He Didn’t Want To Know

The keys made a metallic ‘clink’ when they settled into the bottom of the copper colored dish by the door, the one with the zodiac signs around the edge. He smiled. God how she hated that thing when he first brought it home. He was proud because it had only cost him 25¢ at a neighbor’s yard sale, but she sneered “You overpaid!” and threw it into the brown storage bin by the water heater in the basement. She knew he was pissed and quietly returned it to the shelf later that day with an apology and a promise of homemade lasagna for dinner.

He passed the painting in the hallway, the one with the kittens, the one that had caused a huge blowup. “I’m not putting a painting of fu**ing kittens in my hallway!” he’d shouted as he tossed the hideous thing into the back of the coat closet. The next day when he returned from golf, she wasn’t around. Normally she’d come out and say hello to his buddies. He assumed she was out for the afternoon with her friend. After the guys left, he went upstairs to change and found her curled up in a ball on the bed hugging the painting, eyes red from crying. Although he put the painting back up ‘in our house’ that same afternoon, she didn’t speak civilly to him for the rest of that weekend.

Sometimes their relationship was unbelievably light and fun. The bike rides down to Benson’s Pond, lunches at the little bistro over on 18th St, the water fight at the fountain by the swing set in the park, fall trips to her cousin’s house on the lake… those had all been amazing times. Lots of evenings spent laughing together at shitty reality TV, Sunday mornings sharing a quiet breakfast on the porch…. hundreds of times just like those.

There were also long dark days of not speaking. Little red hot verbal jabs meant to leave a mark. Sleeping in the same bed but feeling a million miles apart. Trying to share their lives under a wet blanket of past hurts and abuse that made starting out together with a clean slate next to impossible.

For the past few years, his mind shift would shift one way (it’s worth it) then the other (this sucks). Like Lady Justice trying to balance her scales on the deck of a rolling ship. What to do, what to think? Was he expecting too much or not enough? He’d never discuss something like this with anyone. His personal life was no one else’s business and besides – he would never throw her under the bus like that. For better or worse is what he’d said and he meant to honor that promise.

Some days the dilemma would weigh heavy, but other days he wouldn’t think about it at all. This had gone on in his head for years – his own mental tennis match. Back and forth. Back and forth. Not long ago, after a couple glasses of wine on a quiet Friday evening they had a very frank discussion, one of the deepest talks they’d ever had. He admitted to her his feelings of loneliness, emptiness, uncertainty. She confessed to boredom, admitted to a lack of enthusiasm for their relationship. She also mentioned casual lunches with a work colleague that were becoming longer and more frequent than they probably should.

Oddly there had been no anger in either of their voices, no crying, no screaming. Just truth in all its raw essence. They had agreed to use the following week to think more, put thoughts on paper and decide which way this was heading. Could it be fixed? Was it over? They both agreed that they just didn’t know, but they promised to write each other a letter.

——-

He lit a fire, poured a bourbon and pulled his recliner close to the fireplace. For the 452nd time, he pulled her envelope from his pocket. For him, dinnertime had become something other people do. Work – drink – sleep – repeat. This was his life now. A life filled with reflection, sadness, guilt…. and most sickeningly of all…. relief.

It was a Monday morning when she’d handed him her envelope. With a Mona Lisa smile, she accepted his. After a quick peck on the cheek and a longer than usual hug, they were both out the door. The craziest of days at work had prevented him from having even one second of free time that day. Now he slumped in the recliner and turned the unopened envelope back and forth, over and around just as he’d done every night for the past three weeks. What if he’d just stopped for coffee that morning and read the damn letter? Would anything be different?

The contents inside were still a mystery to him. A separate but equally haunting question hammered his brain. Had she read what he’d written?

The accident report stated she was just starting to move when the other driver blew through the light, swerved to miss a school bus and hit her head on. The officers tried to comfort him by saying that her end came instantly. The explosion was simply the aftermath of a horrible event.

He finished his third bourbon, leaned forward and threw the envelope into the fireplace.

He didn’t want to know.

© Doug Fish, 2014

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