Posted Monday, March 13th, 2006
Her hands were even smaller than mine. She pushed her tray along the stainless steel rails, and I followed, watching her square of red gelatin shimmy on its lettuce leaf. The cafeteria in the basement of the student center smelled of over-cooked Brussels sprouts and grilled meat. Yellow Submarine pulsed from hidden speakers.
The cashier looked at our meal plan tickets and nodded. We stepped out into an aisle and scanned the tables. Students from behind moved past us and around us to tables while we stood, holding our brown plastic trays of food. It took a long time, but we found a place.
“He didn’t believe me,” Dina said. Her lashes were long and spiky with tears. “I told him I was a virgin.”
“Are you okay?” I asked. It was a stupid question, but everything else I wanted to say was worse. I could feel my face burn.
She shook her head and looked down. That was enough for gravity to pull the tears from her eyes, and when she looked up again her cheeks were wet. “He thought I had my period when he saw the blood on the sheets in the morning. What did he think when he was trying to get his...”
She concentrated on slicing her skirt steak into tiny pieces, but she didn’t eat them. She did this every night, cutting up all her food before she ate any of it. I’d grown used to it, but tonight it seemed like she was buying time. Hands in my lap, I dug my fingernails into my palms.
“I had to stay,” she said as though I’d actually asked aloud. “He wouldn’t take me home—it was too late to take the subway by myself.”
“Too dangerous,” I said. I knew she understood.
“It was,” she answered.
“What are you going to do?”
She began to fork the food up to her mouth. She’d chew each piece thoroughly and then sip some water. And when she finished her meal we’d sit at the table until she silently burped. Only then would she be ready to go. Some nights she’d take a long time, and I’d have to wait.
“Everything,” I said.
She shook her head, staring down at her plate. I waited for her to look me in the eyes. When she did, I knew the answer. She made her mistake, is going to keep on making it, and I’ll stick with mine. Why not? I’d come here prepared to wait, hadn’t I?
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Sharon Hurlbut on Monday, March 13th, 2006 at 11:12 PM
This is very powerful, Miriam! There is so much packed in between the lines of this, I can read it over and over and find something new each time.
Posted by Judy Cabito on Wednesday, March 15th, 2006 at 12:05 PM
The strength of this, lies within your ability to dig beneath the character’s skin to their soul, and show the read what unrequited love is at the beginning. Terrific!
Posted by Cecilia Miller on Thursday, March 16th, 2006 at 10:27 AM
This has a quality that makes the reader believe they're part of this duo sitting at the table or a nearby eavesdropper. It leaves me wanting to know more. Excellent time stamp with the song in the background.