Love is a Red Herring
“I don’t give a good goddamn what you said I said,” I say. “I didn’t say that.” This is what I say. You don’t say anything with your mouth. Maybe because your mouth is too pretty to say bad things to me, but probably not. It’s a beautiful mouth but you’ve said plenty of bad things to me before. You’re wearing my pajama top and you have a black mole near the corner of your right eye, near what would be between the talons of what will one day be your crow’s feet, giving you the appearance of crying oil even though you aren’t really crying and it’s just a birthmark.
“I know what I heard,” you say. You’re petulant, implacable. Like a child who won’t be swayed that the whitecaps out in the middle of the ocean aren’t actually mermaids.
“Alright,” I say finally. “I’ll give you this.” I’ll say I said what you said I said if that’s what you want, but now you say that’s not what you want. You don’t want to be appeased. You’re not some goddess of the deep demanding sacrifice, you say. You say that’s not going to solve anything. What you want is a confession, even though you don’t actually say this out loud, I can tell it’s what you really want. You want me to say it again.
But now I’m not even sure what I did or didn’t say. You’ve confused me, mixed me up. Six hundred thousand words in the English language and some of them are bound to sound like some others. Some even sound exactly like another even though they mean entirely different things. Like no and know, for example, or one and won, or even lies and lies, which are even spelled the same even though they mean two entirely different things. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s all about context. The weight of whatever someone says at any given time depends entirely on what was being said before, after, whether with a laugh or frown, as response to something someone else said or apropos of nothing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
This is what I want to say, why whatever I said before if I even said it should not necessarily be taken independent of the context, which neither you nor I can even remember right now, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
I remember now a dinner we had a while ago. It was one of our first dinners together, maybe the first, at a very fancy and expensive restaurant that I certainly couldn’t afford back then, could scarcely afford now, which makes me think now it was more likely our second or third date. After kissing but before spending the night. I was nervous, very nervous, anxious to prove I was worthy of your fondness, which was the point of the expensive restaurant after all, though I had proposed it with the kind of casual and spontaneous spirit that I didn’t mean anything behind it, no expectations of course, but wouldn’t it be fun to pretend we were the high and mighty, making a mockery between the salad fork and the dessert fork, throwing down half a month’s rent for an evening’s meal. Like I said, I meant nothing by it.
There was another young couple seated next to us, also likely on their first or second or third date judging by the way they kept smiling at each other, distinct lack of physical contact, absence of substantive conversation. I noticed the man wore expensive clothes, sharper haircut, shinier jewelry, but that’s all, we didn’t gawk, and soon settled into our own conversation that I can’t for the life of me remember.
Sometime between the second and third course I heard the man order a kipper, which seemed poorly paired with the rest of their meal but like I said we weren’t gawking, didn’t really care, at least until the waiter returned with a small split fish and a sprig of parsley on the side and the man raised his voice.
“I didn’t order this,” he said. “This is not what I ordered.”
“It is, sir,” said the waiter. “A kipper.”
“I ordered a drink,” said the man and a little louder this time. “Don’t you know the difference between a fish and a drink? A drink I ordered,” and he seemed to remember now the name of the drink I can only assume he’d meant to order, and he said this, said, “I ordered a kir. Don’t you think I know the difference between a kipper and a kir?”
“I do,” said the waiter, as implacable as you right now, apologizing for having correctly heard what the man didn’t want to say instead of incorrectly hearing what the man meant to ay, a kipper and a kir, and all the while the man kept insisting he had said kir, kir, kir goddamn it, kir, and yes, yes, the waiter nodded, and no, no, the date shook her head, and I thought and you shook your head along with the date and debated, you told me later, as we were leaving, heading back to your apartment where I would spend the night for what I think now was the first time, whether or not to tell the waiter and the man that the man really had said kipper, that you’d heard it, that I’d heard it, the waiter and the date and even the man himself had heard it, and if he’d meant kir than goddamn it he should have said kir already.
“Okay,” I say. “You win. I love you.”
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED