Silence, if it can be called that, blossoms between us, a botanical happening too slow to be captured except in time-lapse. When we speak, it is in unison. “Cows,” we say, as we roll by a herd on our right. We say it in the same lilting, delighted tone of discovery. Whether this expressed a thought that he thought I would have, and therefore pre-empted; or that I thought appropriate based on prior exclamations from his driver’s seat, and therefore piped for his amusement; who knows?
We both do.
A stamen peeks through the lily.
In the crowded restaurant, everyone seems to have a lot more to say to their dinner companions than we have to each other. They are friends who see each other infrequently, gesturing, drinking, carousing. The plates of food keep arriving and they eat as they speak, and drink as they eat. We hold hands and stroke each other’s knuckles with our thumbs. We sip our consolation wine on the house. We thank the wait staff, graciously, we hope. In the pretty window, a peevish couple sits, enjoying their coveted spot that the hostess had accidentally told us was ours when we had arrived. The woman, thin, peers over her reading glasses at the inattentive wait staff. Severely, she examines the menu. The man wears his expensive black-and-white striped polo shirt. He swivels his gaze distractedly between the window and the dining room, and the waning afternoon light glances off his balding head.
“You should tell me if my dress is falling down too low,” I say.
“How low is too low?”
“If it looks like I’m not really wearing it anymore.”
We are almost finished with our first plate when he confesses his disappointment with its pedestrian contents—only kalamatas and green olives. My husband has become a connoisseur of olives, which he had presumed to hate when we first lived together. I used to eat all of his olives then.
“It will be fun to see Mary and Sam get married,” I say.
“And sammed.” He looks pleased.
“I said,‘And sammed.’”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a pun!”
“I don’t get it.”
“Walker would get it.”
I thought about it. “I really don’t get it.”
“You said ‘Mary and Sam get MAR-ried,’ so I said, ‘And SAM-med.’”
“I don’t know what you mean! Why would they both get ‘sammed?’”
“The verb is the same as the word. ‘Mary’ and ‘married,’ ‘S—” “OH.”
Sometimes we understand each other perfectly. Like when we perk up at a herd of cows.Back at the apartment, I lie with my head on his chest, and time goes by like new petals unfurling. The silence floats around and between us. I can never quite tell if, in a pause, we have witnessed the ballooning of a few cells within a slender green stem, or if entire oaks have stretched up from acorn into the clouds. How many things are we waiting to say, and what are we waiting for?
“Marriage is like a date that never ends.”
“Marriage is like a date that never begins.”
“Marriage is a fig that dates a prune to see if it can become maroon.”
A forest is a silence that grows so loud that you can’t see the trees for the moon.
Air kisses have become a thing with us. If we actually kissed every time we made an air kiss, we would be kissing all the time. Did it start because I was short and he was tall, and there was that winter when he threw out his back shoveling snow?
We air kiss across the room. It is silent, but not entirely. There is some meaning in that pucker that we have not yet divined.
Sometimes we signal our wish for the other’s indulgence with a mock gaping smile. A private moment in a crowded room, our beaks ajar, like birds cooling off in the summer heat. It is the first time I am wearing a strapless dress, and I am self-conscious.
“It looks fine,” he says.
I tug at the neckline anyway.
Degustatively, we agree. The roasted broccolini whets our appetites, and I pinch some of his fried calamari. He snags a bit of sole off my plate. We nod in symmetry, murmuring our approval. They are out of the lamb, so we share the rabbit and the pork tenderloin, draining our wineglasses. Several parties have seated and departed since our arrival, but others who were here before us linger on. We observe them with keen interest.
We like meeting new people because we like gossiping about them—just between ourselves. We amuse each other with observations about our friends’ behaviors. We debate the enigmatic things they say, their motivations we suspect. Speaking of such tales and intrigues, our cheeks grow rosy with delight. It makes us love our loved ones more. Over the years, we have acquired friends like pets acquiring humans, always wondering if we will be adopted from the pound. We keep our friends the same way. Dressed in his dark moody blue shirt and tan slacks under the orange glow of the streetlamp, he is an Irish Setter. I am a sausage dog.
He tells me I look beautiful, and I tell him that he does, too.
Dessert was a warm almond torte. Wobbly from the port, we walk down the street a few blocks before I protest the chill, and we wobble back again. The stairs creak as we ascend them slowly, he behind me. I listen and think that I have never heard his footsteps quite that way before.
Yi Hong Sim is a writer, composer, scholar, and erstwhile librarian from
Singapore. Currently, she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Communication at the
University of California, San Diego, where her research focuses on the political
economy of classical and contemporary art music-making.