed to tell her that she would never date anyone ever again in her lifetime, that he loved her far into every possible future.
But he did not.
Somehow, he could not.
The moment passed as they sipped their coffee.
In this moment, I really, really wanted to hear him say it, to voice some tenuous promise of a future together.
However, as so often happens between us, there was only silence, and then we moved on to speak of other things.