It did not happen overnight but Chris grew on you, with his kind ways and his Swedish picnic basket , now you realise from IKEA; but still, he made the effort and what did Howie bring? Brussel sprouts, turnip, bitter herbs, was he trying to remind her of Passover seder or the gas chambers of the holocaust so she could be guilted into dating him, marrying him, sharing his parents’ grocery shop in Ohio; he was poor, forced to serve in the army to finance his degree where he had met Chris, then he went on to talk about Chris, how smart he was, how he was always getting top marks while he had had to struggle..but then Howie stopped his car to pick up hay so she could show her farm animal paintings in the Art school, he did THAT, and then he had gone to an interview with a perspective family where she tried out being a nanny to save money, they even included Howie in the interview, served in the US army, strong , reliable, silent, and then Howie took her to the park, the charles river Esplanade and he patted dogs, any dog, he had asked “Can i give your dog some loving ?” and she thought that he was just overdoing the schmoosing* , she thought he was overdoing EVERYTHING, and Chris, an adopted son of a Jewish lawyer from New Jersey who had married his single mom, had a nicer looking picnic basket, he sniffed like a rabbit, he looked like a giant white rabbit and she was Alice but he was staying, well, for the time being, and he offered her delicious home made pastry and smoked salmon that came from Sweden and bread that came from sweden and a quiet peaceful easy feeling and pale curls of an angel and a certain nervousness that came with stopping to smoke and he had called her, hey, can you get me from the airport? and she came, running with her plastic jelly beans and her maternity clothing dress, Holly Hobby came out of a Hallmark greeting card all the way to Logan airport and he gave her swedish bread and a red wooden horse and chewed constantly like the rabbit he was..
Then , much later they had gone together to New York to see “Tommy” on Broadway but she had convinced him to watch an off Broadway production of some very depressing existential playwriter , and while they were sitting in the village in a restaurant she chose from the latest edition of “The New Yorker” , that came in the post every time during days before the internet , the only regular package with her name on it, she sat there and asked him, and he said, NO, he can not fall in love at the moment, and she ran, she was the rabbit this time, they changed roles and she ran, and ran and disappeared in the crowd in her newly purchased African print dress and tight braids and felt so lost but found no hole to climb into and disappear and everywhere were people and one elderly lady stood in line waiting for the bus and she told her everything, how they came to NY and how he had built up her hopes, but she did not tell her everything, about sleeping on the sofa of his adopting father ‘s New Jersey apartment where you can see the city so clearly but never really touch it, and the lady gave her a phone number and said firmly “call me when you get to Boston, i want to make sure you are alright!” and she asked for her number in Boston and so when she got back to the house she had shared with Linda , and Linda stood at the doorway holding a note saying in her slow way of talking which people could think was because she was slow thinking but was just the opposite because she was quick thinking, she saw written in Linda’s ant like handwriting : “Chris called , he is worried, where are you ?”
Minutes later the phone in their dusty living room rang and Linda said, yes, hold on a minute, here she is, and she was nodding NO ! with her head but Linda insisted and said Chris is REALLY worried and so she said, yes, he could come over and he came and he kept saying how sorry he was again and again but what he did not say was that he could not change how he had felt and he felt NOTHING, and later , much later , a few weeks later they would go to watch “The nightmare before christmas” at a cinema near Waverly square near Harvard , because he loved animation, they would sit eating popcorn and she had noticed not for the first time how Chris resembles a rabbit and she felt happy, stable, at home with him, holding his paw like hand covered with dark blond hair , his white socks and sandals and khaki short pants and spring was coming and her thesis was due soon in June and he sat there and did not speak and even said Shhhh when she tried to comment on something and when they went out of the dark towards the light which was strong, it was early afternoon on a sunday , and he told her “I don’t feel anything, i don’t feel anything , i don’t feel anything” and she listened and let the words fall like a giant waterfall and flood her and she did not run away this time , she stayed and then she let him drive her home back to Linda in Somerville and she walked in the dusty door numb , walked up to her attic bedroom at the top floor and layed on her futon and covered herself with the Peter the rabbit blanket she had purchased in Harvard square and was slightly burned by the reading lamp and she did not cry, she was numb and she thought “I don’t feel anything, i don’t feeling anything, i don’t feel anything” and she didn’t ..
Twenty two years later she found Chris’ photo on a professional network website and saw he had moved back to Stockholm as he had planned and what he had done and it listed his degrees from the Boston area universities and how he loved team work, he said, there was nothing he enjoyed more than team work and developing soft ware and then she scrolled down to “relationship” and saw nothing there, and wondered whether he might have been gay, so she went on Facebook and she found nothing there but in his friends’ list which was very short she found a photo of a plump olive skinned woman who had looked a lot like Dara Olivenick , her best friend in Queens, a native American Indian Polish girl, short with thick arms and a smile that said ” i like everybody” and ” I like eating a lot of unhealthy starches and sugars” and the time line said that she had married Chris in 2006 and there was a photo that said ” My beautiful daughters” and a taller young plump Indian teenager stood next to a much smaller short boy who turned out to be a girl, dressed in a baseball cap and surfing bathing suit, sometimes also topless, and she saw the girl who was probably his had slightly lighter skin than her sister’s olive and a peaceful easy feeling and her face spelled “simple joy” and then there were photos with his adopting Jewish New Jersy lawyer father in a wheelchair in Florida with a gigantic christmas tree that looked like it was stolen from Times square and the short plump woman was leaning forward and did not care that her cleavage was showing , and another photo showed a piece of jewellery with various large colourful glittering gems and next to the photo she had written “My birthday present from my husband -christian” and she even wrote his last name so there would be no mistake, and she wondered whether she had met him online on a dating site called “Columbian women seeking husbands in cold snowy landscapes” or whether she met him while serving him coffee and she smiled to him that simple joy smile her daughter had, simple, so simple to be happy, not like her who had analysed the history of a smile, and had asked for the heart and the mind and the soul and the life of a man , what did this plump Indian ask for ? Did they ever go to the cinema to watch animation films or did he take the daughter instead, dress like a boy and pretend this was the son he would play baseball with and relive his happy years with adopting Jewish lawyer father skiing and swimming and doing and not feeling anything, or did he finally feel something towards someone and wouldn’t it be just her luck that it was again NOT her ?
The last look she gave Chris and his plump Indian woman was the photo of their cruise ship vacation , the exact time the year before when she had gone to a Caribbean yoga camp and slept on the ground with a kitten who had adopted her , they were standing in the water, like birds, large bellies like winnie the pooh , and she was slightly shorter and they were standing in the water as though waiting for something to happen and she thought about the time she had met a very lost alcoholic blond from New Orleans and how they sat in lounge chairs near the swimming pool of a fancy hotel where they were not staying watching the cruise ships in a mocking cynical amused expression and the blond woman gave her an email address and told her to write her and suggested she move to some south American country where it was super cheap to live, and she was thinking why did i leave the yoga camp? later they were going to the pirate bar tourist trap and a heavy set American was telling them how it was like having a long term relationship and the blond was looking like she was interested in him and ordered another drink but she ordered a virgin pina Colada and patted herself on the shoulder “good girl” and was mentally counting just how many Bob Marley t shirt to buy the next day which was her last day on the island ..
*schmoosing- Yiddish for trying to get someone to like you small talk..