Banter

Quentin Tarantino said it best in Pulp Fiction through the character Mia Wallace:

That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special.  When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.”

Francis never followed with this belief system though.  He had a difficulty ever keeping his mouth shut.  The truth is that he was uncomfortable in any silence.  He wasn’t sure why, exactly.  All he knew was that he had thoughts in his head and they wanted to get out.  When they were banging at the door he gladly held it open for each one to run and scamper to whoever was in earshot.

Ruby was often the reluctant benefactor of his verbal outbursts.  She didn’t have anyone she could blame though, she married him.  Her friends and family didn’t know him very well, even on their wedding day.  He didn’t like talking about himself and would rather have a discussion of literally any other topic in the world as long as it wasn’t about him.

“Ruby!  He’s so weird though.  How can you stand it?”  Her cousin asked her once.

Ruby smiled at the coarse critique of her then boyfriend, “he’s definitely an acquired taste.  It seems he’s hit the right taste buds for me though.”

She was offended at her cousin’s comment but managed to reply gracefully.  Her tiara rarely fell out of place.  The way he was made her smile and that’s all that mattered.  Creativity was part of his essence and she found it attractive.  He could make her dance with his words more beautifully than she’d ever been able to in all her years of training.  Opinions of gawkers and the jealous didn’t matter to her in the least.

Francis’ spontaneity did catch Ruby off guard at times though.  He would come up with the most unusual conversation topics out of the blue and she often wondered where his mind must have been to have been driven to say such things.

“Ru, you there doll?”  He would often call her Ru as a term of affection.  Her name was short enough but to shorten it further had the markings of his unique flair.

Doll, however, was a replacement name he’d call women in a familiar way.  It wasn’t meant to disparage but simply indicate he found their relationships close enough that he considered them friends.  That he would combine his personal pet name for his wife with that of a casual friendship indicated to Ruby that he was looking to get into something playful.

“Yes, Francis.  Sitting right next to you on the front porch.  Reading a magazine, as I have been for the past 25 minutes.”

“Oh, good.  I just wanted to make sure you weren’t too engrossed,” Francis never picked his head up from the book he was reading.

It was early evening and the sun was starting its decent.  The house was an oven from the midsummer’s depths, so they decided to shut off the television and enjoy an evening reading on the porch.   The cool air was making its way down the street but hadn’t yet knocked on their door to come in, it often waited for night.  They would imagine they were a young couple in the 1950s with no children and enjoying the serenity of it.

“Oh, why?  Are you going to engross me?”  Ruby also kept her head in her magazine, flipping the wispy pages delicately to keep the crinkling sound of the not-quite paper material to a minimum.

“Probably.  I do come up with the most interesting conversation topics.  You’ve said it yourself.”

“I did.  I wish I hadn’t.”

“No backsies.”

Ruby nodded and answered in a way that you’re taught in wife school before getting married.  It’s not an actual class but a process of osmosis that women go through after marrying a man.  Especially a man such as Francis.

“Mm-hmm.”

It usually succeeded in being the last word of a topic between a couple.  Usually.

“Well what I was going to ask was- well it wasn’t as much an asking as it was a contemplation.”

Rub put her thumb between the pages of her magazine and set it down to turn her attention towards Francis.  This wasn’t going to be a passing conversation, he had come up with something and continuing to have her eyes attempt gleaning of anything within the magazine was futile.

Francis continued as Ruby was now giving him her undivided attention.  His book was still opened and he was looking straight ahead towards the large tree in their front yard that hung over the driveway.

“I was just thinking, do you think we should get a divorce?”

Ruby raised an eyebrow at him as his attention never pulled from the tree in the yard.  She simply shook her head and opened her magazine back up, speaking the words into it as they seemed to be having conversations towards each other but not with each other, “oh?  well if you think that would be best we can always look into it.”

“No.  No I don’t think it would be best.  Not for us,” he trailed off and picked his book back up and started reading again.

Ruby flipped another page of her magazine while a breeze caught a strand of her hair and blew it across her face.  She curled it behind her ear and went on in the periled silence.  It lasted almost a few minutes.

“Well I mean, we do want to be good citizens don’t we?  That would make it best for us if that was one of our goals.  To be good citizens and friends.  Wouldn’t it, Ru?”

She didn’t bother putting her magazine down this time and simply nodded and responded with a disengaged, “uh huh.”

He continued, building steam even.

“Because I just think that if we all thought of the people closest to us and what would benefit them the most it would make everything much better.  We think to much of ourselves in the world today.  Community needs to become more important.  Some might say its Socialism but why does it have to be a dirty word?”

Ruby flipped the page of her magazine a bit harder this time.  She glanced across the entire page and over every word but didn’t retain a single bit of it.  The flick of the page was annoyed and it snapped as she let it go.

“Yes Frank, very true.  But what does that have to do with us getting a divorce?”  She didn’t call him Frank often.  Nobody did.  His mother hated the name but his dad insisted on honoring his grandfather with his second born child.  His mother named the first after her grandfather so she really couldn’t protest too much.  The fact that his mother hated the name gave Ruby a small bit of pleasure and she used it whenever she was annoyed around either of them.  The point of order was reclaimed with her change in moniker.

“Oh, sorry Ru.  Yes.  My point is that I think- no, really I-I really believe that we should get a divorce.  I just don’t see this working out very well in the end.”

She sighed and closed the magazine and set it on the side table.  This was a conversation that was going to go in all kinds of directions and there was no sense in trying to do anything else.  With a leg kicked up under her she leaned towards Francis and stared at the side of his head.

“You think we’re that dire?”

“Oh, goodness no.  That’s laughable.  Whatever would make you say such a thing?”  He laughed and finally turned towards her, looking at her like she was the crazy one to introduce such a foreign topic.

She shook her head in disbelief and raised her eyebrows high while looking away, “oh, how absurd of me.”

“Indeed,” he responded.

He paused for just a moment and placed his book down finally.  Reaching over blindly to his left to grab the old lottery ticket he used as a book mark and placed it between the pages he was on before closing the book.

She asked him before why he kept that lottery ticket.  They had won ten dollars on it a few years ago when they were first dating but he refused to cash it in.  She said they could go out for a fancy meal on the McDonald’s dollar menu, but he declined.  It was special because he bought it and had the computer pick the numbers at random.  The computer returned six numbers and those numbers, when arranged properly, made up both Ruby and Francis’ birth dates.

That it was a winning ticket of any amount made it even more special.  It was a signal to him that the universe was telling him that she was a keeper.  She wasn’t the type of girl to be traded in when you think she was used up for her worth.  Kismet didn’t come into his hands by accident and he wasn’t going to just give it away for an easy return of something frivolous.  Which made it ironic that he was using it as a bookmark as he talked about them getting a divorce.

“I just think we’re doing a disservice to our friends.  Our close friends and those we only know as casual acquaintances.”

“And why is that, darling?”  She always called him darling when she was humoring his randomness.  It made him smile every time the word left her lips.

“Because we’re too perfect a couple.  It’s really not fair to anyone,” he turned to look at her for the first time since he started talking and he saw the smile on her face after he said it.

“Oh?”  This was the only word she could get out without letting a tear roll down her cheek.  She didn’t want to ruin the moment by letting him see her cry.  They were happy tears but he would ask her what was wrong and they would both be pulled out of fantasy land he was playing in.

He nodded again, smiled and looked away.  He could sense the shakiness in her voice as she responded with a single sound and he didn’t want to make her feel embarrassed.

“Yes.  I think after time we may be making our friends, neighbors and even co-workers quiet jealous of our relationship.  It will cause strife and angst in our circles.  Couples will break up because they can’t reach the divinity of our union.  It will be a shamble of divorce and ruin and it will all be our fault.  I don’t know if I could live with such a heaven burden on my soul.”

Ruby composed herself, batted her lashes and pressed a fingertip to the corner of her eye to soak up any would-be tears on the assault.

“Yes well that would be very noble of us to end what we have in order to save the greater good of our friends’ relationships.”

“I know!”  Francis leaped upward and turned back to her again in his chair.

“How humble of us to give up something we hold so dear to better their existence.  I mean I wouldn’t say we should have a community statue or anything but maybe a plaque that they could gather around once a year on our divorce date to pay homage would be a small token of gratitude.”

“Oh yes, very small.  Very humble of you to suggest too,” Ruby rolled her eyes as they were now quite positively free of tears.

“Although if we did get divorced then it would be quite a hard split.  We would have to play up the angle of our anger towards each other or nobody would believe it.  We wouldn’t want them to know our true gesture.  Self-serving charity is the worst kind of charity.”

Ruby bit back a laugh and nodded, “uh huh.”

“Then we’d need to split our friendship groups up.  I think perhaps we could do a kind of friendship draft type of deal.  Do you remember when you came with me to my nfl fantasy draft that once?”

“Oh god yes,” Ruby groaned.

“Hey, I warned you it wouldn’t be any fun,” Francis quickly replied.

“You said there would be booze!”

“There was.”

“Not enough to make it entertaining!”

“Well, we could have our own private friendship draft where we pick what friends we’d want to keep.”

“That seems dangerous.”

“I’m sure we could brave the waters if we kept it professional and applied a few rules before boarding.”

“Your analogies are all over the place.”

“So is your hair.”

The wind had started picking up and the cool breeze was swirling Ruby’s hair in front of her face.  She was swatting it down and brushing it backwards but her interest in the conversation was gaining momentum so she really wasn’t bothered.  He always seemed to drag her in.

“Well,” she said, “we couldn’t split up couples.  If you were going to be friends with one you had to take them both.  If we’re doing this for charitable reasons we don’t want to put them in awkward places if we both have an event happening on the same night.”

Francis smiled at her participation, “and what events are you going to be having without me?”

She was completely in it now.  No sly grins or laughter, just a serious conversation as if it were definitely happening.

“We.  We will be throwing a house warming and get-together’s probably every weekend.  Patrick loves hosting and he’s a chef so he makes the best food.”

“Who the hell is Patrick?”  Francis objected almost forgetting he had started this.

“My fiance.  I haven’t met him yet so his name may not be Patrick but it will be something along those lines.  Patrick or William or Aaron.  Nothing that sounded feminine.”

Francis recoiled in disbelief at what she just said.  She maintained perfect character and stared at him waiting for a response.  Ruby could often best him from time to time in absurd conversation.  Its why he loved her.

“Well Patrick sounds stuck up,” Francis responded indignantly, “I can already guess who you’re going to pick for the friends to keep.  But that’s okay, Danielle and I will be having too much fun going out.  We’d rather spend our evenings on the town then stuck at home.”

“Danielle?  She sounds like she goes by Dani with an emphasis on the I,” Ruby raised an eyebrow while looking at him.

“She does, but we aren’t serious anyways.  We have an open relationship of sorts and get together a couple of times a week.  I’m not looking to get back into dating in a normal world sense.  It’s too structured and suffocating.”

Ruby raised her eyebrow again and just stared to let him hang himself.

“It wouldn’t work though,” he paused as if he was thinking of what to say next.

“You and Dani?  I can guess why,” Ruby smiled to break the silence.

“No.  The divorce.  It wouldn’t work.”

“Why wouldn’t it work?  You sign papers and I sign papers and then Harrison and I will vacation on the lake in Michigan.”

“I thought it was Patrick.”

“I left him.  He was always trying to introduce food into the bedroom.  I told him to leave his work in the kitchen and he couldn’t take it.  Just make sure you don’t eat at any of his restaurants.  He likes to fuck his dates on the prep tables.  I heard.  I heard someone say that.”

Ruby smiled playfully at Francis’ raised eyebrow this time, “why wouldn’t the divorce work though?”

“Because we’re meant for each other,” his eyes met hers and didn’t let go.

“You’d be in-between fiancee’s and I’d be alone three-fourths of the week.  I’d see a picture you would post on instagram and I would comment.  You would send an emoji text back.  One of the dumb ones with the x’s across its eyes that didn’t make sense.  You never were good at emoji texting.  We’d ask what the other was up to and one of us would cave and ask if we wanted to get lunch soon.”

He was locked in her eyes.  It was nearly dark.  The sun had set and there was only the light from the living room window that poured onto the porch and the dim streetlight that fought through the heavy foliage of the tree in their yard.  It was a beautiful night and she put it to shame.

He continued, “he’d sleep together that first time too.  We have such great chemistry.  Afterwards we’d agree not to tell any of our friends.  We didn’t want to put them through that kind of thing.  We’d also say this was a one time deal too.  Just a relapse, nothing harmful.  That is until the next night when I’m flipping through old pictures of us together and you text with a peach emoji asking if I’m hungry.”

“I’d respond with a wide-eyed emoji asking if you meant that and you responded with absolutely, come on over.  I’d get there and try to kiss you as soon as I walked in the door.  You’d back up and ask why I was being so careful.  I’d tell you about the peach emoji.  You’d point to the bushel full of peaches on your counter and tell me how your sister brought some over from her farm.  I’d laugh and tell you what it meant and you’d look horrified.  Then we’d have sex.”

“You’re so confident that I’d want to have sex with you this often,” Ruby said and maintained a closed lip smile.

“I am,” Francis responded.

“We would go on like this.  Until we were caught on a secret rendezvous.  One of our friends would see us out, probably Theresa.  She’s come over and surprise us and then she would look at you and ask in bewilderment why we’re still doing this.  I’d look at you and say that I didn’t think we were telling anyone.  You’d shrug your shoulders and smile impishly.  Then it would be the end.  We’d be back together.  We’d get married in a month.  A small nothing ceremony at city hall with hired actors to be our witnesses just to be bizarre.”

“We’d tell our friends we tried.  We’d tell them our plan and how we hoped we could save them from misery.  We told them about the plaque and dismissed statue idea.  They would all be so grateful to us.  We really do have the best friends, Ruby.  They’re all so kind.”

Ruby smiled again, tighter lipped this time, “I guess that’s that then.  No divorce?”

Francis shook his head, “no.  It really does seem like it’d just be a waste of time wouldn’t it?”

Ruby nodded and leaned up out of her chair and kissed him on the lips, “come on now.  Time to go in.”

Francis looked up at her after the kiss, taking her hand in his, “sex again?  And you questioned my insatiability.”

Ruby laughed and yanked him up out of his chair, “shut up.  My god just shut up.  Lets put that mouth to good use now.”

They disappeared into the house.  Their reading material sitting on the porch.  The breeze cool and straight.  The night fallen.  The lottery ticket snug between the pages of Francis’ book where it will always remain.  A keepsake to a girl so perfect that he can’t imagine giving her up for anything in the world.  Not riches.  Not adventure.  Nothing in life can equal the completeness of life that she gives.

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