I met her outside the museum. She was standing there, looking at the clock on her locked phone like she was waiting for someone.
I guess she was willing to pretend that someone was me.
I was out for a walk, attempting to get the exercise my partner always said would clear my mind. I hadn’t eaten. I was trying to whittle myself away, to become a woman thin enough to be worth loving. I took my headphones out of my ears when I saw her, out of instinct. She looked like a woman with something to say.
She was standing just outside the line, and I got held up by a crowd of tourists. I kept my entschuldigung to a whisper, like I didn’t really want them to step aside, like I had little intention of moving on and nowhere important to be. She asked if I was there to see the Monet exhibit and I said I was.
That was the first lie.
The second was a lie we told each other: we complained about the cold despite the temperate weather, despite the city pretending it was spring for a moment.
The third was when she mentioned tea, and said I could go for a cup. I hate tea, hell, I still had coffee on my breath at the time. I put a piece of gum in my mouth, an action which perhaps said I was thinking about kissing her. This would have been the first truth, had I said it aloud.
I had seen the Monet exhibit years ago and I knew how disappointing it was, but her hair with all its blue and green looked like she’d dipped it into one of his paintings. Like she’d gone for a swim among the water lilies.
She was wearing a loose gray sweater. Hideous, like it was knit by a drunk and somewhat resentful grandmother. She had the sort of thin, angular body where she could wear just about anything and pull it off. She had the sort of look in her eyes where she could wear anything and I would think about pulling her clothes off.
I looked at a loose thread of thick gray yarn at the base, and I thought about grabbing it. Maybe see what happens. I began to unravel a bit, because she started making eye contact with me.
We skipped the exhibit. There was conversation first. There were two cups of herbal tea each. I ordered hibiscus for the color, not the taste. We took the second cup to go. There were a few truths exchanged. She asked what I was really doing that day and I said,
“Exercising. I am trying to be more athletic, to lose weight, my…”
I trailed off before I said “partner” and she interrupted to say,
“I think you have a beautiful body.”
I can’t remember if I kissed her in the rose garden or if I just thought about it so long that the memory seemed true. Like a story you have been told over and over about your childhood. Perhaps this was the first lie I told myself.
Either way, we stood in the garden until dusk dipped the roses in blue, darker than her hair, and I told her once I had danced there, at the edge of the park. I told her I had lived here 5 years but I still didn’t know how to waltz. I think she would have shown me, regardless of whether she knew how, but a security guard in a tiny white car drove up and kicked us out.
At some point, I realized she was a woman too good to go around not being loved.
I thought I could love her, at least for the evening.
“You’re married, aren’t you?” I asked her
“Does it matter?”
“Is it a man? A woman?”
“Does it matter?
She interrupted, “Besides, aren’t you married too?”
“I’m not! But… yes, there’s someone.”
“A man or a woman?”
“Does it matter?”
The conversation stalled for a moment, we were standing behind the metal barrier they had set up along the border of the park watching the cement fade into the precise blue of a carafe of cheap red wine. I broke the silence.
“You want to run away together?”
She didn’t answer. She knew the question wasn’t real. I knew that she wasn’t real, that she was just a fictional character I had come up with, that I left the real blue-haired woman waiting in line hours ago.
I still hadn’t eaten.
I looked out at the park, I was talking to no one but her ghost, mumbling lines for this story to myself. I looked to my right, where she’d have been standing if she was there. Which would have been next to me, close enough to kiss me if I would only stop talking.
“I bet you get asked that a lot.”
Aww I was so hoping this was real, you painted a beautiful picture! 🙂
Did you even get the tea? Also I have no idea what your tea preferences are but I feel like you’d like rooibus, also pretty color and orange/vanilla flavor.
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Alas, none of it was real except for the walk and the weather, and the thoughts on my mind. There wasn’t even tea. In general I like my tea black. I love a clean earl grey. Also chai, naturally. But who doesn’t like chai?
Me lol I don’t like chai, but it’s been a while since I’ve had it so I’d be willing to give it another shot.