The sound of water rushing through the pipes in the old house temporarily erased the silence.
The light through the kitchen window makes a beautiful flickering pattern on the wall at this time of morning. The leaves of the pear tree Aunt Jane planted as a girl shake in the slight breeze and cast nervous shadows which diffused through glass and sheer curtains to make the wall come alive. I always think that it would be wonderful to capture it somehow, to trace the image faintly on the wall, but I know it would lose whatever makes it special. You can’t marvel at the flittering flight of a butterfly by pinning it to a board.
Hot tea helps my head at this time. Last night was argue and this morning is pain. And that’s what it’s been lately, when we talk at all. Most of the time, he’s not even there. It’s nothing new but there is something recent about it. I think I might be changing in some way. Maybe I am starting to care about different things. He has stayed the same and perhaps the thing that makes you love someone can eventually drive you away. Or maybe it’s age.
I need some things that I can count on. I need to know that I’m not working for nothing, for instance. Or I should say that I’m not just working for him. He can lock himself away as much as he needs to but it shouldn’t prevent me from being at least a little happy. Why should I carry forth the misery he requires?
My empty cup finds its way into the sink and I find my way into my coat. I lock the door behind me as I walk to my car. On the radio, the enthusiastic voices of morning are discussing civil rights. I fight the urge to scream as I punch the button to change the station. I know the great socio-political debates of our time affect everyone but there’s something about such things, such important things, being discussed by people who are otherwise qualified to bag groceries or sweep floors.
I want to love unconditionally, just like in the fantasies of a child. But age seems to weaken the mind’s ability to falsify certain things and when I look at him, I no longer see some great figure yet to be recognized by the world. He is just a man becoming more expansive and sloughing out onto the surface of the world in the same lazy way all men eventually do. I can sit and watch gravity win out.
The argument was about shoes. He thought $60 was too much to spend on shoes. He told me once again how his mother had bought him one pair of leather shoes a year every year until he was 21. I tried to ask him what that had to do with my shoes, but he started to slightly drift away. He walked back down the hallway to his work-room and I became too angry. I threw the shoes and they hit him on the back of the head. “That alone,” I said, “makes them worth every penny.”
“Why’d you do that?”
He looked genuinely hurt. The shoes had flown like a bolo – they were still tethered together by an elastic – the sight of them flying through the air until they both hit their target, in a quick one-two …. Well, it cheered me.
“Where do you get off complaining about money I spend because I want to have something nice or be comfortable in some way? I work five days a week and come home and you’re nowhere to be seen. Why don’t you just go back in there and eat another bag of Cheetos.”
“Eat Cheetos?” he said quietly. “You know I’m not just eating fucking Cheetos. You know it’s not easy for me.” His face took on an odd colour and he suddenly looked smaller. “I guess you’d be happier if I worked on a road crew or at Texaco.”
“You want me dead, then.” His mouth opened and then closed, opened and then closed. Like a fish. He turned and walked away. He said nothing more.
I looked at my feet on the floor of the car. The shoes are nothing special. The colour is plain and dull. But they fit my feet properly and feel good. He probably thinks they make me feel good. Or he thinks it feels good to spend a week’s worth of grocery money on a pair of shoes. I suddenly realize that I don’t care what he thinks anymore.
I look at the traffic light. It looks clean and sharp against the pale blue sky backdrop.
The smell of diesel rumbles in through my open window and threatens to reawaken my headache. But the light changes and I can quickly go.
Finally, a song I like comes on the radio. I sing along with “Hello, It’s Me” and my thoughts lose their colour and texture.