I looked nervously at my watch. It was almost time. Clarice would be here any minute now. I had been dreading this moment for months. Ever since I had decided to tell Clarice the truth. To tell her how I really felt about her. I had chosen this outdoor café for a number of reasons. It was neutral ground, we'd never been here before and it held no memories for either of us. It was wide open and you could simply get up from the table and walk away in almost any direction. I thought the openness of the café, with it's tables on the pavement and its lack of restraining walls would make it much easier for Clarice to walk away, or storm off, if she chose to after I had told her what I planned to.
I had planned the place, the time and how I was going to tell her very carefully. I had chosen my words carefully. I was intent of telling her exactly how I felt without hurting her unnecessarily.
I sipped my coffee and looked up and down the street. No sign of her yet. I had ordered her a coffee to avoid any attempt at small talk during what I imagined would be an awkward time waiting for her coffee to come. I wanted to get straight to the point and get it over with as soon as possible.
I had known Clarice for nine months now and we had fallen almost immediately into a comfortable and easy familiarity. I met Clarice at a watercolours painting workshop. I had been painting for almost a year at the time and I enjoyed it immensely although I knew I wasn't much good,
After the lesson I was getting myself a coffee when I noticed this petite young woman with huge green eyes waiting beside me. I offered her my cup of coffee and we fell instantly into a conversation about the workshop and painting. She was one of those people that I just take an instant liking to. Forthright, bright, funny, and a bit odd. I've always had a thing for people who were different. People who were real individuals. Clarice was one of them.
She painted for the same reasons that I did. Simply because she enjoyed it. Coffee became dinner at a local café with a slight bohemian atmosphere and within days we were lovers. We had, or we have, so much in common. We like the same foods, the same music, the same books, the same movies. We even like our coffee the same way.
We could find humour in things most people didn't, we could laugh together, talk about a wide range of issues and spend time in quiet companionship with no awkwardness in the silences between conversation.
Clarice was an uninhibited and adventurous lover. The first time we made love there was none of the usual awkwardness or shyness, there were no tentative approaches while we slowly got to know what we both liked and disliked. It had been like plunging into a warm stream in summer and just going with the flow.
I thought she was very pretty, beautiful, although in an unconventional way. Soft dark hair framing a delicately featured face with high cheekbones and eyes that seemed a bit too large for her face.
Clarice was smart and funny. She made me think and she made me laugh. But she had never made me cry and now I feared I was about to make her cry.
In almost every way she appeared to be perfect for me. All my friends said so. That she was perfect for me. Without exception, they all remarked on how well we got along, how happy we were together, how perfect we were together.
Yet I came to a sad realisation two months ago when she spent two weeks away visiting her family, that I was happier without her than I was with her. It was that simple. On a logical level it made no sense to me. And yet during those two weeks when I fell back into my Pre-Clarice routine, I realised with a crystal clear clarity that I was happier.
I have thought about little else since that revelation came to me and I have tried to understand how I feel about her. The only conclusion I can come to that makes any sense at all, is that while I am sure that I love her, that I am not in love with her. Another way I can express it in words is that I don't feel any magic between us, yet that sounds so lame and unfair.
I find it so easy to simply coast along with Clarice comforting myself with the notion that perhaps this is as good as it gets. That this relationship may be the best that one can hope for. I cannot explain what is missing other than magic. That word keeps coming up in my thinking. I couldn't even begin to explain what it means exactly or even vaguely.
And I dread telling her this pathetic truth. She deserves much better.
I have tried comforting myself with the possibility that I do not mean as much to Clarice as I think I do and that perhaps she will simply take it in her stride, say how sorry she was it didn't work out and move on.
I have always hated seeing people I care about unhappy or get hurt in any way. And I have always hated being the cause of it and I go to great lengths to avoid it.
I had been so caught up in my thoughts that I hadn't noticed her arrive and I looked up, surprised to see her standing beside me, looking down at me. Her smile faded as I looked up at her and she saw the look in my eyes. I knew immediately that somehow she knew. And I knew words would not be necessary.