We ate a dinner of only tangerines. You kept saying that you wanted plums too, and I said that it wasn’t the right season for that. Even though I did not know a single thing about the seasons that fruits belong to. We were planning to go to the supermarket tomorrow morning, pulling along some vague dreams of making fruit salad along in our grocery trolley. We were waiting for a knock on the door. We didn’t live in that 3rd floor apartment all by ourselves. It was me, you, and Dash. We didn’t have a lot of money at that time, so you and Dash were sharing a bedroom, and in one of a few rare acts of gentlemanliness, you had allowed me to have the second bedroom to myself.
Dash hadn’t come home yet and we were debating whether or not to save any tangerines for him. He rarely ate at home, and rarely took pleasure in anything he ate, but we both knew that tangerines had recently been a rare exception. Dash had bought pounds of tangerines and stockpiled them in the fridge, leaving the two of us very little room for anything, so we had resigned ourselves to eating those tangerines as fast as we could manage. We both had guesses as to why the recent obsession with tangerines had began. You said that Dash had a new girl that must really love tangerines. I was adamantly against this idea, even though I didn’t have an explanation of my own. You were probably right, but I wanted to convince myself that Dash did not have a new girlfriend. It would ruin the tangerines for me.
While we peeled more tangerines, you insisted, “He’s probably out with that girl right now. You know what he’s like. Remember with the last one how he threw all of the sugar out of the house? Just because she liked her coffee black.”
It had been something along those lines with Dash’s last girlfriend. He had told me something about how she was just like the bitter black coffee she liked to drink because she made the whole world sweeter by comparison. He was crazy about her. But Dash had been crazy about each and every one of his past three girlfriends since we had moved into the apartment on the third floor. You assured me that it was always like that with him. He had been the same when the two of you used to live on the seventh floor, although in that time he had only had two lovers.
“I can’t wait till he finds one that’s crazy enough to stick around past the honeymoon period. At least we won’t have to worry about things like this tangerine obsession then,” you said tearing another section of your fourth tangerine.
“He falls half in love with every girl he sees, so I reckon we’ll have to watch him cycle through quite a few of them,” I responded.
“Yeah, you’re the only one he didn’t have a thing for. Lucky for us, don’t you think? This living situation would’ve been kaput if he’d have fallen for you too.”
“Yeah, no kidding. We definitely got lucky.”
I popped another piece of tangerine into my mouth and thought about how I didn’t find myself lucky at all. I didn’t understand why I was the only girl in the world that Dash didn’t even have the slightest affection for. He found something to like even about the most boring girls, but he didn’t ever even look at me like he was interested. I imagined that I was like a piece of furniture to him — the throw we kept strewn across the futon or the nightstand next to his bed. I wasn’t sure if I even liked Dash, but I really wanted him to love me. I wanted any girlfriend he had to disappear, and I had often pictured myself taking her place. I thought about it now too as we waited for Dash to come home.
Dash had never shown any interest in me, but you had. You never said anything, but I’d noticed your hand on the small of my back leading me out of the apartment on days where we left together. I’d noticed the way you had a hard time saying my name to me. I’d noticed all of those things but didn’t say a word because I quite liked living in the third floor apartment, and I quite liked you. I knew that saying anything would have ruined the apartment for you.
“Can you ever imagine Dash getting married?” I said as the thought suddenly occurred to me in the midst of eating my third tangerine.
“Sure, I can. Seems just like the kind of thing he’d go and do. I bet he’s proposed to a few girls already. I just don’t know if there’s a girl out there who would actually say yes,” you said raising your eyebrows and smiling.
Right then, I think that both of us imagined Dash’s wedding. I pictured myself in a beautiful wedding gown with my hands in Dash’s hands as we exchanged rings. I thought about how that would feel so much more wonderful than the only other time I had touched Dash’s hand, shaking it the first time that we had met. And suddenly it occurred to me that while I thought of this, you were thinking of you and I gathered close together in the empty bandstand, away from Dash, and away from everyone else at the wedding. I looked over at you lost in your own daydream, peeling another tangerine, and knew that you were to me what I was to Dash, and that this was something that we couldn’t do anything about.
So I said, “Let’s just finish the last of these tangerines. Dash will probably come home telling us he’s broken up with her already and want to throw all of them out anyway.”