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Soot

“Will you marry me?” and he is there, expectant, all his hopes balancing on one knee. A diamond is entwined in gold on a ring.

Will I marry him? Is it a question? Why is that a question? You should know, shouldn’t you? there should be no need to ask at all, not in the kinds of relationships that I very much hope exist. Why should I hesitate? I look down at a boy, stuffed into a suit by who? Not him, not me. Some rule in society that states how a man dresses on a Serious Date. It is this same rule I see in his matching shoes that I have seen three dozen times before, which are always newly polished and kept clean. Inside this suit, but still outside of him, there is a wallet, which is tattered with age and use, that must always be bursting with banknotes, business cards, bowling scores. These are the sorts of things that men keep in their wallets, I am told. There is a gym membership card. There is a picture of me, smiling the same smile I hold perfectly now. It makes him happy to see me smile because that’s his job as boyfriend, I understand.

There are other couples here. they are holding onto glasses at the stems, ready to raise at me, at us. I see them all the same out of the corner of my eyes which remain fixed on my partner’s face. All the men wearing suits, like a contest, and the women too with their same boat, I have more money than you. Even everyone in-between, and outside, still obsessive with the idea of love and perfection and turning up at their door like a newly cut gem. But I’m looking at myself now, dressed up like a mass-produced doll, and I can’t see why he would ask me, as opposed to anyone else. I am sorting through memories, trying to recall what he’s looking for, and I’ve seen that ring before.

That ring. Representative of purity, and therefore love as the marketing see it. That ring is expensive, more so than most. I remember that ring. An environmentally friendly ring, against global warming, pressed out of carbon from a hundred different factories making suits and wine glasses and little cards for memberships. They take all the bad stuff out of the air, vague stuff that I know the names for, but it has seemed as if he’s never cared. All of it is based in carbon. Carbon for darkness. Carbon for poison. Carbon for graphite and graphene and custom-made, flawless diamonds. An article in a magazine a year from today. Of course it’s exactly a year from today. Our very first date.

I sat in a café reading about engagement rings and purity and love and meanwhile he was late. But I don’t know. I don’t know why he was late. I didn’t ask.

But he cares about me; he is thinking about my interests. He is looking for shared passions, and haven’t people said that he is my mirror, this he must know and he knows me so well, of course, of course he does. Did he notice what I was reading? Proof he cared even then?

Why must he ask me? Doesn’t he know me enough to guess what I’ll say? This shouldn’t be a question. Does he think me flawless? Does he know how I feel about the idea of marriage? Or what I think about the way the sea defines the coastline inch by inch of chalk and clay being scraped away after months of hard engagement. Has he listened to my opinion on my favourite film? Did I listen to his? I can’t remember his favourite song, or if he has one. Does he like music? I don’t know. I still haven’t asked. Why not? I care about the environment, and he does too. So he buys me a ring based in something I’ve passion for, out of passion for me, presumably. Is that enough? Can I make love out of shared hatred for people and places and dust? Can I make love thinking about something like that?

I look down at a stone, suffocated in metal, wanting desperately to see a future reflected back at me from a crystal as clear and perfect as a new mirror. I try to imagine it hugging that finger, but in my head, all I see is my hands covered in toxic soot.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Fiction, Personal Narrative, Romance

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