The first woman he ever really loved said she needed to have the water running while she brushed her teeth. He would stand behind her in the small bathroom and then reach around her thin back and turn the water off. She would turn her head around, lips puckered out and white with foaming toothpaste, eyes arched in a look of half-mock panic. In the new silence he would say, “You’re going to be the one to leave me.” He didn’t say this every time, but he said it a few times.
She’d roll her eyes and mutter, “Gawd,” around the white handle of her toothbrush with its strip of purple.
Then he’d reach around her again and turn the water back on and she’d smile at his reflection and sometimes, after spitting, she’d blow him a sloppy kiss and he’d smile.
I was right, about her being the one to leave. But saying it made
me feel, with the minty scent everywhere in the small air of one of the
three rooms I could say was ours, happier than if I could have known for
sure that things might work out.
$1,500 Bottle of Wine
They go, for his birthday, just before she leaves him, to a restaurant that is just at the top of their price range, that is almost, though not quite, the most expensive place they have ever been. The waiters and waitresses are all people who would have been unashamed in the locker rooms of high school where he would dress and undress quickly, with much shuffling of clothes in strategic areas.
They look at the wine list, which is laughably enormous. They decide on a bottle of Chilean wine, which they’ve had before. They talk about how they could have gotten a bottle at the Wine Cellar for only nine dollars. Here is costs almost thirty. Then he is looking over the complicated menu with odd, delicious sounding combinations of unthinkable ingredients when she says, “Oh my God,” and hands him the menu, and points with one of her very thin fingers at a wine and the price, which says, $1,500 dollars.
“Jesus Christ,” he says. They are still laughing about it, how stupid
one would have to be to order wine like that, when the waiter, who couldn’t
care less, comes over to the table and says, “How’s it going?” They
both stop laughing and mumble words that seem to dribble down their chins.
Even though she took lessons when she was a kid and he races around
quickly, flailing, he beats her every time they play tennis. She glides
over her court, arms moving low to high the way you need to do it and he
smashes with aborted strokes and crooked elbows, but still he beats her
every time. He knows this drives her crazy and he loves it. He doesn’t
tease her at all the whole way home each time and this is the worst, so
by the time they get home she is fuming and laughing with a red face, her
dark hair sticking to her temples.
He is worried she won’t like Hobnobs, but when they find them at a small,
fancy store she loves them. Same with Lion Bars. She brings back a can
of Dulce de Leche and they eat spoonfuls shamefully after long days at
work. When he finally goes with her to Argentina they get the ice cream,
which she has been telling him about for months and he tries it and he
can’t believe how good it tastes. It is better than cigarettes or beer,
is more like sex, the way it feels as though parts of him rarely recognized
are waking up. They are hurrying back to meet her grandmother for a movie,
an American movie with Spanish subtitles that her grandmother will fall
asleep during, even snoring a bit, and she smiles the whole way, so happy
that he enjoys it so much. He sits in the movie and remembers how good
the ice cream was and goes over and over in his head how many ways there
are to love her that are so right as to be ridiculous.
These are just some ideas and behind the ideas is the glaring idea that
these little snapshots don’t really get you the whole story, of course
they don’t, no one expects it of them, but they might just show you a few
small ways that I put some things away, awaiting some other time of unhappiness,
some time, perhaps, when we are angry with one another.
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