Friday, November 11, 2005

A Story for Friday

Three days after the world ended, Lauren and I went out for coffee.

The diner was empty, naturally, but there were still plenty of clean cups in back. It was unlocked, and empty. The power was still on.

Lauren threw out the old coffee sitting in the pot and I found some packets to empty in the machine. She grabbed some doughnuts from the walk-in freezer to go with the coffee. This would be brunch.

“So.”

I put down the newspaper—it was Thursday’s, from the day before the world ended, and hinted at nothing, but I liked having it handy. Old habits and all.

“So.”

Lauren sighed, stopped eating her doughnut and started picking at it.

“What do you think,” she started.

“Don’t know,” I said. “Still.”

I looked back to the paper. The Falcons could have clinched a playoff spot Saturday. I wondered if any of them were still around for a moment.

“Do you think it’s one of those religious things?”

The paper went back down. I sipped my coffee for a moment.

“I don’t know.”

“But…”

“I don’t know.” A little louder this time.

“You’re an asshole.” Her standard retort for not being the center of attention.

“Yes Lauren. You’ve already well established that. How could I forget when I am reminded almost daily?”

“I think you’re enjoying this,” she muttered into her raised coffee cup, looking down from me.

“It’s ok, you can speak up here…it’s not like there’s a way we could ‘cause a scene’ here.”

When she glares at me one eye gets smaller than the other and she turns her head slightly. In a way I find it adorable.

“And it’s a loaded question anyway. A trap. If I say I’m not enjoying it, you’ll take that to mean that I don’t want to be with you—even if you were the last person on earth. And we already found out yesterday we aren’t the only ones left. But if I agree, you’ll turn that on me too, and say that you never are clingy, that I somehow forced you to move in with me, or worse. So I can’t honestly answer you.”

“Right. And that whole speech, the whole routine, that wasn’t an answer?”

“See? I can’t win.”

“Fuck. Why do you always frame it like that? ‘Winning’ and ‘losing’?”

“That’s how relationships work. Is why. You’re just too young to—”

“Oh fuck off with that. ‘Too young’? If I call you an asshole ‘almost daily’—which I doubt I do, but whatever—how often do you accuse me of being too young? What does that say about you dirty old man?”

“Do you really want to go there? We’ve covered this ground already. Many times.”

“Yes Humbert, I do.”

“Many times.”

“So what’s one more now, hmm?” Damn, that glare again. I think she knows how I feel about it.

“It’s because you like to hear it.”

“Really. Because I like to hear it.”

“Yep.”

“That’s total bullshit, because—”

“Because it’s true?”

“Oh fuck off. Quit talking to me like you know me inside and out.”

“Lauren, I think I may know a thing or two about you—inside and out. If didn’t, I doubt you would’ve been moaning so loudly yesterday…” she’s glaring again, “either that, or you just didn’t think we’d get caught.”

“So not even close to being able to talk about that.”

“But let’s for a second presume you’re right—I ‘don’t know you’…now am I entirely at fault in that?”

“…”

“Your Cosmos and Sex in the City and all that shit has plenty of advice about ‘getting your man to open up’ and all that crap, but I wonder if any of those fuckwit writers thought that maybe us guys would like you women to open up to us.”

“…”

“Did you ever think that me wanting you to move in wasn’t just some move based on sex, but because I thought if we were around each other more, you’d open up?” Sometimes I even believe the bullshit that comes out of my mouth. It’s more convincing that way.

“Should we even be having this discussion?”

“What?”

“Us, sitting here, arguing like a normal couple on a normal day, with most of the population disappeared or gone or whatever?” Not disappeared Lauren, be glad you didn’t see what I saw. I must’ve gone pale for a second thinking about it too. “See, you feel weird about it too.”

“That’s crazy…”

“Is it? What about that first day which we agreed we’re not ready to talk about? Or yesterday when you convinced me that since odds were against anyone else being around it was ok to fulfill your fantasy of fucking on the 50 yard line…don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re not the only people left in the world, but I damn sure could’ve lived without that little kid asking me if I was ok.”

“You’d prefer a strapping ex-boyfriend was still around huh,” I muttered.

“See? That’s what creeps me out. Everyone we know is dead or gone or disappeared or who knows what and you want to act all calm and normal.”

“Because we can act normal Lauren. What good is freaking out about all this going to do? For now, the power still works—hell, our cell phones still work. If this is a worldwide thing, we won’t have those luxuries for long. I’d love to be Sherlock Holmes and get to the bottom of this for you…but I don’t see it happening.”

“So that’s your plan? We do nothing?”

“No, I propose we finish eating, maybe later go down to the library and see if we can turn up anything, and then go to lunch. We can go out to eat or stay in, your choice.”

“You’re a strange man, you know that?” she said with a smile.

“Yeah, but sweetie, I’m all you got.”

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