Bowl of Peaches
“So what did she say to you?”
Setting: bowl of peaches, napkin holder, salt and pepper shaker, one bottle of Hendricks, filthy glasses, dim light, anger, sadness.
Music: Handwritten plays softly in the room over.
The gin was poured.
“She didn’t say much.” Then: “Well, not anything real important.”
Memories washed over his face as rain began to fall, cool wind dancing in through a ratty screen, a threat of a storm on a night where this conversation exists more wonderfully than anything else.
Characters: two friends in a near dark room, one girl, one guy. Another girl, way offstage, from another town.
“I pulled around the side of her house on the other street. I looked over to her backyard. I saw other people. I assumed that one of them was her new boyfriend, but I really didn’t care. Well, I did, but I didn’t at the same time. I got out and walked to the front of her house. She must have been waiting by the door. Maybe I guess if I knocked it would have ruined everything. I don’t know. Anyway. So she came out. She still was beautiful, is beautiful. I knew that wouldn’t change. She had this really nice sundress on and her hair was up with the same highlights. She just looked really nice. And in the back of my head all day, I was preparing myself for the shock of seeing her again. You know how your heart feels like it’s going to just die when you see someone you like after a long time? I felt that way. Like I was young again. Like we were going to go dancing. But when I did see her, that shock just…faded. No bite. No nerves. It was like, ok, here’s the past, the one thing that gets us all and drives us away, and I knew that even when she speaks, it’ll just…be this. I know you know what I mean. You can prepare for that all day, it still either hits you or just…surrounds you. It hurts either way. I know there is no way around it. You would like to say to yourself, even in a fantasy that it’ll be ok, that it’s all going to change, and you expect a kiss even, and I know that sounds so ridiculous to expect, but when you go through all those things, and then see that same person again…I don’t know. Anyway.
“She says hello and I do too. I left my sunglasses on. I was thinking I was being so clever with that, so she couldn’t see my eyes, but it’s like who cares? You have a new pair of eyes to look into every day, a new person to sleep with. So she’s standing in the doorway and she’s not inviting me in, she’s got her hand on the frame and so I’m like, alright, he is in there, and she doesn’t want a fight. Like I’m going to. I’m too old to start that. Like I’m going to win. The better man already won. She hands me my books and I’m glad to have them back and we start going through the motions like we’re married or something. How’s work, how’s the cats, how’s the new house, what have you been up to and I realize that everyone always has to do this when they realize what they’ve really done. It’s like, they don’t care about that at all when you’re actually together, and then when you’re not, they suddenly do. So if it wasn’t good enough for you then, why care now? And it just sucks because talking to her felt so good. It didn’t matter what about or when. Or even where. She was awesome to talk to, you could open up around her, tell her things that you hadn’t thought of in years. All these times it was ok, except for now. It was just incredibly frustrating to talk to her like the way that I was. Instead of this awkward how-are-you, we could have been talking about so many more amazing things and what laid beyond the boundaries she was setting for us by closing herself off and making herself not care about me, this person, anymore. I knew she did, deep down, but she had to hide it for the other guy. Which I get, but it just sucks to limit yourself and I had to as well for the sake of…just standing there and saying these boring adult things.
“It got to the point where we both sensed it wasn’t going to go much further than that. She was telling me that she was painting the house and that she was going to do these great things and I couldn’t think of anything that I could tell her that would get her to change her mind about what she did. Yes, I’m writing. Yes, I’m drinking. Yes, I am in a dead end job. She made the right choice after all by letting me go. She has a whole life ahead of her. So I get it. It makes perfect sense that a girl of her beauty makes all the impact she can without a shadow of a man beside her, asking her a million questions, talking about things that she’ll never talk about.”
The gin is empty.
The gin was poured.
More rain, silent intermission.
In other rooms, other voices talk, but these two talk about other voices in other rooms.
“So I was getting ready to leave when I remembered my necklace. She was going to fix it for me. I needed it back. So I asked her and she ran back into the house to get it and I stood there with my hand on the frame, wondering about how to end this conversation. I was thinking that this could possibly be the last time I ever see her again. Life takes you on different courses. If talking to her now was such an issue, what was I going to do about seeing her again? It’s not like we live in different countries. We’re bound to bump into each other again. That’s another thing that makes your heart die a little. You go back to the places where you shared unconsciously, and you see what made it your place, and those memories just hit you a bit. What is it about memories that make you want to forget them all the time? I never really understand that. So as she’s looking for my necklace, I think of her house, and how I could just step in and see what she’s really doing, if she’s stalling on purpose, if she’s really lost it, if she really didn’t care all along and that I was the one that messed up the entire thing. I thought of her bedroom. I thought about how we used to go to breakfast all the time. When she was texting me from Boston. I thought of all those things and the heat was starting to get to me and I just wanted to go home more than anything at that moment. So I could get her out of my mind and replace it with something else. I can’t ever really get into why I had this feeling, but I just did. She was beautiful but I knew that she would want nothing to do with having a place in my life. That just sucks because I knew it was more than beauty or sex. It was just about being with someone to get through life. I thought she was the best person to do that with. It’s how I felt. I won’t ever apologize for that.
“So she came back and gave it back to me and it wasn’t fixed. But I just shrugged and I put it in my back pocket. And we had this awkward hug and it felt good to touch her again but that was really about it. It went away quick. Probably because he was watching. But she said it was good to see me. And it was good to see her, too, I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t because I don’t know if it was the entire truth. It was good to see her, but I don’t know if it was good to be around her. I didn’t know if it was good for me because now I was going to have this new image of her still looking beautiful instead of the old one that was starting to finally go. And I was going to be now on this weird line where I was going to feel like I had done something wrong to lose her. I know that blame is very tricky. It can be very fickle and disgusting. At times, always at night, I sit at the desk with pen and paper in my hand and every time I go to write about her, and it always winds up being more about myself and my ability to blame myself for not being the perfect guy for her. Then, I realize it’s all a bunch of crap. That there shouldn’t be any blame on anybody or any faults being shared or any flaws being assigned to a person. That I was not the person to love her and that I was not her man should be enough. It should be enough for just to wake up the next day and move on. But I’m stuck on her. I just am. I told her to take care of herself and I almost added that I wanted her to call me if she ever needed anything. But why should she? She has SOMEONE ELSE now.”
The gin is empty.
The gin was poured.
“So I got back in the car and I drove home and I put the books back on the shelf and I smelled them to see if they smelled like her and there was nothing. They went back with the others and I went and I had a drink and watched the sun for a while from the front porch.”
It kept raining. One of the cats joined the two friends. He rubbed against his leg and purred, but went back into the next room.
“And that was it.”
The other friend nodded. There was nothing said for quite some time. Then he supplied the moral of the tale.
“And I knew that all of it was hopeless, where I knew full well that in this world there was going to be failed couples and broken hearts and love that just didn’t go quite right, but we never expect it to happen to us. And when it happens, we act like we don’t know what to say to the person who’s suffering, but we all are thinking the same thing: I’m so glad that it didn’t happen to me.”
The cat came back to check his food dish, but rubbed against his leg again, and then laid on the floor to keep the two friends company.
“It’s like…I wasn’t expecting a life with her. Just maybe a few months. A year, who knows. Who knows what could have happened if we spent time together? I know it sounds like a stupid thing to want, but when you consider the world going to hell, all you want to do is watch it catch fire with someone sitting next to you, telling you that they love you, despite everything happening.”
He grabbed a peach from the bowl.
The gin is empty.
The gin was poured.
“Just to be able to sit and have a meal with someone. Someone to share things with. That maybe if I tried hard enough, I would come home from work and she would be sitting at this table, eating a peach, doing the crossword or something. I know, it sounds so stupid. But we’re humans. We don’t have forever to live. Which is why I just wanted somebody I could love until I had no idea who I was anymore. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. You see someone who looks like they could be the one, and then you get so close to a chance to find out who they are, and you kiss, and then…”
There was silence.
“I’m drunk,” he finally said. His friend nodded. She bent down to pet the cat.
“Are you hungry?” She asked him.
She nodded. “We don’t have to go very far.”
No, he thought, but we always do go too far. Even when it’s not our destination or our business. We always go out of our way to find love. We go too far for our own good. But he couldn’t say this out loud because she still had chances. He didn’t.
The gin was now completely empty. He put the peach back in the bowl.
* * *
Kevin Richard White is the author of the novels Steep Drop and The Face Of A Monster through No Frills Buffalo. His short fiction has been previously published by Akashic Books, Tahoe Writers Works, Crack The Spine, Lunch Ticket and Cactus Heart Press among others. He lives in Pennsylvania.
Here are a few links to Kevin’s work:
“Streak of Evil,” “Drinking Rooms,” “Punchline of the Year” and “Since I Got Here”