Applying to uni and quitting my job had been easy. Telling Tony is the hard part. Aunty Mabel booked the restaurant and left her credit card to foot the bill. When I told Tony to meet me here, there was a note of panic in his voice. "But Kat," he wimpered "Isn't our anniversary in May?"

"Yeah" I replied. "Aunty Mabel's treat." Sure, thanks, Aunty Mabel. Why don't you just stand with an axe over my head the whole night? How can I enjoy dinner knowing I can't leave here without telling Tony?

I've been in agony all day over when to break it to him. If I tell him too early, it might ruin the meal, but if I tell him too late, I might have a stroke.

Kat's been acting weird all day. She was fine this morning. Well, with someone who's always comatose until her third cup of coffee, it's hard to tell, but nothing seemed odd.

Until she rang me at 11 o'clock. She hasn't rung me at work in years, not even to say if she's working late. Then she tells me we're coming out here for dinner. I mean... What's the occasion? Our anniversary isn't until May.

I know Kat puked that morning after Jess's wedding, but that was the booze. She can't be pregnant, she doesn't look happy enough. But something is up. She's too quiet. I know we don't talk like we used to, but she's usually got something to say. And when we go out alone, she usually overcompensates and I can't get a word in edgeways.

Tony reached across and gave Kat's hand a squeeze and gave her a reassuring smile. Kat looked blankly, cast her eyes down, lifted the corners of her mouth and put her hands in her lap.

"Um... Tony..." She looked up at him.

"Excuse me, Madam." It was the waiter. Kat hadn't noticed his approach.

It looked divine. Kat wanted to eat it. Every morsel. Lick the plate, even. But she knew she wouldn't do the chef any justice if she hadn't told Tony. She'd be too nervous to stomach any of it.

If Tony reacted badly, if he left, she could stay and eat it all. His too, maybe. Then she could walk home alone. She could tell him she'd stay to give him some space.

Tony looked at his food. Gave it that appraisal, followed by that look of satisfaction. The one when magnificently presented food is put in front of you, and the smell hits you. A visual and sensual masterpiece.

He tucked in. Stuck his fork into the chicken breast and broke off a succulent mouthful with his knife. He lifted his fork to his mouth and paused. The magnificent pause that can only truly be appreciated on the first mouthful. The sensation of expectation when the aroma hits your nose, enters your consciousness. You know it's going to be good, your tastebuds have swung into action, but you pause for that one extra moment.

That was his mistake. It gave Kat an in. She had looked longingly at her own food, taken a breath, looked up at Tony. He hadn't put it in his mouth yet. He couldn't choke. If she waited, she could get lost in their alternating mouthfuls and not have a chance again until dessert. If they had dessert. It had to be now.

"Tony, I have to tell you something."

Tony put his fork down, complete with the untouched piece of chicken. By the time he gets to eat it now, it could have cooled and lost some of its power. He had already been denied the crescendo of that first mouthful. Nothing could be worse.

He looked up, sighed and answered coolly: "What, Kat?"

"Well..." He could have swallowed by now, been cutting the next bite, even.

"Kat, you don't normally mince words. Please don't do it now. Something's been wrong since the middle of today. We're in a lovely restaurant with spectacular food waiting for us. Get it out so we can enjoy the rest of the evening."

Tony's soliloque had caught her off guard. As if her finger had slipped onto the trigger, her words came out like an automatic rifle. "I've been accepted. I'm going to uni. I start next week. I'm staying with Aunty Mabel. I'll get my own place. When I find a part time job. Nobody knows yet. Except Aunty Mabel, my boss and now you. Surprise." Kat faked a smile at the end to accompany her fake joke.

Nothing could be worse than being denied that first morsel.

"Kat, that's great!" Tony said, putting his fork in his mouth before she could reply. He needn't have rushed.

Tony chewed slowly, swallowed, took a sip of wine. Kat still hadn't said anything. Tony was torn. Should he have another piece of heaven, or should he reach for her hand, show her he meant what he had said.

Kat's hands were still in her lap. He started to break off another piece of chicken.

"Oh bugger." He thought, and reached under the table, finding her knee. "Kat," he said, giving it a squeeze, "I mean it."


It broke his heart to see the woman he knew, always so confident, now so puzzled, so confused.

Tony wasn't good at compliments. He still hadn't figured out how he managed to win Kat. Infidelity would never be an option, there was no point in trying. He usually botched up trying to tell Kat when she'd cooked a good meal. It happened so often you'd think he'd worked out a formula by now. But the look on her face, the uncertainty, it told Tony it was time to dig deep.

"Kat, Honey, you've been vacant for months. You hate your job. It annoys you that you know you can do your boss's job, probably better than he can. You've been unfulfilled. You need a challenge. You're far too young and bright to be stuck in this secretary-homemaker rut you're in.

"What are you going to study?"

Slowly but surely Tony drew Kat out. He got her talking about her course, encouraged her. Numbed her self doubt.

They hadn't interacted like this in months. As they left the restaurant and walked home, Tony reached for her hand. It was a beautiful night: clear sky and a radient full moon. Kat didn't know when she stopped noticing the phases of the moon.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

I love to write.

I give nearly all the credit for my love of writing to Everything2. I first got on E2 in November, 2001; I read around for several months while posting very little. I got more active during February, 2002, when I was scrambling to finish my thesis; and I found that doing a little bit of creative writing first thing in the morning would get a flow going, and I wrote more, and more easily. And I was happier to write.

Before E2, I could write, but it was a bit like pulling teeth – I wrote reluctantly, and minimally.

I also, in my ignorance, caused a certain amount of newbie controversy. I wrote a node that was chinged by several people, and then deleted; with a terse note explaining that “we” were “raising the bar”. I also wrote a poem, intended to be tongue in cheek, on Valentine’s Day, and found that it got me quickly both loved and hated. Oops. Apparently this place had a more complex internal structure (culture?) than appeared at first glance.

You are going to need a big princess-type dress, I cannot fight for the honor of someone wearing cowboy pyjamas

My sister-in-law died last week. She was 45, and she had been valiantly fighting ovarian cancer for three years.

She was one of the most genuine people I have ever known – with Susan what you saw was what you got, and most of the time that was pure, unfiltered glee. When she babysat for her young niece, I would come home to find that she had rearranged the living room to make it easier to pull Tess around the coffee table in her Radio Flyer. The place was trashed, but they had clearly had a wonderful time. Tessie referred to Susan as her fairy godmother.

She is in the heartbeat you hear around you, listen

There are times that I still struggle to write, but once I get going, I love it. Words have become another way that I paint, as I try to express something important or difficult, or try to make sense of something that is happening to me. I love word games, rhyming, puns, hunting up the meaning of words…Being here and writing has allowed me to bring that quality of playing with words into my writing, and turn it from am chore into a pleasure.

I struggled the past few days, wishing I could write poetry on demand. Alas, my poems usually come streaming out at odd times, and I can’t necessarily crank one out just because I want to – there has to be an idea, a hook, something that catches my attention and makes me start to paint with words.

September is hers

I want to be able to write a poem for Susan. I probably will, in the coming days, but ripeness, as it were, hasn’t arrived, yet. The past week I have been stretched so thin that any time I don’t have other things requiring my attention, I think about sinking into sleep, rather than being able to clear my mind enough to hear poetry.

I have been listening so much, and providing so much support, (with one amazing person providing it to me in my turn) I have had little time to be silent. I suspect I need a certain amount of silence to allow words to flow, like a spring.

Are we listening, or are we just being silent?

Grieving sucks. I had forgotten how much it sucks, how it drains all the color out of the world around me, takes the smile off my face and leaves only sad eyes, and makes me weary. Sunday, the day of Susan's memorial, I told Kevin that all I wanted was to make a tent of the covers, hide inside, and read comic books with a flashlight. (I hoped he would slide a cup of tea and some toast and maple butter in to me every so often. Among other things, it appears that grieving makes me revert to age six.)

The other part of grief that I had forgotten was anger. Actually, anger isn't the right word. Rage. The word rage seems more appropriate - rage that a disease that had already taken someone I loved beyond measure, repeated itself. Rage that part of this human experience which we share with one another ends.

The emotion on her face was always the one that she was feeling in her heart.

Today I'm desperately hungry for a moment of quiet in my life. I've worked so hard over the past several years to find and then develop a sense of balance, and harmony. The past few months have been wild; starting a new job, falling in love, losing a dear friend to this beastly cancer. I handle it, but at the same time, right now, any moment of quiet I might get is impinged upon, sometimes only by the sounds of my own emotions. I need time to catch up with them all. A month, a week, a day where I could just sit and listen or be silent sounds so delicious. And yet I know as long as the circle of people around me continues to expand, the crises will, as well. How do I find a quiet center within this?

So this leads me, I'll admit somewhat obliquely, to the question: are we listening, or are we just being silent? There is a threshold within a friendship, where we shift from smaller amounts of time spent, to where we spend enough time together to let a silence fall. Someone I can sit in the same room with, and read a book, or just sit and watch a sunset with, is incredibly precious to me. Once someone in my life has reached this point, I am loth to ever let them go. There are not ever enough people with whom I can have a comfortable silence, and losing one untimely tears a piece out of my heart.

Some day soon, I'm going to carve out a day just for Susan. A walk in the woods, a quiet cup of tea, photographs and souvenirs and all. Some of the time I will just be silent, some of it I will listen.

And I hope, once I've reached a state where I can quiet the chatter in my head, I will still be able to hear her.

Susan Chung
requiescat in pace

For Michael Doyle and Mary Beth Doyle

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