There is something about an unfinished love song that makes her want to hate him.
By putting pen to paper, like kisses awash with the blackened out pour of emotion, he would use his left hand to write while the right scratched at his chin, then his knee before resting on an earlobe. Olivia used to watch his thumb on the skin there, once rendered speechless by each stroking strum. Now she thinks it oedipal and tried to literally shake it from her mind as she waited, releasing wet drops from her hair to her cheekbones, her nose. She stood half in the rain, beneath a stoop that was too small for even her huddled shoulders. He was late again. She knows this and yet she waited. Again.
The first time she was kept waiting, she was greeted with breathless kisses that tasted of tobacco with a hint of honey from the lozenges he used to cover up his smoke. Even then the deceptive part of his person was shouting at her, throwing flushed, spittle-laced tantrums- and she only smiled. It was a smile that lasted minutes, or months, depending on how you looked at it. But that was then. When birds and butterflies were more fairy than food chain and she more grounded than splayed.
She practices what she will say. For if he is musician, I am poet. She thought, chagrin her armor. But I will not speak of seasons and change, I don't care about the leaves turning over, or the sighing of trees. The rain, neither. I despise the rain.
A woman passes by, dressed head-to-toe in running gear, the sound of her lycra-encased thighs swishing by attracted Olivia’s attention. The woman held a sodden magazine, not over her head to shield herself from the rain, but less than an inch away from her face, as though she was trying to walk right into it. Olivia looked down at her wristwatch and decided with pursed lips that she would give him four more minutes. Just as a slow minute dragged by and she found herself distracted by other street-related minutiae, she saw him finally. Leaning against the sheets of rain, head lowered and palms pressed inside pockets. His walk more a lope than his usual gait.
The song was changing him.
He sidles up to her, his mouth habitually finding hers. Her heart falls when she notes that his Benson & Hedges kiss wasn’t laced with honey. He no longer feared her disapproval.
Their greetings were synchronous and he wrapped her shoulders with his denim-clad arm as they started up the three short blocks to the restaurant. He had no apology for being late, and instead was quiet at first, his footsteps muffling her racing heart. They talked sparingly as they walked, heads bowed, not together but against the rain. Her mind was running and he was distracted, the telltale sign was the thumb he drummed gently on her collar bone. While she felt comfort in the small- almost non-descript- intimate gesture, she knew he was probably thinking about rhythms. For the song.
She had gotten a hubristic high when he had asked her out all those months ago, convinced she was about to tame a god. She peered over at him peripherally. Droplets were caught in his lashes making his eyes seem brighter, more focused on the sidewalk ahead. He was indeed a body of myths and she was always his pedestal, and now, though cracked, she was not crumbling.
By the time they reached the Japanese restaurant their light coats were soaked through and the hostess immediately whisked them off their shoulders before depositing them on a nearby metal coat rack. She admonished them in broken English for not bringing along umbrellas, looking pointedly at him as she led them to their usual corner window table. She spoke to them with familiarity, knew to bring one menu for them to pore over together and hovered nearby since they almost always ordered the same thing- a sashimi starter, two spicy tuna rolls and an avocado roll at the end to soothe their singed taste buds. They both liked the restaurant’s green tea, but only stirred around the soup. He would pour soy sauce into their tiny dishes as she opened and sharpened their chopsticks. Every motion was done without a word. They were eerily in-step and it made Olivia uncomfortable. A relationship that moved in autopilot was never what she wanted, especially since her co-pilot had long since fastened on his parachute and tip-toed his way over to the nearest emergency exit.
“Your forehead is bleeding.” It was the first thing he had ever said to her. She was waiting on a street side bench for her bus to come along, when she’d looked over her shoulder for the source of the voice. Tall and unassuming, he was smoking outside a small convenience store, leaning flamingo-style with one foot pressed against a wall. In his left hand he carried a blue-and-white striped plastic bag, the contents of which she wondered about to this day.
He continued to look over at her curiously before speaking, took another drag from his cigarette and gestured to his own head. “Your forehead. There’s like, blood on it.”
Olivia blinked and brought her hand to her head and saw when she pulled it away again, a distinctly red smudge.
“Oh,” She said absently. She tried to remember knicking her forehead on something that day and wondered why she didn’t feel any pain. She touched her forehead again and realized it was decidedly not the colour of blood. “Paint.”
She started, realizing he was still there, standing slightly behind her. “Oh, it’s just paint. Red paint.” She began furiously rubbing her forehead until it felt raw and she was satisfied that it was gone. “I passed my landlord painting a door frame early this afternoon. It’ must’ve splattered.” He had put out his cigarette by then and come around to stand beside the bench so he was towering over her right. He watched her for a moment, his head cocked a little to one side.
“It looked a little like a Bindi actually,” He said finally. “You know, those little dots some Hindu women wear?”
Olivia had just blinked at this. “I’m not Hindu.” It was an inane response, but he laughed, a deep, throaty chuckle that snagged her heart instantly.
She chewed slowly and deliberately, knowing that the added mastication was stopping the words from escaping her lips. Words that couldn’t burn more than if they were dipped in wasabi. She swallowed hard, readied now to say her piece. To finally rid herself of the uncertainty that was being with him. A feeling that had struck a chord with her the moment he announced he was writing again while swiping a Pledge-soaked rag along his acoustic with excitement. Weeks of unspoken resentment churned in her stomach and she willed her eyes open again so she could say them, not realizing that they had been closed.
“Matt?” She stared solidly at the ginger coils on her plate unable yet to look him in the eye as she did it.
“Hmmn?” His mouth was full and it made her lip curl, easing the rising words right to the tip of her tongue.
“Everything is O.K. here?”
The hostess’ voice seared through Olivia’s resolve and made her eyes snap up. She looked at him now, as he smiled and reassured the hostess. Her gaze flickered up between his eyebrows where a single rain drop that had worked it’s way from his hairline lay nestled in the crinkle she had once loved to kiss. A little drop, dot.
Olivia quickly murmured her satisfaction with the meal so that the hostess would leave and picked up her chopsticks again to steal the last avocado piece from the plate they shared. She would be content with a little drop, dot of what they once were for now. And when the song was finished, when the very last note was hummed, she knew she would not hear it. The song already belonged to someone else.