Love Finds You When You Stop Looking

by | February 2021 A (Day 2)

The way a guitar duo watches each other’s fingers on the strings, until one turns his face away for a private moment of satisfaction, then returns to the light of his partner; the way mistakes are shared, laughed over, corrected together—this was Francile’s ideal. But Ted had made that tolerant face—stiff mouth flicker, hard browlift with three blinks—when Francile interrupted his phone scrolling to passionately share the details of an environmental podcast about sugar kelp farming.

“If they can expand seaweed packaging this could be big!”

“Could be a long-term investment opportunity,” he granted before going back to his phone.

There was no fucking music here. Francile’s heart dipped its tentacles into the brown slurry, sank further, lost a beat or two. She’d go for a run. Ted didn’t care about her thoughts. Had he ever?

“A run will resuscitate me.”

“Okay, Francy.” Ted didn’t glance up at all, didn’t ask, from what?

“I hate Francy.” He wouldn’t stop calling her the hated nickname but protesting was an act of self-respect.

What did work was running up the hill by the frozen lake, which shocked her heart back from its slush and into a steady New Order techno pleasure. I am dancing on the inside, Francile chanted as she avoided black ice.

Right/I am      Left/dancing   Right/on the   Left/inside

which became round hole square peg

Left/round      Right/hole      Left/square     Right/peg

Halfway up she hopped out of the street to avoid a truck and pulled out her phone to photograph the fish houses way out on the iced lake because they looked pretty and strange.

Ted had texted. To his “hey” she sent “running!”

People had parked cars on the ice and the week’s forecast was for temperatures above thirty, so time was limited. The uncertainty made her anxious.

<oh okay>

He hadn’t realized she left.

<had to go>

You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. You can’t fit a trapezoid into a rhombus. You can’t fit a volcano into a smartphone.

Francile started her engine again, willed the ashy sky to pull her shoulders erect, chugged along until the road flattened by the new retirement community. Ted wouldn’t be any different in retirement and it would kill her.

<Luciano’s for dinner tonight?>

<I wanted veggie lasagna remember?>

<okay order it at Lucianos babe>

<spent all morning prepping it’s baking now>

Francile’s knife on the cutting board had echoed throughout the house while she chopped zucchini and garlic. Her fingertips reeking of onions convinced her she hadn’t dreamed it. She was mostly walking now.

<really want the veal cutlet at Luciano’s tho>

At the four way stop Francile went straight instead of turning right. She didn’t want to go home even though her nose burned from the cold. Round peg.

<you fit once I’m really certain you did Ted>

<what if you had your lasagna and I ordered takeout??>

What if she cashed out her Ford stock and bought a truck with a trailer and a sleeper icehouse and cozied up on Amelia Lake with the die-hards and ran big circles around the edge when she needed a heart lift? Ted would never turn off the oven and the ricotta would settle into a black brick and the couple that bought the house would find it when they opened the door to bake a celebratory move-in cake. In the Spring she would chase wildflowers along highway medians, drive to the Long Island Sound, learn photosynthesis from saltwater, make a happy marriage with the kelp fronds wrapping around her ankles and ribcage, kissing her just so.



  1. Laurie Marshall

    This is such a beautiful story of longing. So many great likes, but I loved this: “…which shocked her heart back from its slush and into a steady New Order techno pleasure.”

    The slush imagery with a heart is something new and I love it.

  2. sara lippmann

    Oh Kate you’ve done it again — another honest beauty that demonstrates the range and possibilities of language.

    I love the way you’ve once again challenged and stretched your prose, how your characters not only talk at cross purposes they are on different planets — and your use of embedded text adds another interesting textural layer. The voice. The rage and heartache, but also liberation. Running is that. (Funny: I have a running story in my new collection that circles some of these themes.)

    There was no fucking music here. YES>

    Your use of imagery is so phenomenal and lush and feels intuitive. How you embed all the sea imagery and deliver that last paragraph of total perfection. That last sentence alone —

    So much love for : You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. You can’t fit a trapezoid into a rhombus. You can’t fit a volcano into a smartphone.

    I am dancing on the inside, Francile chanted as she avoided black ice — that’s everything right there

    the disconnection. Ted’s failure/refusal/inability to see her — he can’t even say her name —

    And I love the ice house imagery, the metaphor (Not sure we need: “The uncertainty made her anxious.” — implicit in “time was limited”, no?)

    In short this story is a stunner. Send it out!

    I’m not sure your title is your title. (This could be my own personal bias against longer titles that oversteer, but I do think your title might be more powerful if it were more restrained. and thus, more in line with the narrative voice.) Like, I vote for more nuance but I dunno. It’s your story. I trust you to have the title that suits your story best. Let me know where it lands. And thanks for all your wonderful work this weekend!

  3. Trent

    this has some accuracy! Definitely nails it with how people are way too often oblivious.
    Also like the cross-purpose-ish dialogue. Really solid illustration of that done successfully!

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