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The Definition of Perfection

by Yuliya Klochan

Maria remembers clearly how they were one, and John’s raspy voice reclaimed her worries, and his rough touch soothed all ills. Romantic ventures, gifts, and small kindnesses — she keeps them all intact. When they stood by each other, there was happiness.

Did she love John? Yes, that must have been the case. She recalls thinking it, professing her passion under the unresponsive moon. And she still warms at the thought of his embrace. More than anything she craves to move to John’s bed, beg him to love her...

But Maria is the only one who knows a “they” like that ever existed. John is empty now. It is Maria’s fault.

In the bed, John shivers. She seizes the blanket from him before moving away to the chair.

Past John would grab onto the blanket, protest, “You can’t always hog it like that, darling. There is a limit to my endurance of the cold.” He doesn’t do that anymore. The hollow John would never so much as squeak at his mistress.

Maria ignores John’s tremors. She keeps the blanket to herself.

* * *

Maria used to love John, true, but it is getting harder to believe. She is certain now she hates him. This morning, when they were eating scrambled eggs together, just as she likes them, Maria flung a new confession at John.

“I hate you, despise you, abhor you,” she hissed.

“But I will always love you. I will always be here for you,” John replied docilely, as she had programmed.

Maria reminded herself that she had loved him, and that it was her fault that he was but a vain vessel now...

“I’m sorry... Forget it, John... Oh, John, I am so so sorry...”

“That’s all right, love. You will always be forgiven, darling.”

Maria stifled the urge to weep, forced herself to appreciate him...

“Thank you, John.”

They finished the cold meal in silence.

* * *

Maria first brought up Perfection on a beautiful date. She and John were feeding angry ducks on a moonlit pond. The breeze had rearranged their hair into a comical mess. Maria moved closer to her lover for protection against the night cold. It was a serene moment. Almost paradise.

“Why don’t we become perfect, John? So many couples do it nowadays. Look at Lisa and Michael. How happy they are... Why don’t we become perfect, John?”

“Is this not wonderful enough? We don’t need to go through any operations to improve... At least I don’t think so, darling.” he responded with the characteristic obstinacy that constantly kept them back.

“Why do you have to refuse to move forward?” Maria burst out, swinging her bread crumbs defiantly into the water.

“Because I love things the way they are, darling.”

He never said “I love you” — it was always things, matters, time...

“Well I don’t! Come on, don’t you see we are at a standstill? John, we can’t keep feeding ducks forever. This is almost paradise. I want more, don’t you see? Come on, John, indulge me, won’t you?.. You never do!”

“Yes, I do, Maria. I indulged you last Friday,” he responded quietly.

“With a chocolate bar!”

“It was your favorite...”

“Oh why do you have to be so obstinate?!!”

* * *

It might have been the charm of the moon or the glimmer of the stars on that nearly heavenly night, for John finally agreed to the transformation. They would be altered people: perfect, committed, in love. They would fill each other with the right experiences, habits, emotions. They would have exact paradise.

Maria was thrilled for the new, perfect kind of love. The minute their joint procedure was complete, she jumped out of the seat, ran towards her beloved. He stretched out his hands to welcome her... No more past arguments. They would be vacant reservoirs ready to receive. What a marvellous arrangement! To think John had been against it...

Then Maria remembered everything, all she adored and condemned about John — how he awkwardly picked her up at a dull party, how they argued for the first time in his apartment, then made love by candlelight, and how they swore to be together for eternity but moved nowhere since...

Maria’s transformation failed.

* * *

There is something in Maria’s brain that refuses to let go, be molded into the right woman. But John is oblivious. His body and soul are now for her only. He is filling up with all kinds of “dreamy” nonsense...

She created a perfect John, didn’t she? It has to be true.

Yet he isn’t the one Maria desires...

Maria can’t quite remember how to define Perfection.

* * *

“As long as I am here, John will never be free.” Maria ponders in her chair, searching his sleeping face for traces of the imperfect.

Nothing. No snoring, kicking, moving, blanket-dragging... Complete stillness. A Greek statue.

They were all wrong about the Perfect.

And the almost paradise is heaven...

That’s where her John is. Maria’s John. The obstinate, clumsy, restless John. All changed now.

“It is my fault. Mine. I remember. I remember everything. You loved me. I loved you. John and Maria. Heaven... God, we lost it all.”

She sobs into the pillow, careful not to wake the man who would comfort her.

“Tomorrow,” she whispers, “we will have my favorite scrambled eggs that you dislike so much for breakfast, and I’ll lose it again, and say that I hate you. Then I’ll tell you to indulge me. You will. You have to...

“But we will never argue by the ducks again. The moon will never wane on us. The crumbs won’t scatter in the wind... Tomorrow will be ‘perfect’ again.

“I tried ‘perfect’. I don’t want it anymore... I cannot fill you with my desires. That’s wrong, John, my John, new John...

“John, oh John, let me set you free...”

And she pulls the trigger, silently, so as not to wake the man who would save her.

Copyright © 2013 by Yuliya Klochan

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