Poetic Justice

“This isn’t poetic,” Ella suddenly blurted. She hadn’t really been listening for the last minute or so, not that it made a difference. She was lost in thought, the result of which was the previous declaration.

Tim looked at her with a quizzical look on his face. “What do you mean?” he asked.

This,” Ella replied, emphatically, “it isn’t poetic.”

“Of course it is. I’m reading you a poem.”

Ella very nearly scowled. “The Cat in the Hat is hardly poetic.”

They were standing the children’s section of a Barnes and Noble. Ella much preferred the crammed used bookstore across from the two-dollar movie theater, though she had never mentioned this to Tim.

Very bored of trying to impress her with his literary expertise—something easy to get bored with as it was practically non-existent—Tim turned to one of his favorite childhood books. However, long before he could even get to the introduction of Things One and Two, Ella’s sudden revelation interrupted the comfort of his childhood reminiscence.  Indeed, it interrupted what had hitherto been a rather pleasant evening.

Tim reverted to his somewhat careless sense of humor. “You shouldn’t be so critical of Dr. Seuss. There is plenty of poetry in his books.”

Tim’s attempt to lighten the look on Ella’s face fell flat as Ella’s resolute and stern expression did not crack a smile. “I am not talking about Dr. Seuss.” she replied quietly, in a tone that sounded like anything but a whisper.

Tim became slightly more serious, getting a better sense of where the conversation was headed.

Ella and Tim had been dating for about five months, and they hadn’t known each other for much longer than that. They met at a grocery store. Ella had just discovered falafel. She was in a chatty, inquisitive mood. Tim happened to be there in the same aisle buying falafel. One thing led to another and the discovery of a mutual friend, or, perhaps, merely an acquaintance. It was only a matter of weeks before they began dating.

For Ella, this was new. Her relationships had a tendency toward intensity, a great deal of intensity, but not longevity. For Tim, relationships were practically non-existent. In the end, they were both being rather impulsive, and neither of them took time to consider how poetic or unpoetic the meeting had been. Rather, they each eagerly appreciated (with the help of that friend or acquaintance) any kind of mutual interest.

Unfortunately, five months later, Ella was seized with the sudden realization that their relationship was more than usually boring. This was primarily unfortunate for Tim.

Tim was not necessarily a boring person. He was smart, successful, even attractive in certain lighting. When he bothered to stand up straight and put on a tie, he was more than presentable to Ella’s former boyfriends, should the opportunity present itself. In fact, Tim’s own interests were in computer science. He was a programmer, a rather brilliant one. Ella even found his somewhat wry sense of humor charming—at first. He was, however, predictable.

The fact of Tim’s boringness was not entirely his fault, but it was a fact, a fact that had suddenly become impossible to live with for Ella. Thus they found themselves standing in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble.

“What do you mean?” came Tim’s hesitant response. He didn’t really want to ask. He knew she had an answer that he didn’t actually want to hear. “Barnes and Noble?” He hoped he’d be safe, “We can go somewhere else.”

Ella was somewhat relieved that she did not have to creatively side-step his first question. He had given her a way out. She took it, “Where would you like to go?”

Somewhat relieved, but not entirely, Tim blandly scratched his head. ” I don’t know. We could go to that park.”

Ella saw a glimmer of hope. “Which park?”

“That one where Annie plays soccer.” Annie was the mutual friend/acquaintance.

Ella vaguely remembered and asked whether Tim had any other ideas. Tim’s heart rate had increased slightly since the abrupt halt to his presentation of the Dr. Seuss classic. This was, of course, imperceptible to anyone else, and Tim entirely failed to notice as well. He began listing the places and activities that came to mind, hoping Ella would like at least one of them.

The disillusioned Ella heard exactly three and a half suggestions before her memory was filled with the events of an evening at ‘that one’ park: about how Tim had gotten his foot stuck in a chain-link fence as he attempted to climb it; about the friends who were with him and their uninteresting conversations about hand-soap and razor burn; about the small, stunted trees that were too pathetic to even be considered Gothic. Images of the brown, prickly, short grass came to mind. She was reminded of the fact that the mud was even too shallow to be of any palpable interest. She imagined days to come in such parks, then her own conversation turning for the worse, only to leave her spending her evenings in, watching television or playing FreeCell on her characterless computer.

This thought was simply too much. As Tim was in the middle of describing the advantages of simply renting a movie and going back to his apartment, he was interrupted a second time.

“We have to break up.”

Tim stumbled on his words for a second longer before he realized what Ella had just said. “What? Why?” came his rather pitiable response. “We don’t have to stay at Barnes and Noble.”

“It’s not Barnes and Noble, Tim. This isn’t going to work. I need more poetry. Where are the soft sunset rays of light, the cherry blossoms, the surprise springtime trips to Paris? Where are the infatuated, irrational love songs? I can’t keep doing this. It will ruin me someday. If I’m ruined, what good will I be to you?

With that, Ella turned to leave. As she turned, she almost reveled in the image of Tim standing in Barnes and Noble, jaw slightly ajar, slightly stunned, as she walked away. Her excitement grew as she perceived a delightfully heavy rainfall through the windows. This poetic triumph was short-lived, however. Tim’s stunned stance was quickly recovered from, and, with his heart racing faster, her pursued Ella down the aisle.

“What do you mean? You can’t just break up with me because you don’t like Barnes and Noble. How was I supposed to know? I happen to deeply appreciate the works of Dr. Seuss.”

Ella tried to keep walking, but felt her triumph draining, not so much because of the attention being drawn to them, as by the loss of dramatic timing.

She turned to face her assailant, “Look, I most certainly can break up with you. I have no problem with Dr. Seuss. Will you please try not to make a scene?” She turned again in the hopes of making it to the door before the rain had a chance to stop. She turned back to Tim, though, considering what she hoped would be her final words on the subject carefully. “Tim,” she began, almost endearingly, “the problem is not Dr. Seuss. It is not Barnes and Noble.” For a moment she was tempted to us a cliché and claim responsibility for the problem. However, that was the least poetic thing she could think of. So, after a rather pregnant pause, in which Ella’s anticipation for her next words almost exceeded that of Tim’s, she proceeded, “The problem is you. I’m so sorry I have to put you though this. I should have been more aware. But I’m awake now, alive, and this cannot continue.” At this Ella began to choke back tears. She whispered bereftly as took a step closer, “I’m sorry,” then kissed him sorrowfully on the cheek. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Again she turned, somewhat triumphantly. She had nearly begun congratulating herself on having worked in such a woeful peck.

“Eloise,” came the unwelcomingly loud voice. “This isn’t fair at all.” Tim came to cut her off this time. He was not terribly imposing, though he was visibly hot. Even as he began to lose his temper, he still slouched slightly, making him somewhat plain, considering the circumstances. “We’ve only been dating since July. There haven’t been any cherry blossoms or a springtime to visit Paris in. You are simply being unreasonably.” All of this, though said in a raised voice followed suit with his posture. His words were not commanding or convincing–never mind that they were correct.

“Tim, it’s over. I can’t…” Ella allowed her voice to trail off, turning to leave once more. To her disappointment, the rain had stopped.

“Can’t you give me another chance?” There was a brief pause and Ella thought perhaps she had triumphed. But it was not so. Defeat filled Tim’s voice as he continued. “What did I do wrong?” he whined.

At this, Ella reeled. “Look,” she snapped, “you’re doing it. From day one our relationship was unpoetic. I can’t even break up with you poetically. Every time you open your mouth, it’s like the opposite of poetry comes out. Even your name is unpoetic: Tim. What would have been a perfectly timed and lamentable parting has now become an infuriating break up!” She nearly screamed.

She turned again and remembered that it had stopped raining. “And it’s not even raining anymore,” she griped.

Ella stormed out of the store. Her only consolation was in having the last word, and that was rather ruined by the imperfect state of misery she was in.

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