‘We need to have an argument.’
‘An argument.’ She does that thing where she sighs at herself, blinks a few times towards the distance, searches, decides, yes, those are the words that she will say: ‘A fundamental disagreement. A difference of opinion. I say something, you say something else, we raise our voices, and then there’s a difference of opinion and then maybe we agree to disagree.’
‘Oh. Okay.’ He chews on nothing.
‘I’m serious. Before tomorrow. Before midnight, hopefully. That is tomorrow. Okay, well the sun’s already set. How about before ten? No, that’s too close. Eleven. We’ll aim for before eleven.’
‘Oh, I agree.’
‘Before eleven. That’s good. Then we can get eight hours of sleep if we sleep at eleven-thirty.’
‘Yes, but at the same time I need you to stop doing that.’
‘Doing what? Eight hours is recommended by the majority of medical professionals. Maybe seven, now that we’re getting older-‘
‘Can you call me that yet?’
‘I like calling you that. Makes me feel prepared. So it’s not too strange when I have to formally start doing it tomorrow. Take it as practice.’ She runs her hand along his arm. Her fingers feel brittle, delicate, like shards of melting ice. He feels strong.
‘But I need you to stop agreeing. Just, before eleven. We need to have an argument.’
‘But what are we going to argue about?’
‘I don’t know. I was hoping you’d think of something.’
‘What about, what about…’ He isn’t going to think of something, and she knows it. Maybe this is what they should argue about. She settles for something else.
‘Politics. People always disagree about politics.’
‘Okay, okay. Well um, I voted yes. Yes, that’s what I did. Of course. How did you vote?’
‘I said yes too.’
‘What do you think of the current Prime Minister?’
‘Well, he kind of looks like butter, but you know it’s not when you taste it.’
‘Oh. That makes sense. Did you know that margarine is actually black without colouring?’ He used to work in a margarine factory.
‘Yes. You’ve told me, dear.’ She called him dear again. Practice, that was what it was, he reminded himself.
‘But so is the other one. The opposition leader.’
‘Oh, of course. I guess there’s nothing worth disagreeing about. It’s all the same whichever way you take it.’
‘Okay, okay. What if we – like a debate.’ He had done debating in high school. They had lost the regional semi-finals. He remembers the feeling of wanting to intensely squeeze something in his hand that he got when the adjudicator told his team they’d lost, and the acrylic smell of the table. ‘Like, I take one side, you take another.’
‘This could work. So I can be Weet-Bix. And you can be muesli.’
‘Do you want to start?’
‘No, after you.’
‘Okay. I am far, far more varied. You’re a brick of wheat and your most interesting flavour is the milk you’re paired with. Sometimes people pour Milo over you because they’ve realised how bland you are and they’ve had enough. Sometimes honey. They poured milk and honey over people as torture in Ancient Egypt until their victims drowned in their own vomit and faeces and they do the same to you, this is because you are so bland that they should do the same as you. Now you go.’ She had studied Archaeology in university, which he thought was very attractive.
‘Wow. Okay well let me first communicate my respect and congratulations to you. There was a formal way of doing this in high school, but I’ve forgotten so I’ll move on. You are muesli. I am Weet-Bix. Now, you have said many things that I am. Let me continue. I am utilitarian. I am simple. Above all I am Australian, and I am the breakfast of champions. There are many types of muesli and many ways of eating those many types. But I am simply Weet-Bix. Milo, honey, yes, but underneath, I am the same. I am singular, I am unified, I have direction and I am purposeful. Everyone knows who I am. Those who do not subscribe to me only reinforce my dominance as they confirm that they are the exceptions to the rule. I am the rule. Now, to you. You are many, you are multiplicity, you are legion. Barley connected. Your diversity will tear you apart. Soon there will be in-fighting from your multi-polarity. Nuts, no nuts. Sultanas, no sultanas. Bran, no bran. Each one of your components is merely waiting, biding their time to establish their superiority. But I am one. I am, and always have been. This is why you are inferior. Thank you.’
‘Okay. Do you want to have a rebuttal round?’
‘No. Formally, I think we’re a bit messy. It’s okay.’
‘I don’t think that was an argument.’
‘It’s almost ten thirty.’
‘We’re running out of time.’
‘Tomorrow we’ll be married.’
‘Yes, but we need to argue first, dear.’
‘See, it’s good practice, isn’t it? Soon it will feel normal. If we let it seep into our vocabulary now it will only make the transition easier.’
‘Yes, but you’re still right. We need to argue first. We’ve never done it before.’ He drums his fingers against his thigh. They are like the rapid presses of a stamping machine. It is no longer almost ten thirty because it is now ten thirty.
‘I am worried though.’
‘You suggested it.’
‘And I hold by it. But now that I’ve thought about it for a bit – what if we start something? Something that sits away, but then boils, grows, comes up again in a few months, something we can’t just share, and it puts itself there, every day, in, and out, whenever I see you, I see it, there walking on its own two legs, forming a mind of its own, babbling and speaking, this disagreement, placing itself in the middle of the house and marking it like it’s all its own and, oh… maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe we should wait until afterwards. Until it comes organically. I was talking to Linda before, and couples are having disagreements later and later in their lives. Maybe it’s just best for it to happen, maybe when we’re not even trying.’
‘It’s okay. We still have more than twenty minutes. We can do it now. I won’t let that happen.’ He looks at her, expecting her eyes.
‘I know. I think I know. I guess what I’m trying to say is… did you bring protection?’
He sees the clock flash as it changes to ten thirty-three.