She swims laps around the perimeter of the bowl, face beaming a magnified grin—bulbous eyes, wide mouth—upon every turn into a curve.
“Lazy Susan.” The cashier leans on his forearms. His own mouth twists up at me, a washrag, wrenching out everything aloof about him. The second thing to smile at me today.
“Poor thing.” I turn away with a hitch of breath, reach out to trail my finger across the lip of her bowl. She follows the track of my pointer, but I quickly flick it up and away. It’s teasing, to tempt her like that. She stalls, uncertain where her guide has gone, with a royal blue flap of fins.
I don’t turn back around. I know his head will be tilted. I know the light will catch the blonde hairs on his arm, almost invisible. I glance down at my freckled wrists and frown. My hair darker than his. We’ve had this conversation before. I know what I’ll say next.
It’ll be,“Well, how’s she ever supposed to live up to anything but, with a name like that?”
—and he’ll laugh, a quick ha, more musing than amused—
And then I’ll continue with, “If I had her—”
Him, “And what if you did?”—
“Well, I’d name her—”
—but: “Let me guess”
and then, “Three,” and I’ll mean Guesses, three guesses, but I won’t specify, but he’ll get it.
Rapid fire: “Sapphire, Onyx, Rebecca.”
“Oh, no, but I like that last one”—with a turn to face him, our eyes lively as well as lips, quick, stuttering hearts in chests—
So I’d say, “Queen,” and—
“What, just Queen?”
And five days from now we’d be kissing.
And five months from now we'd be everywhere.
And five years from now we’d be married.
But I do not. I do not turn around, and I do not question the name she’s been given from the standard-issue catalogue, computer-generated and printed on a placard. This is not a small-town, mom-and-pop shop called Fur n’ Feathers or something equally adorable, this is a chain, and he is merely a worker with the name Tom affixed to his vest.
I don’t care about the beginnings, or the middles, or the ends. I do not want the children we will have some day. I do not want the fire when I look at him, the forgetting of the everything wrong, all inhibitions gone up in smoke, reduced to ash. I do not.
I know, and he does not. He never does.
I give the bowl one last tap, and pivot on my heel. I walk out, knowing he’s watching, inexplicably drawn to me, needing me to turn around. He doesn’t realize why I can’t give us back these moments, why I have to change them again and again and again. It all starts with him, and it always ends. Out of love, is how we end. Falling out.
It hurts most when it doesn’t.
My vision for this: I DO NOT KNOW. Maybe a short-length little series of insights in this story. Not necessarily in chronological or even sensical order, just pieces. Dunno where I'm going with this, or if I'm going, or what! Just an idea, really.