We're launching Secrets, our 22nd issue, on October 21, 2016. Leading up to the launch, we're publishing a series of poetry & prose pieces that feature unconventional lives and secret histories.
by Alanna Francis
You sit across from me at the table. At your new apartment on the Upper West. Last week you called to invite us for dinner. I hesitated. You pressed. “Saturday, it’s settled,” you said.
Now you are saying something about the baby. And I am saying “Baby?” because I have been thinking about the sharp edges of the ring on your finger and now my mind is struggling to catch up to you. I look at you, at your face, and see that you are looking at me as though you have never seen me before.
“Yes,” you say. “When you lost the baby.” You angle your chin slightly. Your chin is a question. Don’t you remember, your chin asks.
I’ve never known you to hide behind a euphemism like lost the baby before. I didn’t think I had to explain to you the reasons it was not a baby. I press a finger to the cold metal of the dessert fork on my placemat. I flip the fork so it is upside down. I flip it again. Rightsideup.
Jamie covers my hand with his. He looks at me. He angles his chin also. His chin is a question also. What is she talking about, his chin asks.
You know we don’t talk about him. Or about anything that surrounds him. So it’s strange that you’ve brought it up.
You look at Jamie, at his also-tilted chin, and a look of understanding gallops across your face. Is there horror too? For me? For you? For spoiling things before we’ve had time for dessert? I can’t say for sure.
“I’m dying for a coffee,” Andy says. He turns to Jamie. “Keep me company while I make it?” He’s trying to save you. Playing host so the women can be alone to sort out their differences.
I stand up. “I need the washroom,” I say.
I walk down the carpeted hallway of your new apartment and shut myself in your washroom. I run the water in your sink. I sit for a moment on the edge of your tub. I inventory your bath products.
Earlier, in the kitchen, you had reached into a bag of icing sugar and used your hands to dust the powder over the surface of the cake. You wore an apron and I tried to remember if I had ever seen you do that before.
You always wore a lot of jewelry but it was of the costume variety. You had a chunky faux gold necklace I borrowed whenever we went out. I was wearing it the night you met Andy. Is it you who doesn’t like costume jewelry anymore? Your look is so minimalist these days. Reserved, even. I never would have pictured you with that ring he gave you.
“You used to say you would only wear an engagement ring if the other person wore one too,” I said.
You shrugged. You ran your sugary hands under the tap and wiped them dry on your apron. “I had a lot of ideas,” you said. “We’re not that young anymore.”
It’s true. We are not that young and we have been falling out slowly. We have been falling out bit by bit and day by day and moment to moment. But before that. I’m trying to remember what we used to be.
When you came to pick me up that day, outside on the corner of Bleecker and Mott, I assumed you knew. I assumed you understood what a relief it was to be empty, finally, of everything that was connected to him. I thought it went without saying that you were the only person I was ever going to tell.
You opened the cab door for me. When we got home you went to the bodega for a six pack and later we drank beer on the fire escape. We looked down, through the grating, at the people on the street. You talked so I wouldn’t have to. It was easy to listen to your voice, to float out on the current of your thoughts.
God how I loved you then.
I run from the foyer of your apartment building to the spot down the street where we parked the car. It’s raining and I don’t have an umbrella. You know I never have an umbrella. Jamie unlocks the car. I get in. I close the door in a rush. Jamie starts the car. He turns the radio down.
“I’m sorry,” he says once we have started to drive.
“It was just an abortion,” I say. “There’s nothing to be sorry about.”
“Yeah,” he says. “No, yeah, I know.” He turns to look at me and I keep my eyes on the road. I look up at the reflective lettering on the street signs that mark each avenue we pass. Even though up here the avenues are mostly named instead of numbered, I have the feeling we are descending as we cross the island. Down, down, down to the FDR.
I think about how I will call you later to tell you about this conversation with Jamie. About how maybe he understands but still it feels impossible to explain myself to him. And then I remember that actually you’re gone. Or I am. But anyway it’s obvious that we’re not the same and maybe it’s impossible to explain myself to you too. Maybe myself isn’t a thing to be explained. I know that I won’t call you anymore. I know that if, eventually, you become impatient and call me, I will let the phone ring and ring and ring.
And maybe you will know the reasons why. And maybe you won’t.
Alanna Francis is a writer and student living in Vancouver.
Rebecca L. Montgomery is an artist from Lions Bay who doesn't love makeup but loves a good (blind) contour.