~*~*~*~ I Shall Wear White Flannel Trousers, 16

Submitted by Sarah Bethany on Sat, 03/17/2018 - 17:39

Sorry for how long this is! Contains a minor kiss scene, so you're aware. Also mentions a first date NOT in a public place (a hike) and I want to say that, if I felt uncomfortable in any way, I would have terminated it. But I don't normally advocate not meeting in public, and wanted to make that clear! Also, the next few chapters are a bit chaotic, in the sense that they jump around in their time-frame a lot. I tried to keep it as steady as possible, but I'm sorry for any confusion on that note. Sarah


* * *


There is a scar on my palm from the day I met my boyfriend's parents, an artist and a mailman. In the kitchen we opened a jar of manjar from Chile -- it was milk, caramelized and condensed, and we dipped black walnuts into it.

Then I climbed an apple tree outside, and swinging down at my boyfriend's feet, I wrung the branch and gouged my hand on a knot. I bled down the wrist.

"Kiss it," I said afterwards, holding up my bandaged hand, "-- doctor."

He dropped a ginger kiss on the heel of my hand.

When he broke up with me, I sat on the bathtub's edge at my nannying job and looked at this scar, pink and the length of a caterpillar, and I felt stuck with that mark.

Like he had manacled my memories, because I would have to take my hand with me into my old age.

End caesura.

* * *

After Daniel's bus pulled away, I drove back to my parents' house. Then I drifted aimlessly through the garden; a siúlóir in Gaeilge.

When my phone indicated two p.m., I knew he was in the air, over the Atlantic. At that moment I found grape vines growing along our pool fence. They were plump, white -- which meant they contained no anthocyanins. I devoured them; they were soft and viscous in my mouth. Three bald-faced hornets vibrated nearby, biting into the grape-flesh, and I supped with them.

Dolichovespula maculata.

I laid down, letting the grass take me. Funny, in my loneliness just then, I was thinking more about my ex than about Daniel. I wanted to be tethered to the ground; I only wanted to be held by him. So now I pressed my face hard into the earth: the dry grass smelling like warm soil and hay. Then I kicked off my shoes, and rolled my shirt sleeves up. I rested face-down in the afternoon heat, the air so thick it was like being inside hot honey. When I finally stood up again I had lines all over my body, red lines on my stomach and thighs and cheek and nose, like I had been whipped and scored by the grass.

Then I went in search of more grapes, the ones with anthocyanins. While I was walking around our neighborhood, barefoot on the gummy asphalt, I happened to look down at my palm. I noticed my scar was no longer salmon-colored. I realized that, sometime during the last few weeks, it must have joined the skin of my hand, intersecting my love line. The scar was now the pale color of my skin; it looked like a part of my body.

Just then I found the purple grapes, the vines curling along the ground near my neighbor's house. I ate a handful (so sour) and decided on the spot: I was a self-actualizing woman in that apple tree, swinging so gustily. I had given myself to life: I found a shriveled apple and flew through the air and risked the blood. And to a gypsy, my faint scar might look like a new fate line: a diazo print, the mesh rewritten. I had re-made myself while dating him and I would re-make myself again. Through this world I was swinging, forever getting scarred, and then letting those scars absorb back into the history of my body. The lines became new maps, new pathways. Perhaps leading to good things, even.

But alongside my relief in deciding not to comply with my ex's conditions, I had a sensation of loneliness. Holding the grapes in my hands, I felt the heat of the sun smoothing over my hair again and again. My longing for the man was like a live animal still inside me. Looking back over the last year, I thought about the positives, the progression of falling in love. While we were still on our road trip, Daniel had asked me why I loved my ex. We had pulled into a truck stop off the highway to get Burger King. "Not that you owe me an explanation," Daniel added hastily. We were sitting in a booth, with ketchup and fries in yellow paper in front of us. "You never owe me that."

Daniel's tone was familiar to me: it was the kind where he knew was possibly walking across brittle ice in my mind and did not want to puncture any black spots. Still, he was risking inviting the intimacy, and his tone told me would step away if I wanted; but if I allowed, he would advance with slippered feet.

"No, I do think I owe it this time," I said, biting into my fish fillet. It squished with mayonnaise and limp lettuce. "This time I do, because I talked so much about feeling empty. So you're probably wondering why I'm squashed flat as roadkill now."

"Kind of, yes," said Daniel warily, licking the ketchup off his pinky finger. "Actually, yes: completely yes."

I thought carefully, munching on my fries, and studying a display of live bamboo and an interior waterfall -- strangely elegant for Burger King. I swallowed. I told Daniel that my ex was just so honest. He lived life juicily and frankly; he brought his entire self to life and to relationships. It was this full-contact, full-bodied aspect that first drew me; it was his consistent authenticity that ultimately captured me. His ability to communicate without almost no filters called out a deep and beautiful honesty from me; however hot and painful at times, our exchanges were also powerful and sweet, and we became very intimate in this manner. He was self-reflective and could also gently admit when he was wrong, I told Daniel -- an ultimate characteristic that I value. He was not afraid to lay his hands anywhere in life -- in the dirt and grime -- and he loved humanity. He had made his own life; he was building his career from the ground up by himself. He was idealistic and full of lovely, lovely, boyish dreams.

I left Burger King in my mind then, and returned to my neighborhood, eating another dark purple grape. The bulbous interior was pale green -- gelatinous -- and veined with red. I licked my tongue over the tartness. Then I began to reflect on how I met my ex-boyfriend -- how our relationship first began.

At the end of last year, I was single, and my friend Alex had given birth on Christmas day.

Though she was not near her due date, I had woken at three that morning -- just as her amniotic fluid gushed -- and thought of her: and then received a text that her water had broken. That Christmas day, as she was pushing her Lillie into the world, I did something that advanced my own fate: in a spontaneous frenzy of need and longing, I reactivated a dating profile online. It was indirectly related to Alex giving birth: while my friend was experiencing the height of life a thousand miles away, birthing her child with her husband's arms around her, deep down I wanted that high level of life, too -- to no longer wander like a gypsy without a ballast, without romantic love. The next day, two things happened: I bought a ticket to Chicago, and received a message on the dating site, from a medical student. He had angular eyebrows, and a smile towards which I was instantly and unmistakably magnetized. I liked the way his shoulders were set so straightly in his picture, and even the way his hands hugged his elbows. I also loved his pink plaid shirt, the sleeves rolled-up.

He wrote in a bubbly tone: GirlElf! Are you back in the states? I think you still get the award for my favorite message I've gotten on here :)

And I thought -- I had messaged him before?

Then I remembered, instantly, that he was not someone new. I had contacted this student exactly a year ago, when I was still living in Ireland. I made a dating profile briefly, to meet new people. But somehow this Bostonian had popped up in my profile search, three-thousand miles away. There was something about his face -- familiar; something about the ochre light of his photo and the homey smile that drew me to him. Even though I was going to be in Europe for another ten months, I needed to write to this twenty-four-year old.

Now, a year later, I lifted my fingers above the keyboard, paused, and then responded, I am indeed back in the states! Got back for the holidays. :D Feeling completely flabbergasted and discombobulated.
Remind me again the message I sent? (wrong thing to say, I know, sorry!!)

He recalled that I said I was going to stay in Europe for another ten months or so, but that I thought he was very good-looking, and if I was home I would invite him for a snowy hike. He said he remembered the message "totally making his day".

In a flood of warmth, I responded that we should still go on that wintry walk, though it was a green Christmas. He agreed, and then admitted he found a video of me online, from the time I lived in Spain. He told me I seemed "sweet, thoughtful". He said I "instantly conveyed playfulness and warmth", which were "some of the most important factors in a relationship" for him. I agreed that written profiles can be lively but misleading, and not correspond to any real vitality in person. My word "vitality" jumped out at him, and he said he wouldn't normally put it that way, but he looked for that quality in a partner, too.

I told him I did as well, and wanted to increase it in myself. "The times that I've been happiest in life," I wrote to him, "have been equally times when I have felt most alive, energized, and healthy."

He affirmed what I said, and replied, "I think one of my favorite traits of myself, and what I love to find in other people, is passion, excitement, and gratitude for what comes into our lives."

"Yup, yup, yup, that's me, too." My fingers were now scrambling over the keyboard, trembling with excitement. "Sometimes I love what I have in my life so much that I feel bursting with it!"


That's awesome :)

O man this is such a tease. Now I really can't wait to meet you :)

It was the initial magic of values lining up, which tugs at my heartstrings more than anything. Men were not usually this open with me, or talked so candidly about their values and desires. I was intrigued; giddy. I told him I was traveling to Chicago in a couple weeks, and asked if he was free that coming weekend, but he was tied up: he had studying to do before a rotation. So we decided that we would meet at the end of January, when I returned. We cordially said goodnight, exchanging numbers.

But the next day I got a text from him. "I don't want to wait," he told me. "I will somehow get my studying done early -- I'm on for this weekend."

I both melted and my heart beat faster. He was willing to push himself, to shovel more onto his plate, just to meet me. I again proposed we keep our year-late hike, and he researched a trail equidistant between us. "Oh, wow, that's actually my stomping ground," I exclaimed, elated, when he picked a nine-mile hike around a lake. "I grew up in Moguncoy!"

"It's a date," he texted. I liked that he called it that; it meant we were meeting on official footing and with clear intentions.

I took excessive care in getting ready that Sunday. When I drove along the curving back road (ignoring the fact that I was driving my mother's plus-sized, matronly minivan, because my own car needed repairs), I fought an intense nausea in my stomach, due to excitement. As I watched the white-salted roads slipping away in front of me, winding through the barren woods and clapboard houses, I thought, "I don't know what's around these bends: maybe my future soulmate." I fiddled with the radio, trying to look casual if he was already in the parking lot, and hoping that I landed on a song that accurately represented my personality, if he heard it playing.

But I arrived first, and parked in the nearly-empty lot, surrounded by a couple pick-up trucks and some boat trailers. The red pines were tall and feathery at the tops. The wind whipped across the pure-blue lake. I stood outside my car and waited, in a flapping pink scarf and jean jacket (I was too image-sensitive to wear my bulky winter coat like I should have). When he pulled in, in a beat-up white car like my own, he told me later that his first impression was, "I pulled in and saw this blonde bombshell standing there!" He got out of his car brightly, and it seemed like he owned nothing but a smile -- it exuded from him, out-shone every other handsome feature -- and my nerves disappeared, engulfed in his radiance. He made eye contact and greeted me, "Heyyy!" in a way I would learn to love. We hugged quickly. "Oh, wait, I have something for you --" and he ducked back into his car, and picked up something from the floor of his passenger side.

He emerged from his car, holding a pot of roses, grinning again. His smile was even more powerful and luminous than his photo suggested. The plant was small, gushing with pink roses, and the pot was tin, an old-fashioned blue. I was overcome: I had never received flowers in the first minute of meeting someone. I crooned over them, hugging the pot between my hands, and told him how they were the perfect color -- a delicate pink -- how did he know? He said it was a guess; when he saw them, he associated them with what he already knew of me.

I put the roses away in the van, and when we entered the woods, I fished for a polite question. When I asked about his family, he took me up on the inquiry enthusiastically. "Sure, I'll give you the low-down," he acquiesced, holding a hemlock branch back for me. "I'll start with my parents."

Then he began talking about them in detail, and I realized he was going to work his way, very deliberately, from his parents down through his four siblings. "Oh, no," I thought. I tightened up a little; it sounded like he might be launching into a pre-established speech, rehearsed for first dates. I wondered if this was going to be a nine-mile hike of listening to someone else's self-concerned and rote monologue, without a chance of being heard myself.

But this lasted only a couple seconds, and I realized he was not chattering, but being generous to me. He was a born storyteller. He offered a miniature portrait of each person, colorful and accurate. I became entranced by the way he talked: so smoothly, affectionately. He seemed to be surrounded by an aura of pink sweetness -- he obviously loved his family. His mother painted with oils and rented audio books for her husband on his mail routes. His brother skateboarded. His parents were Catholic, but he wasn't. He expressed intense respect and admiration for his parents, who did not judge their children's choices. He told me a few more surprisingly vulnerable facts.

When it was my turn to share, I hesitated -- considered how deeply to share -- and then just jumped into the cold water. I told him about my family, too, in my own way, not leaving out the ugly details -- like the prevalent addictions -- but telling these aspects simply. As I talked, a feeling washed over me: delight in bringing my heart so close to the surface for him to see, and so spontaneously. It was refreshing, as clean-feeling as the pine trees and the splashing blue water. I began to be enveloped by a surety that I was all-in -- I was present; I would be invested for the next few hours with this stranger. Because he brought his whole self to me, I brought mine to him.

A quarter of the way around the lake, I showed him a birch tree where, several years before, I had carved "You Are Loved" into the skin with a sharp rock. It was still there, the lingering lines of the carving now a burnt-orange. The bark was a powdery gray, with peeling blushing bark. He actually took a picture of the birch, capturing my words and the lake behind the tree. He explained -- as he slid the phone back into his pocket -- "As a memo of today." I had carved the words as a message for strangers to stumble on.

By the time we were half-way around the circumference, he knew exactly how many children I wanted to have (because he asked), and I knew his future dreams: he wanted to be a family physician, work thirty-six hours, play pick-up volleyball during the week, and grill on Sundays. I laughed -- inside, not at him. His life vision was so simple, peaceful. Something about it nestled into my heart. His dreams were domestic; they counter-balanced my raging ambitions. I had only returned from Europe recently, and I still felt battered, thin, hollow. My heart was hungry and raw and unsure about everything. My newest writing project was teetering on uncertainty, and returning to my family was disturbing in many ways. The passage home was hard -- not the flight, just the transition. It was like my clothes were soaked from crossing the ocean, and the freezing wetness clung to me. Talking to this future doctor, I saw an invitation to be drawn close to a warm hearth, to dry off, and be wrapped up in furs. He exuded stability, structure, and a wholesome life. My gypsy existence of traveling and writing looked chaotic and unsettled in comparison. Still, I didn't hide from him that half my heart was left behind in Ireland -- or that I might return. But what I did not mention was how deeply I was craving a harbor, a home, a fireside. I was barely aware of the fact myself. But on our hike, I just exhaled; I saw the potential to be safe with him. To breathe out fully.

Because my friend Caitlin lived nearby, I stopped in after the hike and said hi. I waltzed into her living room, flopping onto her sofa and whooshed out a gust of air. "I just met an amazing man," I glowed. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I just have to say, I'm so glad I met him." I was lying on my back, kicking my foot, crossed over my knee. "Now I know good men exist. I know good men are out there, and that's what counts."

That evening, fifteen minutes after walking into my parents' kitchen, I got a text from my date. I took my phone out of my purse and read: Thanks so much for today, Sarah! You are simply beautiful, inside and out, and you radiate so much love and warmth. How do you feel about Indian food on Friday?

It was a whirlwind from there. Only ten days after meeting each other, we were in a committed relationship. The next morning I flew to the cold midwest.

In Chicago, my friend and I swayed in her kitchen to Irish music, and baked cookies. (Or she baked, and I ate the batter.) Alex carried her infant in a sling the color of sweet potatoes. Her kitchen smelled like a delicious burned marshmallow. Outside, there was snow on the dirty sidewalks; the air was frigid. Her apartment was creaky, filled with houseplants. Alex spent most of her days wrapped in a warm afghan, nursing her infant. One evening I lay on the guest bed, took out pretty pink stationary, and wrote the medical student a letter. I had never been so bold before; never told a man I was drawn to him -- and definitely not in letter-form. I said I was dazzled by his green eyes, and by his nutmeg-colored skin.

I wrote to him what our first kiss felt like for me, which happened on our second date. On the Friday after our hike, he drove me to an Indian restaurant in the city of Worcester.

He warned me, as we got into the car, that it might smell like vinegar, because he was experimenting with ways to melt ice on his windshield. "Also, as a heads-up, this Indian place looks pretty dinky from the outside," he told me, starting the engine, "and kind of sketchy, but I promise the naan is delicious." The restaurant was close to his apartment, and as he turned left across the highway, he became unsure about where the entrance was -- but, instead of rushing through the decision like I might have, he calmly kept his foot on the brake, looked around, saw the entrance, and then safely crossed the traffic. I liked that he took that moment: he was both serene and decisive.

As we pulled into the restaurant lot, I happened to look behind me, and I noticed the biggest cardboard box of granola bars I had ever seen. There must have been hundreds of individually wrapped oats 'n honey bars.

"Whoa," I hooted, facing forward again, "you really like granola bars."

"Oh, no," he countered, straightening the wheel and parking in front of the restaurant -- which was small, and the cement walls were dirty. "Those are just for homeless people in Worcester."

And then it happened. I fell -- perhaps not in love -- but I unlatched the door of my heart fully and opened it wide. He could have me if he wanted. Granola bars for the homeless. He could have all of me. And I knew he would not have volunteered the information, had I not asked. "You are won by nobility," a friend observed to me once. I unzipped my seatbelt when he turned off the car; however the conversation would go at the restaurant, I was predisposed to love whatever he said.

Which was a good thing, too, because I listened to stories from his surgery rotation (dipping our naan bread into yogurt, sprinkled with chopped chives) and heard graphic details about the process of tracheal intubation. But I focused mainly on his eyes, ignoring the dizzying images of plastic tubes and windpipes. I loved our warm eye contact; how his green flannel shirt set off his pine-colored eyes. He vibrated with energy and joy. My stomach vibrated with butterflies.

When we got back to his apartment, I hesitated in front of my car. Then he asked if I wanted to come in -- just for tea. It sounded wholesome, and I did what I never did before: I said yes. We went inside, and while he boiled water in a cooking pan, I studied his book shelf in the other room. All books of anatomy. No novels. He came into the living room, carefully balancing a cup of "Throat Coat" echinacea tea. "It's all I have," he apologized. I sipped the golden, bitter tea, and set it down on the floor. He sat down next to me; the couch squeaked, because it was stiff red leather. Then we talked, but I knew we weren't really talking. Or at least I knew we both didn't really know what we were saying. I had put my arm around the back of the sofa, not encircling him, but in a way that invited the possibility. I wanted to show him, "I accept you into my space. You are acceptable to me."

He read my open body language correctly, which reflected my fully-opened heart. We paused in our meaningless conversation, and he asked what was the only pressing thought in my mind. He said, "May I kiss you?"

"Please," I answered, "do."

Then, without moving our knees, we rotated our necks towards each other, and touched lips. The moment itself was not overly remarkable -- and I don't remember the tactile feel, or where our hands went, or if I closed my eyes. The main thing I remember was that we both started laughing. The mechanics were sticking, and he pointed it out first. "This is an awkward placement" -- he said frankly.

I agreed. "Kissing when we're not facing each other!" I laughed. "I know it."

"Here, let's try standing," he suggested, almost clinically. So we did, standing up in the middle of that stark living room floor. I noticed his carpet was thin under my feet. There was an exercise bike in the corner. There was no t.v., only that bookshelf with its medical volumes. The books probably said things like: Ankyloglossia, tongue-tied. Or: Latin for mouth: ōs ‎(genitive ōris); third declension. Then: The upper lip is separated from the nose by the philtrum, the area that lies between the base of the nose and the pigmented edge (called the vermillion border or the carmine margin) of the upper lip. Pure poetry. Savage, ravage. This time, we were taking the souls out of each other.

He pulled away and gasped. "Wait, Sarah, let's go this way," he said, taking my hand. "We're giving the neighbors a show," laughing in a boyish way. I realized we were standing in front of wide bay windows.

He led me to the privacy of the kitchen, but there, in front of the stove, I touched his chest. "Wait, I just want to let you know," I told him with self-possession, "that this is as far as I will go."

"Yes." He kissed my forehead, sending a shower of firefly-sparks down my legs. "I agree with you." Then, nonplussed, he added excitedly, "Wait! Wait, wait. I have something," and he nearly tripped over himself, running back into the living room. He grabbed his laptop and pulled it into the kitchen, now really tripping over wires, and plugged it in. He clicked rapidly all over the place, and then said with a triumphant grin, "Got it," and turned to me mischievously. Musky music began to seep through the room.

"Did you just put on a kissing playlist?"

"No," he protested, grinning.

I said, "You just totally put on a kissing playlist."

Laughing, I took his collar in my hands, and we both stumbled backwards. Laughing. Laughing, so much laughing.

Later, in Chicago, face-down and supporting myself by my elbows on the guest bed, I told my new boyfriend all about my perspective on these events. But the letter burned a hole in my pocketbook for several days. Then my friend was driving me around the city, and we were at a busy intersection, stopped at a red light. "How long do you think the light will last?" I blurted out, seeing a post box on the sidewalk. She said another few seconds. So I opened the car door and ran down the snowy sidewalk. I opened the blue lid, and dropped the letter down the chute -- -- and the lid closed with a delphian bang.

Only a few months later, I got mad at my boyfriend when I was sitting in his kitchen -- eating the chocolate chips that I had scattered across the table. He was watching me, leaning against the counter in the dim light, with the dancing eyes of a badger. When I had eaten the very last chip, he opened the cabinet under the sink and took out a yellow bottle of Lysol. He silently spritzed the table in front of me and wiped the surface. He threw the paper towel in the trash and gave me a devilish grin. Instead of laughing, I felt a miniature explosion inside, highly offended. His action reminded me too much of parental criticism.

But I wished, now, that I had laughed.

I thought about all these memories, eating my sour purple grapes. Constancy, forgiveness, I mused. Sensitivity. Certainty and fidelity. I decided these were only fancy words for holding.

I tossed away the empty grape stems, took my phone out, and re-focused on Daniel.

"See you later, soul-sizzler," I texted him in the air. "Guess what I did after you got on the bus? I was at the top level of the parking garage and was driving down to find the exit, and somehow I circled all the way back up to the top level. Imagine my shock when I saw the sun!!!"

"You adorable idiot," he texted back. "You darling dope. You are the best thing," he added, "that has ever happened to me."

Now I could see my parents' house: the pale lemon paint, with the aqua shutters. The country was empty of Daniel. He was gone; I couldn't feel his spirit anymore. He was too far across the ocean.

* * *

For the next forty-eight hours, I felt static. My friends once again reached out with balm in the form of pumpkin pie and concerned texts. On the third day, I shook myself out of my lethargy, and took out my laptop.

I set it up on my desk, overlooking our pool and dozens of rose bushes, all in full bloom -- thinking, hovering my curved fingers above the keyboard. A shoot of green fire was starting in my sternum. Then I started typing: When I write personal essays, I am often spurred by losses. They are grits of sand under my eyelids, obscuring my vision and obsessing me until I finally weep up a pearl.

Something creeps into me, and takes me by the neck as if I were wearing a choker made of the pearls, and a fire goes up my throat.

Over the next three days, I typed and watched the first leaves turn. A maple tree hanging above the pool had one branch that turned bright red. I wrote about my and Daniel's private language, our graceful interactions, our arguments. I barely left my desk -- only to get water, or quick food.

Throughout my life, creating a piece of art out of suffering has always been redemptive for me. It is like scooping up the dank clay from the sandbar of my heart, mixing it with beaten flour, and making a pot or a bowl. And when it is finished, I set its lumpy form on a table and say: there, something. Something, even if it's not gorgeous or functional. I feel like God, skimming above the dark waters, haunting the blackness until his imagination exploded into creatures with fins. I have placed solid form where they used to be empty space. And it came from me. Something was taken away, and behold: I have reached inside, and brought forth. And then God set fire to the sky so that others could see what he had done. But in my case -- after finishing an initial twelve-thousand words -- I clapped my laptop shut, stretched, and simply contemplated returning to the land of the living. I showered, and ate a big bowl of rice and scrambled eggs.

Since the first phase of pecking was over, and my mind had temporary drainage, I began venturing out. On Friday, I wore a princess costume -- floor-length mulberry velvet -- to a medieval fair. On Saturday, I went blueberry picking with my friend Rose. I looked into graduate schools. Psychologists advise not making any big decisions while still in a transition period, but I researched visas to Australia. I texted my ex and said, "I feel like I should share that, moving forward, I need to treat our relationship as an utterly closed door. That's not to say that there might not be a window cracked open if you ever find a change of heart, but I think I need to act in every way as if there is zero possibility of us getting back together. It seems the healthiest thing to do: it's too hard to dangle with hope and wondering."

He responded, "I hope you find happiness and peace in these next few months."

* * *

Saturday evening, I was taken out for dinner by friends (a mother and a daughter) and we went to a small roadside Thai restaurant. I ate the rice with mango sauce, digging out the scallops, complimenting the girl's purple eyeliner, and listening to her mother talk about recording the history of the local church. Then they asked about Daniel, and -- tactfully -- about my break-up. The mother sipped her red tea and mused, "I feel like in most women's hearts there's a God-shaped space and a man-shaped space."

Yes, yes, yes. I felt this so deeply, and felt there was no fixing it.

Mary placed her cup on the table, her fingers playing with the white bone china. She had short-cropped steel-gray hair, and was wearing a shirt that was heather gray and looked like pure comfortable cotton. Somehow, hearing her validate my need made me feel soothed for a moment. Like a mother blew on my cherry-red scrape, put a Band-Aide over it, and kissed it. Mary was wearing her usual iron-gray glasses, and tiny silver hoops. Her eyes were a rich brown and her lips a nice mauve. She squinted at me, like she used to look at me as a teenager -- with penetration and love. She said, "I think there's something magical about the fact that Daniel came to you only a week later." She understood; she was the type that often did. "Was that planned?"

"Not planned at all. Daniel bought his ticket months ago."

"Mm," she said, taking another sip of her tea. "What a comfort. What a special friendship." She looked off, squinting again, at a palm tree in a pot, and a red-paper hanging globe. "It somehow helps that he is a man, doesn't it? Even if you'll never be with him romantically. It helps to have a -- masculine -- presence."

"It does," I said, eagerly, picking through my bowl. The mangoes in my rice were so soft, so warm. "It really does."

* * *

Author's age when written

That might have been entirely pointless, going back to the bf yet again, and talking about How We Met... But right now, I know this is a first draft and I can always cut later. Not like cooking where you can't take out, haha! Sorry if it was tedious, though, in any way. I always am afraid of wasting people's time, ha. <3 Sarah


I love this chapter in its entirety. I was going to highlight my favorite bits but... well, it would have been all of it. <3 You are beautiful, Sarah, and it's so sweet to watch the petals of your heart unfold through your story.

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.