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The Girlfriend Game, stories by Nick Antosca



Word Riot Inc.: Kicking Small Press Into High Gear
Stretching Forms

Fifty Years in Halves by Rae Bryant

The burrito bowl, cilantro-filled and cut into halves by an imaginary line, distinguishes her side from his. The big piece of avocado has fallen on his side, hidden behind shredded beef. She rocks it with her fork, as if to say: May I? His eyes are to the side, his mind is on the pretty girl who has dropped her bottle and stands in a puddle of mango juice and shattered glass.

1st official date + 1 burrito bowl = 2 halves of politeness.

Are you going to eat the avocado bit that has landed on your side of the bowl?

Not if you would like it.

I don’t want to impose.

It’s yours. He squeezes the soft, green piece so that she must open her mouth and use her tongue to accept the smush. It turns his offering into a promise of sex, or maybe another date. He wipes his fingers clean.

She chews, watches the table.

Would you like to see a movie this weekend? he says.

1 month + 1 burrito bowl = 1 whole of familiarity.

She sees the avocado bit that sits closest to him, barely over the half line. She plays with it, bored. They’ve been to this restaurant four times and it has grown familiar. She pokes it with her fork; he sees her playing, says nothing. She sees that he sees, kisses him for his silent acquiescence.

1 year + 1 burrito bowl = 2 halves of irritability.

You don’t like avocado much, do you? she says, eyeing his side of the bowl.

I never said that, he says.

But you always let me have it.

You assume.

She forks the avocado. He turns away to watch the corrugated metal wall, where he sees her in striped versions, dull and shiny, stealing the avocado. She turns to watch a handsome man, who notices the couple, turned away.

1st date + 18 years of children, soccer carpools, workaday commutes + 1 burrito bowl = 2 halves of misunderstood apathy.

She watches it. It is bigger than times past and covered in cilantro. She remembers diapers, carpools, her promise to their daughter about the abortion and other secrets kept. Cilantro steam rises. She remembers nights of wanting him, nights of being wanted and angry for the nights he turned away. She forks it, stabbing prongs through soft, green flesh and pops it into her mouth, chews, stares at his fat, thick balding head. He turns away.

Fifty years of dates + 1 burrito bowl = 1 whole of understanding.

He, covertly, tips the avocado toward his side of the bowl then turns down his hearing aid to miss the inevitable treatise on why she should have it. He takes her hand, squeezes it gently and watches her lips move, remembering their first burrito bowl and how she stole his avocado, how she got jealous when he looked at a pretty girl with mango-soaked shoes. He smiles, rises on feeble legs and kisses her withered cheek then, pinching the avocado with old-man fingertips, lays it on her tongue.

About the author:

Rae Bryant is a recipient of the Whidbey Writers’ Prize, 2009 editor nominated for StorySouth’s Million Writers Award, and an M.A. writing candidate at Johns Hopkins. Her fiction appears or is forthcoming at Whidbey Writers, Bartleby Snopes, Farrago’s Wainscot, A capella Zoo, Staccato, and Foundling Review, among others. You can read more about Rae and her published fiction, poetry and nonfiction at www.raebryant.com.

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