She sets the table carefully, laying out each place setting. Knife, fork, napkin, coaster: they’re all placed side-by-side to create a perfectly symmetrical tableau.
(once she drew a line down the centre and it was still perfect, as if looking in a mirror. she did all the measurements, angled things just so and then she took a photo. it’s become habit)
This is routine, laying out each item in the same order. It gives her a sense of control – she cannot control the actions of others but she can control her routine. Sometimes she’ll involuntarily look to the door, waiting for it to swing open and admit footsteps, the familiar thud of a backpack or briefcase being set on the floor.
The last piece of her routine is to flick on the radio, or slip in a CD: some old compilation of top love songs drifting through the kitchen and dining area. The CDs are beginning to look the same, colourful designs wearing off and scratched up, the liner notes worn around the edges and falling apart.
It makes a perfect dinner for two.
She draws her chair back, lays dinner out and settles in to eat. Cutlery scrapes over ceramic and various conversation starters, miscellaneous thoughts drift into her head. There’s a long stream of anecdotes she could share, but never gets so far as inhaling oxygen to do so. Occasionally she’ll shift, stretching her legs out before automatically before pulling back or extending her arm partially across the table before drawing back.
This is the same routine, it’s always the same now.
The dinner is imperfect in its perfection, and all the symmetry in the world won’t help.
(a few nights later she’s eating breakfast when the fork slips, tines first and scratch the wood. it’s the first flaw she can find in the table’s surface)