“Cool Whip is made from rancid oil,” Andrea says as I heap a sloppy spoonful on top of five scoops of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream.
I’m not sure I believe her, but I lop the whole mess off into the kitchen sink before I dig in for my first bite. Andrea heads towards the freezer reading the carton.
“You’ve got at least four servings there, Hun,” she says like the serving size police.
“So?” I mumble, my cheeks already full.
“That’s two days’ worth of saturated fat.”
I let the spoon clank against the bowl.
“I’m just saying.” She pushes the carton to the back of the freezer and pulls out a quart of frozen yogurt — vanilla. She digs out a helping the size of an egg — a tiny, anorexic chicken egg. I squeeze a healthy drizzle of chocolate syrup over my sundae and head to the recliner to take control of the remote.
“Honey, the president’s speaking in twelve minutes.”
My shoulders drop. I push out a hot breath.
When we decided on this trial living together thing, she insisted on leaving her television at her apartment, along with her hideous floral print sofa. (Okay, I insisted on leaving the sofa.) “Televisions divide people,” she said. “What’s the point of sitting in separate rooms watching different programs? A one-television home fosters closeness and compromise.”
I’m tired of compromising. I devour 125 mg of cholesterol and leave my bowl to create a ring on her glass coffee table that won out over my well-worn mahogany during the move. I grab my keys.
“Where are you — ” The door slams behind me. In the garage I notice that I’ve grabbed the wrong keys. Screw it. I adjust the seat in her Passat. The radio comes on playing some pop music crap that I can’t flip fast enough. The drone of “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” repeats in my mind all the way to the market. The clerk cards me for the cigarettes and I chuckle, almost wishing I was under eighteen. Andrea and I were eighteen when we met at Community College, statistics class, first semester. She was getting the rough stuff out of the way. I’d pushed registration too far and got locked out of everything else. Even then she was overachieving, walking the line. Should have been my first clue.
I stand outside the market and enjoy a few long drags on my cigarette. God forbid I smoke in her car. A pack of teenagers walk through the parking lot all keyed up about heading to the amusement park. Brings back the summer Andrea and I stood in the roller coaster line for hours before she admitted that she couldn’t actually ride it. “I’ve got six screws, two titanium cages and a plate in my neck,” she said. Yeah that pretty much sums her up; she’s a real piece of work.
My cell phone hums in my pocket. “Honey, pick up a gallon of milk, will you? Skim.”
Skim — story of my life with Andrea. She’s skimmed the life, the fun, the flavor out of everything. It’s times like this I can’t remember why we’re together.
In her car I give her set of keys a second look before turning over the ignition. Presidential address my ass. I follow the road past my place and through town, pulling into the parking space I frequented before Andrea and I embarked on our cohabitation experiment. It was the perfect apartment for her and she hadn’t wanted to let it go without knowing if we could handle living together. The practicality of it had been lost on me then. A guy wants to think his proposal will be met without hesitation or doubt. But I’d learned to make concessions during our four years together.
Tonight’s no different. I ignore the hum in my pocket and the half-gallon of milk going warm in the car as I sink back into the hideous floral sofa. Feet up on the well-worn mahogany, I start channel surfing on the one TV at her place. Humming along to the annoying pop music tune in my head, I think maybe I’m learning to appreciate Andrea’s practical side.
Ruth Schiffmann‘s stories and articles for children, teens, and adults have appeared in more than seventy publications both in print and online. After homeschooling her two daughters K-12, she is now enjoying living a writing life, following her heart and discovering where it will lead her. To read more of her work, visit www.RuthSchiffmann.com.