She is speaking. Her mouth moves but the words are soft like her brown skin and now I want to touch it again, strum my fingertips against it, make more memories from it. There isn’t enough time, there is never enough time when we are in this space. Time is cruel and so is this, what we are doing. The giving and the taking. There is pain and agony coming for me and for her, but her mouth is the color of strawberries.
Today there is breakfast. Yesterday there were good-byes, the could have and should haves of rewritten lives.
“There’s just no getting over you,” I say.
“There shouldn’t be,” replies.
She returns to the room in her blue dress with little yellow flowers. I saw the fabric in the store earlier that summer and the pattern reminded me of her— beautiful and unexpected. I knew her less then, less than I knew myself now. It is as if I knew this moment would come. I make a list of the ending in my memory: speaking, strawberries, breakfast. No tears. There is no crying for goodbyes that shouldn’t exist.
Her long, soft brown tendrils bounce on her elegant shoulders. Her generation doesn’t believe in flat irons and chemical processes. Natural is what they call it, hair existing in its true form. My generation believed in straight hair for straight women. A relaxer. Relax, it’s supposed to hurt. Relax, it’s supposed to scar. Relax, you’ll be like everyone else. Accepted.
I ask her for one more day. She says no. I beg for it. For her. For us. For now and forever. There is kindness in her cruelty.
We misspent the lazy summer thinking we were crazy even wrong for this. When that point of no return came, we continued past it. Past the accepted right and wrong. Past neighbors’ and friends’ eagle eyes. Past a satisfactory husband and a new fiancé. We forgot there was anything else. We forgot there are always heavy silences at dawn and awkwardness at breakfast and clock watching. Counting down the time until we returned to other out-of-place lives.
“It’s not a secret if it isn’t anyone’s business.”
She forces a smile when she says this.
She is gobbling the eggs I made; she’s late. He is waiting. Her cell phone tells her so. A cross country trip to a new life and a fresh start. She is to be a teacher. He will be in marketing. They will be the ideal.
“I will miss you,” she offers.
I nod. Nothing is forever. That’s how memories are created.
“Will I ever see you again,” I ask.
She shakes her head. Our delicate house of cards relies on a foundation of secrets and silence. Secret: I am in love with a woman. Secret: I am a black woman in love with a woman. Secret: I am old enough to be her mother. Secret: I don’t know if I can return to my husband’s bed after being in hers. Truth: Houses of cards are delicate for a reason. Each card has a role and its place in the structure.
I have beautiful children and beautiful home. I am the wife of a pastor, the leader of a community. They would burn me with judgment if there were suspicion. There is no room to be anything else than what I am supposed to be. Ideal.
“Do you love him?” I ask another question. She’s nearly done eating.
“Does it matter?”
“You will make a beautiful bride.”
The clock says 9 a.m. She is at the door. The skin, the hair, the blue dress, the night before, and the months before that. She’s at the edge of leaving.
We say, “Take care of yourself.”
The house is quiet now. The car’s engine roars down the street until I can no longer hear it. My husband and children will return in one hour. Enough time to put everything back in its place.
Icess Fernandez Rojas is an Afro-Latina writer from Houston. Her fiction has appeared in Minerva Rising and Soul’s Road: A Fiction Anthology. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Guardian and in HuffPost Latino. She is a VONA alum and has an MFA from Goddard College. Check out her blog at icessfernandez.com or her Twitter @Icess