I was sweet until you turned me sour. The type of girl who dutifully showed up to sparsely attended art shows in which you had “work” displayed (“work” I couldn’t admit until after I fell out of love looked a lot like finger painting). The type of girl who didn’t judge you when you slept in for months while I went to my soul-crushing job and you insisted you were still looking for something that was “right.” The type of girl who, despite coming home late and starving as a result of the drain of said soul-crushing job, still found the strength within to make you dinner–often a menu item of your choosing. The ingredients of which I would more than occasionally need to stop at the overcrowded-with-afterwork-clientele grocery for.
On the night that I never would have guessed to be our last together, your request was for, strangely, an omelet. I assumed you had gotten high again and it was one of your inexplicable indica-fueled cravings. It was like living with a pregnant woman year-round as opposed to a paltry-in-comparison nine months. And it was getting old. Yet I couldn’t rightly explain why I could never just say no to you. It would have saved me a stark transformation for the worse, into the ill-desired archetype of “The Embittered Woman.” Incidentally, that was what you had decided to name one of your latest shitty paintings. When no one bought it–and you were so convinced it would sell, declaring it your masterpiece upon completion–I pretended an “anonymous buyer” had purchased it, just to boost your morale, to make you keep believing in your dream. A dream that was delusional (though probably wouldn’t be if you had come from moneyed parents).
It was no small feat to come up with the extra five hundred dollars, but I reasoned that you might at least contribute it back into the rent fund. To no avail. You spent it on drugs and alcohol faster than you made a painting (which was really saying something). Money that might have even gone toward the mushrooms I was currently picking out to place with the utmost care into what I was envisioning to be the fluffiest, most decadent of omelets. Determined to make the very best, for you. Again, I can’t say why. Maybe I thought if I could unlock the doorway to your heart, I could do the same for my own. I was so sure that was the key.
As mushrooms were all that I needed, I exited the store without a bag, instead placing them at the top of my purse. Lo and behold, practically the second I stepped outside, I tripped over some still unknown protrusion in the sidewalk, the mushrooms crashing and careening out of my knockoff Fendi (it was one of the rare times I had actually bought into the lore of Chinatown, assuming the fake designer purses for sale in back alley basements were from the bygone era of New York that people still clung to as a way to tell themselves it was worth it to live there).
It was as I stared in disbelief at the now broken apart pieces of the non-vegetable that I saw you, caught a rare glimpse of you actually outside of our apartment. You looked lighter somehow, coiffed even. I soon realized it was because you were meeting someone you appeared to truly love, throwing her a glance that was unrecognizable to me as you had never cast it my way in our entire three years together. She was a pale, raven-haired wisp with a nauseating and predictable sleeve of Edgar Allan Poe-themed tattoos. She didn’t look like the omelet-making type. That was what I was for, it suddenly dawned on me. In fact, I reckoned I was the side piece in the scenario in spite of being the full-time frau that lived with you.
She kissed you with tongue for a wildly inappropriate amount of time as I continued to gawk on the ground, my stomach turning against the gravel, surrounded by my mushrooms that seemed somehow to mock my squandered efforts put into sustaining our relationship with my unbridled obsequiousness. After what felt like a decade, someone walking out of the store offered to help me up. It was a woman of course (for no man was capable of helping anyone other than himself unless doing so resulted in sexual or financial profit), with a baby-filled stroller to boot (one never knows anymore if you’re going to see a dog in there instead). She reached her hand out to me like Christ and said, “Here, let me help you up.” I took her up on the offer, interweaving my fingers with hers as she pulled me to my feet with a strength I wouldn’t have imagined she could possess based on her petite frame. But it was with maximal ease that she lifted me, and I almost felt thinner than the object of your infidelity for a brief moment before catching a glimpse of myself in the glass pane of the store’s automatic sliding door. I looked disastrous, disheveled–in short, like a woman who had just discovered the person she tried to force to be the love of her life was cheating on her with someone slightly younger, therefore more “manageable.” It seemed quite timely that the better part of my twenties were almost over and you had seen fit to trade up with a girl who looked like she was still going to SVA for some cockamamie undergrad pursuit like Fine Arts.
The woman studied me as I studied myself, finally asking, “Is everything okay?”
I looked from her to you and your girl to the broken apart mushrooms pathetically flung near the drain. “I used to think it was,” I replied. “Now I don’t think so at all.” She blinked at me, perhaps wishing she hadn’t gotten involved–which is always a risk when one enlists the supposedly reflex response of being a good Samaritan in New York: you never know what kind of fucked up psychology you’re going to walk in on once you do.
The woman glanced back at her baby, who was starting to brew up a vexing tantrum as the initial “hiccups” of that signature satanic infant cry commenced. “Well, um, hope it all works out for you,” she hastily bid me as a means of extricating herself from my situation.
I nodded my assent at her, as though giving her the sanction to leave me continuing to stand there like a fool–a catatonic fool at that. All I could do was persist in staring at you until you finally strolled away with her, never noticing me observing you from across the street. Never knowing what my omelet might have tasted like.