I hold the chopstick wrapper to my temple and scrunch my face. "By the power of my love and vast psychic powers, I will write a message here." I continue this act a few more seconds before lowering the blank wrapper in my palm and pouting.
Melanie laughs and jokingly soothes me, telling me that it happens to all boys at one time or another. I stop her. "Wait, look under your plate!"
She lifts it and underneath is another wrapper, on which is written, "I love you." Her eyes twinkle and she smiles broadly with those perfect teeth of hers. "When did you do that?"
"When you went to the bathroom half an hour ago. I know how to set these things up."
She kisses me on the cheek and folds the wrapper, placing it in her bag.
Then, as our enthusiastic waiter flings rice at us, I watch Melanie bantering in broken Japanese and realize that I am not there with her, she is there with me. It may seem an irrelevant distinction, but it matters to me. I never really felt that I belonged around Emily, often that I was tagging along. With Melanie, she is my consort and companion. She is not tagging along, simply there as well. She is a friend and equal, someone with whom I like spending time, but someone to whom my life is not dedicated. That is what I need right now.
The day had not been as easy as this tableau suggests, at least from within my skull. This dinner was a formal celebration of her having run into unfortunate circumstances in the past that had been a terrible idea but having come out fine being STD free despite having fooled around with a girl who - unbeknownst to Melanie - sold her body on Craigslist. To this, I had amended gratitude of finding and buying a new car within a week of Anemian isolation and being published by Cave Drawing Ink at the end of April because I got my story, its revision, and the revision's revision in on time. What I did not admit to celebrating, though Melanie reminds me I should, was that this was the day I was to be married to Emily.
I had spent the day trying hard not to think too much of this fact, not to ponder what another version of me would be doing, not to feel wretched that I ignored the soothsayers who warned against marrying Emily on the Ides of March (or, for some, at all). Today, I would be a married man, if Emily could have kept her head together enough to allow me purchase in it for a few more months. I can't help but flash to this other world. The reception would be winding down just about now. We would be in our limo on our way to a hotel near the airport. Tomorrow, we'd be headed out on our all inclusive honeymoon, kissing on the white sand beaches of St. Lucia. Maybe it was never actually going to happen, but it feels so close I could almost touch it through the veil. It feels like not being able to graduate because someone else didn't finish their prerequisites.
In the midst of later intimacies with Melanie, my body does not respond as it ought. Melanie stops. From under tendrils of russet hair, Melanie asks, "Do you wish I were someone else right now?"
"What? No! Of course not."
"I just thought because of what was supposed to happen today - "
"No," I repeat. "I'm having a hard time, but there is no one I would rather be with tonight." And it's true. Melanie is sweet and devoted. She adores me in a way I had forgotten I required, is insatiable for me constantly. In my presence, she does not allow thoughts of others to interfere, something I wish I could boast in return. She is an almost ideal girlfriend for this stage in my life.
|She once wielded the Key(blade) to my heart|
I don't want to be with Emily, especially not in this situation, but the commentary track of the other world is superimposed onto this one still, the audio from one channel bleeding over onto the video from this one. I am on a plane and I am married, on my way to St. Lucia, holding the hand of my wife. In this fictional dimension, I am unaware of her infidelity. She has been able to keep it together long enough to go through with the wedding, long enough not to leave me at the altar. I doubt we'll make it even a year. I'm not him, I didn't marry Emily. I'm not the one who had that pleasure or pain.
I do miss things about living with her. I miss my cats - and yes, I consider a claim of ownership over them given how often I cared for them. I miss her exotic attempts at cooking. I miss the smell of her hair. I miss her calling me before falling asleep every night to wish me sweet dreams. I miss a dozen other things. I miss having her as my best friend and confidante, even if this wasn't as transparent as I had thought.
So I am in this life still. There was a milestone I missed on a road I was forced from. I'll be alone a bit longer, though I am dating Melanie and I love her, but this is such a hard time to love anyone.
I'm not usually hesitant about loving. I loved M with all my heart and all my soul, and too much else. I don't regret that I did that. Even if I loved Emily for things that were not apparent or those tinged with inauthenticity, I loved her and there can be nothing wrong with that in itself.
When we were together, I told Emily that I didn't stop looking at other women and didn't expect that she would (and she apparently had an eye for other men as well) because I honestly chose her over them every time. It reminded me of why I was with her. I would have always picked her over them. The trite little saying is true that love is blind. It is also deaf and otherwise insensible. Love feels only itself, if it is the wrong kind of love, the kind that makes you drown.
What I've come to realize is that people don't change so you must love them for what they are and nothing more. Emily was always the wanderer, just like her father before her. Kate only ever wanted a fling out of me and I just went on too long. For a long time, I couldn't understand why Kate had changed when she left me. Then I finally realized the truth. She hadn't changed when she left me, she changed because she was with me and restore to who she really was supposed to be once liberated. There is no sin in that, there is no shame. Kate did what she needed to do and I now have a great friendship with her. I was not perfect and I regret how behaved in that relationship owing to my jealousy and immaturity, but they were lessons I needed and they improved me. Likewise, Emily has remained a constant, even if it wasn't a constant I could bring myself to acknowledge when she was in my arms. She has continued on whatever path she began when she met me and is making up for lost time.
There was a 2.5 earthquake where Emily lives this morning, in New York where there is almost never an earthquake. I can't help but attach a small significance to that, the ground shifting and shattering some windows. I didn't call her to ask about it, since I did not think I could handle hearing her voice. Not today.
I don't know how Emily spent yesterday. Perhaps she just tried to forget what Saturday was because she has no one to write loving sentiments on chopstick wrappers.
Soon in Xenology: The robot bride of kitchen crystals.