[Content warning: beaucoup d'insinuations]
The plump curve of Cathy's lower lip leaves a pink crescent on the rim of the champagne glass as she takes tiny sips. The angles of her diamond engagement ring catch the light cast from the tasteful candelabras.
Beads of sweat roll down Joe’s forehead, mimicking the drops of condensation drawn by gravity toward the bottom of his pint of pale ale.
He lays his hand on top of Cathy’s, the hard edges of the diamond imprinting on his soft palm. “It’s a lovely restaurant,” he says.
Gabe leans back in his chair, sipping a martini, running tanned fingers through his dark hair. Beneath the curtain of the white linen table, his foot slides surreptitiously up the Maid of Honour’s leg.
He lifts his glass and says, “A toast to the bride- and groom-to-be. Here’s to a long life and a merry one, a quick death and an easy one, a pretty girl and an honest one, a cold beer and another one.”
Across the table from the Best Man, Laura clinks her tumbler of water against the champagne flute, the pint and martini glass. She uncrosses her legs, kicking the Best Man acutely in the shin before drawing her feet under her chair, far from the radius of his pedestrian overtures.
**pain et beurre**
The cold butter furrows into Joe’s slice of baguette, a plow churning earth in a winter field. Little flakes of crust dust the jacket of his blue suit. He plucks them off as he watches Gabe scrape the tip of his knife along the top of the butter, fingernails scratching across a smooth, muscular back. He shivers.
“Last night as a single man,” he says, winking at Cathy, then turning towards Gabe. “I’m counting on my Best Man for a last chance at debauchery.”
“Joe, behave yourself, we can’t have you showing up tomorrow, half-drunk at 11 a.m. can we?” Cathy laughs.
“I’ll lock him in his hotel room, Cath, without women or wine,” Gabe says.
Laura looks from Joe to Gabe, then to Cathy. A fortune-teller debating what to say when she flips a tarot card that reveals the tumultuous truth. The Tower, a tall spire on a hill, surrounded by lightning bolts, engulfed in flame, a trio of people leaping from the windows desperate for escape.
She eats her bread without butter and says nothing.
Cathy’s hand flits to the barely noticeable bulge of her belly as she considers the elongated plate of escargot stretched before her, the spirals shimmering in a pool of garlic-infused butter. She gazes at Gabe, his lips slick with snail juice, his tongue circling to catch every drop. She blushes.
Joe slides the tines inside a shell, trying, prying, coaxing. The slippery encasement shoots from his fingers arcing toward Gabe. A dotted line of longing connects two points on a plane.
“Ah, who lubricated my utensils? Ha ha,” he says, wiping his three-pronged fork with a napkin.
Gabe slurps the snails straight from the shell, sucking the creatures and their succulent secretions, dropping the hollow husks onto the plate with a vacuous clink, clink.
“Tools are overrated, my friend,” Gabe says, “when we have lips, and teeth and tongue.”
Laura spears one with a tiny trident, wrenching it from its carcass. She chews it thoughtfully, then arranges the empty shells into an equilateral triangle. The legs are the same length as the hypotenuse, the limbs still, below a noose.
Blood drips from Gabe’s rare steak as he slices off a piece, chewing the flesh with relish while he watches Joe nibbling on a thigh, Laura entrapping strands of pasta. The rapacious eyes of a wolf who’s as fond of hen as he is of cock.
Cathy sighs at her salade niçoise. She notices a small bullseye resting on the yolk of a severed egg, the sign of an inseminated ovum.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Joe asks.
“I think I just chose poorly,” she says, looking at Joe’s plate, then at Gabe. “I prefer something …meatier.”
Joe shrugs as he cuts the crispy chicken skin, a shade of caramel brown the same as his thinning hair. He pinches the thigh between his fingers and devours the flesh, leaving only the bone, which he sucks slowly while watching the minute movement of Gabe’s mandible.
“It’s bad luck for Cath and me spend the night before the wedding together,” he says, “but I’ve got a huge suite all to myself. Why don’t you join me, Gabe? We can get massages in the room….and ah, makes passes at the pretty masseuses,” he adds.
“That’s a possibility,” Gabe says, “but I thought it was customary for the Best Man and Maid of Honour to spend the night together.”
Joe purses his lips.
Laura shakes her head. Two sides of an equation that can’t be simplified, an isolated variable that remains after all the like terms have been combined.
“Joe and I have adjoining rooms,” Cathy blurts. “There’s a door between them.”
Laura winds a nest of pasta around the tines of her fork. The strands twisting and twining, tightening and binding to form a tangled testament to torture, a jumbled objectification of love. The writhing mass is chopped into short segments by her molars, simplified and deconstructed in her stomach, metabolised into their base elements.
Cathy asks if the brie is unpasteurised, a gallic shrug, her only answer.
Joe squeezes a cube of camembert, the sides bulging out but not yet bursting.
Gabe stacks his plate with an assortment. Buttery, chewy, crumbly. Earthy, musky, creamy.
Laura counts the holes in a wedge of Emmental.
Laura picks up a spoon, gently tapping it on the brittle crust of the crème brûlée. Fractures spread, deep and shallow. A parallelogram of gazes, a triangle of grazes, and still a fatal lack of congruence.
She smacks the glaze sharply, drawing attention from the other floating particles.
“You okay, Laura?” Cathy asks. “You’ve been quiet all evening.”
Laura sets down the spoon and opens her mouth to speak.
In this equation, the geometry of truth begins with the sharpest distance between three points.