The following is based on true events.
I used to have this girlfriend, Siobhan, that I fought with like constantly. I’m not sure why. I’m a pretty easy guy to get along with. At least, I think so. We dated for about six months, breaking up three times during that period. Maybe it’s because we saw each other too much. Maybe my quirks just got on her nerves. She didn’t like the way I chewed gum for instance or that I’d sing along really loudly to the radio, which I thought was pretty endearing. I didn’t like how she nitpicked and tried to force me to do things. She made fun of me once because I’d never done cocaine. I told her it was because of Less than Zero. Another time she wanted to go to a strip club, but I didn’t want to, and she got pissed at me for that. It’s like she resented that I preferred more refined pleasures, like drinking on the steps and bubble baths. We stayed together too long, clearly; partly because of sheer attraction and proximity, partly because I didn’t like being lonely. Anyway, it made for some good stories, many of which served as what you might call signs that the relationship was not headed for a happy ending. This is my family’s favorite (with edits) and mine too.
It was a lazy summer Sunday morning in Siobhan’s apartment. I was reading the paper and drinking coffee at the table. Siobhan was in her black underwear and baggy shirt making breakfast. NPR was on quietly and there was a kind of awkward silence between us. She gave me this weird look as the oil was heating up. I pretended not to notice. A minute later, I looked up from the paper, but didn’t make eye contact. She finally broke the ice.
“Sex was good last night.” She paused. “I like when you’re aggressive.”
I wasn’t really listening and just said, vaguely. “Yeah. Thanks.”
She stopped chopping onions and glared at me. “What do you mean thanks? It kinda requires two people.”
Without really thinking I said, “Well, you get to lie there.” Which was true, but I probably shouldn’t have said it. I did feel like I did put in most of the effort in the bedroom department. She wasn’t exactly Ms. Sexually Selfless and Generous 2004.
“I move. And moan. And am patient when you have, um…issues.” I did sometimes have, um, issues sometimes. I hadn’t slept with many girls before dating her and, well, we were on somewhat different levels and wavelengths. She usually fell asleep afterwards. During one of our fights, she called me “Minuteman.” I practiced though. And read a book called The Sensual Man. I should get the spirit award, at least.
I looked up. “I know. You’re great. I wasn’t trying to be insulting. I’m just saying it’s different for girls.” I went back to reading the paper. “There’s less, you know, pressure.”
“Hmm.” She dumped the onions into the hot oil and they began to crackle.
“Awesome,” I said, noticing something in the paper.
“What?” She asked without enthusiasm.
“Why do you always assume I won’t be interested?” She stood with her fist on her fist, looking insulted.
“Well because you usually aren’t sweetie. Which is fine.”
She laughed and went back to whisking eggs. “ Right. I can’t help what I don’t know.” I told her that once, but not as judgment, just as a comment. “You’re a snob.”
“I’m fine with that.” It was a criticism often lodged at me. I found it was usually said by people whose taste wasn’t as good as mine. “If you’re truly interested, they’re showing Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist at Cinema 21, which I’ve wanted to see forever and it’s only been available on video and it was dubbed-dubbed!” I looked at her to share my outrage. “It’s about Italian fascism and has this actor, Jean-Louis Trintigant, who’s in two of my favorite movies. It’s supposed to be great and operatic and absolutely stunning, visually…”
“You and your weird movies,” she said with a shake of the head. A few months ago I futilely tried to get her into Luis Bunuel films. She hated Belle du Jour.
“I guess I’ll go alone.” I paused. “Or maybe with a sexy Italian woman…
“Ha, in your dreams. Are peppers OK?”
“Sure.” I took a sip of my coffee
“Good, I already put them in.” She smiled a little meanly and brought over two plates and set one in front of me.
I put down the paper and grabbed a napkin. “Thanks babe. Looks great.” I took the salt shaker, which was a souvenir from Mt. Rushmore, and vigorously salted my eggs.
She gave me a cold, accusing stare or what I liked to call the evil gorgon death stare. She had previously used it when I told her I wouldn’t go to a wedding with her because I was going skeet shooting with my brothers. I really didn’t know what she meant by it, but I may as well told her I knocked up her sister in a back alley.
“What?” I said.
“You didn’t even taste them.” Her brown eyes were dark and angry.
“I’m sorry I don’t… Wait, the salt?”
“Yes. You didn’t even taste them first.”
“Well, um, I know I like salt…on eggs. I mean, I always salt my eggs and meat and pretty much everything else. Hell, I salt salad!” I waited for her to laugh and stop this asinine conversation. “Ha? I always put cream in my coffee before tasting…”
“I just think it’s a little rude.” She started to eat.
In a vain attempt to be playful, I used a goofy voice. “C’mon, are you serious? You’re serious.” I reached to touch her arm.
“Don’t touch me. Yes, I’m serious.” She poked at her eggs. “Um, OK.” There were a couple things I could’ve said. “Bitch, you be trippin’” probably wasn’t appropriate, so I just said “sorry” and dug into my breakfast. They were good eggs: fluffy, hot, and just salty enough too. We ate in silence. Then she said, brushing her long hair back, “You’re not sorry.” I threw my arms up in only semi-mock exasperation.
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Portland Fiction Project
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