Steakhouse

Steakhouse

Read this with a coffee.

They were holding hands.

“What would we do?”

“We’d walk around the cemetery in the spring sun because one of the best days off that I’ve ever had was a day where I just heightened myself up a touch and went for a run around Toowong and I’d like to do that with you too if you’ll come.”

“Do you remember when I told you how I always talk about death?”

“I wrote it down.”

“I want you to remember it.”

“I’m not like you. I have to write it to remember. You just never forget.”

“That’s true. I would like to do that.”

“When?”

“Stop it.”

“What would we do then?”

“We would do a lot of things like that. They don’t have to be very much as specifics but in general they would mean a great deal. We could say what we’re thinking and it wouldn’t have to bowl you over or anything like. It would be more… looking down a laneway and at the other end you see a slice of some alternative life and we could just walk down towards it if you wanted.”

“I want to do that right now.”

“I know. But what about tomorrow?”

The margarita and the lager came and they drank from them together and then tasted each other’s just to see. They interlaced their fingers in the hands that didn’t linger on the glasses and they looked at each other for just long enough that it became unbearable.

“I remember when we met you said you wanted to be able to trust someone like me. I remember writing that down. I found that book the other day. I didn’t find that part but I found things from before and things from after when I went skipping through so it’s in there.”

“Find it.”

“Okay.”

“Did you see where I was in that book for the first time?”

“Yes. It’s just your name but there is much more later.”

“I hope so. Can you tell me what it is?”

“Yes.”

He kissed her fingers then.

“I remember you asking me what I wanted and I remember telling you and I remember looking at what you wrote and how you wrote it and laughing because I couldn’t read your cypher at all. You said everyone said that but that no one had said ‘cypher’. That it was more of a scrawl. But that you don’t go back to what you’ve put down except for nostalgia really.”

“Because it just helps me remember. You’ve not got that problem.”

“For better or worse.”

“Just for better. Do you remember where I am first in your books? In which book?”

“I would have to look. But I remember the first thing you ever said to me and I don’t know that you do. More than that: I remember the first thing you said to me as I was, not as you imagined me to be.”

“What was it?”

“Both times it was just ‘hey.’ Not ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ or anything. And I remember how short and sharp it was the first time and how the sun came in through the glass behind you and how you were sitting where you always sit now and I always want it to be true that you sit there because that’s where you sat the first time.”

“I’ve never thought about that.”

“I know. I wish you would.”

“I will.”

The meals came but the thought was incomplete so they waited a moment.

“I remember the second time you said it that it wasn’t short and sharp but rich and full and it was like you realised who I was right then and there and you were really introducing yourself.”

“When was this?”

“Not so long ago.”

That was true and they smiled and their hands came apart and they drank some more and ordered two more and they came quick as they started to eat. The candle on the table burned on and the dark of the room about them held their heartbeats deep and steady within and no one around them mattered any. They ate fast and well and they both wanted to say to each other the same thing.

“I —”

“I know. Me too.”

They drank some more before:

“Say it anyway.”

It took a moment but they did, in each direction, and it became life from breath in the instant and what made it all so dangerous was that it would never return folded well into the box. They were giddy afterwards, like children, and their hands were together again and their drinks came and the steady din of the restaurant around them rose like a tide as the familiar texture of a place just like this returned again to their senses with a new steadiness for now.

They settled the bill and collected the wrong coats but they don’t remember because all they knew next was their embrace in the cold outside, close and tight through the layers as the wind and the snow lashed about them. In the frost they kissed for the first time, lips together, breath warm, tasting like a dinner and drinks.

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