@2014 Mary Anderson Parks
He has not been cruel for a long time and then he is, when I had been lulled into drawing a little closer, opening up like a flower, like the poor fragile beauties that grow so bravely in the garden. He slammed out of the house just now and left me quivering in my chair. But he comes back (he often comes back because he acts in such haste he forgets things, makes mistakes . . . stupid, isn’t it?) and I have moved to the kitchen table and have my head in my hands, desolate. Out of pride I sit up when I hear him, intending to stare into the bouquet of dahlias until he leaves again.
But he needs me. He came back because he forgot to have me sign the tax form. I glance away from the dahlias to sign it. Odd he still needs me for something so important! And that he forgot! Oh yes I am feeling bitter, and sarcastic too. The words he said when he slammed out still ring in my head: “You’re annoying!” At least he didn’t call me stupid, as he’s been known to, just “annoying.” All I’d said was: “I don’t think it’s good for you to do things in such a rush.”
Now, unable to keep my annoying mouth shut, I say, “I don’t know why you had to call me that in such a mean way.”
“I’ve got to get to the post office and I have a lot of work to do today,” he responds. “I don’t have time to fool around.”
“Excuse me for existing then,” I mutter. Such a trite thing to say. I’m ashamed of my lack of originality. Now he rushes off again, leaving me like a beached whale, high and dry and angry.
So I cry and scream. Then, worn out, I stray through the dining room and find his checkbook and the letter from the tax consultant and see that he neglected in his stupid haste all her clear, simple directions. Yes it is a she. Does he find her annoying? Too annoying to pay attention to? A deep-down part of me feels sorry for him. He makes himself as miserable as me when he acts like this.
He forgot to put his social security number, daytime phone and “1998 tax form 1040” on the check. I can tell from the carbon copy. He has in his annoying stupid haste forgotten just about everything. Mostly his wife. No, he focused all his resentment on me, how can I say I was forgotten? I strap on sandals, grab a coat and purse and run to the corner, always the crazy woman. I wait for a bus and lunge from it like a long distance runner when it stops near the post office. I dash down the street and through the post office door, but he is not there. All the way I had visions of him standing in a long line or already at the counter, and me, like the bad fairy, intruding into his world, his consciousness.
I can’t help myself. I intrude further. I walk to the campus building where he works, stopping at a Ladies Room to put on lipstick, jolted to do so by the presence of youth. Back again in the hallway, I pass two girls in low-slung jeans with short tops that show their belly buttons, a boy and girl necking and a young man on skates. How interesting that such things are allowed. At his door I peek through the glass. He sits stony faced at his desk, oblivious to all the life around him. His face softens with the surprise of me walking in.
He doesn’t think his errors crucial, when I tell him. What else can he say, he already mailed off the forms.
“I’ll drive you home,” he offers.
“No!” I turn on my heel, for once able to be the one who leaves the other sitting in a chair. At the doorway I pause. “I’m capable, you know, of getting myself home.” I should have worn my floppy hat. Then I’d look like Greta Garbo and those young girls could eat their hearts out.
At home I unplug the phone. Escape is on my mind but the will is not there. Or the plan. Where would I go? And why? Why be somewhere else? What would I do? Here there are recurring duties, like signing annual tax forms.
Later I sit by the window smiling. The best part is I went out into his world and I didn’t break. I went both ways all by myself. No matter that he came home for lunch to make sure I got here all right.
Perhaps you think I’m a spoiled brat. No, I’m not talking to the voices in my head. I know there is someone out there hearing me. Anyway, I hope so. Remember when I threw my wedding ring out the window? The gardener brought it back to me. I had so many feelings about that. We’ve been having conversations, the gardener and I. He is thirty-eight and seems to think I am maybe just a few years older. I don’t tell him my age. There is much more I am not telling.