“I think I am allergic to you.” She said it nicely, not aggressive like she had just discovered a new fact.
“What does that mean?” He was working on something on his phone that required both of his thumbs.
“I thought it might be the suntan lotion but I switched brands twice and I’m still getting that feeling.”
“Getting what? What are you talking about?” He looked up, flashed mild annoyance, then dove back down.
The young woman was wearing a backward baseball cap with the letters ACK on the crown. The cap was one of those adjustable types and there was an open oval on her forehead where a thatch of curly reddish hair poked through as if she had a single red horn. “Don’t get upset. I think it’s just a chemical thing.”
She had the Sunday Times Magazine open on her lap. She had folded it to the crossword page and had been filling it with a blue pen. About half of the puzzle was filled in.
“It’s awkward, though,” she added. “You spend a whole weekend with someone and then conclude you are allergic to them.”
The man had a baseball hat on too but he was facing in the forward direction. His hair was cropped tight on the sides of his head so it was easy to see he had a muscular neck rising out of his lime polo shirt. He wore khaki shorts and beat-up Sperry’s without socks. He had a tall to-go Starbucks held between his thighs and the movement of the ferry had caused some of the coffee inside to spill out onto his shorts.
She rapped the puzzle two times, firmly, with her pen. “I wonder whether it comes up on those Internet sites.” She paused. “I bet it does.”
“You know. Match.com. Speeddater. Those things.”
He looked up. “You done them? Wouldn’t have thought you’d deign.”
“Katie wanted me to do it with her. I just helped her fill out her profile. Was interesting though. I was tempted. Can’t remember if they asked about allergies.”
“I still don’t know what you are talking about.”
They were on a ferry and had reached the midpoint of their trip, out of sight of the places of departure and arrival. The ferry throbbed and gently rolled in the bright, clear morning.
“I said it already. I am allergic, I am afraid.”
“You look fine.”
“You can’t see it. It isn’t a rash.”
“Well, then how do you know?” He leaned closer to her, paying more attention. Slipping his phone into the pocket of his shorts, he took the Starbucks in hand as if it were a tool.
“It’s just a feeling.”
“Wow. I thought we had a good weekend. A great weekend.”
“Yeah. It’s awkward. I get that.”
“Are you kidding? Are you really saying what I think you are saying?”
“We haven’t even got to Hyannis.”
“I just thought you better know. I mean it isn’t like it’s your fault or anything.”
“I am sorry. It is awkward.”
“It’s not awkward; it’s stupid. Who does this? I take you for a whole weekend and we go out for dinner every night and have sex and then you say on the way back to shore that you are allergic to me. What is that bullshit?”
“Yeah what? Yeah, I am sorry? Yeah, I made a mistake? Yeah, I am a stuck-up princess? Which is it?” His voice had risen with the questions and he had gotten red in the face.
She studied the crossword puzzle, and gently pulled on the red horn protruding from her hat.
He was insistent. “Come on Sarah, which is it?”
“All of them. None of them. Does it even matter?” She looked up from the puzzle and answered her own question. “No. It doesn’t. I am allergic. I am sorry, but there it is.”
“Jesus. Skimmer said you weren’t right but I didn’t believe him. He was dead on.” The man paused to shake his head. “Are you really breaking things off this way?”
“I am as surprised as you, but it looks like that’s what I am doing.”
“Jesus.” He stood up and walked towards the front of the ferry. He got to a tall blue recycling container and hurled the Starbucks into it. She could hear the thunk from where she was sitting.
He paused for a second, turned, and came back to her. There was a small coffee stain on the inside of his right thigh.
“I didn’t have to bring you, you know. I god damn wouldn’t have brought you if I had known you were such a….” His eyebrows knitted in fury but he didn’t finish the sentence.
She didn’t say anything and after a few seconds, he turned away.
She watched him disappear down the steps to the lower deck. She raised both arms to the sky and twisted left to right and then right to left, stretching her back as if she needed a big stretch after a long period of sitting. Settling back into her prior position, she focused again on the crossword puzzle and began to write.