You can’t help but feel an immense pain when you look at them together, to see how unashamedly happy they are. How can they be so sick? How can they have a fairytale romance while you wallow in self-pity and try to casually devour your fifth Ben and Jerry’s chunky monkey? As you look at them your mind plays like a French film. Your vision goes grainy as you focus on small subtleties. You see her rare amethyst eyes dilate as her freckles rise and fall while she talks. His thousand watt smile shines as he captures every word. He lightly touches her elbow as she playfully goes for the muffin that he has been eating, they laugh as they commence the most basic of mating rituals. You can’t think of a site that is more unappealing, more sickening, more lame and unessential as what you see before you.
And yet it is the most beautiful image you have seen in a long time.
You worry what they will do when you approach them, if his hand will retract, if her pupils will shrink and they will embarrassingly play off their stupid public love as a small tryst. You can imagine some sort of cliché where he’ll rub the back of his head and laugh and her freckles will flush red as she looks bashfully away. Some satisfaction is found in these thoughts and you deign your mask of delight to involve yourself in such an occasion.
It takes your friends a moment to even realize that you are approaching. The air around them is warm when it’s meant to be crisp with the autumn air and the leaves that accompany it. You soon realize you’ll have to break them out of there revere in order to get your satisfaction and you let slip a “hey you two” from your mouth. They find themselves for a moment shocked, as if they were children found playing with their father’s prized golf clubs. But that moment passes and they replace their faces with those of pure elation at your presence.
This is not what you had promised yourself.
They rise and coo at you like you are the new born of a long time friend. They do the standard “we haven’t seen you in ages!” business before sitting you down and summoning the waiter (or is it barisita? This is a café after all) to let you take your order. You ask what they had and request it without really hearing the answer. You are too pre occupied with the fact that they have turned their loving gaze to you. Your college roommate’s eyes are still dilated and her freckles hypnotize you as they dance as she talks (“Do you know how much I’ve missed you? I was just telling him that it had been months since we’ve even messaged each other silly thing!”). He pinches your index finger just like he used to back then when he wanted to know that even if the world ended he would be there (“Why the hell are you so skinny? I’m telling you, you’re the only thing that’s able to be beautiful with more meat on her bones. No offense hun.”). They babble and squabble at each other as you feel yourself being enveloped into this vaccum of…something. And of course that can only mean one thing to you in this situation.
You look up to see him approaching the table, the only thing to truly take your breath away and keep it. He’s grown since college; gotten smoother, walks like a model and smiles like something dazzling embodies him. He looks at you with those same hazel eyes that are perfectly relaxed no matter what the situation, and his tan skin glows in the grayscale of the city in fall. Your heart slows as he approaches stops when he’s near and breaks to pieces when he kisses you on the cheek to greet you. You hope that the pain doesn’t show in your eyes, you wish that he knew how breath taking he was to you, you need to know why things are happening this way how life is so cruel as to curse you like this.
The rest of the “reunion” goes like a montage. You swear that there is the ghost of a jazz refrain being played on piano perfectly to the situation. They all laugh around you and remember embarrassing things like the time you tried to be street performers in order to get enough money to pay for Chipotle. Or the time that you all had baked the amazing cake and proceeded to try and feed it to the turkeys that roam where your campus was. You laugh, engage in the conversation and stare at him as his eyes twinkle with old mischief and new found maturity.
The laughs were dying down when they finally tried to address the elephant in the room. You had tried to camouflage it well, painting it meticulously and putting walls upon walls of concrete and iron in front of it. But your former roommate’s pupils are back to normal size, her husband has retracted his comforting pinch and his eyes show concern as they try and trap you. You prepare the next mask as you smile and explain the situation. You try and joke about it, dismiss it and even try to redirect the conversation but they all look at you with the deep unfiltered pity that made you not want to meet up with them in the first place. The final straw is when you see his hand creeping toward your wrist his pinky finger ready to give you a light comforting caress. You never wanted him of all people to see you in this state and now look at the situation.
Though you try not to be abrupt in your actions you jerkily get up to go to the bathroom. When your friend asks if you want her to go with you, you quickly say no and do a quick job to the small bathroom they have in the main café. You grab onto the sink as you try to regulate your breathing to something normal as you look at yourself in the mirror. You stare into your green eyes as they judge you, they mock what you have become and that which you cannot control no matter how hard you try. You let your eyes drift to your stomach as you let your fingers graze over the 5 month fresh scars that smile up at you every day before you get dressed. You look again to your eyes realizing that they are red and black streaked from the tears that formed. There are days when you imagine that the water from your eyes will come out a pale pastel green, something as toxic as the body your soul has decided to reside in but they come clear just like everyone else’s. You slowly adjust the wig on top of your head, making sure that it’s even and doesn’t expose your scalp for what it really is. Again you look at your eyes and by now they have dulled into the complacent mask of the girl that hates the things she once loved.
You don’t want to go back out there, and you had half the intention of slipping by the trio if it weren’t for the fact that you could hear the word “Claudia” drifting closer and closer to the bathroom door. Yes that is your name isn’t it? You sometimes wonder why you have an identity other than the one that is whispered behind your back. You snap out of your inner monologue before putting a smile back on your face and heading back toward the table.
Your trio wants to see their poor diagnosed friend one last time after all.