Keeping within proximity of her borough I met Wendy a little after ten at a diner in Washington Heights.
The diner was relatively small on a block that could have been cut into two smaller ones.
Six couples occupied booths while two patrons sat at the counter. There were three waitresses on staff, a woman working the register, and another woman next to the woman at the register doing nothing despite being dressed as every other employee.
We took a seat in a booth close to the middle. A waitress came a minute later with menus. I ordered scrambled eggs with peppers and onions along with a Cuban sandwich. Wendy ordered salami with plantains. To drink, I bordered orange juice. Wendy had something called Malta.
“I wasn’t aware that you knew someone in this neighborhood.” I said. “One of the girls in my theater house broke up with her boyfriend of three years. She asked a couple of us over for a girls’ night.” “I’m surprised you’re not drunk then.” “Women don’t only drink when we get together for girls’ night.” “You also do each others’ hair, make-up, and gossip.” “Who told you that?” “The Babysitter’s Club.” “The who?”
Our food arrived. It smelled delicious. I practically devoured it all in ten minutes. I had to order a second orange juice, too.
As Wendy bit into her plantains I cleared my throat. “Can I ask you something?” Swallowing her food she said, “you just did” and then smirked. I rolled my eyes but grinned just a smidgen. “How do you feel about us?”
She stared into space for a moment and then put her fork down. “Indifferent.” “How so?” “You’ve seemed very distant lately.” “In what ways?” “Your level of affection giving has gone significantly down over the course of, I’d say, almost two months. I don’t know what caused it but given that you actually don’t show a lot in general having close to zero is discerning.” “Discerning to what?” “That there’s something or…someone, in the picture.”
I once read that a sign that a man is cheating could be detected by the lessening of certain things he once did. I cursed myself for not continuing to be consistent regardless of my feelings toward her. I knew better.
I stared at Wendy. Her face was expressionless but her eyes were searching mine. She wouldn’t find anything, though. Nobody would.
She finished her Malta and set the bottle to the side. Her lips curled into a developing frown, her eyes dropped to her food. I placed a hand on hers. She lifted her eyes back to mine.
“I’m not cheating on you.” I spoke softly and with a straight face, eyes void of emotion. Hers the opposite. Wendy’s face relaxed. Her mood seemed to be changing.
“But I’m breaking up with you.”
Wendy sat back in her seat and just stared at me. I finished my food by the time she uttered “what?”
“Is what I said somehow confusing?” “You’re damn right it is.” “How so?” “What’s your reason for wanting to break up with me?” “It’s not a ‘wanting to’ it’s a ‘I am’.” “WHY?” “I don’t need a reason.” “Like Hell you don’t.”
With this last statement the decibel of her voice was raised, startling the patrons in the diner. I felt wondering eyes fall upon our table. I didn’t scan the area, though. My eyes remained fixed on Wendy.
“I’m not happy.” “Why aren’t you happy?” “I’ve grown up. With that, I’ve discovered the idea of traits in a woman that resemble a wives’ would be pleasant to have in a companion. You don’t possess those traits.”
This was both truth and fiction. She did possess a couple but that fact was entirely irrelevant since I don’t care for her the way a man actually taking these qualities into serious consideration would.
Wendy breathed deeply. “I did things for you I never would have considered doing for a man. SEXUAL things.” “I don’t see the-” “I’ve blown you in public places.” “And I-” “You took my anal virginity!”
She said this last bit in a hushed whisper that I’m sure someone heard anyway. Perhaps they understood, too despite this being a predominantly spanish speaking neighborhood.
This last statement was rather curious. It suggests that anal sex held the same value as vaginal sex- that it were something sacred amongst women and only do it with men they deemed worthy. If you weren’t a wench, that is.
“None of that matters to me even if it does to you. I am not on the same page as you are. That is a conflict of interest, and my interests do not lie with you anymore.”
Wendy grabbed the neck of the Malta bottle and slammed it against the end of the table, shattering the body and sending glass everywhere. She stood up and raised the neck of the bottle at me. Her eyes were on fire with a madness I had never seen before.
“You’re a sonuvabitch, Johnny. A Grade-A fucking bastard. I love you, and THIS is how you treat me?!” Her voice cracked with the sound of sobbing. “I should have known you would never change.” “But I have.” “You’re incapable of it!” Her voice was now the only thing audible. Eyes fell on the scene. Food began growing cold from anticipation of this live soap opera or “novela” in Spanish.
Feeling these eyes, Wendy slowly lowered her arm while returning to her seat. She dried her eyes with her free hand. I remained perfectly still.
“I’m sorry it had to end this way.” She let out a laugh. “You’re incapable of emotion, Johnny. I knew that back when we first dated. I saw a change in you but that must have been a ruse to hide something. A Hell of a performance, I must say.”
I took out my wallet and put enough money between our plates to cover our meals along with a generous tip.
I stood up and looked down at her. Wendy’s eyes remained trained on my seat, staring at my ghost. “I’m sorry.” I repeated. She looked up at me. “Not yet.”
I silently walked out whilst paying no mind to the eyes following me, nor trying to dissect the tone in which Wendy spoke those last words.
I should have.