“Ellie, what in the world am I doing?” Madeline said.
“You,” Ellie said, “are taking a much-needed break from what you’ve been trying to do ever since Dick left – secure a ‘forever’ future.”
“And I, for one, am damn glad.”
“You need the break.”
“ I think this is a great thing.”
“Huh.” Madeline added, “I think you need the break.”
“OK, Maybe we both do.”
How many walks just like this one had Ellie and Madeline taken over the past ten years, Madeline wondered. How many times had they clipped along on some pathway, beachfront, nature preserve, botanic garden; how many cups of coffee had been sipped in little cafes, student centers, large malls, bookstores, while they deconstructed Madeline’s latest date, possible romance, new romance, budding relationship, full! rosy! cheeked! blush! of ! love! first stagger, swaying, reeling, crumbling, dissolving, dissolving, dissolved.
The thought of all this exhausted Madeline. She was utterly bored with herself. Bored and worn-out and miserable about how much time, and brain space, and thought, and conversation the whole subject of dating and relationships had consumed, had sucked from her life. She had a nearly overwhelming desire to lie down in the grass, right then, halfway along the trail, right there, in the middle of the sculpture garden, and resolve to stay there, not move, not continue, until something changed. The blades of grass would soak up the late summer sun and caress her with their determined warmth. She would watch the wispy clouds drift lazily across the sky, she would search for the pictures in them, then make stories out of the pictures. The air would turn cool, the leaves would start to change, just barely at first, a tinge of color lost. Cyclists would whiz past her, thinking, “Huh. I don’t remember that sculpture being there before.” The first tiny, barely perceptible flake of snow would drift onto her cheek—
“You’re not re-thinking this, are you?” Ellie said.
Madeline considered for less than half a second telling Ellie what she had been thinking, but said, “Nope. Not really.”