Good People Make Bad Couples

By Marina Rubin

Flora was getting married.

Neither she nor her fiancé wanted to get married but their relationship was like a suitcase of unnecessary things in that Ukrainian proverb: тяжко нести, й жалко кинути. Too heavy to carry but oh, such a shame to drop.

And then, on some random Monday, he got drunk. And he called her up in the middle of the night and, slurring his words, announced, “It just can’t…and it doesn’t…and it won’t…and we really shouldn’t. And I can’t.”

Taken aback, she answered coolly, “Well, if that’s how you feel, tomorrow I will come by after work and pick up my stuff.”

He had allocated a drawer for her in his tiny apartment in Long Island City. She had kept some of her work clothes there for those once-or-twice-a-week sleepovers when everything seemed okay in the sensual dimness of the evening, but in the morning light you were suddenly seized by a cold front, as if you had just swallowed an ice cube.

He had ironed her dress once. It was long and black and had ruffles, and she thought he would make a wonderful husband, and he hung it up on the ceiling fan, tenderly, carefully, so it wouldn’t wrinkle, and all night she watched the hanger sway from the ceiling in the autumnal chill, as if there was a body inside the dress, a woman hanging from a noose.

After work, Flora took the train to his place, as she had promised. He was already waiting for her, sitting on the stoop with that cowed look of apology and hangover. And he started slowly, making an effort to articulate every word, “I have been thinking…”

And she stopped him right there and then, because she knew what he was going to say next and she whispered, “You have been thinking enough and you’ve made your decision.”

She went upstairs and collected her things – clothes, shampoos, and she tossed them into two paper bags from Trader Joe’s and she wished him goodbye and good luck, and she took off.

And she ran. She ran. She ran like an Olympic sprinter. She ran like the devil was chasing her with a three-legged fork. She ran like she stole it, two bags of Gone Bananas frozen dessert, the Trader Joe’s employees racing after her, screaming, “She didn’t pay, somebody stop her, somebody call the police.” She ran as if God himself kissed her, and no one could bring her back now. She only hoped that the landscape he threw at her feet, this storybook city humming and whirring ahead, would be kind and good to people like them, in the next round.

Marina Rubin immigrated to the United States from Ukraine when she was a child. Her work has appeared in over eighty magazines and anthologies. She is an associate editor of Mudfish, Tribeca’s literary and art magazine, and a winner of COJECO Blueprint Fellowship. Her book of flash fiction stories Stealing Cherries was released in 2013 from Manic D Press to rave reviews. “One of the richer contemporary visions of America I’ve read,” said Nano Fiction. Coachella Valley Independent compared Rubin to David Sedaris and wrote: “her collection hits all the right notes with its humor, warmth and mild perversity.” Jewish Week praised Rubin’s writing as “sparse, precise, yet also lush, with long sentences packed full of life, drama and artistry…” 

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