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the thin portent of margaret and melvin

Margaret and Melvin met on a Monday in late March. Aside from the alliteration bridging their lives, the meeting made them feel fated: star-crossed, miraculously understood for the first time they could remember. It all started with that Look–that perfectly-timed meeting of pupils. And of course, both were deeply pleased with the color of the others’ irises.

Both of their sets of unhappy parents had divorced sometime during their middle school years. (They could even share stories about living out of cars.) Their best friends had already married and divorced (Melvin’s bestie, multiple times). And even their nearest-in-age siblings had found and lost the loves of their lives rather frequently. But somehow, Margaret and Melvin knew they would make it…

…until the day they, holding hands in Walmart, crossed the path of a tall, thin, and somewhat bodacious woman named Portia. Placing one hand on a hip, wagging the index finger of the other, Portia said, “There is only one formula for you two. And the chances of you getting it right…. well, that’s about as slim a statistic as the one smart people try to explain the universe with.” She flicked her curling red hair–an ill-chosen color for her dark tan skin–over her lean shoulder and sashayed back to her station at the Self-Checkout.

Melvin shrugged. “You can’t trust a Walmart associate, can you?”

Margaret looked less certain but shrugged too. “I mean… they only almost always know where the gluten-free stuff is.”

As they were of the more open-minded type, they immediately felt low about thinking ill of the thin, too-tan Portia woman, especially because she was a Walmart associate. But they were two devoted hopefuls with a bit of luck on their side (did not both their names start with M?). Melvin would learn to ask Margaret about her day and listen to what she said eventually. And Margaret’s being vegan was not that distressing to Melvin as he appreciated meat only on a deep spiritual level. No need to agree on everything.

Then one day, Melvin woke up with a slip of paper under his pillow. He studied it. He tried to understand it. He tried not to cry. But crying indeed, he called Margaret.

“Stop being so slobbery. What’s wrong?” Margaret asked.

“You have … to… You gotta get here. Now!” Melvin said, sniffling and wiping his eyes with the edge of a pillow.

This was what the note said:

life is full of bad stats, ain't it?

Scratching her head, Margaret looked at Melvin, looked back at the note, and looked at Melvin again.

“Well,” she said.

“Portia was right…” Melvin sighed. He had spent his tears, or so he thought. He was quite resigned.

“Well,” Margaret said again, “I guess… I guess we’d better just… call it quits. With these kind of stats, you know.”

Melvin, looking at the terrible 70s carpet of his apartment, nodded. Margaret glanced down too and sighed powerfully. She had imagined that they might have had a blast redecorating together, even if Melvin liked red and she liked the more peaceful blues.

“Perhaps we’ll have a bit more luck…” Melvin began and got caught by a heart-wrenching sniffle.

“…with someone else,” Margaret finished, eyebrows arched with a deep sadness she could not voice.

Melvin burst into tears then. “We even… even… finish one another’s sentences!” he said. “You would think we of all people would work!”

Next time they went to Walmart, separately of course, they both were sure to acknowledge their thin portent–the tall bodacious Portia woman–with a nod or a slight wave. Melvin was looking piqued; meat did not have the same taste these days. Margaret’s hair hung in a strange greasy knot at the back of her neck. But even as they mourned their loss, they both held to a shred of hope. One day, perhaps, there might be someone else. Someone with better stats. And by that slight nod or wave, they could only be grateful for Walmart associates like Portia. She really knew what she was talking about, didn’t she?

As for Portia, she was only surprised that Melvin continued to leave his door open at night. Things that go bump keep all sorts of daylight faces, after all. It really wasn’t wise these days.


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