Last Tuesday, Rhubarb was hanging out at the Farmers’ Market, cozying up to coils of garlic scapes. Feeling despondent, I scooped up two quarts of gorgeous sour cherries and took the long way around the gingham-draped table. Standing directly in front of the basket of pie plant, I watched Rhubarb look away. “I can’t talk to you now,” he stage whispered. “I’m working.”
After days of checking my text messages and staring at my phone, Rhubarb finally sends a curt text saying he’ll meet me for a drink. The barstools are filled with newly graduated college kids. Most of the young women are wearing golden tans, over-sized sunglasses, and strappy sandals. My sneakers are dusty with flour, my hands dotted with blueberry. Rhubarb is late and when he leans in to give me a non-committal hug he says, “You smell like butter.”
“I’ll have a Negroni,” we say to the bartender simultaneously. Sipping our drinks out of wide-mouthed rocks glasses, I play with the ribbon of orange peel, trying to find something pithy to say. Rhubarb shifts on his bar stool, swirling the over-sized ice cube in his glass.
“You look tired,” Rhubarb says. “You work too much.” I shrug.
Staring into my glass of equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin, I blurt out, “Are you breaking up with me?”
Rhubarb sighs, signals the bartender to bring the check, then replies in a low voice, “Pie plates talk, you know.”
I did know. Rhubarb continues. “You’ve been spotted at the Farmers’ Market hugging quarts of sour cherries, squeezing peaches… “ His voice trails off and for once, he sounds the slightest bit jealous.
“That was once,” I try to explain. Stony silence. I stare into my drink. “Okay, maybe twice,” I admit.
His voice is a hybrid of outrage and hurt.. “For goodness’ sake, you know it’s too early for peaches…” He drains his glass and continues. “The truth is, you deserve someone better, someone sweeter.” Rhubarb leans in, adjusting his gaze to meet mine. My eyes are foggy with unshed tears.
“C’mon- you’ll be fine,” the pie plant insists. “You’ll forget all about me once the freestone peaches swing through town.” Rhubarb looks around uncomfortably before delivering the final blow. His words sting with the barb of a poisonous leaf. “It’s not you, Nice Pie. It’s me. The season’s over.”
Beyond the barstools, the late June sunlight is blinding. Rhubarb squeezes my hand, leaving behind a hint of pink. “But what about us?” I ask. Rhubarb kisses my cheek then climbs into the back seat of an Uber. The rear window rolled down, Rhubarb leans out, winks, and smiles. ”We’ll always have May.”