Fragile

Fragile

A Story by J.M.Kauftheil
"

Foreign romance, or something.

"

“Have a seat,” I said, motioning to my love-seat sofa. She walked across my deep brown hardwood floor with her new, white sneakers to sit on the far end of the couch. She had on a pair of blue jeans which couldn’t be much older than her shoes, and a grey brand-name jacket. I sat down as well, leaving about a foot of space between myself and this girl whose outfit expressed a not-so-effortless display of casual American style.

She sat with her hands clasped in her lap, and looked timidly around the room. She was pretty, blonde " I hadn’t been with many blondes. She was foreign as well, but I had already forgotten from which country, though she had told me earlier that night. I did remember, however, that she had only been in the States for three months, and though she didn’t mention it specifically, I could tell she had arrived with a poor grasp of the local language. Whatever her native tongue, I’m sure the most I would possibly be able to speak would be the translated equivalent of “hello”, if even that. The language barrier created an awkward tension, but maybe it saved me from verbalizing clumsy thoughts in a nervous effort to fill the silence.

To my relief, I had done some cleaning around my home a few days before, and happened to spare myself the embarrassment of bringing the girl into what was usually a messy living space. Had the ground been littered with clothes and papers, and the coffee table cluttered with lazily-left dishes, I’m not sure how I would have gotten across a polite apology. Our means of communication relied greatly on a game of charades to supplement the limits of what could be said and understood. Without the careless and chaotic characteristic I had grown accustomed to viewing the area with, my living room looked somewhat barren. There were a few pieces of furniture, two medium-sized paintings on the white wall, and a box of books, which I was keeping in the corner for lack of a shelf or space in my bedroom.

We sat quietly for a few moments, searching for something to say, and perhaps waiting for the other to make a move of some sort. I had already asked if she “likes it here,” and it was a dumb question in the first place. Asking her nationality was out of the question " I was certain it make me seem uninterested if I couldn’t bother to remember what she had told me two hours ago. I noticed her eyeing one of the pictures, which hung on the far wall, and words were practicing themselves on her lips, as to hopefully come out coherently when she spoke them. Maybe she would start talking about art " with the boundaries to our conversation, I could probably pass off the façade of knowledge and sincere interest in Van Gogh, or Monet from the little that I did know of them.

“You, uh, paint them?” she said, with an emphatic uncertainty on the word “paint”, and pretended to doodle in the air with an invisible brush. Someone I knew had been the artist, and I had purchased the pieces out of taste, but more so a means of showing support for his effort. I shortened that explanation to “No, a friend,” and she nodded casually. I did the same, unsure of what else to do.

I hoped she would talk more, so I could attempt to place her accent, though I was never too great at determining those things. Up until I brought her to my place, the lighting had been too poor for me to get a good gauging of her features, and now that we were sitting side by side, it would seem strange and rude if I were to stare directly at her. With her blonde hair and fair skin, I wanted to assume she was from Europe, but I had also known a few yellow-haired, light skinned girls from South American countries. I knew some places in Canada spoke French, but if they knew English as well, I was unsure " and aren’t there some white people from Africa? The only place I felt safe ruling out was England.

“Drink?” I offered, miming a swig from a bottle. I hoped a little alcohol would be a good agent to loosen us both up. She nodded her head. “Beer?” She nodded again, likely as a polite response, traces of cluelessness showing in her features. I didn’t bother suggesting anything else, knowing it would be pointless unless I happened to have, and pronounce correctly a drink from wherever she was from. I returned from my kitchen with two bottles of a draft from Japan " a country I guessed, though I couldn’t be absolutely certain, she wasn’t from " and found her staring rather intently at one of the cardboard boxes.

“Books,” I told her. She looked up to with a confused expression. “In the box… they’re books.” She responded with a small, offhand “ah”, and took the bottle that I held out to her, keeping an eye on the package.

I saw down on the couch, daringly closer than before. I realized that unlike myself she was left-handed, as our arms occasionally brushed while we sipped our beers. Incidentally rubbing elbows was the closest we could get to flirting at that point. She continued to absent-mindedly gaze at my collection of literature.

I tried to figure out what she found so interesting about the cardboard square. It was a plain box, bursting a bit in the corners. There was a depiction of a broken wineglass, a symbol to indicate that what had originally come in the box was fragile, though what that was, I had forgotten. Surely this sight wasn’t unique to her, wherever she was from must have had boxes exactly like the one before us. The only other design was a large arrow, with a bold text indicating the top of the container.

I couldn’t deduce anything from the situation, so I decided I would test my present cool by making a move. I placed my bottle in my left hand, and bravely stretched my right arm over her shoulders. I met no resistance from her, but she also didn’t make any effort to come closer. I noticed that she had a quarter or so left of her drink, while I was left with a shallow puddle at the bottom of my bottle, which I drank eventually, and then pretended to drink several times more. She finally looked away from the box, leaned against the back of the couch, and rested her hand and bottle lightly on my knee.

I took the opportunity to get a better look at her face, and she turned her head to look back at me. On a closer inspection, I found her skin was rather pale, and her nose seemed a bit flat. I assumed she was Russian or Polish " something from that part of Europe " and I decided to leave it at that. I moved closer to kiss her, but she seemed hesitant and backed her body way a little.

Feeling a bit humiliated, I didn’t know what to do. I stayed in place, unsure if she wanted me to back away, or she was subtly beckoning me closer with her actions. I found myself stuck in an odd position, confused and uncomfortable. Fortunately she moved in, and saved me.

We broke away, and both faced the wall again. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that she was smiling, and a red blush had come over her white cheeks. Her eyes began studying the box again, for reasons I couldn’t interpret.  I was tired of trying to figure it out, so I went in for another kiss. She stopped me this time, with her finger tips on my chin.

“Be careful, please,” she said, in what I was assuming to be an Eastern-European accent. “Uh… my heart is…” she began, placing a hand on her breast over her heart. I could see the focus in her eyes, as her lips formed the words. She glanced back the box a final time, and turned her gaze to my eyes. With the same tint of insecurity that she had previously placed on the word ‘paint,’ she finished her sentence: “this side up.”


© 2010 J.M.Kauftheil



Author's Note

J.M.Kauftheil
More of a humor piece, really...
Written in a diner.
Drafted once, proofread once.
If you see anything, mention it.

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Reviews

I quite liked this short. You have accurately depicted the awkwardness of such a situation and the language barrier added another facet to the 'boy meets girl' scenario that 99.99% of the world should relate to in some way. There wasn't a great deal happening other than the protagonist moving in on the foriegn girl, but the thought processes were enough to keep this interesting.
I guessed the girl was eastern european too and I've actually been in a similar situation with a norwegian girl who didn't know much english, so it raised a smile or two throughout. The fragile part escaped me for a moment and i had to re-read the end before the jigsaw piece of 'this way up' clicked into place in my weed induced brain, but I liked it once it did. It was a clever and thought provoking write. Nice one, take care, spence

Posted 7 Years Ago



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Added on January 5, 2010
Last Updated on January 5, 2010
Tags: foreign, girl

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J.M.Kauftheil
J.M.Kauftheil

San Jose, CA



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