playing house

Cece’s Story: Part Un

FICTION WRITING

We bought Findley one week after my sister August got engaged.  It was my boyfriend Jake’s idea. I think when your long-term girlfriend’s little sister gets engaged to the guy whom she’s dated for three years less than the two of you have, the best possible way to address the elephant in the room without actually talking about it is to do something spontaneous, like buy a Golden Doodle and name it Findley. This way, while everyone around you keeps on exchanging rings followed by vows, you two can stand stagnant together, convincing yourself there’s nothing much to worry about. Fuck marriage: having a dog is a responsibility in and of itself, and also way more fun than having to say forever.

Jake was away in Vegas for a Bachelor party last weekend, hence Findley and I opting to stay hermits with the blinds pulled, sucking ourselves into an Audrey Hepburn movie marathon. Like every time I watch, though, I had to turn Breakfast at Tiffany’s off during Paul Varjak’s famous scene: the one where his rant toward Holly Golightly in the back of the New York City cab shakes me to the core every time I hear it: “No matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself!” It’s bone-chillingly true that I’ve seemed to have built a cage and locked myself into it; too scared to abandon ship. In an opposite sense to Audrey’s character Holly, I simply can’t let go of Jake – can’t let myself picture life without him, or the realization that it could lead to better things. I’m too chicken to brace up and consider what might occur if I had the strength to endure any doubts and loneliness that might come from breaking free of this relationship – the one that’s half-fabricated in my own mind and half reality.

 

Here we are, playing house – planting flower boxes in all the windows, taking evening strolls through Washington Square as a quaint little family unit (how ironic), tossing my head back with laughter as I sip Mimosas at country club bridal showers, acting nonchalant when questioned by everyone and their little sister over when I plan to sashay my way down the aisle.

 

The truth is, the lack of dialogue around marriage between us contributes to my hours of sleep deprivation every week and scares the bejesus out of me to even have to wonder what it is he’s thinking about on those evenings he leaves our bed to play Fifa on the couch. It’s dark and depressing enough to have to wonder how sold – or not sold- I am over whether he’s the one; I can’t begin to travel down the road of understanding if these private doubts in my mind are ones that he, too, carries with him about me.

 

Sometimes it seems that, so long as I keep watering the flowers, walking Findley, taking pictures to post on Instagram, and referring to myself always as “we”..so long as it looks like “we’ve” got it all together, then perhaps together we might have it all. All those strangers that we call “friends” – the ones who don’t truly know what goes on behind closed doors – will surely be convinced that it’s all peaches and cream – vacations at the Cape, Sunday Brunch and Saturday night movies curled up on the couch. The ones who validate the false illusions we paint for ourselves and our perceivably pure, uninhibited, romance. Youthful bliss.

 

That’s the comforting thing about the approval of strangers: they don’t care much about the things they cannot see and hear and witness – like the reason why I still don’t have a diamond on my naked ring finger, or how alarmed Jake shared with me that he was when he left his phone on the train last week and realized he didn’t have my number memorized. You’d think after four years together, he might know the shape of calling home. No, all strangers care about is how adorable we look strutting across town hand in hand, like a magazine ad.  They don’t want to hear about the sad things; the loudest insecurities that fall silently between the lines.

 

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be happy. You know, really happy.  Like, smile-cracking-my-face-in-half happy.  Not the kind of “happy face” from the photos taken at my sister’s wedding last month. The shots the photographer asked Jake and I to pose for on the dock of the bay: Jake dipping me back as I tipped my foot into the air, arms wrapped around his neck as we kissed; the beautiful Key West sunset in the background. I remember August emailing me the proofs a few days later and my heart sinking in my chest, thinking about how awfully happy we looked there, but how horribly we’d fought less than an hour later back in our hotel room. Fighting about anything and everything, like him having too much to drink and me spilling dinner on my dress and him being too hot and me being too cold. Fighting about everything except what we ought to be fighting about: why we both know we aren’t built to last; why we both refuse to come right out and admit it.

We are too busy playing house. There’s no time to think about unraveling the storybook to reveal all of the unfinished business; the insecurities and self-doubts. No, no. Let’s just keep playing house. It’s easier that way. For now, at least.

 

Because reality can be a real bitch sometimes. Just ask anyone who’s been waiting to hear those four little words strung together and asked to her as a question by a man on bended knee.

 

 

 

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