How did we become like this?
I sat with Anne on the stoop of her apartment. It was the middle of June and the thermostat that hung by the front door rose into the red. We were eating oranges. We took our time in peeling them and removing the rough stringy outer layer. It was something to do with our hands. We tossed them into a plastic bag between us.
It had been a while since I saw Anne. Same life, same job, but she had lost 15 pounds and she didn't looked at me as she talked, she looked at the street. She was a remnant of what I remembered from college. I had taken so many pictures of her, I knew her well.
"A friend of mine left a voice mail a few days
ago. I should have picked it up right then, but didn't know why I
missed it. Do you remember Sam?" I said.
"Yeah. I think you mentioned her a few times," Anne said.
"Well, Sam said on the voice mail, 'it might seem strange or weird to you, but I don't think we should talk or keep in contact with each other anymore.' It was strange. What surprised me was that I wasn't hurt by it at all, I texted her, 'That was a strange message indeed. But that's fine. Have a nice life.' I didn't even bother to ask her why. Then I deleted her phone number. Took her out of my address book, deleted my subscription to her blog, blocked her, took her off my email and instant messaging contacts. After dinner, I realized that I left a few of her postcards in my mail sorter, so I took them out with the trash that night."
"Were you mad at her?" Anne said.
"No. That was what shocked me the most, I wasn't even mad. I don't know what I was. I could have been brushing my teeth or having coffee while reading the paper. I didn't feel anything. And I use to think I loved her."
An ambulance drove by with its siren followed by firetrucks and a group of kids on bicycles. They were huffing their way down the street towards the smoke. I guessed that it was the corner liquor store that was on fire. The kids were out of school with nothing to do. A woman who lived down the street was out walking her dog; she waved as she past us. Anne and I waved back. I her offered an orange, but she declined.
"How did we become like this?" Anne said.
"I don't know. I always think that people come and go. But this, it was as if she never existed," I said.
"Sometimes people regret things. I'm sure she'll come back and try to contact you."
"No. I don't get that feeling."
"Maybe you don't get that feeling because you don't want to contact her either."
"Maybe. And if I did, I probably wouldn't tell the person. I'd just disappear," I said.
"Then when we would you?"
"When there are reasons."
don't have any more oranges," I said, "How about
"That's fine. What kind?"
"Fuji. They're from the farmer's market. I'll get them and a knife. Hang on a second, actually, why don't you come inside with me."
brought the apples back outside and I began peeling with the knife. I
tried hard to get the skin off the meat in one long spiral piece. It
curled around my hand. Anne lit a cigarette. She covered the
matchstick with her hand and inhaled as the tip glowed.
"You've started smoking?" I said.
"Yeah. I have no idea why. I guess I'm just looking for ways to be self-destructive," Anne said.
"That's fine. I've started drinking as well. I mean, drinking all the time."
"Yeah me too. I've been drinking a lot of wine. I actually drank last night before I took the Amtrak here," Anne said.
"I was drinking whiskey just a few hours before I took the taxi to get you," I said.
"Do you ever wonder what the hell we're doing?"
"Sometimes. I feel disgusted with myself though when I sit around in my room and see all the bottles I've thrown underneath my desk and bed," I said.
"I know what you mean."
one," I said.
Anne held the fruit in her palm and looked at it before biting into it. "It's been a while since I've had this much fruit. I kind of like it."
"I guess it counteracts all the drinking and smoking we do lately. I want to think that it does."
"I can't remember the last time someone peeled an apple for me. It feels so cold in my hand I want to put it on my cheek," Anne said.
"You can. No one's stopping you," I said.
"Yeah. But I wouldn't able to eat it anymore."
mom and friends worry about me," Anne said, "I must look so
"You do look unhealthy."
"Thanks for being honest. You missed out on the first few weeks, I couldn't hold down my food and threw up whatever I ate. I cried all night and day. Crazy tears. I felt crazy."
"No man's worth it Anne," I said.
"I know. But I just can't let it go. Compared to you, I feel too much. Even when I know it's not logical. He doesn't want me anymore, but I still keep trying to get him to take me back anyway."
"You shouldn't make him feel obligated to keep in touch with you. It's out of pity and not caring. There's a difference," I said.
"I don't want that either."
"Then what do you want?"
"I don't know," Anne said.
I cut the last of the apple. The apples from the farmer's market were the best even though they were not in season. they bring them down from Apple Hill. I hardly ever go to the farmer's market but on Sunday, on a whim, I went and bought fruits and vegetables. I even brought a basket and filled it up. That same day, I went to Target and bought myself a set of cutting knives. That night, I caught my reflection on one of the blades as I was putting them away. My hair was tangled in odd places and my eyes were sunken in.
"I think you cut yourself John. There's
blood dripping down your wrist," Anne said.
"I didn't even realize." I stopped peeling and turned the inside of my forearm towards me to take a look. I could see the cut across my thumb, it was right underneath the nail. It wasn't deep. I wiped it off on my pants. We went inside. There weren't any band-aids so Anne wrapped it with a kitchen cloth and I held the pressure on it.
did you not notice?" Anne said.
"I don't know. I was just listening to you and all of a sudden you said I was cut."
"I wish I was like you sometime. Just being numb to everything."
"I don't know. I doesn't even feel human. If you were like me, I'd be sad," I said.
"True. But maybe I wouldn't be sad."
They put out the fire down the street. The
smoke stopped and the kids who huffed their way past us just an hour
ago were on their way back. They walked their bikes instead of riding
them. Far away, the sun was setting over Sacramento. "We should
go inside before the mosquitoes get out," I said.
"Thanks for remembering that they always attack me first," Anne said.
I threw the apple and orange
peels in the trash bin next to the back gate and walked up the stairs
of the stoop. Anne was standing in the doorway. "Love is cruel,"
I nodded, closed the door and once inside, turned the porch light on.