A Stranger II

by Bernice

“If you saw me at a bar—or any place—would you still be interested, and want to talk?”

Yes. I blink slowly. The ceiling doesn’t change. It’s always the same. Always white, with hairline cracks due to old age. I trace the cracks with my eyes, and back again. I frown.


Are you asking? Is the full question, but I don’t bother to finish it. He knows. He almost always understands when I don’t bother to finish my line of thought. Mostly, it annoys him. I’m too spaced-out or scatterbrained is what I think he thinks. He’s never called me either of those though.

“It’s a question whose answer Susanna thinks determines whether your partner is still interested in you.”

I nod slowly, although I don’t know if he’s looking at me. I place my arm over my forehead, shielding my eyes from nothing. The light on the ceiling is too dim to bother me.

“Yes, I would.”

I almost smile to myself, but stop short. What kind of question is that, anyway? With his thick, coarse hair, and almond shaped eyes, who wouldn’t be at least a little interested in him?

I sigh.

“What about you?” I ask quietly.

From the slight increase in pace of my heart, I’m aware that I’m a little nervous about his answer. I’ve changed a lot since we first met a year ago. I gained at least 15 pounds, and just two weeks ago, I chopped my hair off in my quest to go natural. He’d told me a million times before that he prefers long hair. But I wanted to be natural—I didn’t really care.

“Yes, especially with what you were wearing the other day. I think I’d want to talk to you, but would wait to see you again.”

I frown again. His answer is disappointing. All he needed to say was yes. Why did he include everything else? If I was wearing something else, would he not have been as interested? If he never saw me again after that, would he have been okay with it? I wonder if he knows his answer is dissatisfying, and purposefully made it dissatisfying because he’s mad.

He’s always mad. Or it feels like it. He has no patience for word games, or for when I don’t do something he thinks should be done in a certain way. He also hates when I don’t understand something that is evident to him. He’s a jerk in those times. In those times, I don’t understand him. We don’t understand each other.

We joke at times and say that he’s the scientist. I’m the artist. But aren’t artists scientists too? Of the mind, and the heart? I keep that to myself. I know he’d laugh. Or make that expression where he squints his eyes, knots his brow, and presses his lips together in mock confusion. I hate that, but not all the time. Sometimes, it’s cute. When I’m trying to communicate serious thoughts, I hate it. It makes me nervous—he makes me nervous. He doesn’t know that though.

When I’m nervous I don’t make sense, or at least, I think I don’t make sense. The more he makes that expression, the more sense I don’t make.

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I'm a self-proclaimed aesthete, an amateur literary critic and a history buff with a BA in Political Science and History from Wesleyan College.

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