“When I’m around squares, I’m a square. When I’m around shapes, I’m a shape,” she tells him, a man with an indiscernible presence, soft voice, and hard walk— his feet always hitting the ground heel first.
He lifts his fork with his right hand, strums his fingers along his dark but prematurely graying beard with his left. He sets the fork down and says he wants someone who is who they say they are.
Her lips dry, parted, voice along the edges of falling apart, “But I’ve told you as plainly as I can tell you. I shift. I adjust.”
“Chameleon,” he looks into her almond-irised eyes, ringed with violet shadow, “you’ve told me you’re a chameleon.”
Wind rakes the limbs of a willow tree against the window beside them. He’s selected the restaurant for this lunch: Ficus and Oleander.
She watches the sway of the willow, its movement like her when she’s had too much wine, pushed around by an imperceptible force. She would rather be outside sitting beneath it— cold grass under her warm wrists, closer to the silent pulse of the earth. She’d follow the tree’s roots into the mud with her fingertips in the same way she touches her own memories, lightly, as though if she tugs at any part of her life the whole of her will be uprooted.
She knows she has told the truth as, if he had tried, he would as well. It is a shade of herself he is sitting here across the table. This is her in lilac, crimson rose, aquamarine or electric blue and him in neon green or Hare Krishna orange.
The authenticity he speaks of is fleeting, and he knows this. He sees something of himself in her absolute inability to conform to the pretense of a self, an entity of an irrefutable nature, some stillness; a place that could hold him down in a way he can not hold himself. He needs a stabilizing force to ground him; he thinks this, and she is a shapeshifter. She is out of his grasp before he has ever had the chance to be able to hold her.
“Well, what am I? A square or a shape?” he runs a hand down his arm as if to confirm that he is there at all.
She turns her head to the side,“You’re like me, either.”
He leans back, crosses his arms, breathes in, feels a stirring, magnetic pull both to and against her. It is the same as how some magnets, once brought too close, start to repel.
Their waiter pauses at their table, refreshing each glass of their ice water, lemon slices cut, taut, clinging to each rim.
He stands, says he is leaving, pushes back his chair and tells the waiter to box up his nearly untouched pasta for her.
She can take it home.
In the twilight of her apartment, the moon rising, the sun letting go, the microwave whirling its mechanical hum— a single high-toned beep signals his linguine is done, and she is free.
Jordan Faber is a writer based out of Chicago, IL. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her fiction has most recently appeared in: Deluge [Radioactive Moat Press], Bull & Cross, Dream Pop Journal, Lunch Ticket, and TIMBER. Her work in theater has been produced at The Greenhouse and Victory Gardens theaters in Chicago. Jordan received a BA in creative writing from Knox College and an MFA from Northwestern University. While at Northwestern she earned a Princess Grace Award nomination. She has worked as a fiction editor for Black Spring Press in London and in development for the Sundance Channel. www.jordanfaber.com