The air oozes grilled meat and beer, slowly etching themselves onto the voluntary victims’ garments, still they seem to enjoy themselves. Live music is played by a local, two-piece band, the girl sings with her sultry voice, while the guy strums his acoustic guitar and sings harmonies. I walk past them with a notepad and pencil in my apron, careful with the greasy floors and not-very-brightly lit room, towards the nearest patron raising his hand. It doesn’t take me long to recognize that face, and I feel paralyzed, as if someone has stolen the ability to control my very own limbs.
He came to pick me up on a Saturday night, out for dinner and a late night movie. I put on my best dress and made sure I sprayed on the perfume that he liked. When I got into his car, he noticed and said, “You look amazing, honey.” That alone made me have a stupid grin on my face. For the rest of the ride, we didn’t talk much, just listened to the songs on the radio. I’d like to think we’d reached that point where insecurities didn’t haunt us anymore, that even silence felt comfortable.
I looked out the window, simply observing cars upon cars drove by, lights of all hues, shapes and sizes stuck on the exterior of buildings, and all those people with things to do, I wondered where they were going, what they were up to. Even after staying here for over a year, I still hadn’t gotten used to seeing the busy streets and all the city lights. It still felt foreign to me, almost in a magical way. Gosh, how old was I? Three?
Jay didn’t say where he was taking me, but as we went farther down the road, the sign of my favourite restaurant came to sight, slowly magnifying as we got closer. At first I was delighted, but it was immediately replaced by anxiety. Did I forget something? Was today our anniversary? No, we celebrated that five months ago. Valentine’s Day? Wasn’t that in another three weeks? It wasn’t either one of our birthdays either, and I was one hundred percent sure we never spoken a word about marriage. What could it be?
We got a spot by the windows, where we had the perfect view of the city below. Even if he didn’t mention it, I was pretty sure Jay chose that spot on purpose. After we placed our orders, we commented on what a lovely night it was, and I figured it was the right moment to ask. “So, what’s the occasion?”
“Occasion? Oh, this? There’s no occasion. I just feel like treating you something nice, that’s all,” he said with a smile.
His answer failed to tame my suspicion. I still couldn’t help but think he was hiding something from me, but decided against pressing him further. If there was something planned, I ought to know about it by the end of the night. It was assuring to know I hadn’t forgotten anything though, Jay would’ve been frank about it if I did. Now I was starting to feel excited.
Dinner was great. I noticed we were one of the quieter patrons there, but it was alright by us. Jay’s presence alone made me happy, and I believed the feeling was mutual. There was no need for us to show off our affections for each other in public. With satisfied tummies, we went to catch a Romantic Comedy-my favourite type of movie-and he drove me home. As I was about to open the door to leave, he said, “Cecelia, wait, there’s something I have to tell you.”
I smiled. “I knew something was up!”
“No, I mean, we need to talk.”
And I spent the next hour a sobbing mess in his car. He let me, though he didn’t have a choice.
I walk slowly, as if I’m walking towards my death sentence. He’s talking and smiling happily with another girl. I don’t know what he sees in her. She has glasses that’s too big for her face and a T-shirt that has a Mickey Mouse on it. How old is she? Ten?
“Hello, my name is Cecelia. Are you ready to take your order?” I say while putting on my best smile. Jay gives me a slight nod and a faint smile, other than that we pretend not to know each other. Our history involuntarily replays itself in my head. “We’re growing apart,” he had said, “Something’s just not right. The spark isn’t there anymore.” I feel so betrayed. And embarrassed. I feel like a stray cat who clings to people for food, and when they feed me I think they like me and follow them some more, until they start hissing and kicking me away, then I realize they feed me not because they like me, but because they want me to leave them alone.
But I pretend I’m alright, Jay doesn’t have to know how I really feel inside, I won’t let him. No, more than alright, I pretend I’m happy. At least as happy as a person with a broken heart can be. Yes, very happy.