Game Face: Part 3

Thanks again Kelly and Belinda, and my off-line responders.  My sample is small but there is a gender divide on the Travis question.  Here is the third and final installment.  Final question, “Who is the dreamer?”

Game Face: Part 3

They would have been at an impasse if Cathy hadn’t shown up with the Hungry Man’s Meal and a coffee, which Travis passed to Andi.  It made her inordinately happy.  She always suspected that she was overly susceptible to small acts of kindness.  How little it took.  Far too little.  She reached for the cream to hide her embarrassment.  She struggled to open the small plastic pack.

Now what, Travis thought.  He wanted to reach over and take the cream from Andi and open it for her.  To prove capable in this small but not pointless task.  That’s it.  To be useful.  That’s all he ever wanted.  Someone had robbed him of this.  He couldn’t remember who.  Perhaps had never known.

Andi gave up on the cream.  The coffee was cold.  The cream would have only made it colder.  This, whatever this was, had to be put behind them.  Travis was a work colleague.  It would never do.  Not even remotely.  No, they had to do more than put it behind them.  They had to pretend it had never happened. 

“You don’t watch hockey?” Andi smiled.  It was an effort but she smiled.

Travis smiled back.

Andi was taken aback.  Travis had never done that before.  What was he doing?

What had he done now?  Andi looked frightened.  Like a deer.  Eyes wide, body pulled back.  Christ, you’d think he had said something offensive.

“Ah listen, Travis, about this ‘buddy’ thing.  I know the firm wants us to do it and all, thinks it would benefit us and therefore them, but I don’t think it is.  I mean benefiting us and therefore them, so I am sure they wouldn’t mind if we, ahh, just stopped seeing each other.” 

Andi smile, smile, smiled throughout this little speech making Travis’ hair hurt.  And he saw with sudden clarity what Andi was.  She wasn’t sleek, well-dressed and successful, a pay rank ahead of him.  Yes, she was all those things, too, which was kind of sexy in “I can handle it” sort of way, but what she really was was disappointed.  No, not even disappointed but bitter.  She wasn’t a ball-breaker; she was a bitter girl. 

It was a hard to tell at first through the designer fashions and the shiny hair but she was his wife – his ex-wife – in disguise.  Even though they looked nothing alike – Yvonne was soft and blond, while Andi was all angles from her slightly asymmetric bob to her pointy shoes – they were exactly the same.  Travis, now that he saw it, couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen it before.  He knew.  Andi would have felt like she hadn’t asked for much, a house – no a “home” – love, support and – what was the word that Yvonne had used? – constancy.  And men would have failed to deliver.  Somehow they were always failing to deliver.  No, hadn’t asked for much, no more than what many women managed to achieve the world over, or at least fifty percent of them, but she had been denied even that.  And her dreams had been so small.  The realization that Andi was, well, nothing special, was a release.

Andi smiled again.  Why was Travis making this so hard?  He looked positively put upon when all she wanted to do was make it easier for them.  For both of them.  Well, really just for her.  She didn’t care about him, but he too would benefit from this selfish act.  Surely he could see that.  Instead he looked sad.  Why were men like that?  So incapable of stepping to the plate, sucking it up, and just getting on with things.  Why did they have to be so sensitive?  She could see it in Travis’ whole body, which for once was angled towards her.  And then she saw it.  He was a failure.  Yes, he had been called upon and had failed to make the grade.  She glanced to where she knew a wedding band probably once resided and it was suddenly easy to imagine this womanizer married.  Her: unassuming, undemanding.  Him: ready to provide comfort, to do things, change light bulbs, clear the drains, to be the man.  Her saying he needn’t worry about it.  It was OK.  It was fine.  She’d just call a plumber.  Her with the kids.  Clinging to her knees.  Him ultimately unnecessary.  Yes, that’s what Travis was: dispensable.  It was almost enough to make Andi feel sorry for him.  Instead it released her.

“Andi.”

Travis looked up at her.  Andi hadn’t even realized she had stood up.  Pulling on her coat, scarf, hat, gloves.  Winter, it made quick escapes impossible.

“Gotta go, Travis.”

“See you next time?”  And Travis smile, smile, smiled.

*** 

As the light of the last of the falling stars faded, you shifted your body, but you didn’t come any closer to me.  It was quite and we were silent, letting the darkness envelope us.  And just as I began to relax, to forget, to feel the comfort of solitude that happens only when I’m not alone, you spoke.

“What do you always wish for?”

“Release.”

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