Audrey took her dinner quietly, without words beyond the obligatories (please, thank you, no, work was fine), and I obliged her the silence. We just ate, together but not together, in that way that you do when there are too many things to say. The meal in question was on the bad side of decent, days-old stir-fried noodles from the Japanese place down the street from her apartment, reheated and reconstituted into a slimy Pan-Asian gruel with the addition of fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, curry powder, chili powder, and neglect. I thought it was on the bad side of decent, at least. She pushed the noodle slurry around her plate with her fork, picking out the vegetable bits for inspection and wrinkling her nose like the vegetable bits had farted and then piling a heap of noodle slurry onto the fork along with the vegetable bits and then shoving the loaded fork into her mouth and then making a show of chewing, chewing, chewing and then swallowing it all in a cowish gulp. They were her leftovers, but they seemed to be making her very unhappy. She was making an expression that I lacked the perspicacity to put name to, and it seemed to cover more and more of her face with each bite I took.
“You can’t just expect me to make food for you whenever you want,” she said.
“What’s that supposed to mean? I’ve never asked you to just make food for me,” I said.
“When you come over here, it’s just expected that I’m the one who’s making the food. You invite yourself over whenever you want, and suddenly I’m the fucking Barefoot Contessa.”
“I think you’ll need a lot more butter if you want to be the Barefoot Contessa. Like, gallons. Have you read one of those cookbooks? I experienced coronary distress just looking at the table of contents.”
“That’s not funny. I’m trying to have a serious discussion about boundaries.”
“Do you want me to make food for you? Whatever. Next time, I’ll come over and make you a chicken nissoi or some shit.”
“That’s not what I’m asking, Anthony. You’re not listening.” She was articulating all her consonants very precisely, as if she were trying to teach me English as a second language. I hated when she did that. It was like she was summoning the spirit of her ancestors to put the negro in his place. I know she didn’t mean it that way, but it was difficult to ignore the subtext. I was always fond of close readings, perhaps overly so when it came to relationships. “Sometimes, I just want very badly for you to not be so . . . you.”
I recognized the look on her face then: spoilt revenge. She wanted me to say the food was gross, so she could say I should’ve brought my own food. That I hadn’t was killing her. I tried not to smile. It was petty, I know, but seeing her impotent anger was far more delicious than the noodles with which she had meant to undo me. I didn’t say anything after that. There was no point. This was a proxy argument. The real argument was about us moving in together. I had been passive-aggressively suggesting it was time for the past two months, and she hadn’t reacted well. She had a lot of blah blah about independence and boundaries and whatever.
I just thought it was time. Two years is a long time to be with someone without moving in. Friends of ours who hadn’t been together when we met were married now. People were starting to talk. We’d had dozens of proxy arguments since I started pulling on the thread, thunderous screaming matches and sighful pout-offs both. We’d made up every time, but the rancor was starting to wear on us. The things you say stick around even after the anger is gone, half-forgotten, half-obsessed over, condensed into hateful little mnemonics, know-you-thinks and remember-you-saids haunting every future argument and frosting every past remembrance, splinters in the mind’s eye.
The petty revenge and the vengeful pettiness followed naturally from there.
I finished first, as I had chosen to eat like a reasonable human adult. I was still hungry, but to ask for some of Audrey’s food, either from her plate or fridge, would only invite upset. Instead, I got up, walked to the stove, started stirring the pot of blood on the burner. It was reducing nicely. Maybe ten more minutes until it was done. I pulled a plastic baggie out of my pocket and poured the contents, a mélange of locally sourced mystery herbs, into the pot. A column of purple smoke rose from the pot, swirled around the room in silken tendrils, broke off into wispy cartoon hearts that faded away in the breeze from the window. It smelled like soap and something else, something sweet at the edge of memory. Or maybe it was a memory that evoked a scent, something implicit, almost neotenous. Does fertilization produce an odor? Does meiosis?
Audrey still had food left, but she was as finished as she was going to be. She took her plate and my plate from the table and put them in the sink. There was a look on her face like maybe she was sorry about something she had said or done, but couldn’t decide what. I tried to put the same look on my own face; I’m not sure if I meant it or not. She turned on the water and squirted some soap.
“I was going to do that,” I said.
“It’s fine. You’re making the potion.”
“I would’ve done it. Both of them. I’m an amazing dishwasher.”
“I know,” she said. She didn’t look up.
“You know I would, or you know I’m amazing? ’Cause I am a for-real god-king champion virtuoso at doing the dishes.”
A smile? No, not quite. She wasn’t there yet. Just an almost-wrinkle at the corner of her mouth. Barely noticeable, but for a moment it was all I cared about.
“My doing of the dishes should not be taken as commentary on your own abilities in this area.”
“I’m really great at it, though. I once applied for a job as dishwasher on a cruise ship as a joke. I might’ve gotten it if I had been more serious about maritime ablutions.”
“I know you have the talent. But do you have the will? Can you go the dishwashing distance? Are you a champion or a chumpion?”
She dredged a soapy fork from beneath the bubbles and jabbed in the direction of my throat.
“Answer the question, coward. J’accuse.”
I threw up my hands.
“If it came to it, I would wash dishes on the moon for you. I would fuck up a Martian, steal his cookware, and scrub ’til the sparkle rivaled the stars.”
She was finished with the dishes, and she walked up behind me, wrapped her arms around my stomach, squeezed. I closed my eyes, and I put my hands on her hands. It was nice, the sort of moment that made dabbling in the black arts seem reasonable.
I poured the almost-completed potion into two large bowls. His and hers. We took them into her living room. Into Audrey’s bowl, I dropped the following: a hair freshly plucked from the top of my head, a selfie freshly printed from a popular social media networking website, a medium-sized globule of spit, and a secret delivered in a low whisper just above the rim. She did similarly with the bowl in front of me. Both bowls began to glow a color I had never seen before, a color from beyond the radioactive spectrum, and I could hear the far-off sound of flapping wings, and I had a major epiphany about the interconnectedness of all peoples and the smallness and largeness of things, and it was beautiful.
“Have you seen Love, Actually?” she asked.
“Love, Actually? The movie. It’s got Hugh Grant. It’s a pretty good movie.”
“No, I have not seen Love, Actually.”
“This sort of reminds me of that.”
“How could this possibly remind you of Love, Actually?”
“It’s just a feeling. This is the same feeling I get watching Love, Actually.”
“We’re about to do some for real black magic voodoo shit. We just saw a color no one else in the world has ever seen. What does Love, Actually have to do with anything?”
“You haven’t seen the movie. How would you know what it’s like?”
“That’s deranged. You’re deranged.”
“Are we going to do this or not?” she asked.
She started humming “All I Want for Christmas is You.” She was like this sometimes, going off on weird tangents and getting lost in obscure metaphors, and I could never tell if she was messing with me or what. Sometimes it made me feel like I could never love anybody else, and sometimes it made me wish I had the ability to explode.
“Just a second,” I said.
I picked up the book from the shelf and checked the page on the love potion again. Just one last time. To be sure. It was thick and leather-bound with yellowed pages that had that vomit smell that library books get sometimes, not the vaguely pleasant bookstore musk that booky people wax rhapsodic over, but the acrid stink that gets into old books and spreads through the stacks like a weird, Lovecraftian contagion. Audrey had stumbled upon it at the library and had checked it out for the pictures alone. I sort of fell in love with it. All manner of esoterica was contained within. Anatomical diagrams of mythical creatures, lists of the secret names of common objects, maps of nearby astral planes, instructions on the performance of various spells and rituals, and, of course, recipes for magical potions. I was immediately drawn to the page on the love potion, as I am romantic by nature and also there was a finely drawn picture on the opposite page of a human heart made of snakes.
I thought it would be sort of psychedelic, a fun new drug experience without the hassle of drug dealers or the risk of police. Flash fact: Eye of newt is not a controlled substance. Blood isn’t super easy to get, but it’s doable, and most of the other junk could be found by hitting up a few occult bookstores and an underground farmer’s market.
I also thought that maybe, if me and Audrey could experience love like we had at the beginning, if only for a few hours, she would see how great I was, and how great it would be if we moved in together, how we wouldn’t fight so much anymore if we were with one another all the time, how a show of commitment would force us to be good to each other in all things, how we would finally be real adults for the first time in our lives.
I didn’t include this in my pitch to her. She had been leery, not really believing in magic or holding much respect for mysterious tomes, but I had been very persuasive. In exchange, I would go on a hike with her later that month. In the woods. Like animals. A heavy bargain, but there was no other option.
“À la tienne,” I said, lofting my bowl up into the air.
“Chienne,” she said. She clinked the rim of her bowl with mine. It was dumb joke we shared. To your health, bitch. Things that rhyme are funny.
Nothing happened in the moments immediately following. We waited quietly for a while, but that got boring, so we started doing other things. Audrey picked up her acoustic and started strumming, and I idly flipped through the pages of the book.
Audrey was an excellent guitar player, talented in both classical and pop modes. She wanted to be a professional session musician or a composer, or, when she was drunk enough to admit it, a rock star, but she mostly worked as an office temp. We met in school while she was getting her Bachelor’s in music. My main jam then was ancient languages, the translation and interpretation thereof, hence my affinity for the magic book. It was written in a language that was something like a cross between Cyrillic and a broken spider-web, but I was able to work out a rough translation over the course of a few weeks. The trick was cross-referencing the pictures in the front with the index in the back and also using Google a bunch. I had thus far worked out the love potion fully, and I was very close on what I believed to be a shrinking spell and a flying spell and a spell to double a heifer’s milk production (they can’t all be whimsical).
Audrey started to play a little song. It was nice, vaguely tropical and mad soothing. She sang too, but I didn’t really pick up the words. I just luxuriated in the sound. I think Audrey’s voice was the seat of my attraction to her. It was revelatory, radio-smooth, and resonant beyond measure, like she had an extra chamber hidden somewhere in her body that no one else had, wherein the sound produced by her vocal cords could warm and reflect and thicken and sweeten. It was beauty on top of beauty on top of beauty, like Beyoncé singing Beethoven.
I found myself thinking that that last bit was unnecessarily poetic and a little hyperbolic, and I realized, as she finished the song, that I had closed my eyes.
So I opened my eyes again, and I saw her face.
“Oh fuck,” I said, except I’m not sure if I really said it, since all I could hear was the thump of my heart and this swirling white noise in my ear. Blood or maybe heaven. She was beautiful, impossibly so. How had I not noticed this before? I mean, I knew she was pretty, but now she was mirabile visu for reals, sublime in all aspects, callipygous and curvilinear, possessed of all the comeliest adjectives, a sonnet in short-shorts. I felt like my soul was going to melt. More than anything, I wanted to be with her, as close to her as possible, as one as two people could be.
Her face was frozen. She was looking at me, staring at me, eyes wide, breath shallow, skin red. I’d probably be blushing, too, if I had the pigmentation for it. Her guitar slipped off her lap and hit the floor. She didn’t seem to notice. I only caught it out of the corner of my eye. Then she smiled, and I nearly died. It was like every Christmas and birthday and cute animal picture and MDMA pill and sunshine on a warm day and breeze on a hot day and kindness and joy I had ever experienced all at once and more. What little breath I had left was gone.
Before I could recover, she threw her arms around me and started licking my face. I wanted to lick her face too, but it was difficult to really get in there while she was licking my face. Occasionally, our tongues would meet and we would approximate kissing, but we were mostly in it for the licks. She tasted like homemade ice cream and old-time religion and sweet release.
“I love you,” I or she said.
“I love you,” the other said.
“I’ll never leave you.”
“I’ll never leave you.”
This went back and forth for a few minutes. We ended up exchanging Facebook passwords and getting engaged. My tongue ended up working its way down to her shirt, which was also delicious. I normally hated that shirt. It was a t-shirt with the logo of my favorite white people band, purchased at a concert which I was not invited to nor even informed of. Since they were “her favorite band first” and “her actual, unqualified favorite band,” it was apparently not worth her time to tell me she was going, or even that the concert was happening. It usually annoyed me whenever she wore it, but I didn’t say anything, since I tried to keep my pettiness as subtextual as possible. But now I didn’t care. I just thought it was amazing, like her. The colors were amazing and it smelled amazing and it was so soft against my cheek. And then I realized that she had been wearing it all day. It had been next to her all day, today and other days reaching back into the recent past and grasping onto her and holding close to her beyond closeness.
“I have an idea,” I said.
“What sweetheart? Honeybunch? Doodlebop? Mumpystreudel? Bibbityboo? Lolomonkey? Kibby-kewwy-susu-wirly . . .”
It trailed off into straight gibberish there, but I kept listening, as I closed my eyes again for a moment to enjoy it, but then I remembered I had work to do, and I forced myself to interrupt her little cadenza.
“Give me your shirt.”
She took off her shirt.
I looked at her, then at the hallway, then her again. I was on fire, but I had to be steadfast.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” I said. “Don’t forget me while I’m in the kitchen.”
“No!” she screamed, so loud and high that it hurt my ear. “Don’t go!”
“I have to go. I’ll be back soon.”
“I’ll miss you more than words can say.”
“I’ll miss you more than that.”
I grasped her hand and squeezed it, and then I put her fingers in my mouth, and then I touched my left eye with one of her fingers, and then I put two of the fingers in my ear. She made cooing noises. It was all very sweet.
I dashed out of the room, down the hall and into the kitchen, as fast as fast could go. I pulled an empty pot from the cabinet, threw the shirt in, filled it halfway, put it on the stove, and turned up the heat. The wait was interminable. Time seemed to have forgotten how to move. Universes were created and destroyed between ticks of the clock. Whole lives were lived and forgotten. An infinity of could-be precious moments were lost forever, stretched out into illegible, interminable blurs of time-stuff. How I missed her in those empty stretches of absence, how my heart ached. O Audrey, whom I loved more than all people and things, so far from me as I toiled in that culinary wasteland. Was I fool for having left her, driven by a mendacious dream of more, more, more? Was I a maniac?
Then there was a bubble in the water. Then another and another. A full-on boil came quickly. I let it go for a few minutes after that, so it could really cook, but I did not have the patience to wait for long. I poured the contents it into a large bowl and placed it on the kitchen table. I went at it first with a spoon, blowing on each spoonful just enough to keep it from burning me. When it was cool enough, I grasped the bowl above my head and drank it down in gulps. Audrey’s flavor was light but recognizable, playing delicately on my palate like an appetizer in a gastronome’s dream.
When there was no more Audreywater left, I started eating the shirt. It was tough, I will grant you that. But I have teeth, and I am a man. There was nothing I couldn’t do for Audrey. I ripped it apart as an animal might, slowly tearing it with the sharpness of my canines, savoring each of the little pieces when they hit my tongue and my throat and my belly. They felt warm inside me, not from the heat of the stove but from being so near to Audrey, for being hers, for being something she loved.
I walked back down the hall with a smile on my face, slowly, so that I could feel the warmth slosh in my stomach. I found Audrey sitting on the floor of the living room. Her shorts were gone too now, and I wondered if maybe if maybe I had eaten them and forgotten in a lovesick stupor, but I realized that was ridiculous, since there was no way that the consumption of her pants would not linger among my treasured memories. She was surrounded by very many sheets of paper, dozens at least. I picked one up on my approach.
Mrs. Anthony Walker, it said, in script more florid than I had ever seen from her hand, somewhere between cutesy and calligraphic. It was written again and again and again, such that the every inch and every moment was covered. She had done it to all the paper in the room, notebook paper and printer paper and the pages of the books on the bookshelf. Mrs. Anthony Walker. Mrs. Anthony Walker. Mrs. Anthony Walker. Mrs. Anthony Walker. All scattered around the room.
Now she was writing it on herself in black marker. Her arms, legs, chest, and stomach were completely covered. She had a hand mirror and had marked up half her face. I was struck with worry. Clearly, the love potion was affecting her badly. She was perfect and everything, but this was a little bit crazy. But before I said anything, I ate the piece of paper I had picked up because it was so beautiful that I never wanted to be apart from it ever again.
“I’m back, darling,” I said.
“Oh God!” she squeaked. She dropped the mirror and ran to me and jumped in my arms. We fell to the floor, as I am not a muscleman nor a brute, and I could not hold all of her.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m wonderful now. You’re back.”
“No. I mean, with the writing and stuff.”
“I missed you so much. I wanted to feel like I was a part of you again. I know this is sort of crazy. We’re acting kind of crazy. But I need us to be together. Look.”
She pointed at one of the Mrs. Anthony Walkers.
“This is us. Me and you together. A million times. All over me. So we can be together forever. We have to be.”
I nodded my head. She was making a lot of sense. “I know what you mean. I kind of ate that shirt you gave me. It was amazing.”
She tilted her head and furrowed her brow at me. Oh no. Had I gone too far? Was eating your girlfriend’s t-shirts a major violation of relationship etiquette? Could she see through the haze of ardor into me, into my grotesque heart?
“That’s actually kind of brilliant,” she said.
“I love it. I love you.”
“Do you want to eat something of mine?”
I took off my pants and handed them to her. She got a wild look in her eye and put her teeth to the seams. I watched her for a number of precious moments. Then I caught sight of her guitar lying on the floor by the couch. She’d had it for years, a gift from her mother. A glossy rosewood body and mother of pearl inlays. She loved that guitar more than anything. More than me, certainly. She might’ve loved it more than she loved living. The only thing that rivaled it in her eyes was music itself.
I licked my lips.
I stood and picked up the guitar. She had taught me to play a little bit. I wasn’t very good. I played trombone in high school, so I knew enough music theory to get the gist, but my fingers were heavy and graceless. I played a G and a C and a D. Classic rock. Beautiful.
“I’m going to eat this,” I said.
“What?” she asked.
“I really think I should eat this.” I held up the guitar to make my intent as clear as possible. Clarity is important in relationships. Clarity and communication. Without them, we are forced to guess at things, to match wits with phantoms and waste kisses on shadows. I decided that I would be clear in all things from that moment on, and thus my own thoughts would be conveyed to her as purely as they existed in my own head, without artifice or embroidery.
The corners of her mouth drooped. My heart stopped, and I almost fell to the floor, seeing her like that, so pathetic and unhappy, the first time since the consumption of the potion that her beautiful smile had left us. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said.
“It’s like you said. Me and you together. It makes perfect sense. I’m yours and this is yours. Me and it will be together, so I’ll be closer to you. I’ll be your instrument.”
“My guitar, though.”
She opened her mouth like she was going to say something but nothing came out. It was like she was stuck, absent almost, like a computer with too many programs open at once. I saw a glisten in the corner of her eye. At the time, I thought it was a tear of joy. She was so happy that I was doing this for us. I was the best boyfriend in the world. Who else would go so far as me for love? Who else would eat his beloved’s guitar for a chance at the real, true, forever?
“I’ll be back soon,” I said.
I turned and walked down the hall. I did not run, and I held the guitar gingerly in my hands, as if cradling a baby. Our baby. The physical symbol of our love, a little us, a miniature we. I loved it; It was going to be delicious. When I got to the kitchen, I gently laid it on the table. First things first, I had to figure out how I was going to prepare it. Boiling worked for the shirt, but it would not do for the guitar. That would be gross, like boiling a fine steak. I could burn it and eat the ashes, but then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the flavor. It would just be the taste of the burn. All heat, no meat.
Then it came to me. Roasting. That would be great, rustic and romantic and pleasantly Promethean. Seal in the flavor. Lock in the love. Yes. I set the oven to 450 degrees. While it heated, I began to prepare a rub/marinade. There was some yogurt in the fridge, and I smeared it all over the guitar’s surface. Next, I poured lemon juice over the strings. Then salt and black pepper and red pepper and garlic, powder on top, cloves inside sound hole. I chopped some onions and stuffed them inside too. The smell was heavenly, and I began to salivate as an animal might. I knew it wasn’t going to fit in one piece, so I decided to break apart the neck and stuff the pieces inside. There was a hammer in the drawer by the sink. I held it in my hand and lifted it high, and I aimed for the seventh fret.
Audrey appeared in the doorway just before I could strike. Seeing her again reminded me of my deep love for her, and I had to steady myself on the table. But then I noticed there were tear streaks running down her face. I couldn’t breathe. She had the magic book in one hand, opened to one of the bookmarked pages, and in the other were my translation notes, which I recognized even with the feverishly scrawled Mrs. Anthony Walkers on the back side of the paper. It wasn’t as nice as before, no longer curvy and loopy and loving. It was itchy, hurried, desperate.
Fuck. I still loved it.
“Not my guitar,” she said. “I know something better. I think I figured this out. It’s not exactly shrinking. It’s like Love, Actually.”
She began to speak in an impossible language. Her eyes rolled back into her head, and she made a sign with her hands, and the sign etched itself into my vision, like I had stared too long into a light bulb. The strange color from before began to drip from her fingers. There was a sound like styrofoam and electricity and hell, and a smell like old sunshine.
She broke apart. Into two. Each half as tall as she had been before. Like bacteria in a film strip. Her clothes ripped in the process, and both of the resultant Audreys were naked. Then she split again. And again. Suddenly, they all rushed at me, jumped on me. I fell to the floor; I could not hold all of her. So many of them. They continued to split as they crawled over me. Like rats. Maybe I could’ve swatted them off, but I couldn’t have risked hurting her. Not on purpose, anyway. Dozens of them. More and more. Too many to count. A few of the larger of them held my arms, and a few more began licking my mouth.
“Stop,” I said.
They took the opportunity to crawl into my mouth. She/they tasted amazing, like the Audreywater and the shirt from before, only more so. It was the most intense sensation I had ever experienced, and I could do nothing in those first few moments but enjoy it. I understood her now. This was what I had wanted, wasn’t it? I closed my eyes and moaned from the ecstasy, and I felt them start to crawl down. I limply tried to flick them away with my tongue and cough them out, but she was tenacious, fueled, I guess, by a powerful love, which conquers all things, even throats.
I had a very odd moment then. I remembered the first time I realized that I liked Audrey. It was the week after my birthday, and I had deluded myself into believing my friends were throwing me a surprise party. I was imagining all the things that they were going to do, the gifts and the decorations and the food, and the idea of Audrey making me a cake popped in my head, and I got an erection. It surprised me. Probably the most surprising erection of my life. Up ’til then, I thought of Audrey as some white girl I hung out with sometimes who was kind of cool but kind of annoying, and I had never been into the whole homemaker-wife-baker-lady thing. But actions speak louder than words, I guess, even cake boners.
I don’t know why she ever loved me.
They massaged my esophagus on the way down, so soft and comforting, like their hands were made of the cool side of the pillow. They hit my stomach with an explosion of satiation. I gave up. She won. I let the stragglers through without resistance, the ones who held me down and held my lips open. I let them slide down my throat and gently caress my insides. I felt like I would never have to eat again. I began to weep, that she had loved me so much as to do this for me.
I could feel them all, moving inside. They kept getting smaller and smaller, I think. I was suffused with little loving pinpricks. I could feel them in my arms and legs. My feet. My fingers. My heart. I lay there for a long time. Rapturous, grinning like the cat who — . I thought maybe I should do something great for her. Something wonderful maybe. I could write an amazing poem. I could get it published. No, I could get it on TV. I would get on some reality show, and then I would go into the confessional and drop it on America. I could set it to music and crack the Top 40. I could figure out that flying spell and fly to the moon and write it in giant letters on the surface.
I fell asleep. I dreamed of Audrey. We were together forever. It was fucking awesome. The love potion had worn off when I woke up.
“Oh shit,” I said, and then I said it seventeen or eighteen more times.
I had fucked up. We had fucked up. This was impossibly bad.
“Audrey?” I called out. “Are you there? Can you hear me?”
My hand moved. I didn’t mean for it to move, but it did. And then it moved again. And my other hand. And my legs. Twitching, shaking, flexing back and forth. The movements were clumsy but irresistible, as if I were a marionette tangled in its own strings. I stood up. I could still move myself, but so could she, or they, I guess. There was little buzz inside me, bouncing around, like if the feeling of getting your blood drawn had a sound associated with it, a disquieting onomatopoetic tingling back and forth across my limbs. I think they were playing telephone. A giant, microscopic game of telephone.
We stumbled to the guitar. I picked it up. It was disgusting. The yogurt was caught between spoiling and curdling. And the spices cut through the morning air like old vomit. I couldn’t see. Too many tears in my eyes. Everything a blur. Just light and color and shape. Indistinct. They positioned the guitar in my hands so we could play it. We strummed a few notes. Sloppy, but recognizably music.
I opened my mouth, and a tin choir poured out.
“Anthony,” they sang, softly. An accusation.
We played guitar for a while after that. We got sort of okay at it. Better than I was, not as good as she was.
I was full, but I think they were hungry. They stumbled to the fridge, pawed at the door until it opened, found a stick of butter, shoved it in my mouth.
“À la tienne,” I whispered.
There was no answer. We just ate, together but not together, in that way that you do when there are too many things to say.