He refused to look at her. He refused to speak to her. Instead, the few words uttered were mumbled toward the entryway. They floated up to the ceiling and dropped their disinterest heavily into her straining heart.
“Whatever makes you happy…”Happy? Was he kidding? This disinterest and disconnection was not the happy she had ever envisioned for her marriage.
“No. I do not want to hear what makes me happy. I want to hear what you have to say. What do you want?” She pleaded with him feeling exhausted from this conversation quickly turned confrontation. She knew she should retreat and leave it be. There was too much loneliness, uncertainty, and fear inside her to contain.
“People spend their whole lives without answers to the questions you ask!” He finally faced her but it was with disdain. How had she come to live in this place?
“I don’t think that’s true,” She attempted softness. “I believe a lot of people can say what they hope from their marriage, their relationship without too much hesitation. They may not think of everything on the spot but given a day or two I think a lot of people could list a few must haves.”
He obviously hated every moment of this. She wanted to know how to talk without this tension. She wanted to know how to be a light in his life not a devastating nuclear attack on it. Somehow, she had become the very thing that could shut him down even when she only meant to ramp him up. If he cannot tell her how to be what he wants, she has to grasp at straws. Every straw she grasped had so far fallen short. She needed something more to go on.
“Do you at least know you want to be married?” She asked in the dim light of a half decorated Christmas tree and paused television show.
He was gone. His body lay there as pulled up onto one side of the couch as possible to avoid contact with her. His face turned as far back as he could without wrenching something. He had nothing to say. Not even a lazy ‘of, course’.
She stood up. He had finally done it. She was speechless. There was nothing left to ask. Her concerns with their marriage had for so long revolved around their lack of a sex life and worries over his not finding her attractive. Now, there was nothing to discuss.
She felt a slight seeping of tears then it stopped. She felt numbed. She could not believe that she had missed him so much two nights before on Thanksgiving. She had wanted so badly to have a hug. It had been her first major holiday away from her family in all her 23 years. The Navy made that happen and all she wanted was her husband to hold her and make it all worth it. Then he had to work and she missed him.
Now two days later he cannot even assure her that in the world of uncertainty he is at least sure of her. How had she reached this place?
She sat in an old beat up Dodge truck staring blankly at the tattered dirty blue floor mats. For a moment, her mind wanders to the color of the trucks interior. Surely, a man had to have chosen this color. There is nothing wrong with blue but this blue was gray blue. It is the sort of color that feels old and dirty fresh off a showroom floor. Maybe it is something people with pickup trucks like, dirt.
“It is not you. I just don’t know what I want.” A familiar voice was pressing through her gray blue thoughts. She looked up to see the familiar long messy brown hair and sad, brown eyes about which she had written page after page. Her gaze fell to his feet, Adidas sandals with nubs worn from the big toe space lay on the floorboard, his feet resting beside them. He hated shoes almost as much as socks. He was in his blue-to-purple-to-green tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt. She knew if he were walking, she would hear the familiar jingle of his wallet chain she had given him a few months earlier for Christmas.
They had spent Christmas snowed in together. They had attempted to walk through the five feet of snow to get to this very truck just to lay down in the snowfall listening to music not found on the radio and eating the cherry pie, he had swiped from his Grandmother’s kitchen. They had made it to truck but only after, she had been buried several times in the snow mounds when she attempted to walk straight over the snow. His 6-foot frame handled the straightforward methods much better than her 5-foot 3-inches. They had defrosted in the cab to the sounds of Coheed and Cambria. They were so easy together. He was her muse. She could write for hours with him around or after. He adored her…until…
“I understand not knowing what you want. We are young. I don’t know what I want either.” She finally responded to him breaking through the rare silence between them. Not even the music was playing.
They were parked in front of her house. She had a heavy feeling weighing her down into the vinyl bench seat. She had loosened him up a lot in this truck cab. She could not remember ever feeling such heaviness without having him closer, in this seat. The silence scared her.
“Do you at least know you want me?” His look was enough. She did not need to hear the answer but she waited for it now finding the gray blue color the perfect hue for the moment.
“I don’t kn-“
“Okay.” She interrupted him, opening the door and stopping on the curb to turn back around and look at him. She waited unsure of whether this was all really happening. Nothing happened, so she closed the truck door.
She walked across the lawn, down the grassy path between the houses and turned the corner to her back door. There she stopped and listened. That old Dodge had a sound not to be mistaken. It was not obnoxiously loud. It was just that sort of vehicle that you knew was coming…or going. It idled for a moment. She even thought she heard a door open.
Her head began to spin and she realized she was holding her breath. As she exhaled, the engine accelerated. As she inhaled, it stopped at the nearby stop sign. As she exhaled again, it turned the corner for good. She inhaled, stepped inside and pulled the door closed behind her.
She sat in the front seat of her orange-red Ford four-door listening to satellite radio. She was only half listening actually. She was spending most of her time checking out every vehicle that passed by while also attempting to look cool, and relaxed. She checked her cell phone, put on lip balm, wrote in a notebook, and changed radio stations. She was fidgeting.
She had taken the road trip for more than just this moment. She had decided to travel the east coast to get an early taste of spring and shake off the tail end of a chapter closing.
When she returned home, she was going to be in a new apartment, with a new job. She was single for the first time in years. This was the furthest point she would go on this trip. The parking lot did not look like much. She had driven around the block a few times and spent the toll to get to the island beach. The other Floridians had given her funny looks when she, the New Yorker, rolled up her jeans and stood in the low tide of the ocean waves. They still wore winter jacket and it was 58 degrees outside. They did not know cold.
Now she sat waiting for a man she had not seen in years. It felt like she spent an eternity in that guest parking spot but finally a taxi pulled up. She knew it was him instantly. She got out of the car slowly and stood watching him step out. He was in his Navy dress white. His boots shone spotless in the late afternoon sun. She had felt as though time was going in slow motion while she waited. Now she felt as though the world did not exist. He turned as the taxi pulled away to face her. Their eyes locked and they sped toward each other. In the middle of the parking lot, he dropped his bag and picked her up into his arms. The heat between them was intense and the kissed long and deep. Suddenly the world was back and there were a few whoops and a lot of clapping around them. They had provided an ‘aw’ moment for the hotel staff and patrons alike.
For 3 days, they were in that hotel room without a need for anything but each other. It was as though the time between their past and present had never happened. The laughter and lust was full force and never lulled. They got a little tipsy together. They got a little silly together. They got crazy together. They were high school senior sweet hearts again. He was in love with her again. She even had a fleeting thought of saying ‘yes’ if he asked her to marry him again. She knew it was the lust, liquor and lack of sleep aiding in such a thought but it was a fun thought for the moment.
She woke up with him stroking her face and smiling at her. It was time for him to leave. His leave time was up. The taxi would be there soon. It had been a whirlwind of a good time. She knew the most they would ever have was another weekend get together or two. Something told her they just were not on the same path. She felt in the goodbye. The kiss felt final. Still, being the bit of a romantic she wondered ‘what if’.
She stood on the balcony and watched him go. He had told her not to come to the car or it would be harder to let go. He was right.
When the car pulled out of sight, she turned back into the room. She had it to herself for the night before heading on the long journey back up the coast tomorrow. She reached for the laptop and thought about writing. As the computer woke from sleep mode, an email account was open in view.
I have missed you too baby. I’m glad you changed your mind. I can book the hotel for two weekends from now. Let me know what flight you’ll be getting in on and I can meet you at the airport. You are the only woman I want. Yours forever,
She checked the time stamp. He had sent it, from her computer, about 15 minutes before waking her up. She read the rest of the correspondence between the two. It went back at least a year. They were in love.
She had an urge to notify this woman of her boyfriend’s whereabouts this weekend. She wanted to make him hurt as he was making her hurt now. Nevertheless, she did nothing. She let herself feel that kiss from 3 days earlier and hear the clapping. That moment was not fake. She and he were together for the weekend and it was a wonderful visit to the past.
She turned on the television, flipped open a box of leftover pizza and spent the rest of the day with the curtains drawn. She could not kid herself. Even if she was the weekender, the other woman was the daily.
“It’s been over two years,” She was holding the large, thick tan envelope out toward him.
“I know but she won’t do any of it and she needs to sign stuff.’ Excuses!
“True but you sign your part and then have the lawyer send them to her, or drop them in the mail to her.” He was shaking his head.
“I don’t have the money for a lawyer or the processing fees right now.” More excuses!
“It costs $500.00 for a divorce to process when things are uncontested. You guys do not have kids. She up and left you with everything and she has been gone for almost 3 years.” She thrust the envelope into his hands. “Would you just look at it? Please?”
He was so handsome. His 6-foot 4-inch height was not the least bit awkward. His thin muscular build had an understated grace to it. His oil stained, callused hands, dirty light brown hair and piercing gray eyes hypnotized her. She fell in love with him every time she looked into those eyes. He was a man of little words but his eyes spoke volumes. He loved her and she was crazy about him. It is because of those damn eyes she had put up with things so long.
“I help you pay this mortgage. I take care of things when you are at work or away. We share everything. If something happens, she gets everything.” He was married, well, separated. They had been separated for years. Most of those years she had been with him, lived in the house, cooked the meals, cared for the dog, played up at camp.
She just wanted to officially be his girlfriend without the technical issue of his being legally married in the way. She was not expecting a proposal or kids. She just wanted him to be all hers without anyone else allowed any partial claim. She did not want to share him.
“I’ll get to it. Now come here.” He pulled her close and smiled. He smelled like diesel, dust and sweat. Maybe it was her blue-collar upbringing but she loved the smell of a mechanic. He thought she was crazy when they first got together and she told him he did not have to apologize for being a working man. He was considerate of his dog, his mom, his brother, his colleagues and his friends.
She had reached her end of staying contented with the excuses. She wanted him to be considerate of her. She wanted the local rumor mill to stop using mistress in conjunction with her name and their relationship. She just wanted him to show he wanted her too.
“If you don’t get the divorce finalized by spring I’m getting my own apartment.” She felt guilty for saying it the minute she did. His smile fell and his shoulders sagged. He released her and stepped back.
The months flew by and the folder was shuffled around. It spent most of its time collecting dust. She did not bring the issue up again until spring. She tried to give him one last warning. She did not want to leave but she could not pay for another woman’s house and sleep in another woman’s bed anymore. She needed to be taken seriously.
Another few months went by and moving day came. The night before he broke down and asked her to stay. He even cried and professed his fears that she would be gone forever. She tried to get him to see that she was only a few miles away. She still wanted him. She simply could not live with him until the divorce was final. Originally, she had said that and he had misled her into thinking the divorce was underway, back when all this started.
She had moved in and was working evening and night shifts. That meant that she slept in mornings. One morning the pseudo-ex-wife unlocked the door with her key, and walked right in. The rumors had flown later that there was a lazy, jobless tramp living in her house with her man. She did not want to be the ‘other’ woman anymore.
On that moving day, he rushed her into the apartment and took off with a guy friend with the moving truck to pick up a new motorcycle. He did not even say goodbye. He would not even return her calls. It was over. He was supposed to miss her. He was supposed to finalize the divorce and they could just live between house and apartment while she had the lease. He was supposed to want her.
She switched off the laptop. laid down on the bed and stared up at the ceiling fan. She fantasized it gaining momentum and taking off with her bed dangling from it. She imaged the air, the freedom and the ability to watch it all fade away. As she fell asleep, she realized she did not have any place to go even if it did.