"Have you seen her recently?" I ask him. I pose the question lightly, but as soon as the words are spilled I know the answer is heavy and important.
"Yep, I had lunch with her on Thursday"
Inside a voice is starting to rant and rave - it should be me having lunch with her, not him, me, it's what I deserve, what's right, I'm best, I should win - but I stay calm and try to keep an even tone.
"How is she?"
I've no idea how I want him to answer, I think there's no answer that'll satisfy me. I shouldn't have asked, far better for her to stay in limbo in my head, better for her to have moved to another country, to have entered a state of cryogenic suspension, simply been wiped off the face of the planet by an auditing error than for me to have to go through knowing that she still thinks and breathes and lives a normal, pedestrian life like mine somewhere in the same city.
I don't want him to know how important the answer is to me, but I've forgotten where to look and how to hold myself so that the question is delivered in a casual fashion, my conscious mind is having to cope with leafing through the possible answers, looking for the one I want and it's too busy to help me stand naturally.
"She's weeping in remorse, a broken woman.."
My heart leaps, this is what I want to hear, I need to know she suffers and cries and spends every day regretting her deeds and words. Underneath that, there's hope, she's making a big mistake, she'll come back again.
No, wait, I'm not like that, my mental self-image won't let my personality hold a bitter side, I'm someone full of joy and love, I'm too nice, I don't have room for viperish passion. I need to want her to be happy. And the new me wouldn't have her back, my self view tells me that I can't be that emotionally stupid anymore.
He's grinning, winding me up. He answers again.
And that's it? It's not the right answer either. Fine? The smooth, dull blandness of the word has no holds for my leaping, grabbing, clawing mind to take, no cracks to be pulled open and peered into. Nothing. She's fine.