remains of her spiced cider, Dania watched the couple walk towards
the outdoor café, boots crunching on crisp fallen leaves. The two
traded words through woolen scarves, their cheeks reddened from the
cold or from an excess of emotion — it was hard to tell which.
They looked like they were posing for a portrait on a Christmas
ceramic, Dania’s ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. They sat
down not far from her, with their chairs drawn together and gloved
hands clasped tightly. A sappy Christmas ceramic.
Dania stared at the dregs in her cider, bitter
flecks of nutmeg and cloves. She gulped it down quickly, let the
heat burn her taste buds until they were numb. And ordered another
“Stings like a rug burn on the fat of your ass,
Dania swung around. Jake. Her ex-boyfriend’s
ex-boyfriend. The hostility between them had once sizzled. Now
Patrick had been filched from him just as Jake had taken Patrick
from a desperately longing Dania. And now Jake was the one who
looked like a corpse still walking.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Same as you, mourning what was, or should’ve
been, never fated to be.” He pulled up a chair next to her.
“I’m not in the mood for company,” she said
“Neither am I.” He sat down.
Dania glared at him, then returned her gaze to the
new girlfriend with aching fascination. The delicate upsweep of her
cheekbones, the innocence in her tiny face, the bright twinkle of
her eyes that flashed a certain alertness of the mind — there must
be a flaw, something to mar the beauty that had replaced her. Not
that it would matter. Dania was numb, so numb, from those damned
antidepressants. Nothing fazed her, nothing even touched her. The
beauty and hell of it all.
Jake was unmoving beside her, fixed on Patrick
with smoldering eyes. His yearning contempt roved over his ex-lover,
the square hands that had caressed him, the thin lips that had
kissed him, the frame of muscle and fat that had lain beneath him.
Such a fraud relationships were, the pretense and masquerade. To be
one thing on top of another — straight when you’re gay, gay when
you’re bi — to be pleasured with a gilded tongue that later
scorched you in the name of love. He reached a hand into his pocket,
for the bottle of Zoloft no longer there. Years of habit were hard
to break, even habits he’d given up by choice.
“The dead and the numb, watching the start of a
new love,” Dania muttered next to him. “How pathetic.”
Jake looked at her thoughtfully. He played with
the flame of the table candle, keeping his slender fingers in the
fire until the heat forced him to take them out. A child’s game,
he thought. Dania was right.
“Time to rise up, look beyond, live again once
more.” He pinched out the flame and rubbed the ashy soot between
They both stood up to leave.
As they left the couple behind, the vices in their
chests loosened ever so slightly. For hurt and burned as they were,
discarded by another, who were they to cast shadows on someone else’s
joy and happiness? They were learning to move on.
Sankaran is presently writing a collection of
vignettes, to be titled Ordinary Lives. Her recent work can be found
online at Prose Ax, The Independent Mind, Orchard Press Mysteries,
and The Paumanok Review. Her current print work will appear in
up-coming issues of Mindprints, The Guild, and FUTURES. She is also
an editor at the new e-zine flashquake.