The International House of Pancakes
There’s the pancake house on mornings after a late night of lovemaking when it still is and you don’t mind so much that he rousts you from bed when all you want is coffee and instead you rationalize the quick shower, the perfunctory kiss, and the 10-minute drive.
So you settle into the same booth as usual because he’s ravenous and grinning and though you’re tired of the paper menus with the routine offerings – buttermilk with syrup, buttermilk with blueberries, eggs and bacon with a short stack – you’re fascinated by the patterns as water glasses are set down and picked up and set down again, making their mark in rings.
Your mind is on rings because your friends babble of nothing else; they have them and they want you to have one too, or more specifically a pair – one for the promise and the other as they like to say, making it legal.
But your preference is to marvel at the way water bleeds into paper and forms shapes like a kaleidoscope not to mention the Olympic symbol each time a waitress who ought to be named Flo lifts a glass, fills it up, and plops it down again.
You watch him scarf his flapjacks with syrup and blueberries as you sip coffee and nibble on a piece of wheat toast, and after he eats he’s affectionate and reaches for your hand, all good humor and announcements about his next business trip or the upcoming ball game or his buddy golfing match, and it isn’t that you’re disinterested so much as you’re beginning to notice that while you’re part of his life it’s the way he fits you into his life that is disconcerting. But you set it aside when he calls you baby, sweetie, angel.
There is no way to differentiate between an expansive soul and a heel, really; you’re too young or too dumb or both, though you prepare your goodbyes after the “slip” despite months of apologies and even roses, only letting him in again as your girlfriends convince you you’re lucky because most guys wouldn’t be honest and he’s honoring the relationship by telling you. And besides, it’s not like you’re engaged, right?
Then he takes you home to meet his parents and shortly after, you are.
In fact, the pattern of giving you what he thinks you want after a transgression – from not listening to forgetting your anniversary to whatever else may be going on that you don’t know and only sense – it all becomes the stack of excuses year after year, the stacked foundation of who he is, the stack of bills he pushes your way as though you’re crazy to argue with “it’s only fair, you make more money,” and you’re managing the house and the kids and kicking in to his pals’ latest ventures and now it’s clear that his money is his and your money is his, too. By this time it’s marriage of course and your friends shrug and say their husbands wouldn’t do that but hey, everything else is alright, isn’t it?
And it is because it looks like it is. And it is because you accept it. And it is because the constancy of absences and lapses isn’t so different from your mother’s version of marriage though you’re telling yourself this is a happier place, and you hang on to the reasons you loved him like his smile and his stories and his curiosity. And then you’re searching for more than a smile and stories and curiosity and you find, well… nothing.
By now there’s simply his life and your life and there’s little that connects you except for public shows of pleasantries and his tolerance for what is now your distance which you decide is entirely your fault until someone reminds you decades later that you’re still in there – a warm heart, a bundle of desires, a woman who wants a man who loves her more than pancakes or buddy weekends or absence, a man who will not call her baby, sweetie, angel and never use her name as she begins to wonder if he even remembers it.
You aren’t the one who walks but you know the shoes that are made for doing so and you smile at the Nancy Sinatra song by that name that occasionally pops up in the wrong decade and demands white boots rather than Nikes or Weitzmans, but you know your takeaways if you ever dare and they aren’t about things at all but lessons, and you wonder why we insist on our lessons as if that compensates for years lost and dreams defecting.
You dismiss any notions of endings because there are children counting on you and despite some core of a self that says no to the indifference you are anchored to an even stronger no to irresponsibility.
And so the heels you would use to walk sit idly, and you stick with the heel who no longer takes you to the pancake house, who rarely appears in the marital bed, who talks a good game in a crowd and leaves you to the silence of empty rooms and wondering what year it was the two of you saw those Olympics anyway, competitors in bright garb that cycle by in such a blur that all you catch is an impression of arrival and departure.
Flash fiction is a very short story of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 words. A writing exercise – for a little flashing fun – trying my hand at flash fiction in fifteen (minutes).
More “fast flash” here.