Here and Now

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There were many things that were a mystery to Jonathan, but this moment was not one of them. He knew that a break-up was about to occur. Maya sat across from him and was looking out the window, staring at nothing in particular.

This was a slow simmer of a break-up. There was no explosive fight. There was no other woman. Certainly, no other man. At least, Jonathan didn’t think so. Maya was far too resolute for indecisive situations and far too frank for secrets.

No, this was about longer hours at work, interests that didn’t always align, and the general complacency that came with a six-year relationship. If the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back had to be named, it would have been this: Jonathan truly believed that he and Maya would always be together, no matter what.

Jonathan’s coffee spilled a little when he raised the cup to his lips. Perhaps this belief was pure arrogance on his part. He remembered calling Maya the other night. “Babe, I’m really tired and that restaurant is so far. I think I’m coming down with something.”

It took a long time before Maya spoke. “Look, there’s no need to make excuses. Are we still on tonight? There are only two possibilities: yes or no.”

At the time, he took her words to mean nothing more than pushing through with dinner plans. As he snuck a glance at Maya’s tense face, he understood the weight of her question. Jonathan couldn’t help but audibly groan at having made the wrong choice. Maya glanced at him. “You okay?”

“Yeah. You?”

Maya leaned back and clutched her espresso tightly. “Yeah, I’m okay too, I guess.”

If there was another Jonathan, the Jonathan that would have said yes to dinner, then this Jonathan wanted him to come and give him two swift kicks on the head. The first, for cancelling a date, and second, for his bland response to Maya’s concern.

He couldn’t help but notice that Maya hasn’t loosened her death grip on her poor coffee cup. Surely, he could have managed something more than a weak yeah.

Jonathan and Maya’s first encounter was a coincidence; an entangling of carts at the supermarket. Maya made some vague joke about meeting Billy Corgan as Jonathan apologized way too much. He had dropped some things and she helped pick them up.

The trunk of his car was already open when Jonathan realized that he should have asked for her name. He knew that if he continued loading his groceries, he would miss out on the chance to see more of her. The other possibilities scarcely formed in his head when Jonathan sprinted back to the shop.

“I’m sorry,” he panted, winded from his run. “I don’t usually do this, but can I get your number please?”

“Joe,” Maya spoke, which brought Jonathan back to where he was. Mid-July, at a coffee shop, about to be thrown out of a relationship.

“Listen,” Maya began. “I wanted to talk to you about something that’s been on my mind for a while.”

Jonathan couldn’t help but close his eyes as Maya laid out all the reasons why she was unhappy. If he was honest with himself, he could supply a couple more. Maya was sweet, but she was a little too clingy. She can nurse a grudge for far too long. Worse, she never admitted that she was angry about something. A lot of the quirks she had, like her obsession over the Smashing Pumpkins, were starting to annoy him.

Just then, Jonathan realized something. “Maya!” he exclaimed as he grabbed both of her hands. “Back then, at the supermarket when we first met, did you ask me if my name was Billy Corgan because I dropped some pumpkins?”

Maya merely blinked at his interruption. “Yeah, you were smashing pumpkins. But, that was so long ago, Joe. Why are you bringing that up now?”

Jonathan heard a note of sadness in her voice. It echoed their first meeting, when Jonathan slammed the door of his trunk and left his groceries on the parking lot pavement. It rang with all those other moments when his choices, even the seemingly small ones, –what to eat, where to buy, which direction to turn – all seemed to yield the same outcome of leading back to her. To this girl, who made an alternative music pun in the middle of aisle five.

But now, her voice also contains another possibility. Jonathan cleared his throat. He was about to slam the door of the trunk and run up the path again.

“Maya, I heard what you said and it’s true that we do need to work on some things. But right now, there’s only one thing that I want to say to you. I want to marry you. Will you marry me, Maya?”

Other than the almost imperceptible widening of Maya’s eyes, her face remained the same. Jonathan felt tremors beneath them. He saw her mouth move. “This is it,” he thought, as he waited for the sound of her voice to travel from her mouth to his ears.

The ground began to shake more strongly. His jaw clenched. Jonathan waited for his universe to split, powered by a question, an answer, and if at all possible, his will. When this was over, Jonathan knew that this world would be something new. He needed to know if he would be facing it with him, still with her.

About the Author: 
Carla Aritao is a homeschooling mom to Hannah, 5, and Rafael, 2. She blogs about parenting at www.hitormissus.com.
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