Fiction: The Unsaid

shutterstock_140859748mediumCarlos watched the crowd pass by while April talked with the cheese vendor. He could hear her soft tones beneath the noise of the crowd. He was always listening for the sound of her voice, even when she wasn’t around; it was like the magnetic pull of the earth’s core. When she finished, he slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her close as they continued walking through the farmer’s market. She told him what cheese she’d bought, and he nodded.

“What wine should we get?” she asked, the beige mesh knit shopping bag slung over her shoulder, her free arm in her pocket. Carlos lit a cigarette and then removed his arm so they could share it between the two of them. April took small, careful drags and let the smoke float from her lips.

“A malbec is always nice,” he replied, hoping he was right. She smiled and nodded, and he smiled back. A man ran past them, bumping into Carlos’s shoulder and making him drop the cigarette. Carlos began to swear but April shrugged.

“There’s that wine shop across the street up here, we should stop now so we can enjoy the rest of the day.” She tugged on his hand and he let himself be pulled after her, in the same direction as the running man. The crowd grew thick around them, and he had a hard time holding onto her. He began to worry, but she stopped abruptly against a thick wall of observers. She turned to look at him, a silent question in her eyes, but he shrugged. He probably knew less than she.

A river of men and women were moving down the street, crowded together and shouting with one voice. It was hard to make out exactly what their words were, but Carlos had heard them before. “Let’s go back,” he said to April. “We can get wine elsewhere.”

April looked back at him, her nostrils flared with excitement. “Such bravery, Carlos,” she said. “They fight for their humanity. Have you ever felt so passionate about anything in your own life?” Then she turned back to watch the people pass.

Carlos looked at the back of her head, her long brown hair waving with the turn of her head as she strained to look. “Still,” he said. “It isn’t safe, and we have our anniversary to enjoy.”

April watched a moment longer, then let herself be pulled away. “I can’t imagine being denied the basic rights of humanity,” April continued when they’d gotten far enough away. “It’s like we’re living in the dark ages.”

Carlos pursed his lips. “I agree, but they really aren’t human, are they? Can you honestly expect humans to accept them as equals simply because they are sentient enough to demand it? Look how history has treated those who are different.”

“There is nothing that makes them different from us,” April said.

“Nothing except that humans are made by God, and they are made by humans.” Carlos titled his head back toward the street as he squeezed her hand, then let her lead him up the stairs into their flat. April began putting groceries away while Carlos made some espresso. He opened the tall balcony doors to let in the fresh air, then lit a cigarette and sat at the kitchen table to drink his coffee. April joined him and lit herself a cigarette. The sounds of the city drifted in through the window, and they both listened and smoked. Carlos could tell that April still worried at the issue in her mind.

“If there is no real difference, my love, would you consent to allow your child to marry one?” Carlos tapped the ashes of his cigarette onto his saucer. April frowned down at the ash, and he remembered that she hated it, so he moved to dump the ash into the sink. He extinguished his cigarette in a drop of water and threw it into the drain. Then he pulled out the cutting board, knife, and a few small plates and began to prepare their anniversary lunch. April stood and took some wine glasses down from the cupboard. She opened the drawer to the right of the sink and removed the bottle opener, her elbow brushing against his as she moved. She twisted the screw into the cork, turning and pulling until it popped.

“That’s a dirty question, Carlos,” April finally said. She leaned one hip against the counter near where he worked, her arms crossed, her eyes tilted up and to the right. “Objectively, no, of course not. Love is love. But such a marriage would be so dangerous and complicated, I wouldn’t wish it on my child. Would you?”

Carlos sighed quietly. “I wouldn’t wish it, no. But what if it happened, and there was no stopping it? What if you had no choice but to accept your child’s romance or to cut ties completely?”

“I would accept it. Of course I would.” April had no children, but talked often of wanting them. Carlos could never provide her with children, although he’d kept it to himself for the years of their relationship. It was one of the most painful secrets he kept from her. April carried the wine and the glasses to the table and set them down.

Sweat leaked down from Carlos’s brow into his eyes, and they stung, watering. His hand slipped with the knife against the leathery skin of the tomato, and he felt the knife slide into the flesh of his finger, his blood mingling with the slippery red intestines of the fruit. He gasped.

April rushed over, panicked. “Carlos,” she cried out. “Careful!”

“It’s ok, it’s ok,” Carlos said, turning to place his body between his hand and her. “Don’t look, it’ll only upset you.”

April tsked and pushed her way around him, a turquoise dish towel in her hand. When she saw his cut, she stopped. Her eyes were wide and focused on the blood, blood the exact same shade as the towel.

“April,” Carlos whispered. She laid the towel on the counter next to his hand, a corner falling into the formed pool and beginning to lap up the liquid. Then she looked up at him, looked him in the eye, and he could see there that her brave idealism had been a façade all along.

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