Are You for Real?

If love is the light that dissolves all the walls, why did it make these ones thicker? What you did was ultimately love, I know. Well, mixed with the quiet desperation of never making it outside the realm of Almost There. You wanted out so badly that you made love up. Love was going to work for you so well. You told me that so many times. But it’s made me like you less and less as I witnessed it all. I couldn’t help it. I feel bitter, resentful, and downright angry, even though I know the truth—that this love isn’t real.

There is nothing to be jealous of. This is all make-believe, I know. And yet here I am, standing still at the door of your made-up world, gathering my strength to knock, to be let in, to not let it show; how jealous I am. How mad I am. How unforgiving I find it all, and how beautiful I find it all, and how unbelievable I find it that you went through with it all. I’m standing in front of it, trying to make myself believe in the lie that you turned into truth right before our eyes. I just can’t get over you making the ugly this beautiful.

‘Come in,’ Eric says, moments after I finally go for it.

Knock, knock.

He’s standing in the doorway with a warm smile plastered across his gorgeous face, and all I can think is ‘Fuck.’ If someone who didn’t know me read this, they might think I was secretly in love with him. But if one knew Eric and didn’t read this to the end, they would be in love with him too. Eric is out of this world wonderful and that’s not a matter of opinion, but let me get to the why in due time.

‘Thanks, Eric,’ I say, my voice trembling a little.

It’s been so long, and yet my voice still trembles in those first few minutes with him.

Unbelievable, and yet.

‘Sofia’s in the shower,’—that means, ‘you’re early,’ but Eric can’t be rude—’but I’ll be happy to keep you company until she’s out. Coffee?’

‘Please,’ I say, looking around as if it was the first time.

Always as if it was the first time.

‘Insane,’ I mutter to myself as I look at the photographs, the souvenirs, and the magazines spread across the dining table.

‘I made a mess,’ Eric laughs, his face all flustered.

He’s standing behind me, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his black jeans.

‘What do you mean?’

‘With all the magazines, catalogues, and flyers,’ he says, pointing, ‘I can’t help but flip through them as soon as they get here. Sofia doesn’t quite understand why I still get excited about direct mail. I guess it’s just one of those things!’

Yes, one of those things she didn’t think through very well, I tell myself. To Eric I only give a kind smile, the kind that understands. Even though, frankly, I will never understand, no matter how hard I try. But I digress…

‘Did she tell you?’ he changes the subject, and his expression instantly changes from embarrassment to pure joy. ‘Come on in the kitchen, I think the coffee’s ready.’

I follow him, cup in my hand, and ask, ‘Tell me what?’

‘We’re going to have a little intern!’

‘A what?’

Eric lets out a sigh.

‘That’s an inside joke, no wonder no one else finds it funny when I say it. A baby, Joanna. We’re going to have a baby! Next January…’

I drop the cup seconds after he drops the bomb. 

That’s impossible. It is, isn’t it?

‘Are you for real?’ I ask in my angriest voice.

Dear Eric. He looks completely confused. He has no idea that I already know the answer to that one, and it’s not the one he thinks.

‘Yes… ? Joanna, are you ok? Here, sit down,’ he says, pulling out a black wooden chair for me. ‘Please, sit down. I had no idea it would hit you this hard. I just really wanted to tell someone. Knew I should have left it up to Sofia…’

‘Who else knows?’ I ask, my head in my hands, curled up on the chair.

I press my chest against my knees and feel my heartbeat all the way down to my toes.

‘That we’re having a baby, you mean? Just family, for now.’

‘Whose family, Sofia’s you mean?’

‘Yeah, why?’

‘No reason. I forgot you have no family, Eric, I’m sorry,’ I mutter out loud, covering my face, exasperated.

‘That was a really mean thing to say,’ he says in a stern voice, towering over me.

‘I know.’

I need a minute or so. This can’t be.

I heard Eric put a (new) cup of coffee down on the table next to me.

‘Don’t kick this one with your elbow,’ he says in a soft voice, as if I was already forgiven.

I shake my head, eyes still closed. 

‘I won’t. Thanks.’

This can’t be.

‘He was holding that same watering can when we planned it,’ Sofia says, pointing in his direction.

Eric is out on the patio watering their many, many, many plants. Or, dare I say it, her plants. Until the moment of conception, anyway.

‘So… you’re pregnant?’ I ask her, and my heart skips a beat or two as I wait.

‘No, of course not. That can’t really happen,’ she laughs. ‘When he said January? That’s just what he knows. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth.’

‘That it’s January now and no human can be pregnant for 12 months?’

‘Yeah, I guess.’

I make little circles in my coffee with my teaspoon and think out loud.

‘This is so messed up, Sof. Why doesn’t he know basic things?’

‘I never thought about the basic things when I put two and two together. They were so… basic, they never even crossed my mind!’

‘Yeah, I hear you… So what now, you have three months to figure out how to get pregnant so he doesn’t catch you with a first lie?’

‘Joanna,’ she says, reaching for my hand. ‘Honey, I wanted this so bad. I don’t need to get pregnant so he doesn’t catch me with a lie. Even if he did, it wouldn’t mean he’d leave me. He wouldn’t do something like that.’

‘Yeah,’ I say, and let out a big sigh. ‘Go figure.’

‘I know what you mean,’ she says with a slight note of guilt in her voice. ‘Most guys would. But that’s exactly why I wanted Eric to be the way he is. I’d so love to have a baby with him, but so far I can’t. Even if by some medical miracle I could, I’d be pretty scared of that baby. That’s not something he’s supposed to do, anyway,’ she says, looking in his direction as if to make it clear that we’re still talking about him.

I stare at the coffee, lost in thought, not noticing that she can’t see him anymore.

‘Imagine,’ I say, ‘if he ever finds out you made him up.’

A loud crash somewhere in the background, behind Joanna, makes me look up and see the stare on both their faces.

‘What did you just say?’ he says, and at the exact same time she says, ‘I can’t believe you just said that!’

Oh, my.

to be continued

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