"Oh, I can." Mark stirred his oatmeal. "God Almighty, oatmeal with Equal sucks."
"Babe, who orders oatmeal for brunch?" Helen lifted a piece of dry toast to her mouth and took a small bite. "Actually, who orders oatmeal at all?" She giggled.
"You're sitting here gnawing dry toast and asking me?" They shared his laugh.
"She didn't even speak to you?"
"She didn't even look at me." He folded the powder into the oatmeal with a spoon. "Absolute ice."
"I'm sorry babe. I'm sorry she hurt your feelings." She picked up her knife and painted a smidgeon of jam.
Mark swallowed. "She didn't hurt my feelings. Okay, wait. Yeah, she did. But not how you think." He lifted his cup and took a sip of coffee.
The waiter interrupted the conversation with a pour from the coffee carafe.
"See, she should have been polite to me for her husband. He's my friend." He picked up another packet of Equal and ripped the rim and dusted the bowl. "That's what decent human beings do. You know? Social graces are when you act gracefully in awkward situations. She should have been pleasant to me for him. I mean how difficult is one smile and a 'hi how are you?' That was my plan. I slapped a smile on my face for the sake of my friendship with him." He stirred the oatmeal. "So I was a little sad when I saw how little she loved him. I don't care how she treats me. She's of no consequence to me."
Helen sliced her cantaloupe. "Okay, so what did you do to her?"
He laughed. "What makes you think I did something?"
"Because I know you."
"Okay no. I did nothing to her. Her friends are putrid. Jesus wept. You wouldn't believe this crew. Socially stunted. I've never met an unfriendlier bunch. Ever. And not only to me. Everyone. Absolutely incestuous. Only talks to each other. And I called one out one day. And by God the bitch deserved it."
"Well then she snubbed you because you insulted her friend." Helen took a sip of her latte.
"I didn't insult her friend. I pointed out her rudeness. But that doesn't matter. Her husband should mean more to her than her friend. Which of course is indicative of everything that's wrong with her." Mark looked across the table. "Enough about all that. What's new with you?"
She placed her silverware on her plate and began a recitation about a row she had with her husband. He interrupted her, "Jesus Christ, look at us."
Mark put down his spoon and put his elbows on the table. He rubbed his face with his hands. "I hate duplicity. And here I am having brunch with another man's wife. Would Kieran like us having brunch? Would he be okay with it with our history?"
"No. But babe, we're not doing anything wrong."
"Yeah, we are. Now you and I know that nothing is going on with us but that doesn't matter. He still wouldn’t like it. We’re still intimate. Our conversations are intimate. You should love him enough to not see me. And I should love God enough to not see you. We're doing the same Goddamned thing that bitch did to me. We're putting people before our commitments." He leaned back in his chair and put his hands on the armrests. "Jesus!"
Helen leaned back in her chair and whispered just above a sigh, "I'm so tired of saying goodbye to you."
"I know. And I'm so Goddamned tired of waiting for your hello."
"Goodbye, babe." Helen took her sunglasses out of her bag, put them on, stood up, and pulled her bag over her shoulder. She turned and left the restaurant.