Sorry for the delay on the regular dose of the wonderful fiction from Ms. Julia Green and the little illustration for it from me, but I know you can hardly wait so here it is!
When I ran past Ray in Central Park, it was sunny and I hadn’t seen him in six months. I spotted him from twenty or thirty feet off; he was walking with a woman, and although I couldn’t tell if they were involved, it occurred to me that if she were a friend, I would have recognized her.
As I got nearer to them, I had a momentary hallucination in which the two of them appeared in fish suits--not dressed as fishermen, but in full-body costumes with satiny scales and large, heavy, detachable heads with ventilating gills. I had realized in the months since Ray had broken up with me that for the rest of my life, he'd forever be remembered as "fish guy," even if that hadn’t had anything to do with the breakup at all. In fact, we'd been having fully imagined, theatrical, choreographed and surprisingly fulfilling sex, both in and not in fishermen-related scenarios. The insane, infuriating thing about the world is sometimes you can get the most complicated things to work, only to find that the basic elements aren't holding their own. Six months later, I had pretty much come to understand what had seemed baffling to me on that cold day in December: Just because you're willing to wear a funny outfit for somebody doesn’t mean it's built to last.
Ray had said something funny and when the woman laughed, she leaned forward and her curly hair covered her face. Despite the urgings of Chase and other friends, I hadn't dated since the breakup. It had been over a year with Ray, and although at 32, I felt certain the clock was against me, I couldn’t bring myself to face it all again with a new man, who’d have a different birthday to remember, new sisters' names to recall, a preferred meal to learn how to cook -- and then there was the strong possibility of another unpredictable fetish. I was getting tired of all the energy it took to distinguish new facts from the old and useless ones.
While the woman crouched, giggled, swayed, Ray raised his head for a moment and surveyed the park’s bustle. I knew he wouldn't see me. One of his strengths was his ability to be focused entirely on the person he was with, and disregard the world at large. Once, we’d been walking down Central Park West and the whole block had frozen and twittered while a movie star strolled by with his dog. Ray continued to recount the hijinks of his junior prom.
Despite knowing he’d never notice me, I sped up as we got within spitting distance of each other, perhaps to minimize the time spent in his orbit. The worst part of all of it was feeling like I was trapped in a cliché -- I was either 32 and desperate or 32 and a resigned spinster. But I wasn’t either of those things, or rather I didn’t feel like either of those things. I just felt like a woman who’d had four serious relationships, none of which seemed to have the right combination of compatibility and compromise. A woman who knew how to dress like a fisherman, a flight attendant, and a farm girl. (Ronnie had been simple -- a blindfold every once in a while, and sometimes a room full of candles. You could never tell by looking at them.)
As I shot past them, I put a big smile on my face, just in case he saw me. I thought about looking back to see if he’d noticed me, to see if he’d turn his head in disbelief, but then I decided not to.