|| | Andrew Mitin

We were having dinner at Emil’s. Allison favored its intimate setting and the luxury of aged

It was a trick of the candlelight, I believe, but Kevin’s face has fallen and I cannot prohibit the

waiters. We sat close in a secluded booth. Her face was lit by a selection of votives assembled

worry it rouses. The glass stem fluctuates in size, now trim, now robust, and I wonder how the

on the worn table that was lightly covered by a linen cloth. The flame’s spasms lit one aspect of

burgundy does not leap from the bowl and astonish the linen. I should straighten, but I am al-

her face, then another, and in the soft candlelight I was assured in my decision to tell her I loved

ready so; I should soften then, but too little and he will not notice and too much may encourage

her. She held her glass and smiled, waiting for my toast. I had rehearsed saying so for weeks

him and I do not want to encourage him because I know what that word is and I know what that

now. To the days getting to know one another, I began, and the ease of doing so. I think you’re

word can do and it would be better to keep that word hidden within you, Kevin, nurtured but

wonderful, Allison, and I love… but never aloud, and when that final word left the warmth of my

chained, until you are sure, to the extent that you can be sure about such a dubious thing, that you

imagination, that place where ideas are muted because all of their import cannot be determined

know what it is and what it can do, and you have not thought to chain it up because you do not

singly, the languid ideas I had coddled wavered on doubtful legs in the revelation of its saying

know what it can do. I will not leap into love with a man who does not know what it is. With

I felt another way, a way that was as valid as my romantic predisposition but critical to a ma-

such a man the wounds would be severe, even though unforeseen, and his ignorance would be

ture understanding of what I was about to say, and the contours of that word sharpened in the

sincere, his apologies convincing, his oblivion to the correctness of our dissolution devastating,

cold saying, and though I still believed in the first throb that propelled me toward Allison, I also

and it would be my fault, for ending it, for entering into it. I cannot return the sentiment, but nei-

saw an aspect of that throb that would not be so receptive, that would, in the end, meet my em-

ther can I nod and pat his head, and I had such hopes for this evening, for soft discussions and

brace with lacerations; I had said it and upon saying it I would have to meet with it, and I thought

light laughter, the simmering pleasure of finding unison, the tingle of shared experience, the awe

it would no longer be Allison upon whom I leaned for support, but this other thing and this other

of discovering this is that other thing and letting the fear wash over us privately, wonderfully,

thing was elusive, and while I could see Allison’s consternation pouting now upon her smile and as I

before walking into it together, but later, Kevin, because if you say it now I must hold your hand

determined why that was and what I could do about it, this other thing would take its shape and

like that of a child instead of as a man, courageous and full of grace; oh, let me have time to de-

have its way in the totality of ourselves; this other thing would live in both Allison’s peculiar

cide, six weeks is too soon, three months would be better, look at my eyes. Kevin, please. See

smiles and in my reaction to them, both in my indulgent monologues and the varied responses

they are not bidding you on, notice the trepidation, they are not quivering from girlish delight

they evoked in her, and in the instant between forming my lips one way and then another, I had

but as a woman admonishing. I do not know your role in this other thing because it is too soon

considered that love has nothing to do with the warm bed and perhaps it has nothing to do with

and it has been too long between that word and the next—you have let it hang between us like our

Allison; instead it exists in the loss of ourselves and it will not wait for us to have its way

first kiss and the light is too bright upon it now. Relent, Kevin, relent; look at my eyes and relent.

and I will not be the same and Allison will not be the same… so I said, I love our time together.

I rose slightly in the booth and we touch our glasses. I said, I love it, too.

We drink our wine and thrill at the possibility that this could be that other thing;

we look at our menus and wonder.

Andrew Mitin lives in Michigan. His first story, “Pinch,” appeared in Joyland Magazine.