Marriage after a really, very long time
Sometimes it was easier to pretend not to notice. When she’d dye her hair, when she’d get it cut, when she’d get a new outfit — with money we shouldn’t be spending, mind you. She would walk in after a day out in town and huff and sigh and pace in front of me as if I couldn’t tell she was trying to get my attention when she stared right into my soul as she bent down to kiss me.
I suppose it was cruel not to say anything, but when about forty years of the same hairdo and same style shirt but different color came to present itself, it became tiring to act surprised.
And if I did notice and tell her how pretty she looked — how beautiful — she would deny but thank me and then ask if she hadn’t been pretty the days before. After about a dozen compliments, she would drop that subject and use that as a leeway into a different one.
Like Suzie’s hideous haircut and Wendy’s knock off clothing.
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To think, she’d only just walked inside and already she went through about ten situations and three arguments all by herself. By the thirty year mark, I didn’t even have to nod my head to ease her through, she’d continue on forever without me.
One evening, she came home from somewhere — naturally, I didn’t get many details considering I’d only paid half attention to what she said this morning — and was in a horrible mood. When I heard the car pull up, I debated going to bed early just to miss the earful I was about to receive, but the game was on and I’d be damned if I missed another.
She was very elaborate with stomping around the house and slamming cabinets and, for a second, when she walked right past me and down to the bedroom, I thought, as if by some miracle, she was so pissed off she would just go to bed. When she returned a moment later and sat down in her chair opposite of me — I knew it was I who was in trouble.
I didn’t ask her; I knew it wouldn’t be long until she started, so I waited. And waited. And waited. And it wasn’t until I was so blown away at her silence that I looked over and said something to her. “What’s wrong, honey?”
I knew that I was opening a can of worms asking her the motherlode of all questions. Surely, she had a mental list or essay already typed out in her head of all the things wrong, but now I was worried. Never, in forty years of marriage, had she walked in quiet. No ‘hi, honey’ or ‘hey, baby’ or lecture tearing through her lips after her keys fidgeted with the lock on the door.
My wife’s lips were pressed in a tight, thin line and her eyes were full of tears. I couldn’t remember the last time I looked at her that long. Her graying dark hair and wrinkles on her forehead were some revelation. She didn’t answer me. She just simply stared and I wondered what she could possibly be so angry about.
I’d done everything she asked: took the garbage out, fed the cat, and cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.
“What’s wrong, Lil?” I asked her again, knowing that she wouldn’t keep this up for long.
I frowned as she suddenly burst into tears. I reached out to make her feel better, but I couldn’t. My hand floated right through her and I couldn’t feel anything. I became aware then that she hadn’t been looking at me, but through me — at my chair.
My eyes watered at the realization of death, but the shame was worse. How long had I been gone? How long had she sat in that chair and cried looking at mine?
I spent the next couple days wandering around town trying to talk to people. Trying to find out when the Big Man would come down and take me. I talked to myself a whole lot and tried talking to Him, but it seemed fruitless. No one came. No one listened.
At one point, I wondered if this was revenge for all those years not listening to my wife, but shook my head in disbelief.
When I ran out of attempts, and accepted my current spirit state, I went back home. My wife was on the phone. She’d finally started to feel better even though I could still see the hurt in her eyes. I sat down in my chair and, by habit, tried to grab the remote.
Turns out I couldn’t touch objects either.
I spent the next years of my life watching, listening, and speaking to my wife even though she couldn’t hear me. And when she’d come home angry, I’d try talking her into feeling better. Occasionally, she would get this moment of peace before her mood went to hell again. I convinced myself it helped.
“Honey, please change the station. Please!” I’d beg when she’d finally return home and flick on the TV.
Lillian watched her soaps, rocking in her chair. A smile spread across her lips. Sometimes it was easier to pretend not to notice.