Marissa placed her hand on my shoulder and thanked me for helping with the three-month anniversary celebration of her relationship with Brad. We had just set a table in the lunch room of the company where we all worked, Brad in accounting on the third floor of the building, Marissa and I in the fourth floor marketing department. In about a half hour, at closing time, we would be toasting Marissa’s and Brad’s relationship, and they would be exchanging little gifts that I had helped both pick out for each other. At five-thirty, I would be helping clean up the room, and at midnight that night, at home, alone, I would still be feeling her hand on my shoulder. True love of a man for a woman involves helping her in any way he can, even if it breaks his heart.
It was my fault. Brad and I were having lunch in the first floor cafeteria, when Marissa, fresh from her rebound from Fabio, walked past our table. I invited her to join us. I did not know they had so much in common. Soon, she and Brad were talking, and I was eating. I did not do anything to interrupt this interest they were developing in each other. I had loved her from our first meeting three years earlier.
It was my fault that I gave Marissa time after Fabio jilted her. I thought that anything we might have together in the future should not be tainted by a rebound. And, as her relationship with my friend Brad intensified, I thought any of my knowledge of the quirks of each party should be kept to myself. If their love was going to shatter, let it be by their own realization, not by any information I could divulge. So, Brad did not know that Marissa bit her nails every time the boss came into her cubicle. And, Marissa did not know that Brad would place his lunch bag precisely in front of him at the table, and unfold the five folds of the bag, pull out the ham and cheese sandwich on white, with a teaspoon of mayonnaise spread between the ham and cheese, and then reach into the bag again to pull out the half-cup of cottage cheese, 2% fat, in a blue tupperware container and place it to the right of the bag. I thought it best that Marissa find this out on her own—that Brad did this in exactly the same way, every lunch of the work week.
Of course, I accepted each of their requests to assist them in picking out the small gift for each other to be traded at the 3-month’s celebration. Both are readers; it was natural that I would help them at the local bookstores make their relationship stronger.
I would not expect that when they opened their gifts at the table where Marissa had touched my shoulder, that Brad would react to Marissa’s gift so harshly.
“What’s this?” He asked. Reading the title of the little book, Anal Compulsivity in Accountants For Dummies. I thought he would be amused by the subject, suspecting he had a bit of self-knowledge to understand the little joke.
“What the hell is this?” said Marissa. She held up a book titled Cajun Recipes for Dirty Rice. Apparently, when Fabio ran off with that little Cajun whore (her words, not mine), I was so taken by her use of the indelicate word, “whore,” that I forgot her ethnic adjective in front of it.
Brad searched his pockets for the receipt for the cook book, and then ducked and ran to escape the projectile.
Tears rolled down Marissa’s cheek. I felt sad for her.
“Better to know now,” I said, putting my arm on her shoulder to console her.
Dane Zeller writes for One Monkey Typing, a unique arts and literature organization in Westwood, Kansas. Zeller eschews the writing craft in favor of statistical probability: he believes good writing comes from large numbers of keystrokes coupled with sheer luck. This technique has produced his detective novel, “Smart Shield,” and his short story anthology, “Drive-By Romances, Tales of Good Men and Women Done Wrong.” You can find him and his bananas at www.danezeller.com