April 15, 2014

"Life's Disappointments"

I wrote this last week for a creative writing Lit class that I'm taking just for fun. The assignment was "vivid detail". Symbolism, politics, culture, its got a bit of everything - enjoy!  

"Life’s Disappointments"
I spot her immediately- Jackie. Tall and slender with skin like cinnamon and caramel. I was always short and, well, “curvy”. Her hair is almost like I remembered it.  It always reminded me of the night sky—a canvas of black stretching far and wide in every direction with a few twinkling strands of silver. Today, Jackie’s frame was a little thicker, her eyes were lined with exhaustion, her smile was not as big, and she was greyer than I expected. I can only imagine Jackie would think the same of me. It has been years since we’ve seen each other- she looks so different and yet somehow, almost the same. As I fumble to set my purse down, we hug each other awkwardly over the table.
I smell the stench of bleach before I see her. “What do you want? …” the waitress barks, peering down at us over thin reading glasses, with pen and paper in hand. Megan. Her name tag is chipped and barely legible. Like everything else in the diner, she had been worn through the years. How fitting, I thought, this abrasive woman seemed to fit the place well. As I watch Megan, I can’t help but notice that her faded pink dress and stained apron match the walls perfectly.
 “Ma’am!” Megan snaps her fingers at me, interrupting my thoughts, “What’ll it be fo’ you?”
“Uh … Just coffee.” I manage to mumble as the waitress furrows her eyebrows and turns away.
Jackie and I sit in awkward silence as she twists her gold wedding band. She’s silent. Does that mean I’m supposed to start? What am I supposed to say?
“You look great Jackie!” I force a polite smile. “How are you? How’s your sister? And … and …  I’m sorry.  What’s your husband’s name again?”
“Ramon … He wants a divorce.” Jackie blurts out. I came prepared to make excuses about why I’m still alone and my general lack of success in life. I was expecting to hear of her painfully perfect life-certainly not this. 
 “Ten years, three children … and he doesn't even want to try! Ramon just wants a divorce.”
 “What’d you say when he asked?” I gently inquire, before taking a big sip of the gritty bitter shit the diner serves as “coffee”. Jackie peers down into her cup as she rips open two or three little pink packets of sweetener and slowly pours them in. “La verdad – I’d rather us struggle together than be alone… Who the Hell wants to be alone? … He can bring me papers but I won’t sign them. I won’t.”
Her phone lights up as it buzzes on the table. “Mierda, excuse me… Hello?” 
My eyes wander as Jackie softly switches from English to Spanish and back to English again. She does not notice the man sitting at the counter glaring at her, disapproving of her foreign tongue. He mutters to Megan something about immigrants. I decide to share my opinion as well as I lift my hand and diplomatically extend a certain American finger gesture. I don’t know why but I’m glad Jackie does not notice.
I try to listen but she speaks faster than I can mentally translate as she whisper-yells at one of her children on the phone. “Then just wait until your father gets home” she whispers into the phone. Finally, she hangs up. The awkward silence resumes.

A few hours together is all we can manage before we eventually run out of things to say. We hug once more, this time with nothing in between us. We go our separate ways. Jackie returns to her family at home, and I return to my empty apartment. We are both unhappy but are strangely comforted by each other’s misery. At least we’re not alone in that. 

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