Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Alas, true to form for the Northwest, as August arrived, so did some semblance of Summer weather. I sat on the deck sipping an icy cold Chardonnay on a particularly sultry evening, trying to catch any stray breeze that might wander by, listening to the swallows chatter at each other and watching them dive for their dinners. The scent of cedars and freshly mowed lawn hung heavy on the air, along with the warm scent of my own skin and the very faint odor of distant cigarette smoke.
In an instant I was swept back to a childhood evening, the memory as clear in my head as if I was watching it on TV. In this memory, I'm maybe eight years old. I'm sitting at the picnic table in the backyard with my father. It's about mid-evening. I'm wearing my bathing suit and my hair is still damp from a swim in the pool. The air is muggy and I can hear crickets chirping and locusts buzzing. Dad is smoking a cigarette and I'm eating a popsicle. In all likelihood, my mother sent me outside with the popsicle so I wouldn't drip sticky syrup all over the house. What's really distinct about this scene though is that it is a moment, a very rare one at that, of absolute peace.
Maybe that strikes you as odd, that I'd be so focused on the peace of a moment, but it's actually profound. I grew up in a household that, even when it was quiet, it was anything but peaceful. My mother was uptight, overly concerned with appearances, and more worried about keeping a house clean and in order than any real issues. My dad was at worst a raging alcoholic and at best frenetically funny - even his humor tended to land just this side of something manic. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents. I'm just trying to help you understand what it means to me now to recognize the importance of The Picnic Table Incident of 1969 for what it was.
It damned near knocked me flat to descry that moment. It was beautiful. It's easy to talk about difficulties, about the trials and tribulations that we go through and how we triumphed regardless. It seems to be less important that we recognize the finer moments and give them air. What a shame.
The finer moments are what make it a life that's been lived rather than a life that's simply been experienced. The finer moments are always there. Waiting. There is beauty in the ugly. There is quiet in the chaos. There is light in the darkness. There is love in the pain. If only we would look.
Posted by Barb Black at 11:41:00 AM
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Prompts are listed at the end of the story.
Nessa locked the door behind her. She set the mail that she’d brought in on the old buffet that they had turned into an entryway catch-all, then tossed her keys and cell phone into the wicker basket that sat in the middle of the buffet. To the left was the stack of library books that she had forgotten to take with her this morning. Making a mental note to get that chore done tomorrow before they were overdue, she carefully hung her jacked and purse on the antique coat hooks in the foyer. Nessa picked up the stack of mail again, headed toward the kitchen where she poured herself a glass of wine, then carried the mail and wine into the den.
She settled into her favorite chair, an antique wingback that they’d bought during a weekend jaunt to the Poconos. They’d actually almost fought over it. She loved it, Ted didn’t. She still loved it, and supposed that Ted had gotten used to it. She closed her eyes and took a sip of the wine as she kicked her pumps off, sending them tumbling under the coffee table. She took another sip of the wine before setting the glass on the table, then began to sort through the stack of mail.
Bills, she thought, bloody boring necessity. It always amused her that so much of her internal conversation was done in a British accent. She briefly flipped through the Land’s End catalog. Nothing new there, but then they send one out every week, it seems. There was postcard of some distant tropical locale from her mother and aunt who were off cruising the world. At the bottom of the stack was a mystery envelope. Well, it’s not that much of a mystery, really… it’s obviously Ted’s handwriting. But it was fully addressed to her, although lacking a stamp - not really Ted’s romantic style. Nessa shrugged and ran a nail under the flap to open the envelope. She pulled out the letter and began to read.
We’ve been married for nearly 15 years. When you came home, you hung up your jacket and purse in the foyer, dropped your keys and phone in the basket, grabbed the mail and some wine and headed to the den. There, you kicked off your shoes, took a few sips of wine and started looking through the mail. See, my dear? I know you very, very well. Maybe even better than you know yourself. Definitely better than you think I do.
I know that our marriage is in trouble and I know why. Do you think I didn’t notice the minute you began to pull away from me? You feigned exhaustion and rolled away from me rather than our usual snuggle. Thing is, you didn’t go right to sleep - I know your breathing patterns well. You stopped making eye-contact with me and jumped if I spoke your name. You bought new lingerie and outfits, but didn’t wear them when we went out together. I noticed when you began changing our sheets on Tuesdays instead of Thursdays, and that you were always freshly showered when I got home on Tuesday, claiming that you‘d had a rough day and simply wanted to freshen up.
I also noticed that at my birthday party three months ago, you and Evan completely ignored each other. Shortly after that Evan begged off our usual Wednesday golf outings. In fact, he stopped calling at all and when I would call him, he’d supposedly just be headed into a meeting. That was when I began to follow you. I needed to put an end to my suspicion. It couldn’t possibly be what I was imagining, could it? Sadly, miserably, it was. I saw his car parked a block over from our house on Tuesday afternoons. I followed you and saw the two of you hugging and kissing before you went into the restaurant. The weekend of your business retreat, I booked the flight right after yours and spent most of the weekend watching you and Evan by the pool, holding hands, laughing. I even, quite stupidly I’ll admit, bothered to bring a pair of binoculars and watched the two of you together in your room. Imagine my surprise that you appeared to like that particular position in bed - you never enjoyed it when we were together.
Evan. You’ve been fucking Evan, Nessa. The best man at our wedding. My cousin, my best friend. I think what makes me angriest is that you’ve turned me into a goddamned walking cliché. I could forgive your infidelity and your seeming nonchalance about it. What I can’t forgive is that I’ve been betrayed by the two people I loved most in this world and that it makes me look like such a complete idiot. An absolute dupe. I’ve thought about it a lot. I’ve had plenty of time alone to think, don’t you know? I just can’t forgive it.
I know you’re probably reading this letter with something near a feeling of relief. The husband knows. Good. Let’s just deal with this and move on. You’re probably even already calculating in the back of your mind how to settle the house, the stuff, etc. But… ah, not so hasty, m’dear. You see, you created this little mess and it’s about to get a little messier. I thought I’d offer you a taste of how immobilizing and debilitating it is to be betrayed by your spouse and your best friend.
Your 401k is gone. I forged the documents to cash that in. I’ve wiped out our bank accounts. Yes. The near million in liquid assets that we’ve accumulated is now safely residing, um, let’s just say elsewhere. Settle down now. That’s not even the big news. The big news is that there is a pressure sensitive bomb wired to your chair. It will go off as soon as you get up. I know you’ve left your phone in the hallway, as always, so there’s no way for you to call for help. So, you have a choice. You can sit there and die slowly of starvation, swimming in the stench of your own filth, or you can stand up quickly and get it all over with.
Maybe you’re thinking that Evan will stop by to check on you if haven’t been in contact for a while. I wouldn’t count on that. Evan, another person whose habits I know very well, has… left for warmer climes. I fear he won’t be returning. Oh, by the way, your boss was very gracious when I asked him to give you the next 10 days off so that I could surprise you with a second honeymoon. He said to be sure and let you know that he hopes you’ll enjoy the trip. As do I, Dear. As do I.
I loved you,
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, November Rain (k~) gave me this prompt: The letter held something important, something that made moving difficult.. I gave Wendryn this prompt: raspberry tarts and a missing hairpiece
Posted by Barb Black at 5:04:00 PM