Joyland

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Margene's Two-Year Anniversary

by Michelle Miller

Margene is all the way out of bed and into the bathroom before she realizes what day it is. It's Gladys who reminds her. Gladys stands beautifully; a chicken-wire hip stuck jauntily out, polka dots, frilled neck and puffed sleeves conspiring to draw any decent person with love in their hearts to a waltz. Margene has gotten into the habit of relating to Gladys all of her delectable plans for each day, in the joyfully matter-of-fact manner that true best friends use to let each other in on their wild dreams. She also lays her towels to dry over Gladys' outstretched sleeve. Margene depends on Gladys, more than some people could ever understand. So it feels especially betraying, to have her own trusted companion be the one to remind her of what she can't possibly forget. Today is the two-year anniversary of Sam leaving an un-fillable void in Margene's once-productive and satisfying life. Sam, who refused—even disdained—Gladys’ presence, let alone her invitation. A sad day, she thinks, but also, in a much different way, a happy one. At 23 years old, with alabaster skin and a basket of aloe vera juice, kamut flakes and fair trade organic cane sugar, she stood behind him in line at the organics market. He had one denim leg rolled up and yellow shoes on, which Margene found very exciting at the time. Up to that point she had been wearing her hair on the top of her head, wrapped in a colourful scarf as she'd seen fashionable French hippies doing in the summertime. As a writer and illustrator of children's books, Margene has always thought she should look a little magical, and the scarf had seemed like a very good start. “Hey,” Sam turned toward her and smiled. He had one crooked tooth and several canvas grocery bags. He was buying a different brand of aloe vera juice, which Margene didn't hold against him in the least. “Hello.” She blushed. “I'm Sam.” “I'm Margene.” He reached out his hand to shake hers and she saw it was streaked with black and gray grease, his fingernails trim but caked with the very same grease. Margene's hands were often caked with plaster and streaked with gypsona, so she knew exactly how he must feel to wear his profession on his sleeve, or anyway, his flesh. “It's wonderful to meet you.” And it was truly wonderful to meet him, and even more so to meet him again and again, for walks and bike rides and days spent working in community gardens and slurping frozen soy-non-yogurt and dinners on the roof of the tall building where he lived, and in bed with a mountain of pillows and sheets of questionable cleanliness, and at her apartment as well, until he started to resent being there, because of her work. One time, a year or so before meeting Sam, Margene had been interviewed on BookTV by a heavily tanned women with bleach blonde hair who looked just as though she'd never ever read a book, let alone a book for children. “So,” the woman asked her, “tell me, where do you get your ideas?” No one had ever asked Margene that before, and she glowed with eagerness to share herself, even with this woman whose nails were just like talons, and probably reinforced with toxic plastic. “My philosophy is that books for children are actually books for all people who need more love in their lives.” Margene could tell the harlot didn't know quite what she meant so she kept on. “You see, most people are weary of their own happiness and can't bear to see pictures and hear stories of people loving themselves and loving each other. I mean, of course unless the people in the book are really poor and in India or something.” The interviewer's words stuck in her throat a little bit, and Margene could see absolutely that she was just the kind of person Margene was talking about.”Well, we're almost out of—” “So you see, I make all of my characters, who love each other and themselves, out of pieces of clothing, with the emotions of people with love in their hearts and people names and behaviours and capabilities of mistake-making and lesson-learning and the movements and gestures of real people, and the language of—well, English, except in countries where the work has been translated.” She bared her teeth in a big-screen sized smile toward the camera that shared no warmth with Margene, who felt sad for this woman, whose eyes were bereft of honest emotion and whose skin, hued perfectly for TV, glowed salmon in real life. “Thank you Margene. Stay tuned for our segment on patio gardening.” Of course, when the tape had been edited, they only kept the first part, then cut to a scene of a librarian reading Gladys Takes a Chance to a rainbow of kids-in-need. They looked enraptured, and even though the BookTV audiences didn't get to learn about why Margene made her stories, sales of the Gladys books, as well as the Maxwell series and even her first try, Mary Loses her Lunch all rose dramatically and she was able to be frivolous with money for a few months after the royalties came in. At first, Sam thought Margene’s work was different and fun. He would go along with Margene to all of the area vintage stores, hunting for the perfect blouse or bag or—on the luckiest of days—jumpsuit. “Here's one, baby!” he would say, holding up a precious piece. “You could do it up like this—” and he would pose the piece whichever way, and usually it would be all wrong, but Margene would grin and kiss him on the head and buy the thing, and sometimes it would work but sometimes she would just end up bringing it back to My Sister's Closet. Then they would take the clothes home and Margene would fill and contort them with bits of stuffing and bales of chicken wire, and stiffen them with paper mâché and shellac and waterproof them and place them on pedestals or hang them from the ceiling or leave them on the floor or the tabletops. After she finished them, she and Sam would load them up in a wagon and take them to the dog park near Margene's garden level apartment, where children and dogs and Italian men all play with balls of different sizes, and Italian women and mothers and nannies and families watch, laughing and gossiping about their silly dogs and husbands and kids. She and Sam would place the clothing characters on the lawn and picnic tables and in the sandbox, and they would sit and watch them, waiting to see what they might do. Of course, they didn't do anything on their own, but Sam would light up a joint and Margene would inhale and she'd look at them and close her eyes and open them and see her characters, and think about what they would do if they could. Sometimes she'd make the scene and realize that someone was missing. “Something is not quite right...” She might say, half an eye open. Sam would suck in as much weed as he could fit in his lungs and nod his head. “Who do you need, Margie?” “Mmm.” And she would decide, “Manuel. You know, Manuel the striped shirt? He could wear Maisie? The red scarf?” And Sam would go to the apartment and get Manuel and bring him back and Margene would create a brilliant scene and write a book and it would sell and change lives, maybe, or else just bring a little bit more love into the hearts of whoever would read it. And Sam was really helpful, at first. She even dedicated Luigi and the Bocce Ball Blunder to him, because after all, it was he who said “Hey baby, you know what would be a riot? If that funny hat thing tried to play ball with those old guys, but the ball got stuck inside him and like totally fucked up the game and then all those old wops—” It was a good idea, except for the racism, which Margene disliked but accepted, because Sam didn’t know any better and really, it isn’t as if he didn’t like Italians. Quite the opposite, pasta was his favourite food basic. Lots of things with Sam were good like that, and Margene was so happy with him, she felt, for the first time in her life, like a person who deserved to revel in love. Like she could eat after six o'clock and everything would be okay. Like she could eat an apple and maybe forget to wash it first, and it would be fine, which was not the kind of person Margene had been previous to Sam. Except after a year or so, Sam changed. All of a sudden he didn't want to help with the books. He stopped caring about the perfect way a sheet of cotton could be hung with wooden clothespins and then glued into a perpetual summer afternoon ripple. “God,” he'd complain when she'd scrutinize the hem of a pair of high-waisted trousers, “Don't you think you have enough fucking hardened clothes?” She'd work hard not to respond with his ugliness in kind, but on the inside she ached for the man in yellow sneakers from their first meeting. It seemed to her like a touch of false advertising, that a man could change so much. Or it would be raining and Margene would put on her bright yellow slicker and load up the wagon with characters and call out to him, but he wouldn't answer. Or he would murmur something unintelligible that was meant to convey to Margene that he was not remotely interested in getting soaked to the fucking bone just so that she could do her idiotic storytelling. Which Margene knew in her heart was not idiotic. It couldn't be, because she had won many awards for children's writing. Sam started becoming worse and worse. He would groan on the phone about coming over. “Your shit everywhere makes me feel fucking uncomfortable, okay? You need to get rid of some of those clothes. It's not healthy, you know? You don't have a single clear space and we always have to eat in bed. Then there are crumbs, it's—I don't want to go there. You can come here if you want. Or not.” Margene was appalled. “Get rid of them?” Her voice cracked. “I can't get rid of them, I need them.” “So store them, Margie. I'll rent you a locker or something somewhere.” Which was also not an option. Because she never knew at the start of the day what character she would need by the end. Plus, Gladys, what would Margene do in the mornings if she didn't have Gladys to talk to? “What's happening to you, Sammy?” He would sigh. “What's happening to me is that it's fucking weird that you have conversations with inanimate objects.” “They're not inanimate, Sam. They have life. I gave them life. Their world is my world.” “This world is your world, Margene. And I feel like that dress watches me while I shit.” “Sam, it's a dress, only.” “You named it Gladys.” In the end, to please Sam, Margene had donated Gladys to a children's library, along with a pair of pinstripe pants that seemed to dance a two-step, a sock with a hole in it that winked, and Maisie, the red wool scarf that reached out like two arms in a hug. She started going to that library more often than necessary, ending up reading books, only sometimes hers, to children who needed love. What Sam didn't know, she thought, couldn't hurt him. In fact, Margene started to wonder if anything could hurt Sam. He worked at a bike shop, and he was forever finding, fixing and selling bikes. But he never seemed to love any of the bikes he built, which Margene found troubling. He would sometimes come over looking triumphant, with a delightful greasy or rusty bicycle part in his hand. Her heart would seize. Love! she would think. But no, never, only finds worth money, bargains made, deals. “You don't love your bikes, even though you make them with your own hands?” “No,” Sam would respond. “I make bikes to sell them and eat with the money I made doing it. Making bikes is my job.” “What if you ditch me the way you do with your bikes?” “Come on. Don’t be immature. I don’t ditch the damned things, I sell them. And it’s not the same thing. You're my love, you're not my job.” But in the end, of course, he had done just that. Left Margene, never looking back. Not even after an argument. Not even after a crisis. “I'm just not in love with you,” he told her, stalking around her apartment and packing his errant gear-lines and soft boys’ T-shirts into a scummy camping backpack. Just not. But how could that be, she wondered. They'd dated for two years, two full rotations of the seasons. They'd had Christmases and Easters, he had bought her fair-trade chocolate each time. On Valentine's Day, more chocolate. Not that she'd ever eaten much of it. Margene has always been particular about her life. Not clean, precisely, but clear. Although now, today, looking past Gladys at her reflection in the mirror, Margene has to admit that always is not quite the right word. There was a time, a brief time, after Sam had left her that some of the things she thinks are important slid away and she became other than herself. Days spent with dirty hair, lacking nutrition, sun salutations put off and off again until her muscles seized up unto themselves and she seemed to shrink centimetres a week. Her best friend Cynthia had scowled at that time. “You look disgusting,” she remarked to Margene one afternoon. “Your nail beds are all raggedy and you're getting fat. I know you loved Sam and everything, but he wasn't that great, you know? Bicycle mechanics who eat organics are a dime a filthy dozen here. Like, it's Vancouver.” Margene shakes her head. She won't be thinking of those days now, either. They are passed and will never come again. Besides, just as she had said to Gladys this morning, today is not just a sad day, but also a happy one. Today, on the two-year anniversary of the day Sam violently disentangled himself from their relationship, Margene has a date. At seven p.m., with a man who lives in the same building and goes to the same gym and shops at the same organics market as Cynthia, and who is “on the market,” as Cynthia says, since his girlfriend died of brain cancer last year. “I think he's ready,” Cynthia told Margene when asking for permission to set up this date, “because he started wearing tank tops to exercise again.” Margene likes the idea that this man, who works as a stock broker and has as much money as Cynthia, who is rich by inheritance and clever investing, has experienced a loss as well. Margene is ready to admit that she has been deadly lonely, despite being surrounded by loved ones, and that more nights than not in these past seven hundred and thirty days she has gone to sleep with a pillow shoved between her legs and the fantasy that an army of animate clothing rips Sam, her one-time life partner, the faithless fixer of bikes and loveless, lossless peon of capitalist insensitivity (even if he does eat organics) limb from bloody, revolting, hateful limb. Margene thinks that probably there are women all across the city right now who are going to spend today getting ready for dates with men they don’t know who live across town, in the same building as their friends who are rich. These women, she feel sure, are having their hands and toes and nails professionally smoothed, their legs and armpits and bikini lines depilotated, their teeth whitened, their bowels emptied, their hair shined, their clothes pressed and cleaned and their pointy shoes shined. She hasn’t been on a date in two years, so most of these are things that she hasn’t done in a long time. Not that she’s allowed herself to become unkempt, she certainly has not, but nothing has been maintained to perfection, the way it must be if it’s going to be on display tonight at seven p.m. to a man whose girlfriend has died of brain cancer. Margene thinks it’s important to do things right, and so she sets about improving herself as soon as she steps out of her bed and onto her hand stitched bedroom rug. Her date today will go perfectly. Without a hitch. She will not eat beans today. Or soy protein. Or spicy food, garlic or onions. She will eat oranges, which she had heard from some friends—including Cynthia—sweeten the taste and smell of the vaginal secretions she hopes later to secrete. Not that she’s easy, because she isn’t. She has no plans to sleep with this man, her blind date, the stockbroker. “It’s just,” she says to the boxer shorts named Jimmy, which stand near the bedroom door, on the tips of their hems, as if ready to break into a run at any moment. “I’ll feel more confident if I know that my vulva smells and tastes lovely.” Margene goes to the bathroom and examines her face, close to the mirror. She sees several imperfections, stray hairs and white head tipped black heads. In the medicine cabinet she keeps instruments to address these problems. Using sharp-tipped tweezers, she pulls the offending hairs out at the root, leaving behind red blotches and puffiness. No worries, though, she can tame the redness with a cucumber-peel face mask, the puffiness with an ice-cold compress of mint tea bag. She has a blackhead extracting device, as well, from Sephora, which gently caresses the blemish while puncturing the pus-filled cavity and slowly, gently squeezing it in until all infection is removed. Between pimples she disinfects the parts that touch her face, especially the sharp tip. She swabs the areas with tea tree oil. Margene wonders what Matt is doing across town at his job. She wonders if he plans on spending extra time grooming his pubic hair, which she assumes needs a trim. She hopes he flosses. She flosses, and not just that either. She brushes her teeth and the wraps them in whitening strips. She would love a coffee but will not be having one. Instead when her teeth are suitably white she takes one ibuprofen, two calcium pills, a multi-vitamin, two B12s, a vitamin E, an Omega 3, one birth control and one and one half Prozacs. “For luck!” she tells Gladys, who she took back from the library immediately after having her heart broken. Margene is happy that she can be so proactive in her own destiny, or at least, her mood. She’s not sure, but she thinks that maybe feminism is to thank for all this power she has over her own life. She giggles a touch, raises one arm above her head and chants “We demand choice! Misery or medication!” Margene likes that she thought about politics today, thinking that it bodes well for interesting date night conversation. She might even refer to herself as a feminist tonight, she thinks, feeling very bold. “Except not one of those angry ones.” No, she’ll be a lovely grateful feminist, knowledgeable about the issues but not militant, and perfectly groomed. It titillates her to think about how smart and driven that will make her seem to her date, whose name is Matt. Margene has her nails done today, at a little place she passes on her way to buy fruit, which is staffed by tiny giggling Vietnamese women who work together making white women like Margene look like their best possible selves, and don't charge very much for doing it. On the sign outside, the place advertises permanent make-up: tattoos for filling in eyebrows or demarcating eye lines or lip lines. Margene thinks these things are tacky, but still comes here since it’s in her neighbourhood and tattooing is a special service they only do if you ask for it, which she will not. “Hello,” she tells the woman behind the front counter. “I'm here because I have a date tonight with a probably-handsome man who eats organics.” She looks around at the shop. The plastic mannequin hands around showcasing the types of work these little geniuses can do all have very long nails with jewels stuck on them in wild colours. “I don't really think those are the kinds of nails a woman with my values or my career—I make children's books that help all people who need love in their hearts—would wear. Let's just stick to something shiny and modest? Okay? I'm ready to fall in love again today, and with a stockbroker. This date and these hands will have to be perfect. He might remember them and want to mention it in his wedding speech.” The woman starts to yammer on in Vietnamese while pointing Margene over to the nail station they will use, and although Margene doesn't understand what she's saying, exactly, she's pretty sure she’s being insulted in a foreign tongue. The blunt-bobs at the other stations all guffaw like something absurd and hilarious has happened. Her nail technician holds up a bottle of pearlescent polish and Margene smiles encouragingly. She's sure this woman hasn't had a date in a long time either. The gloss is spread out onto her nails. It's softly pink and translucent, just like the butterflies in Margene's childhood imagination. She's about to tell this to the manicurist, but decides against it. Some things are too precious to share with the hateful. Her hands look more and more like the kind of hands a stockbroker could really fall in love with. She says this to the woman, whose nametag says Chanel, which is almost certainly not her name, and Chanel tells something funny to the women she works with, but Margene doesn't care. She still has a lot to do today. Like for example, she has to have lunch with Cynthia sitting on a patio at a restaurant a few blocks away. Margene knows she couldn't get through this day without Cynthia's sage advice. “Just try not to be too weird or pushy. He's just lost his girlfriend, after all.” “I know,” Margene answers. “That's why I agreed to go out with him.” “Oh Jesus,” responds Cynthia, who loves her friend very much. They both eat a turkey sandwich and a bowl of soup with Perrier to drink. Cynthia also has a date tonight, which isn't really a surprise, because Cynthia always has a date. Maybe it's because she always has dates that she has so many boutique-bought shoes and purses. Margene never has dates, so all of her shoes and dresses and purses are second-hand, mostly bought at the half-price sales at vintage stores on the Drive. Cynthia has brought some of everything she owns in a duffle bag. “Have your pick. But don't turn any of the other ones into characters. I want them all back, in original condition.” “I only did that the one time.” “Once was enough.” “Fine, thank you.” For the next 35 minutes, Margene and Cynthia decide what Margene will be wearing tonight, until they settle on a black dress with herringbone tights, the grey shoes and a red purse. “And how are you going to do your hair?” It takes 35 more minutes for them to decide that Margene’s hair will be mostly pinned back. She is going to look very pretty. At the end of lunch, the two friends part ways and Margene goes on to finish the day’s preparations. She buys herself some flowers to brighten the apartment. She eats an orange. She is careful about her nails. She hangs the dress she will be wearing in the bathroom and runs the shower to steam it smooth. She thinks for a moment about Sam. What is Sam doing today? Does he know that Margene has a date with a man who does money for a living? A man who owns several suits? Does he even know that today is their anniversary? Margene feels a lot of temptation to go to Sam’s work to let him know about her promising day. Or else to walk past his work and look in at his face and see if it still looks the way it looked when he loved her. Or else to just peek her head in and see if she is happier than he is. But no, that is not productive behaviour. Just after Sam broke Margene’s heart two years ago today she spent a lot of time poking around her head and dropping into his work to browse for bike parts and it had gotten kind of ugly. She had also done some poking around his apartment and calling his house real late at night to make sure he was alone and yelling under his window until his small neighbour lady, who had seemed so sweet and tiny, once, called the police and had Margene driven home in a cruiser. These are not things she is allowed to continue to do. Just like taking a handful of sedatives and putting her fingers down her throat after her meals and scratching Sam’s name into her skin with a razor blade. Two years seems so long to her now. Hundreds of days between then and now. Now she’s concentrating on the positive and—hopefully—falling in love tonight with a stockbroker. A stockbroker would never be so inappropriate as to lie to a woman about never treating her like bike parts. Margene has to remind herself to stop frowning, in case she starts to get wrinkles in bad places. Margene finds that time is really flying today. Already, it's four o'clock and Margene is meeting Matt at a restaurant in the West End she's never heard of at seven. And she needs an enema still, and a shower. Clean colon, clean body, successful date. She removes the dress from the bathroom and hangs it in the bedroom with the door closed. She turns Gladys around for some privacy. A woman needs privacy. She closes the bathroom door behind her as well and fills the bottle with warm water. She has heard of people doing home enemas with coffee instead of water but thinks that’s probably as gross as it sounds. She places the bottle on the tub’s rim and smoothes sweet smelling almond oil around her bum hole. She lies down on her back and takes a deep breath. She raises one leg, squeezes the bottle and feels warm, cleansing liquid flow into her. She knows she is supposed to hold the liquid in for two to ten minutes and massage her intestine but she can’t. She gets up and runs for the toilet and lets it all out. That feels much better. She rinses out the tub just in case and gets ready for her shower. She heard from a friend who isn’t Cynthia that regular enemas help promote youthfulness and she hopes that this is the case, because she’d like very much to stay young. She also heard from a different friend who isn’t Cynthia either that enemas help purge you of bad feelings or attitudes. She can think of a few people who could really use an enema. She thinks of Sam. Could rinsing out his colon help make him a better person? Maybe if she ever talks to him again she’ll suggest he take one. Margene removes all of the hair from the different preferably hair-free places on her body. In other places she takes a pro-moderation stance, carefully cultivating a nice shape and degree. After the shower Margene massages the rest of her body with the same sweet almond oil that she used on her bottom, and blow dries her hair. She takes her time getting dressed, talking out loud to her characters as she does so, which she can do now, since she lives alone with them and has nobody to please. She turns Gladys back around “Of course, you understand, Gladys, it’s nothing personal.” The nice thing about Gladys is that she does understand, absolutely. After dressing and smoothing her hair and painting her face, Margene finds herself running late. So she calls herself a Blacktop Cab to drive her to her date. She hopes the driver hasn’t been eating any foreign food in the car, because she would really like to keep smelling good. When she gets to the restaurant, Margene can pick out her date right away. He is wearing a suit and looking handsome in the way that only a stockbroker living in the same building as Cynthia, with the same access to a platinum American Express card Cynthia has, could look. Everything about him is clean and well-groomed, and his clothes fit him exactly the way clothes are supposed to fit. They fit him like the same clothes could never fit another person. There's no question that Matt owns his own date suit. Margene is vaguely aware of the places where her body is slightly different from Cynthia`s, where the material bunches and folds. But even though Margene knows it, she's pretty sure that Matt doesn’t. He beams at her. She thinks he probably recognizes that they make a very attractive couple, with Margene's smooth hair pulled back and her well-coordinated, if borrowed, outfit and obvious youthfulness. “Hello,” he says to her when they come together, hands outstretched, both ready to make a connection even though their hearts had been totally broken by illness or unfeelingness. “Hello,” she says back, blushing slightly and looking down in a demure way, as she’d read about in Cosmopolitan magazine. “I’m Matt.” “I’m Margene.” “You’re just as beautiful as Cynthia said.” “Thank you.” She pauses, places her hand on his arm, hoping he’ll notice her perfect fingernails, which she was able to keep from chipping all afternoon. “I heard that you’ve begun wearing tank tops to work out in again.” Matt smiles at her and blushes. “I have.” He pauses. “I even started buying olives. Meaghan—my girlfriend—she always hated olives so I never bought them. And then after… I couldn’t, it would have been disrespectful. But I did, and you know what?” “What?” “They’re so delicious.” Now their faces are both the same self-conscious shade of pink. “That’s wonderful.” They grin brightly at one another, pleased to be young and good-looking and happy and out on the town. The waiter shows them to a table, which, Margene notices, is a pretty nice table. She can see everyone else in the restaurant, including one or two kind of famous people she recognizes from television or B movies. They look small and skinny, but not happy like Margene and Matt. Matt asks if he may order a bottle of white wine, which Margene thinks would be delicious. She’s sure he’ll order the perfect bottle to go with their very expensive food. She finds herself hoping that there is quite a bit of wine and that the food comes in small servings. She doesn’t want to overdo it and end up bloating out over the expensive underwear Cynthia made her buy last week. Margene doesn’t usually like going into the West End, she doesn’t even like going to Cynthia’s place, and so although she immediately starts fantasizing about the condo she’ll redecorate as soon as Matt asks her to move in after their thirtieth date or else in three months, whichever comes first, she wonders just how tied he is to his neighbourhood. “I know I live on Davie Street and everything, but I’m not gay or anything, at all.” He’s got impeccable timing. “I understand completely. I live in a garden suite on Commercial Drive but I’m neither a lesbian or Italian.” It’s obvious to both parties that Matt and Margene have a lot in common. They both prefer otters to dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium, sunny days to rainy ones, and they share the belief that cleanliness is important both physically and emotionally. They discover that they share the same initials: M.T, which they agree is a very sweet coincidence. And based on the care he shows in eating his meal—he taking small bites and putting his fork down on the plate in between them—and making sure that Margene is enjoying her meal and has enough wine in her glass and noticing when each of the wildly slender celebrities walks by their table on the way to snort cocaine in the bathroom, Margene thinks Matt seems like a very precise and compassionate person. “I’m interested in your work, Margene. Cynthia tells me you’re a very successful children’s writer.” After swallowing a rather generous sip of wine, Margene nods her head, then shakes it. “Well, of course, success is so subjective. I write books that make every person feel worthy of love, if only for a moment. My philosophy is that books for children are really books for all people—” “—who need more love in their lives.” He looks astonished, although not as much as she does. “Now I know who you are. I saw your segment in rerun on BookTV at the hospital, while Meaghan…” he clears his throat, “while she was having chemotherapy.” Margene’s eyes are so wide. She can’t believe that someone—a stranger until this night—could remember such a brief moment in her life, televised years ago and sent out into a hostile world, expecting no return, except for increased sales. And in rerun! Margene hadn’t even known that BookTV showed reruns. “You saw that?” “I was so moved by it.” He takes off his glasses and cleans them with a piece of flannelette he pulls from his pocket. “Margene. I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you. I’ve thought of you a lot this past year. When I’ve—well, when I’ve needed love in my life but not known how to go about getting it. I think what you do is just marvelous.” “That is so refreshing! You know,” she leans in, aware that she’s breaking Cynthia’s cardinal rule of not being weird by talking about her ex-boyfriend to this sensitive man whose girlfriend is dead, “some people don’t appreciate all the work it takes for me to bring that kind of love into the world. My ex-boyfriend Sam, for example, who wanted me to get rid of all of the clothing creations who I breathed life and love into through my sculpting and sketching and writing. Anyway, it didn’t work out between us. He was a loveless and faithless bastard.” “That’s terrible for you,” he says. She can tell that he’s thinking of his own lost love, whose cancer was every bit as debilitating as Sam’s cruelty. Except unfortunately, Sam never died. Margene reaches across the table for his hand and folds it into her own. “It’s terrible for us both.” He smiles weakly. “You know,” Matt has picked up his napkin from his lap and now he places it down beside his nearly-empty dinner plate. He’s left just one mouthful of each type of food on his plate, just as Margene has done on hers. “I would be very honoured to come by and see these incredible creations of yours.” “Characters,” she chokes. “I call them characters.” “Characters, then.” His eyes are blue, which means, Margene knows, that their children’s eyes will be blue. From an evolutionary perspective, blue-eyed men generally search out the same in women. This way, if the babies have brown or green, or even hazel eyes, they know they’ve been cuckolded. His gaze holds hers for a long time. This date is going so well.