Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Writing Prompt: The Pet Peeve

Some people have pet peeves. Some people have quirks. Some people don’t find out that they have pet peeves until their significant other has a quirk. Adorable or funny at first, a quirk can (apparently) quickly develop into a pet peeve, and you can find yourself screaming at the person you love across the dinner table and ending your relationship because of it… Apparently.
“I’m sorry,” said the text I sent. “I forgot. It’ll never happen again. I promise.” After three hours of waiting and trying to convince myself that she was probably just in a meeting and hadn’t had a chance to check her phone and respond to my text, I googled “local flower shops” and sent her favorite calla lillies.
Lillian informed me when we started dating that she had a pet peeve. “Just never, ever, ever do it, and we’ll be fine.” We meaning our relationship. She explained that her ex did it all the time. I pointed out delicately that her ex also cheated on her, stole cash out of the ‘someday vacation’ fund that she kept in a jar in the kitchen, and showed up incredibly drunk to the first meeting with her parents. Lillian shrugged. “You can forgive a lot when you really love someone. But there’s always a breaking point, and that was ours.” She froze me with a look. “So I just want you to know up front that I’m not going to tolerate it, so... Don’t do it.
The flower shop emailed me a delivery confirmation. I sent another text, reminding her again that I was sorry (really sorry!), but did not get a response. That evening, I took some strawberry rhubarb turnovers to her place to try to cool her anger with pastries. I knew she was still angry; it wasn’t just the ignored texts or the tone of her voice or the look on her face or the body language (arms crossed, impatient stance), it was that she opened the front door but not the storm door, as though I was on a mission to kindly tempt her out of her home to join one of her local religious institutions.
There’s a certain amount of security in a serious relationship. You become learn each other’s hopes and fears, become comfortable with one another, and start to imagine living the rest of your life next to this person whose company you treasure.
“I’m not trying to excuse what I did,” I told her, through the glass door that sat solidly closed between us. “I know how things ended between you and Sid, so I’m going to really try to remember not to do it again. I love you. Please, can’t you see that this is not something that we need to fight about? Don’t you know how silly it’s going to be if we have to tell our friends and your mother that we broke up because I put my elbows on the table after dinner?”
“You think this is silly?” she shouted, “you think I’m stupid?!”
Before I could even think the words, “That’s not what I said,” much less get them out of my mouth, Lillan had slammed the door in my face. When your girlfriend slams the door in your face because you put your elbows on the dinner table, there’s not much you can do but wait until she calms down (unless you want to go find a new girlfriend who only yells at you when you don’t put the mayo back in the correct spot in the refrigerator). But I decided right then and there that I didn’t want to wait. Lillian was worth anything it took to keep her around, even if my elbows never came in contact with a horizontal surface again.
I decided to take action. “I CAN BE SILLY TOO, LILLIAN!” I shouted maturely at the front door. “JUST WAIT AND SEE!”
The next day I started with flowers again. Then I hit the party store and had a few other things delivered to her office. Finally, I spent all afternoon making her favorite meal, texting her a picture of my progress every once in a while.
I figured that she would know I was coming to pick her up from work because of the pictures, but when I showed up at 4:30, the receptionist told me that Lillian had been pretty busy all day and wasn’t expecting me, but added, helpfully, that he hadn’t been asked to kick me out. He gave me a grin and pointed at the doorway of Lillian’s corner office, where I saw one of her co-workers stop short and stare.
“Uh, Lillian…?” she began to say.
The second I heard Lillian’s voice, I knew everything was going to be okay between us. Her tone was annoyed and tired, but not angry. “Yes, Rebecca,” she interrupted, “I am very well aware that I have a giant inflatable pony in my office.”
The receptionist stifled a chuckle and waved me past his desk. I weaved my way around the cubicles and took Rebecca’s place in Lillian’s doorway. “It’s a very rare breed,” I informed her. “He’s a Pajarito Mesa Pet Peeve Pony.”

Lillian looked up from the pile of work on her desk and gave me an amused glare. “Yes, he’s been very helpful today,” she said, sarcasm thick in her voice. “‘Pajarito Mesa?’”
“It’s in New Mexico. ‘Mesa’ means ‘table.’”
She rolled her eyes. “Does ‘pajarito’ mean ‘elbows?’”
“Not especially,” I admitted. Not wanting to allow the silence to get awkward, I charged ahead: “I made empanadas.”
She nodded. “I saw. I don’t know what time I’m going to be able to get out of here tonight.”
I shrugged. “I’ll keep them warm.”
After a moment, Lillian said, “I’m sorry I didn’t try the turnovers yesterday,” but I knew that what she really meant was, “I’m sorry about the fight.”
“They were delicious,” I said with a grin. She knew that what I really meant was, “I forgive you but I definitely already ate all the turnovers.”
She smiled back. “I’ll text you when I’m done here, and then come over. Will there be empanadas for me?”
“Baby, there will always be empanadas for you,” I said suavely, as she stood to give me a hug.
“Can you do me a favor?” she asked as I turned to leave.
“Take this stupid pony thing with you,” she said with a laugh.
The Pet Peeve Pony is a member of our family now. Since the Elbow Incident, his huge purple presence has been employed to prevent several fights. Lillian says that the effort it takes to inflate it usually tires her out so much she doesn’t feel like yelling, and that it’s easier to let me know that she’s annoyed when he’s sitting there, since he’s hard to miss. Instead of slamming a door in one another’s faces, we see the pony, smile and remember how silly fights can get, and then have a conversation about our conflicting opinions.
Some people have pet peeves. Some people have quirks. Some people have quirky pet peeve ponies.

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