We’ve been living together for about a month when he brings home a vase. He asks me if I like the vase, and I say “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? It’s a vase.”
“I know it’s a vase.”
“Do you not like vases? I thought you liked vases—I thought this would be—it reminded me of you. . .”
I was not sure why a vase would remind him of me, so I said, “I’m thinking, don’t pressure me.”
I have been thinking a lot about the vase. If this were a story, then the vase would surely be a metaphor for my feelings about my boyfriend, the possibility of a future together. Perhaps if we dropped the vase, if it broke into pieces, then that would signify the end of our relationship, but I am not of that order of person. I believe my feelings for the vase are simply limited to my feelings for the vase, or perhaps vases in general, and I am not particularly a visual person, and this worries me, because when I see the vase, I simply see a vase, and I see that it is blue, and my associations with blue are un-straightforward. For instance my associations with blue are the sky, and also the ocean, and these are lofty and vast associations, but there is also falling out of the sky only to drown in the ocean, which is not an association I care to invoke every time I enter the kitchen. So my feelings for the vase are un-straightforward, but I understand the significance of the vase, or, rather, I understand the vase’s significance to that order of person who cares about vases as metaphors for relationships and I worry that perhaps my boyfriend is a member of that order of person that would take a rejection of the vase as a deeper and more cutting rejection of his aggregate humanity, so the next morning, as he’s smoothing cream cheese over his bagel, I say “I’ve been thinking about the vase.”
He turns to me and says, “Oh?”
“Yes, I’ve been thinking about the vase, and I’ve been thinking that I—I quite like it. It reminds me of the sky.”
And he says, “Oh.” And he says, “The sky.” And he says, “It reminded me of you, because of that story you told me about when you were in Israel, you were looking for a souvenir for your mom and you found this, this tiny vase you thought would fit into your luggage but she thought it was a cup. I always thought that was a funny story, that she drank out of the vase. So it made me think of you.”
“Yes, but this vase isn’t even a very small one. It’s a medium-sized vase. I mean, it’s just a regular vase, relative to vases. It’s not, it would probably not be mistaken for a cup. It would probably just look like a vase. It looks like a vase to me.”
“So you don’t like it then?”
“No, I like it, when I look at it, it makes me think of the ocean.”
“I thought it made you think of the sky.”
And that is when I begin to realize I am of that order of person who sees a vase as a metaphor for a relationship.
About the author:
Emil Ostrovski is represented by Laura Langlie of the Laura Langlie Literary Agency. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer, and has had several other short stories published in Word Riot. His debut novel, The Paradox of Vertical Flight, was released in 2013 by Greenwillow.