They sat face-to-face at the lunch table, yet miles apart.
She absentmindedly fiddled with the plump lemon in her hand. She had always dreamt of having a baby yet she knew she couldn’t. Her crimson nail polish danced with the bright golden hue of the lemon. She needed something golden to illuminate her perplexed life, which had been dimmed by his violence. She remembered last night when he smashed a set of china against the floor. The porcelain had shattered everywhere. Fragments reflected the golden light from the chandelier, blinding her. A piece grazed her ankle, and blood trickled down her leg; she felt every inch of her body ache. She felt like the little mermaid, who foolishly drank the witch’s potion. But where was the prince?
She sliced the lemon into pieces and started to squeeze it; juice fell into the glass of water and vanished without a trace. She suddenly grew annoyed with the lemon and squeezed it with full strength – so hard that she almost had a hallucination that she was squeezing his beguilingly lenient heart, collecting all his remaining love for her. She diluted those piteously meager drops of love in his blood. Thus, the love could spread throughout his body and all her missteps would be forgiven. Driven by this magical lemonade of love, once again his fingertips would tenderly caress her delicate clavicle, instead of slapping her already swollen cheek and smashing her already scanty pride. Her ear rang. She shut her eyes and squeezed harder.
To vent his indignation he sliced his steak mercilessly into tiny countless pieces. He imagined that the steak was her, luscious and alluring, inviting every single epicure to come over and take a bite. How could he accept this? A chef held rights to his signature dish. Without him, she was merely a stiff steak that the humblest flies wouldn’t even bother to patronize. What right did she have to accost those villains, hang around with strangers in bars, and squander his money? She squeezed every dollar out of his credit card to treat “friends” or “colleagues”. When he demanded a serious conversation, she was as elusive as a snake. To all neighbors, she whined about his lack of care and fierce temper. As if the dishonorable was the victim and the cuckold was the culprit. As if a steak with alien bite marks was legitimate in claiming to be fresh-baked and it was all the chef’s fault.
His aftershave lurked around the room like a spy, colliding with her perfume particles that danced with full stretch. It was a competition of olfactory, from miles apart.
The steak was slimmed into strips and diced, randomly distributed on the plate like a puzzle. He couldn’t recall what the original pattern was, just like how their old time of unhindered love had slipped his memory. He had a slight sense that the woman sitting across from him was weeping, yet he didn’t care. Even crocodiles’ tears were more precious than her’s. The person who should feel guilty was not him, but her. She was the one who invited strange men into their house, spent his money on them, and slept with them. She was the one who was always whining and self-pitying and pleading innocence. He gazed at the puzzle on the plate, picked up the fork and pierced through a piece, somehow feeling avenged.
Granting oneself invincible by pretending the counterpart to be invisible – that was the trick, to draw the remnant of care in the torrent of distance and silence. Miles apart, it was feasible to disguise.
She sipped the lemonade. There was something wrong. She knew that all along; she was just trying to ignore it. As if excluding the seeds when squeezing could prove their non-existence in the first place. Everything she had been doing wasn’t exactly for vengeance, but for excruciating herself with these overwhelming self-pity thoughts. Or rather, for penalizing herself for the crimes she refused to confess. There was no way she could extricate herself from her ill behavior, because the way she saw it was simply twisted and lensed. Like a masochisti,c she lived in such pathos. Surely she wouldn’t admit that it was possibly retribution.
He placed the fork in his mouth and chewed the meat forcefully with deliberate dilatory. Swallow. He should leave her no control of her fate. Digest her with gastric acid. Teach her real pain. Lemonade wasn’t real bitterness. Self-realization was.
He raised his head from the plate and gazed at the woman sitting across from him. She stared back. A shiny liquid enshrouded her eyes. They were miles apart, but they saw each other much clearer than they saw themselves.