Gargoyle 4
cover collage by Gary Peabody
Publication date 12/20/1976

Vegetable Aspic

George Heon

A story that opens in Corsica ("much better").

Amid a shadowed corner cafe lunch.

Sat steaming in the midday sun, a man
Well versed in current and sundry topic
Sipping red wine and eating dry cheese
And vegetable aspic.

Breaking windows by glance.

Speaking nothing to everyone, watching ladies stroll by
Enjoying the sun after the rain.

That left wet cracks in the cobblestone.

And worms and snails vying for the last drop.

Watching ladies stroll by.

Swatting the flies.

Not caring either way as he mopped his brow.

His thoughts smothered in the heat.
Empty and dark thoughts.

Not really caring at all.

Sipping red wine under a gold canopy. . .

"Big deal. So it’s not so hot," I thought. "Next time."

I waited for her to return. It seemed like three or four hours, me pacing the floor, looking out the window, wondering if the next person to come around the corner would be her. I felt nervous and angry. Angry at how I could let someone get so close that they could alter my otherwise cool, calm, and collected demeanor. Angry because I was capable of being on time. Capable of not saying things that would hurt by their inference alone. She obviously didn’t feel that way. She was late. She knew she was, but I don’t think she cared. Maybe I’ve felt that way before, I don’t know, and maybe fate’s getting even with me for all the shit I’ve pulled in the past, but at the time I felt like the world’s only fool.

With me she alternated between insecurity and indifference. You know, first it’s "You’re going to find someone else after we’ve been married awhile," or "Please leave me before you cheat on me," and then it’s "I dunno honey, I think we should think about seeing other people," or "Sleep here if you feel like it," the "I don’t give a shit you put me out– you should be grateful–" type bullshit that accompanies love with neurotic women. Sometimes she was down right mean.

"Go fuck yourself."

"That would be impossible."

"Oh yeah? What do you think you’ve been doing for the last six months?"

Words of wisdom. Eyesight for the blind. Something to tell your grandchildren amid explanations of the first moon landing, Joe McCarthy, hell-week, Elvis, beaver shots, and the one love of your life, whom you never seem, to end up with or deserve.

I helped her out; hell yes I was good. She felt safe when I was around, and I never told her of my short affairs, the minor infractions of the laws of obsession. She had her own life, her own friends, and me, and for one moment in eternity I thought we could make each other happy. I tried, she did too, a bit, but I think she figured I was doing such a good job, on her that I could probably do a better job on me, and she held back at times. Yeah, I loved her, and she probably loved me, it doesn’t matter now. She gave me a lot to look forward to then, you know, all that stuff that lovers do. She would ask me never to leave, would wince when we touched, would be happy just to feel happy. We played all the games, spoke all the lines, all of ’em I guess except for the last. We did a lot of crazy shit, everything there was to do, and we went as far as our morals would allow, which, I guess, is as far as any two crazies can go. Hell, I was only twenty-three, much older than I feel now.

I left her, not because I wanted to, but because we swallowed each other, and got scared, the type of scared that never gives you another chance for anything other than an occasional drink or fuck for old times, a few words and touches of reconciliation and then a slow, lasting exist in the morning, invariably in the lonely rain.

After what seemed like decades, I saw her from the upstairs window, as she was coming around the corner. God, I hate waiting. She had on cut-off jeans, and a T-shirt with a picture of a girl’s face gazing at some stars. Over her shoulder she carried a woven straw purse, and she held a bag with our dinner in it; She must have been looking, for she saw me at the window, and she waved and lost her step. She shrugged and smiled, and when she got close enough to speak, she yelled "Sorry I’m late, honey," and ran the rest of the way. I barely made it downstairs when she burst in the front door and threw her arms and legs around me. My shrimp creole dinner would definitely have to wait. It was one of those nights, one of those moods, one of those fractions of the ages, when there’s no one else alive, when no one else, nothing else, matters, every friend you’ve ever had is gone, all your aspirations and dreams are put on hold, and the only things above hell and below heaven are lips, arms, eyes, and a heavy dose of obsession. There had been some times before and sometimes since, but no one can ever forget a moment like that, her blonde curls almost vibrating, her neck tense, and a look no one ever saw before, I’m sure of it; it was mine and only mine, was meant only for me, and I probably presented her with the same, only I wasn’t looking at myself in her eyes then.

Hell, I was only twenty-three, but I’m over it now.