Cassie watches Max as he talks about his latest painting over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. His passion about his art is what Cassie admires most about him, and today is no exception. His hands are moving in a million different directions, his eyes are open wide and they have a fanatical blaze in them, and his voice is as smooth and strong as the voices of the great Greek orators (or as smooth and strong as Cassie imagines their voices to be). Cassie feels guilty that she is about suck that passion out of him.
“So these rabbits,” Max tell her excitedly, “ will be attached to to puppet strings, and the puppeteer will be a giant sloth. They will be dressed up as pilgrims and Indians, and they will all be eating doughnuts. Don’t you think it will be amazing?”
“Don’t you think some people will find the fact that the puppet is a sloth insulting?”
“Why, because you think they will assume the sloth is supposed to symbolize a higher power. I don’t necessarily think that it does. In my mind the sloth is every human’s desire to have a good nap! However, I can’t control the way this painting will be interpreted. The most interesting paintings are controversial, and every masterpiece has been disapproved of at one time. Remember Rembrandt?”
“I love how you are so full of yourself.”
“I love that too”
Cassie laughs. She wants to ask him to speak to her class; perhaps his zeal for art can motivate her students. Focus Cassie, she thinks, I just need to get it over with and tell him.
“Max,” she says, “I think we should take a break from each for a few weeks.”
“A break. Why ?” he asks her, as he gives her a strange stare.
“I had a very hard break up last time, and we are just moving so fast. I need time to think, to clear my head, to get used to the idea of trusting someone with my heart.”
“Is there some one else?”
“Of course not,” Cassie lies.
Max smiles at her. He takes her hands in his and says, “ listen I understand. Sometimes when I’m on the verge of getting an idea for a painting, I need to a break too. From people, from society, from mundane tasks. I understand how it can get difficult to think, and I don’t mind waiting a few weeks if that’s what you need be certain about our relationship. You’re worth the wait.”
Cassie squeezes his hand. She can’t believe how easy he is making this for her. She knows that if she had tried to take a break when she and Joe were dating, Joe would have yelled, screamed, and would have probably told her that he wouldn’t be around when she decided she wanted him back. Cassie begins to think that perhaps she does not need a few weeks to decide between Max and Joe. “Where did you learn to always say the right thing?” she asks him.
“My mom bought me a book when I was 15. It was called ‘how to always say the right thing’.”
Cassie laughs, and asks, “did you also get a book on how to be cocky?”
“Yes,” Max replies, “Only I was given that book at the age of three. I was considered a genius by many, you know.”
Cassie continues to laugh , and now that she is no longer nervous, she also gets a craving for a chocolate chip cookie. As she is about to tell Max about her purchasing plans, she hears a familiar voice say, “ hey Cass, what a small world.” All of her insides become frozen; she turns her head and sees Joe standing next to their table.