“This is not a warning, Oliver,” she warned him.
He didn’t answer. No one in the café paid attention, people mindlessly went on with their lives. He thought in a movie, things would have happened differently. The waiter would be black, he knew that was a bad thing to think, but he didn’t mean wrong. He never did, things came out wrong and he often got in trouble for it. That’s what it was. But in truth, people in Hollywood or wherever else try to do those things, they want to prove they’re doing their part in equality. Just try casting an african actor or actress for a major part every once in a while, that wouldn’t kill you now, would it?
“I mean, this is not an ultimatum either’, she went on. Her voice cracked a bit, and she fell silent.
Words struck him as hard. He knew them, felt them, but he couldn’t understand them. There was no way in hell he could ever remember that day with anything else than a sweet bitterness, a weird taste in his mouth. It bothered him though, this inability to manage. The situation had turned sour, exactly what he had been fearing from the very first moments. Something in her smile caught him right away and he knew. This is gonna hurt, this is gonna hurt so fucking bad.
“I know,” he eventually said.
He thought nodding would add to the insurance that, yes, indeed, he had been alive and part of the conversation. He mumbled something about his only wish being her happiness. Somewhere in his chest, the bluebird chirped a swansong. A hint of a smile appeared on her lips and suddenly it felt as if someone had turned on the heater. There was something in the air that still remained untangible. He felt lost, crushed, cold and confused.
“It’s whatever you need,” he went on.
There was no sense to whatever he was saying. Except the one down the rabbit hole. He tried to keep a clear head, taking the right decisions. Obviously he thought, those always come at a cost. But fuck it. They had reached an agreement, one on falling out, like lovers often will. Bob Dylan sang somewhere as they went out and said goodbye. They didn’t exchange anything – not even a look. She turned left and went back to her life, and he went back to the vanishing point.
“What happened afterwards?” they asked.
He was sitting there, head still in the clouds. Weeks had passed and the storm had calmed down. There’s collateral damage that he still needed to deal with, he said. But mostly I have to pick myself up every damn day and fight. That’s what it is. They didn’t answer. Most of them had been judging him right from the start, everyone in the room knew that. But none of them cared. Something about love and the stars. It made them all believe things were not that important, that everyone had the right to feel whatever they felt.
They all fell silent for a while, contemplating what it meant to be human and share feelings. Some would never know what deep feelings are, some other would fall in love every other day. In truth, he thought, there’s no way of avoiding any of it. You just have to deal with it.
The class was dismissed at four o’clock that day. And for a while, no one felt like leaving. Everyone gathered around a cup of coffee and exchanged memories about life, dreams and nightmares. Oddly enough, some mingled the three in one big entity. We all go down that way, someone had said. What do I mean? I mean, that’s exactly what life is – your usual everyday routine, a zest of dream and a sprinkle of nightmare. Nothing more, nothing less. They thought about that for a moment, then Oliver laughed and so everyone did.
After Dinah decided to go home, he locked the room, went down the steps and out of the building. Vivid air and timid light made him feel zany and yet alive. That must be what it feels like, in the movies. He began his usual thirty minutes walk home, thinking about the same thing he had been thinking about over the past year.
“Love is a goddamn…”, he finally muttered to himself as he crossed the street.
A passing car ended his sentence.