Layers, Maybe. Does it Matter?
Trout knew there was one can of beer left in the fridge.
One can hidden behind a bag of likely limp carrots and the three eternal onions in the vegetable drawer. The onions were left over from the previous tenant. He moved in years ago and meant to throw them out that first day, noticing them when he slid a few six-packs onto the plastic shelf in the refrigerator so that him and Duck could have a couple cold ones after hauling up the few boxes of books and kitchen things and garbage bags of clothes and blankets they had between them, but they seemed fine and he knew he shouldn’t waste food.
He meant to throw them out when he saw them again, a few weeks later, as he reached in for a beer, but the commercial was almost done, and he hurried back to the living room, hopping over the back of the couch and landing clumsily enough so that the bowl of popcorn on Duck’s lap spilled. She swore out of the side of her mouth and picked up a handful and threw it at him. Trout dodged but the beer fell from his lap and rolled across the floor. They watched the cans roll halfway towards the TV and laughed when neither made it the whole five feet, but instead came back towards them because of the bowed floor.
The onions were still there three months later when Duck asked him to get the spinach out for the salad, but the fire alarm went off because the oven was never cleaned and who knows how many years of grease and crud heated up enough to start smoking, while they tried to bake a couple cheese and bacon wrapped chicken breasts.
The next time Trout saw the onions Duck was yelling at him about him staying out all night and stumbling in and waking her up when she had work in the morning and besides that where the hell had he been all night and that maybe, did he sometimes wonder if he might not have a drinking problem. He used the fridge’s door as a shield, to have something between them, and bent down and pretended to look for a bottle of hot sauce he damn well knew had never been there.
His buddy brought beers back from the kitchen and said it smelled of onions. Trout laughed and stuck the rolled-up bill in his nostril, snorted a line from the mirror on the table and said yeah, those are the eternal onions. But then the phone was ringing and he rushed to turn off the music and answer and talk to Duck who was calling because she missed him and to tell him what time her bus would be getting in and would he want to come pick her up please, because the weekend with her parents had been awful but she was bringing back a bunch of food and some of the things she left at home but really wanted and she was tired and maybe there was too much for just one person and she didn’t want to take the subway with all the bags back home by herself.
He said he would, but she might have heard something in the background, or noticed how quickly he agreed and most likely had a pretty good idea what he was up to, so she said to never mind, and she could get her dad to drive her back, but he was working tomorrow so it would have to be the next day. Trout said that would be fine, and hung up. But then he wondered what she might have meant and started to panic and was about to call her back, as soon as he found the number, but his buddy had cut another couple of lines, so he agreed to do them before trying to find that little red leather address book he knew she kept somewhere around here.
The onions were still there when Trout hid a beer behind them and then pulled the rest from the fridge and opened them and poured them down the drain and promised Duck he would never drink again. He spoke about how he saw what it was doing to him and how it was affecting their relationship and how sad it made him and how he wanted to change, needed to change, and even if he knew he didn’t deserve it, if she’d just give him another chance, she’d see what he could do. How it could be like it was again. Promise. How sorry he was for everything he put her through.
On their first anniversary in the apartment, Trout saw the onions again and laughed. She asked what he was laughing at, so he turned to tell her and she was standing naked in the kitchen doorway and he couldn’t say anything and Duck saw his dumb face and laughed, hard enough for everything to jiggle just a little and then she crooked her finger at him and turned and left and he closed the fridge door and followed her to the bedroom.
Trout sat on the couch and listened to Duck tell him she just wasn’t having fun anymore, how it really had nothing to do with him, it was all her, or maybe it was him, a little, now that she really thought about it. How they never hung out with her friends, even if they still got invited, somehow, and yes she knew they always met for drinks and that he gave that up, but what was the big deal, if he couldn’t sit in a bar for a few hours and just socialize, then she didn’t know what to make of that. He didn’t have any answers, knew nothing would matter anyway, so when she said she was leaving, he didn’t argue.
As soon as she slammed the door the whole place started to reek of onions.