This is “The Catherine Theory” — unlike “This Fleet of Shadows,” I wouldn’t hug this story. No, I won’t. I like this story. It came from my figurative loins. I have an odd relationship with this piece. Really odd. On one hand, it, along with its “partner” story “You Know I Love You” (Alice’s story), began a slew of interconnected projects. Yes, I want to be a schmaltzier Joan Silber. But. But. Hm. Buy me a beer [UGH I DRINK BEER NOW BYE MARGARITAS] and we’ll talk about it. Let’s. [Story first published in December 06, 2008 issue of Philippines Free Press. And it was instrumental in letting me meet Gregorio Brillantes, who is my new mancrush because he is so swabeh.]
* * *
The Catherine Theory
Michelle took her overnight bag, and put what she could inside it. Always, what was necessary: the toiletries she wasn’t allowed to leave no matter how frequently she went there, some underwear advertised as decadent, a change of clothes, a packet of mints.
It was Friday night. In a couple of minutes, she would go out the door, and hail a taxi. In less than an hour, she would be at Jim’s house, where he would be waiting for her with a glass of wine, because it set the mood for what would happen the whole weekend. On Sunday morning, she’d be back in her apartment again, her overnight bag would hold what she was wearing now, the panties she had gone through, shampoo bottles that were lighter. On Sunday nights, Jim always had dinner with his girlfriend, whose name Michelle always seemed to forget.
It didn’t bother her, that he had a girlfriend, it didn’t bother her now the way it did before. Things like that happened. She supposed she loved Jim, and perhaps Jim loved her back, but that wasn’t important, hadn’t been lately. Jim would always say, usually after they made love, “You’re beautiful, Shell,” and she supposed she was. She was pretty enough, with her long dark hair, her full lips, her light skin. Her sister Alice always said she’d give anything to look like Michelle, then she could be taken seriously.
Seriousness, did she inspire this? Did it matter? Commitment, a voice in her head chided, and Michelle thought of how she’d never felt the urge to ask Jim, “Who’s more beautiful then, me or her?” She felt noble for this; it somehow made her seem admirable. She had no desire to know, beyond what she already knew: a girlfriend, Jim’s, who had him most of the week, and especially on special occasions.
At least he wasn’t married. She never dallied with married men. Her mother would never forgive her if she did, if she somehow knew.