The End of She & He
The End of She & He
by carol cabrera
The End Of She & He
5am, Barcelona, Spain
(Today – earlier)
To pretend is to subject herself to guilt. When she knows it’s her fault, when she knows that she should do something but decides not to do it, she can quite literally feel the red creep into her cheeks and too many people mistake this sudden change in her appearance for blush.
Flustered, she finds her passport, her half-used chimney-red lipstick, her bag (she empties the contents of the purse he bought her for Christmas into this tattered backpack) and tiptoes toward the door with only one last glance over her shoulder. She stares at the stranger sleeping in the too-colorful Spanish sewn sheets and for a moment sees a boy whose arms she used to call home. She resists the urge to crawl back underneath the comforter by gazing at her hands, so easily carrying every single object that she could call completely her own (how his life has crept over hers like vines).
This is the end; she has come to accept this fact. This is motion, this is inevitability.
This is goodbye.
8am, West Covina, CA
(6 Months Ago – near the end)
They are draped in each other. She offers to make waffles, he politely declines. It has been a while since he’s felt her skin on his like this.
I’d rather you stay here, he says.
Scattered on his dresser are DVDs and gas receipts. He is a cameraman for the 6am news that films in the heart of Hollywood, which means they reimburse him for his travels. It means he gets to stand amongst the newscasters and sometimes, when he’s lucky, the producers invite local chefs in to demo delicious meals. It means he sees the good, like the 8th graders who just won the State Science Fair. It means he sees the bad, like the fact that this past year has yielded a total of 171,462 city crimes, including violent and property offenses. It also means he is very late today.
2am, Hollywood, CA
(3 Years Ago – the beginning)
She says: What’s your name?
He says: What did you say?
She says: Huh?
He gestures: Let’s go outside?
She is surprised to feel herself not hesitate.
Next thing they both know their limbs are tangled in the not-so-dark alley outside Bardot. It’s evening, but this city has always been lit, and his lips are touching her lips and her tongue is touching his tongue and it’s not like her, it’s not like him, but neither of them care who’s watching.
His car is parked right around the corner, it’s really close, but he doesn’t want to stop this now.
She wonders What’s his name again? And Did he even tell me?
For him, her hair smells like summer, like heat and ocean and sand with a hint of lemon.
She thinks This can’t be right, no, this can’t be right.
This is the beginning of their relationship, and her cheeks flush more with each touch.
It is a red that most mistake for blush.
He is cheating on his girlfriend. He will break up with her tomorrow.
Her boyfriend died yesterday morning, lost a long time battle to Lymphoma.
She is cheating on his ghost.
7:04am, West Covina, CA
(Yesterday – two days until the end)
She whispers that she feels alone and that life here is so dry. He turns because this is not the first time she’s said this. He pulls two airplane tickets out of the dresser drawer on his side and says that perhaps things will get better if they just leave this city, go someplace different, someplace foreign.
This man lying beside her is a foreigner, at least to her, at least right now, even though he did not used to be. They have spent the past year too close to one another in his twin sized bed, unable to dream of anything better since the day he convinced her med school was turning her hair grey.
This man a fixer, albeit not a very good one. He has lived his entire life trying to fix himself, fix his family, fix his career, fix her.
So in 3 hours, they will get in a taxi. They will then spend a tedious 12 hours and 5 minutes on a cramped plane. He will read Haruki Murakami, she will fall asleep, they will eat salted pretzels, they will watch a documentary on Celine Dion. They will do everything except talk to each other.
9pm, West Covina, CA
(2 years, 11 months ago)
Her hair is wild, too many curls, uncontrollable frizz. The strands keep cascading in front of her face so she keeps having to shake her hair out of the way in order to see him. Tonight, she’s convinced him to take off his glasses. They will be blind together; it will force them to sit with their knees touching so they can see each other’s faces (he’s near-sighted).
He says, I don’t know anyone smarter than you. She just got out of class. She is studying medicine. Today, they discussed Thomas Hodgkin.
She says God, you’re handsome, and she’s very impressed that he once stood three feet away from Iron Chef Bobby Flay. He says I wish I’d had the guts to go to school, and insists that she explain the dissection lab she did today in detail.
She orders the vegetable tempura roll and he has the chicken teriyaki bento box. They have too many sake bombs and too many bottles of Sapporo. They kiss over spilled soy sauce and make love in the men’s bathroom.
11pm, West Covina, CA
(three evenings before the end)
He takes her to Suishaya, the convenient one on South Glendora Avenue in attempt to recreate their first real date. She doesn’t order any food, she says she ate before he got home, and he wonders what she could have eaten since there is only a third a loaf of sourdough bread and a quarter jar of veganese in their refrigerator. She sips on hot tea as he eats his chicken teriyaki bento box. She asks how was your day? He responds with, good, and yours?
Her hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail.
He looks at this tired woman sitting in front of him who is nothing like the girl he used to know.
He asks, Are you okay?
When she says, Yes with no explanation, he leaves it at that because what else could he say?
12am, West Covina, CA
1 Month Before Barcelona
He touches her upper right thigh but she remains motionless. He doesn’t know what to do anymore and she isn’t saying no, so he connects his body to hers.
She does not cry, she does not feel repulsed, she does not hate him. She does not moan with pleasure, she does not kiss his neck, she does not move her hips in time with his.
When it’s over, he tells her that he loves her but only because he feels that this is what he is supposed to say. She hears it but pretends she is asleep.
It takes them both a long time to fall asleep. They both lie awake wondering many things that begin with “why” but the thing that bothers them both is that there is no reason to leave this relationship. There is no other woman, no other man. There is nothing in this apartment that cannot be fixed. There is nothing too uncomfortable. Nothing that can be looked at by an outsider and called a tragedy. There is no reason to leave this almost-home, this almost-future, this almost-romance.
They both rack their brains for answers but she is the first to think,
There is also no reason to stay.