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[personal profile] arsenicwaltz
"What's that face mean?"

I am sitting at the table of the ice cream parlor, as I have been for the past half hour or so, poking at my empty ice cream cup with my spoon. As ever when we're together, the conversation has been lively and unstilted - that is until now. Because now, he has announced, he's going to tell me his plan to propose to his girlfriend, and I am absolutely unable to muster as much excitement for him as he deserves. I temporize.

"I'm trying to squelch my inner stage manager. I'm sure you've got the details handled...?"

He smiles at me, and he reaches forward and touches my arm. It's like being stung, almost, like a jolt of electricity, almost, but tempered with the sinking knowledge that either he never felt it as I do, or he has taken me too well at my word. I may never know. I paste what I hope is an impish smile onto my face and look up at him, secretly searching his face for some sign of emotion aside from that happy anticipation he gets when hatching a plan. If there was any there, I cannot see it. "Go on," I tell him.

He rambles at length about his grand plan, and I ask event-plannerly detail questions, prompt him about logistics, and eventually declare it a sound plan. All the while I am dying a little inside, and I hope he will never know.

My tragedy, I think, is that I was brought up not to believe in fairy tales, but to secretly yearn for one of my own.

"That's silly," we always said.
"The princess should rescue the prince," we said.
"I am not a princess," I said, and I always held back a tear because I wished it wasn't true.

I was brought up not to believe that happiness was possible for people like me. And what I find instead is that you must make your own fairy tales in this world. Twice, I have stared the prince in the face and told him my mantra "I am not a princess", unknowingly rejected him as I rejected myself.

In that long, stimulating discussion we'd had, perhaps a year and change ago, I never realized what he might have been really asking.

"I don't believe in marriage," I told him, and my bitter, broken heart poured out a lot of nonsense because some part of me truly believed right then, that if the previous one couldn't love me enough to marry me, no other man could. My sickly heart believed it, and I let it convince my brain of the same. The brain controlled the fingers that typed out these bitter thoughts and sent them to him. And woe betide me, I believe he took my words to heart.

It is self-centered, I tell myself, to believe that he took it as a rejection. It is silly to believe that anything would have changed had you not objected so strenuously to the ideal of marriage. But sitting across from him and watching his fairy tale unfold before me, I am both happy for him, and sick at heart and I wonder: Had I asked him, that night on the dance floor, would it be me now instead?

"We're sending invitations to everyone who brought us together. You're getting one, you know."
I must have looked startled. I only ever got what I took to be glares from the lady in question, so I wonder aloud "Did I have some part in the two of you meeting?"
He smiles then, dazzlingly. "Why yes. If I hadn't been there to see you, I would never have met her."
My heart twists a little in my chest, the invisible knife turning and turning. I can practically feel the paste on my smile slipping as he tells the story of my involvement in the meeting, so I affect a melancholy air.
"I was newly single then," I murmur, thinking of the boy who tore at my heart.
"Yes, I remember. There was some confusion about it, if I recall." He looks at me awkwardly.
We sit in silence for a moment or more.
"It's getting late," I say, giving the empty ice cream cup one final poke with my spoon. "You have classes in the morning, I'm sure."

He gives me a gentlemanly elbow as we leave the place. And as we're hugging goodbyes when he drops me at my car, the hug goes on, and on, and on, until I grow awkward and unsure in his arms. As I pull back a little he twists slightly, and kisses me on the cheek. I could cry, but I give him a brave smile. "Good luck. You'll have to tell me how it goes."

In the absence of my ability to love, I am determined to be happy for him in his.
I can only pray that, should another prince come along, I will have the self-awareness to know him for who, and what, he truly is.
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May 2009

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