Ben, Across the Booth from Molly by Gauraa Shekhar

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Molly drives for an hour, past the brackish grey landscape of the past, squeezing the wheel a little as she gets closer. When she arrives, a woman in a blue apron takes her order. Molly drapes her coat over the vinyl seat. She orders coffee—black, nothing more, not even a spoon.

When Ben gets there, he says, he couldn’t even remember, he almost forgot, and could she believe he almost forgot the way to this dump? Ben orders soda and home fries with a side of waffles. He peels the scarf around his neck like licorice candy. His sweater, too, is soon overhead, exposing a tender patch of belly. Then loose cotton-blend falls, covers it up again.

Molly knows the shirt well; she remembers the small-batch brewery logo on the back, a silhouette of three bells on a circle the color of mustard. Just two years ago, she wore it to bed and brushed her teeth in it the next morning. She used to let white specks of toothpaste dry around its collar. She remembers holding up its thin fabric to her mouth and thinking: mine.

Ben asks after Molly’s cat. He asks after Molly’s job and Molly’s friend—is her hair still green? Yet Ben doesn’t ask about Ray, and though Molly is certain that Ben has seen the ring on her finger, she doesn’t volunteer her partner as a subject of discussion. Instead Ben says, do you remember that time? And Molly says I do, of course I do. Molly remembers all the times, it’s true, though she chooses not to think about the last. Ben says he’s happy now. Molly watches him suck soda from a round blue straw. She smiles and says she’s happy, too.

On the drive back home, she sings along to the radio and learns to believe it.

 

Gauraa Shekhar is a writer in Manhattan. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod Journal, Contrary, Sonora Review, Fiction Southeast, X-R-A-Y,  Bending Genres, Flash Fiction Magazine, among others. She is a Founding Editor of No Contact Mag and the Interviews Editor at Maudlin House. She is currently pursuing an MFA candidacy in Fiction at Columbia University.

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