Taco Battlefields — A Short Story
Bee hadn’t seen him in over a year. But there he was.
Unmistakable. The blonde hair that gently curled under at the ends when it grew too long, the shoulders back stride. The large hands extending to receive a burrito, hand over a credit card to pay, and pause to push back his blonde hair.
T’s back was to her when she finally saw him again. Shoulders broad, hips narrow, large t-shirt hanging loosely over the faded jeans and flip flops that belonged back in Southern California where they met 7 years ago.
She had seen him a few times since that night in the hospital so long ago. He had returned for his shirt, dropped off her stuff and disappeared only to come knocking two weeks later once her mom was no longer sleeping on her sofa and cooking her dinners as Bee rubbed her scar and tried to heal.
I freaked out. I’m sorry Bee I just couldn’t.
You couldn’t. YOU couldn’t? You left, T, you left me there alone.
I know I wish I could do it over but I freaked. You know I can’t do hospitals.
Oh, I guess I should’ve thought about that before I had to go then. What do you want me to fucking say?
Bee remembered staring through her door’s peephole, biting back the fire she wanted to spit onto him. He had stood there on her front porch with his hands clutching at his hair. It was too long and she wanted to pull it. She wanted to punch him in the stomach, to kick him and stab out his eyes, one by one, feed them to the birds while the empty sockets in his empty skull watched-- anything to make him feel whatever feeling was taking over the inside of her body.
He brought her bouquets of flowers every day for a week. First peonies, then iris, lilies that shed orange pollen on her tablecloth and made her sneeze, daisies. Roses.
He would set them outside if she wasn’t home or her roommate would open the door, accept the bouquet, then gently push it close. She’s not here, no you can’t come in. Yes, I’ll tell her you stopped by.
She forgave him a month later. The damage was done, they would never be what they once were. She showed him the stretch of scar below the waistband of her jeans where they took part of what made her a woman, but he couldn’t see the shattered forever-empty womb on the inside. They saw each other at parties of mutual friends and in the grocery store aisles but he didn’t touch her again.
He traveled to Thailand one summer and when he came back, he wanted her. Back. Her, he wanted her back. But instead of kissing him when he leaned in, she told him she was moving.
San Francisco, she said, drumming her chipped fingernails on the wooden table in between them at the Mexican restaurant. In November.
He sat back hard in his booth. His head dropped down into his hands, elbows on the table. A smudge of guacamole clung to his elbow.
Why would you ever want to be in that place? You’re not a city girl, Bee.
I’m not a lot of things.
They finished their food quietly, veggie enchiladas for her, California burrito for him, split the bill, and when they hugged each other goodbye, she told him not to call.
Good luck out there.
I’ll be just fine, thanks.
But here he was. In San Francisco. T. Her city. Him. She watched as he turned toward the Coke machine. Halfway through his rotation his gaze found on her.
Her plate of tacos seemed to fall in slow motion. An explosion of beans and carnitas and guacamole splattered the toes of her leather boots. She stared down at the Mexican food casualty at her feet. He just stared at her.
You don’t flirt, you don’t banter, you just grab my hand. You drop your arm across my shoulder and sometimes you kiss my forehead even though I never had to tell you that was my favorite thing.
You don’t know games. I play mine anyway.
Photo via Chad Montano on Unsplash