“Chimera was a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the rump of a dragon. Bellerophon slew it by shooting arrows while flying on Pegasus’s back.”
Alan pouted and nodded. Jennifer had dragged him to this lecture, which, in retrospect, was not as boring as Alan had imagined.
He glanced at Jennifer beside him. She listened intent on the story, her forefinger pressed against her pursed lips, her pale blond hair in a tight bun and her blouse buttoned to the top, exuding ice and snobbery.
I’m sitting next to Chimera, thought Alan and almost laughed out loud.
Jennifer was beautiful, and she had many other qualities that had attracted Alan once but had now faded away so he only saw the monster beside him. The lion clawed, scratched and snarled at everything he did or said; the dragon scorched all his accomplishments to cinders, and the goat bleated love and honey trying to soothe his mangled self.
He sighed and caught a whiff of Jennifer’s garlic breath, courtesy of the shrimp scampi she’d ordered for lunch. Alan hated garlic breath, and every time they spent an evening together, she ate something garlicky. She breathes fire too, Alan could barely contain himself as he caught yet another fume. Jennifer leaned over to say something and Alan, caught between laughter and disgust, struggled to keep his composure.
“How interesting,” she breathed, “what an enthralling lecture.”
Damn Jennifer and her H’s! She had the most annoying way of sounding every H as she exhaled so that the garlic hit Alan full on. He was on the verge of losing control and howling with laughter amidst Bellerophon’s tragic end. The room felt stuffy despite the air-conditioning and all Alan wanted was to escape.
“You okay?” Jennifer whispered and Alan almost gagged.
He rose, “Yes, bathroom,” he mumbled and shuffled his way to the aisle.
Outside the lecture hall the air was cool; Alan gasped, leaned against a wall and guffawed. As the laughter died down and he wiped tears from his eyes, he steadied himself with each breath. He inhaled deep and slow—his mind racing with the memory of Jennifer’s good qualities now lost to time—and exhaled, letting go of Jennifer the Garlic-Breathing Chimera, part growling lion, part vicious dragon. Alan smiled, he knew his time with Jennifer had ended, and the realization lifted him up like Bellerophon on Pegasus.