Chapter One: Ornaments
I’ll never forget the way he used to look at me in the beginning. The way he used to meet me at his door every time I would walk into his house, the way he would kiss me and hold me when I came in as if this was the first time, or as if he never would be able to do it again. I remember him looking at me and telling me I was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Most people might be flattered. I couldn’t help but hear what he was saying. He was calling me a beautiful thing. A thing. I have never wanted to be a thing; maybe beautiful, but a thing?
What is the purpose of a beautiful thing? What happens when the beauty fades or you get used to what you are looking at? Aren’t things disposable? Isn’t beauty replaceable? I never want to be a beautiful thing to anyone ever again.
Chapter Two: “To Go” Boxes
Christian was tall and lean. Almost too lean. Not a starved lean, but a perfectly calculated unnatural lean. It was a skinny that could only be achieved by portioning. Some people called it self-discipline; I called it vanity. His skin was soft. It was not soft just from expensive lotions or moisturizing, but from time. It was malleable. It moved and stretched in ways that youth’s skin did not. His lips were thin, probably from smoking, by spewing bullshit, or both.
He was happiest when counting money. He made money, which he didn’t always report in his taxes. This caused him to have an excessive stash of cash in his home. He couldn’t possibly put any of that in the bank. So he would hoard the money in the restaurant “To Go” boxes in random places throughout his beautiful half a million dollar condo. I remember watching him sitting on his bed counting the piles of green. I saw in his eyes that paper justified everything for him. That paper made his world go round, made his work worthwhile, made his life successful, which gave him purpose. Not under any conditions did he ever look at me that way.
I’ll never forget in one of my random moments of hate for him I considered going over there and stealing some of his money. I didn’t really want or need the money. I just thought I would take the one thing that actually mattered to him. Then I realized I would be just like him, with nothing but a bunch of dirty paper.
Chapter Three: The First
Christian and I were at a nice dinner.
It was a wonderful restaurant in the best contemporary art museum in the city. I supposed it was on behalf of the “To Go” boxes that we had the luxury of eating at such a place. A restaurant like that was special to most, especially to me given that I was 19 and my meals previously had consisted of Taco Bell and canned vegetable soup.
People’s thoughts were constructed into physical things scattered, hanging all over the walls of the room. The art was better than the food, although the food was good too. And the food was better than our conversation; awkward, stagnant, lacking no productive purpose other than buying time. We really didn’t have much to say to each other. For me I was still having a constant debate in my head. I still to this day wonder what was going through his head…
I was uncomfortable in my chair trying to adjust the new lingerie I had purchased earlier in the week. I was trying not to let him notice me fidgeting with my clothing. Although I am sure he did. I loved the lingerie. Cream. Light blue. Lace. It was not sexy, it was pretty. It was light. Innocent, how I suppose I was at the time. I was still not sure how I was going to pay my credit card bill for the expensive purchase, but I figured it was an important occasion. It was like a dress for prom, a swimsuit for a cruise, a car for your 16th birthday. Christian randomly went to the bathroom during one of our nothing conversations. I sat and tried to calm my inner voice. It is okay, it is safe, it is going to be fun, I kept repeating internally to myself. I just wished I would be his first. But at 32, most of his firsts have been consumed by life experience.
Christian came back shortly, frazzled with a heap of half-wilted white roses. I suppose they were wilted from being in the trunk of his car. I hated, and hate roses. They were impersonal, easy, and a void of a thought. “I couldn’t find lilies,” he said. Which in boy language meant I waited until the last minute and now this was all they had left at Hy-Vee. There was only one thing left to do, one response. I did what I knew best; I smiled prettily and gave him the convenient answer, “Thank you. They are beautiful.”
I pretended not to care. He pretended not to notice that I did care. We did this as the server came up bringing us a free desert. “You two are just too sweet. I love seeing people this happy. This one is on me,” he said with a look of yearning in his eyes, placing the beautiful cheesecake in front of us.
I should have known he was never capable of lilies.