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defamiliarization

We sit across from each other at the Mexican restaurant on 35th and Steinway. It’s February 13th, and he’s insisted on cooking me dinner for Valentine’s Day, so we’ve gone out to eat tonight instead.

Ice cubes clink in the empty glass. I’m one margarita in. He doesn’t drink anymore. A sad decision for a twenty-one year old.

We order, me first, because he doesn’t know what he wants exactly. He’s nervous. When he orders, I start to chuckle to myself. No sour cream, no chipotle sauce. I laugh, envisioning the ticket reaching the kitchen and the cooks thinking, “Oh, a white person’s order.”

He glares at me and hands our menus over. By this point, I’ve produced a tear from laughing at my own idea.

He’s silent. He would always get mad when I asked if he was okay when he was totally okay. But he had this look on his face that said I’m really not okay. So I asked.

Why did you laugh at me?

I thought it was funny.

I’m already nervous about ordering and you laughing at me in front of the waitress doesn’t help.

Jesus calm down. She doesn’t care.

He stares at the television behind me. In ten minutes or so, we’ll connect over the basketball dunk contest happening. But for now, we remain brutally silent.

The tequila in my brain keeps saying “Fuck you.” I don’t want to say this, so I go to the bathroom instead. And I sit on the toilet, pants on, and stare at the cold tile. I feel cold. The tequila in my stomach wants to leave.

This is not our first fight. We rarely fight, but rarely doesn’t mean never. There’s a feeling of failure when you fight on Valentine’s Day.

We ease back into conversation by the time our food arrives. The tension in the air feels like an awkward silence on a first date, like we’re back to square one. I wonder if the waitress notices we’re not doing great. She probably doesn’t care.

Our words are curt, over-thought. He’s a nice guy. I don’t understand why he’s being so mean. Do I deserve it?

We’ll break up a month later.

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