Looking at the Mytryoshkas dolls, Trey was reminded of himself.
An Evening Stroll in the City
The fragrant aroma of garlic and olive filled the air as Trey and Karen sat at the candle lit table in their favorite restaurant.
“You look beautiful tonight, Karen,” Trey said. His eyes absorbed her beauty. He reached across the table and held her hands as he watched the candle light dance in her green eyes. He leaned on the table and took a deep breath, the diamond ring he put in his pocket before leaving home tonight pressed against his thigh, a reminder of his love…and his confusion. He let his breath out slowly.
“What is it, Trey?” Karen knitted her brow and gently squeezed his hands.
“I, ah, well, I wanted to…”
“Yes?” Her smile betrayed her hopefulness.
Trey felt saved by the appearance of the waiter who appeared at their table to take their order. Trey picked up the menu for the first time. They ordered dinner of antipasti and bread. Trey ordered another glass of red wine.
The waiter scribbled on his pad and walked away, Karen turned to Trey. “You were almost saying…?” She smiled expectantly.
“It wasn’t important…it can wait.” He looked at the murals on the wall. “Maybe someday we can go to Italy and see those places.” Venice, Rome, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa stretched above them in water colors on the dimly lit wall.
Karen glanced at the wall. “That would be a special trip…to celebrate a special occasion.”
“You look beautiful tonight.” He watched the dim light shimmer in Karen’s flowing blond curls.
“Thank you.” Karen lowered her eyes and gazed at her reflection as it floated in her glass of wine.
Trey wondered why he couldn’t get the words out. He knew he loved Karen, but that was part of the problem, he had been hurt before…badly. His first marriage ended when he learned of his wife’s long-term affair…with his best friend. He didn’t want to experience that pain again.
But he knew Karen was different. She loved him…at least he thought she did. But he thought Susan loved him too, and look at what happened. He knew it was his confusion that kept him from happiness, and he didn’t like holding Karen responsible for what had happened in the past. If only he could get past his insecurities and forget the past.
After dinner they decided to take a walk.
Karen nestled against Trey’s arm as they strolled along Fifth Avenue. The throngs of tourists crowding the city during the day were tucked away in their hotels; the city belonged to the two lovers again. Wheeled food carts lined the curb. Warm curry, the flowery scent of Jasmine rice, and the sweet smell of roasted peppers sent a pungent kaleidoscope of aromas into the cool, night air. Trey reached into his pocket and fingered the diamond ring he had bought months ago.
They stopped and bought ice cream from a vender and laughed when it dripped onto their chins. “Hold still a second,” Trey said as he wiped Karen’s chin with a paper napkin, then kissed her chilled lips. The smooth edge of the diamond pressed against Trey’s finger as he thought about putting off the question for another night. He wondered if giving himself more time to think would make a difference.
“Oh, look, Trey,” Karen pointed to a vender filling a shelf with trinkets and other wares, “aren’t those Mytryoshkas dolls?”
“Yes, I think they are.”
They watched a tall, thin merchant lining up a row of gaily painted dolls along a shelf laden with toys and other wares. As Karen browsed around the shop, Trey picked up a doll for closer inspection, the brightly painted face stared back at him.
Twisting the two halves in opposite directions, the doll squeaked apart and revealed another doll nestled inside. He twisted the next doll open, and then the next, and the next, until all five dolls, each one smaller than the other, stood in a row.
Trey palmed the diamond ring concealed in his pocket; his confusion welled up inside of him. As the dolls stared back at him, Trey realized he was just like those dolls, he kept so much about himself hidden inside—in layers. Hidden beneath his outer shell of confidence, he concealed his insecurity about Karen’s feelings for him. Beneath that was hidden his confusion about what he really wanted. In another layer he hid the fear of another broken relationship. A layer beneath, in his heart, he was secure with the love he felt for Karen. The diamond ring pressed into his skin.
Trey held the smallest doll in his hand, the heart he thought. Dropping the ring inside, he twisted it back together, then placed it inside the next larger doll, then placed each successive doll inside the next until it stood alone, its many layers hidden once more. He paid the vender and found Karen.
They continued their walk along the cracked sidewalk. It was getting late, the wheels of venders carts groaned under the weight of their heavy loads as venders pushed them home.
“What did you buy?” Karen eyed the package in Trey’s hand.
He removed the wooden doll from the bag and gave it to Karen. “It’s one of those Russian dolls.”
“It’s for you,” he said as he stopped and looked at Karen. “It reminded me of myself so I bought it.”
“Don’t be silly…it doesn’t look anything like you.” She smiled up at him.
“Like me, it hides things inside…take a look.”
Karen twisted open each empty doll until she reached the smallest one…the heart. Twisting it opened, she saw the ring. Throwing her arms around Trey’s neck, she hugged him tight.
“Yes…yes…yes…” she cried against his cheek. “Yes!”
They kissed. Trey took Karen’s hand and they walked into the cool darkness of the city night.