***an exercise on subtext i quite enjoyed written a while ago ***
“Want to go out for supper tonight? I’ve been craving pizza all week.”
“I just put water on. I was going to make Kraft Dinner and tuna.”
She sighs. “Oh. Alright.”
“Do you want tea?” he asks, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and settling her into his side on the worn green couch. She feels his warmth emanating through his black, holey sweater.
She breathes in his scent of cigarettes and sweetness as she nods. He leaves and returns a few moments later with a cup of semi-warm tea. She tastes it and deflates as she realizes there is no milk added the way she likes. Instead, there is sugar; something she avoids as a diabetic.
“Did you see the new Walking Dead?”
“Yes,” she answers, “with you. When I was here. On Monday.” She sets her cup down. The dark blue one with the large white chip on one side is the best mug he owns; it retains the most heat. His large glass beside hers is half empty. She suspects it holds a mixture of cola and scotch though the glass advertises a local brewery. She’s tasted the seductive concoction in her glass before and on his lips. She smiles at the memory of last summer when they had spent a night in the park together, lying on an old army blanket, taking shots and telling secrets.
“Oh, how about Big Bang then?” he asks, his face revealing nothing as he fiddles with the buttons on the television remote.
“Fine. What did you do today?”
“Went on a few trips. Nothing much.”
“No, nothing. Doesn’t matter.”
“Those are two different answers,” he chides.
“Well pick one then.”
She tries to relax into the seat cushions. The middle cushion is her spot, it always has been. He wraps his arm around her again and she melts into his side. She feels herself slipping into submission. She plays with the loose thread on her red sweater.
“I had a pretty busy day.”
“You gave me the play by play via text,” he nods.
“Well, besides having class all morning and then a group project meeting, I also had to go for volunteer orientation at the animal shelter. I’ll probably have to do some reading for class while I’m here. And I have an essay outline to work on.”
“Sure. I’ll entertain myself.” He starts the episode.
“I have to analyze the love dynamic between Romeo and Juliet and discuss what their relationship was like compared to modern times. Any opinions?” she probes.
He pauses the program with a sigh. “Well, besides the fact that they were teenagers and knew each other for about five seconds before they got married, their communication skills were horrible. And Romeo had zero patience. I mean, if he waited a little longer then it wouldn’t be a tragedy.”
She cocks her head to the left. “But there’s something to be said for his passion and need to be with Juliet. You can’t blame him for acting quickly when he thought she was dead. He loved her so much he couldn’t stand the thought of being without her.”
“Is he passionate or just clingy? If you’re looking at it from a modern perspective,” he takes a long swig of his drink, “Juliet would definitely get tired of Romeo needing to be around all of the time. He’d get so clingy. She’d toss him for sure. Or maybe it would be the other way around. They’re both way too into each other too soon. Passion like that fizzles, especially at that age. Then Romeo would go on to find the next Juliet, like he did after getting shut down by Rosaline.” He takes a drink again, finishing the concoction with a refreshed exhale.
She bites her bottom lip and her brow furrows. “I hadn’t thought of it that way,” she concedes. She feels as though he’s set fire to her cheeks as he goes to refill his drink.
Her muscles tighten as she contemplates passion.
The cold ice clinks against the glass.
She’d felt real passion for the first time wrapped in his arms, controlled by his lips.
The splash of alcohol.
It was passion that had made her say yes to him once.
The fizz of cola.
It was love that kept bringing her back.
The fusion of ingredients creating something entirely different.
Sweat collects on her brow. It has been weeks since she’d felt his passion.
She crosses her arms and takes a deep breath. “I think,” she mutters, “that he would stay and fight. It’s not in him to quit.”
He hasn’t heard her. He sits back down. “So, I can’t hang out on Tuesday.”
The unstable calm she had rallied wanes. “Why?”
“I made a commitment to someone. Can’t cancel.” He starts the episode signaling an end to the conversation.
“I see.” She bites her lip. She’d read somewhere that the body can only acknowledge one point of severe pain at a time; if she bites her lip then maybe she won’t feel the sudden pressure in her chest.
He puts his arm around her again, oblivious to her distress. Her breaths are shallower. She keeps still, emotions divided. She wants to hide and yell at the same time. The sitcom plays on, he drinks and she tries again.
“Um, so there’s this play on at my school next week. It sounds pretty funny. Would you want to go?” she asks, her voice quiet and uneven.
He smiles at the television screen. Sheldon has just made a joke at Howard’s expense. “Sorry, what?” he asks.
She clears her throat. “Would you want to go to the play? With me?”
He cocks his head. She pulls herself away from him and sips at her tea. Her body clenches in anticipation of his answer.
“Possibly. Next week is busy. Maybe though.”
She nods and sits back. She’s heard this answer before. She tells herself to stop asking. He pulls her back to his side and his fingers glide up and down the freckles on her arm as he focuses on the screen. She smiles slightly at the sensation and surrenders to it. She’s seen this episode before.