Who We Are

I’m her. Yes.

That’s the question you’ve been silently asking yourself for the past three days, isn’t it? Maybe you Googled me before we were Matched, or it could have been afterwards; it doesn’t matter. How do I go about distilling myself to a pre-set, marketing-tested character limit? How did YOU? It’s not one of my strengths.

I could describe the deepest yearnings of my heart to you. You’ll ask me about the colours my mind dabbles in, the dreams I’ll breathe life into one day. I’ll smile, brushing the stray hair from my face and somehow managing to look wistful but not downcast when I talk about the songs that always elicit my tears and the paintings I can’t behold without something in my nucleus stirring. I’ll tell you about the person I wanted to be when adulthood finally arrived–a future mapped out before I could write my name–and the person I became after I’d immersed myself in the world. Late nights, conquests and defeats, travels and photographs and wishing on stars. So many stars.

We’ll cover all of that and more. We’ll genuinely enjoy the reciprocity and the discoveries we make. And someday, perhaps, both of us will glance back at how We began and grin awkwardly.

Or not. Because that comes later, if at all.

I am THAT Caroline.

You’re not saying anything.

*****

Oh, Diet Coke for me. No, we’re relatively familiar with the menu, but I think we need just a few moments. Thank you.

Look, you’ve got to understand–everything was substantially more complicated than how that ridiculous headline framed it. I wasn’t just Kate’s mentor; we were close. Not bridesmaid or send-eighteen-texts-about-nothing-before-noon close, but we’ve watched movies, drank a tad excessively, carpooled to concerts. We’d kibitz over lunch about the books we were reading. Even planned a roadtrip once. I was, on some level, a confidant. I’m certain of it.

In the police report, Kate claimed she wasn’t aware that Adam and I were involved. It’s possible that I neglected to mention it, but zoo policy forbids intra-park relationships, and Human Resources is perfunctory in its execution. It’s not that I didn’t trust her–although it’s overwhelmingly clear in hindsight that my instincts were completely amiss–but the relationship was only two weeks old then, albeit an intense fortnight for me. I would have confessed to her eventually.

Thank you. No, I believe we’re ready. I’ll have the Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara. Salad. I apologise; I know you must be asked a dozen times per shift, but–Balsamic Vinaigrette. Great.

*****

The truth is that even without specific information, I noticed the spreading cracks in our foundation, felt the seismic tremors of what was waiting for me. I’d had years of practice re-writing my own history, so I convinced myself that Adam’s incessant phone-glancing when he thought I’d left the room was coincidental. He became emotionally diluted, seemingly undisturbed by our lopsided trajectories. Our nights together slowly dwindled; he would often leave in mid-evening, swearing that his boss asked him to check on Ringo. Well, the meerkat habitat is within shouting distance of the llama pen. I walked past those llamas several times in any given day, and they always looked perfectly healthy.

Honestly, I’ve become increasingly convinced that he was intimidated by my expertise. Adam told me he trained for five years under rather labourious circumstances to become a llama-keeper, but that was probably bullshit, like everything else he said. A monkey-handler like Kate wouldn’t challenge him. Me, though, I’m a bona fide meerkat expert. Please don’t think me hipsteresque, but most people haven’t even HEARD of meerkats. I was highly respected in my field, and devoted years to research and theory application. It’s about commitment.

Sorry. That was much louder than I’d intended.

Anyway, when we’d drifted far enough that I could no longer rationalise his behaviour, I followed him, the night before the zoo’s Christmas party. I’m not proud of it, yeah? And as we turned onto Foxborough, I’m thinking “This is Kate’s street,” and assumed one of his mates needed help lifting a couch or whatnot, because that’s a reasonable assumption for 11:30 PM on a Wednesday, right? But even with my doubts hollowing out a home, I was so determined that the facts were going to be something else that I pleaded for my brain to invent whatever rationale it wanted. And OF COURSE it was Kate’s house, that vicious–

Oh, thank you. Looks delicious. No, we’re set for the moment. Thank you.

It’s awkward to keep repeating “Thank You” every time she appears, but it’s sort of disrespectful to not say anything, you know?

*****

So the Christmas party was the next morning and although I was a swirling calamitous mess–understandably so, I would argue–I was also absolutely determined to not cause a scene. I’d decided during breakfast that I would throw Adam out that night. Let him sleep in the llama cages. But Kate immediately flounced over and shrieked at me for breaking up her relationship. HER relationship!

How’s your pasta? No, I’m good. Would you like a shrimp? They’re a bit spicy.

I remember her fist crashing into my face like a gale-force wind smiting a household plant. The police and the newspapers insisted that I’d retaliated by hitting her with a wine glass, but I have no memory of it and frankly, it sounds like something she made up. No one seemed to care that she’d attacked me first. When I regained consciousness, I was draped over my couch as starlight filtered through the windows. My hand drunkenly connected with my cell, and that’s when I heard the voicemail from my boss telling me I’d been sacked.

I hunted job leads relentlessly, but there’s not much work for a publicly-shamed meerkat expert these days. A few weeks later, a judge smacked me with a 800-pound fine for assaulting Kate.

In retrospect, I should’ve called my family so they didn’t need to find out from the papers. I should’ve done a lot of things. I spend entirely too much time ruminating on what I’ve lost. And maybe I gained a certain degree of notoriety, but anyone who remembers my name and Googles me is wondering afterwards if I’m feral. What I’ll do. If I’ll throw a wine glass at them.

Wherever this goes tonight, I’m asking you: see who I am.

I’m more than the wine glass.

——————

Inspired by this article.

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