This is a lot of “blah blah blah.” I honestly don’t know where it would go if someone were to force me to continue writing this. I’d probably have someone bust through the diner’s doors, Pulp Fiction-style, just to save me and everyone reading from terminal boredom.
Chloe pushed her tea away, only to pull it back and cup it with both hands. It was cold and overly sweet. She’d dumped too much sugar because of nervousness, and it collected in the bottom like silt. But if she were anxious, it didn’t show. She sat in the diner booth calmly, the only sign of anything amiss was the expression on her face: her lips were pursed and taut. She looked as if she were trying to keep her body perfectly still, keeping the mug in front of her as a shield.
“I don’t get it,” he said, leaving his own tea untouched. “You said you were fine. You said we were fine. You sat there in front of the counselor and said the words, ‘I think we’re going to be okay.’ Was that a lie, Chloe? Because what you’re saying now, this is not okay. Not by a long shot.”
“I didn’t lie, Ethan,” Chloe said. “It wasn’t a lie.”
“Well, it wasn’t the truth. You don’t go from ‘everything is fine’ to ‘it’s over’ in a week. That’s not possible. Even for you.” Ethan sat back on the vinyl cushion. His fingers found a split in the seat, and he played with it until it widened enough to put his hand inside. He pulled bits of spidery stuffing from the tear, and let it float the floor beneath the table. He had no idea he was doing it.
“Ethan,” Chloe said. “I did say we were going to be okay. I just didn’t mean… together.” She looked up at Ethan, then back down at her tea.
Ethan nodded rhythmically as if he were listening to a slow song, preferably one about a relationship ending. “That’s some impressive semantic bullshitting, Chloe, I have to say. Pretty slick.” Under the table, cotton was collecting around Ethan’s feet in drifts.
“Why?” Ethan said. It was clear he was struggling to keep his emotions under control but tears were squeezing out of the corners of his eyes, more with frustration and rage than sorrow.
Chloe sighed and slowly spun her mug in a circle. “We don’t fit anymore. It doesn’t work. We’ve tried, and this thing we had? It doesn’t fit anymore.”
“Oh, all of a sudden, it doesn’t, like, fit?” he mimicked her mannerisms. Chloe ignored his mocking.
“Not ‘all of a sudden.’ You know that. You’ve felt that. If you can’t be honest with me, fine. Doesn’t change anything. But be honest with yourself for once. This hasn’t been good for a long time.”
“It has,” Ethan said, choking on his words. “We were good.”
Chloe shrugged. “Maybe. And maybe we’re fine now. But is that all you want? Fine? I don’t want that. And I know this may seem patronizing, but I don’t want that for you either.”
“Right,” he said, “you’re just that magnanimous.” He looked around at the other diners. He wondered if others were breaking up too, or were they the only ones? What were they all talking about, all of these nameless couples? Telling each other about their days? Discussing their kids? What did couples talk about in diners if they weren’t breaking up? For the life of him, he couldn’t remember. As far as he was concerned, they’d always been in this diner having this conversation about ending their relationship.
“How long have you known?” he asked her.
Chloe looked puzzled. “Known… what?”
“Known you were going to do… this.” He waved a hand quickly between them.
“Oh,” she said. “About a month, I guess.”
Ethan pushed the air out of his lungs quickly, making a “huh” sound. “A month,” he said. “You strung me along for a month. We went to counseling and dinner parties and your parents’ and you knew.” His voice lowered to nearly a growl. “You. Knew.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I really am.”
“Yeah, sure, sorry.” He said. “I give you six years of my life and I get a ‘sorry.’” He made his voice into a falsetto. “Sorry, Ethan. I just didn’t want to do this anymore. Sorry we built a life together and bought a house and got a dog. Sorry, Ethan.” He voice began to echo in the restaurant. “I’m just. So. SORRY.”
The other customers began to turn their heads to look at the couple. Chloe placed a hand on Ethan’s arm. “Ethan,” she said.He winced, and she removed it.
“Oh, don’t worry. I won’t make a scene. None of your lawyer colleagues will see you having a torrid argument with your boyfriend and embarrass you,” he said, grinning without humor. “Not that any of them would be seen in a dump like this anyway. That’s why you chose here, isn’t it?” he said, looking around. “So I wouldn’t make a big, dramatic scene and if I did, it wouldn’t matter.”