Moving glasses dinged over the café’s soft conversation. Kylee eyed the pretty girl across from her.
“Listening,” she said finally. “That was the straw that hacked the camel in half.”
Rachel smiled, but her eyes glossed over.
“I don’t expect constant attention. But I did expect Jonathan would try to understand before he tuned me out.” She twirled a coffee stirrer, leaning back in her chair. “You see, I talk about writing a lot. I rant. Writing is my life, so I discuss it. Over and over. I thought Jonathan was a good listener. Ha!” She sipped her coffee, staring at Rachel’s glossy hair. “That’s what you’re upset about, right?”
“Well,” Rachel said, shifting. “No. Jonathan and I mostly enjoy each other’s presence.”
And as if to demonstrate, they sat there.
Kylee drummed her fingers.
“Alright,” she said. “If you want specifics…” She slapped a hand on the table, sitting up straight. “So, I believe you can’t say anything negative about criticism without people taking it as bitterness. Even talking hypothetically. Can’t criticize criticism. Not allowed. This I told Jonathan. The entire year we dated. Over and over and over.”
She sipped her coffee and held up a finger to give herself a moment.
“One day I’m dissecting the pros and cons of his creative writing class—May I emphasize it was his class? I’m not involved—And I say that silence during critiques is wrong. It’s the teacher avoiding hostility. It’s not beneficial to learning. Brutal advice is ineffectual. Confusing advice is worse.”
Rachel nodded as she stared at the table.
“Jon just cuts me off. He says, ‘you just want to defend yourself.’” Kylee fell back in the chair. “After months and months of me insisting you can’t talk about criticism and that’s what he says?” She threw up her hands. “He doesn’t get me at all!”
Rachel blinked. “Well, for me… the issue is more… me not getting Jonathan than him not getting me.”
Kylee shrugged. “I never felt there was much to get.” She leaned forward. “If you want him to talk more, it’s not gonna happen. He dates girls who do that for him.”
The woman played with her napkin.
Kylee slumped in her seat as a waiter walked past. She stretched forward, grabbing her cup.
Rachel cleared her throat. “Did he realize he’d said something wrong?”
“I think so,” she shrugged. “That’s when I finally shut up, and that’s never happened before.”
published 27 October 2011