It probably all began far before the argument.
It might have even begun before the affair he had, no matter how brief it was. He wanted an excuse to end it, her mind cried at her. His penis only gave him the excuse he was looking for.
… The fact it was with one of her students was just the icing on the cake.
“How many times do I have to say I’m sorry?”
She turned back to him; it was the first time she even dared to look at him since he broke the news to her that morning before her flight. And yet all she could think right then was why did he have to chase her around the house in that old raggedy bathrobe? That damn old weather worn bathrobe he bought on their honeymoon. “God, help me,” she thought to herself staring at the pleading man, “he looks like a broken bunny in that hideous thing.”
She grabbed her keys off the kitchen counter as angrily as such an action could be; stepped over the bowl of cereal she shattered on the kitchen floor; and threw up her hands as she walked past him. “I don’t care if you’re sorry or not. It really doesn’t matter now.”
“It doesn’t matter?” he sounded floored by the concept. “How can it not matter?”
She sighed by the front door, and spun back to him. “Can you go back in time?”
“Can you go back and stop yourself from inserting your penis…”
“Stop it!” he interrupted; covering his ears almost like a child would when being scolded. “Do you have to be so vulgar about it?” He removed his hands, now taking on the posture of a parent with his hands on his hips. How fast the switch was made astonished her.
“Vulgar?” She was becoming so angry her right hand was starting to shake. She hated when this happened, it always felt like to her like a part of her body was revolting against her mind. Vomiting at that moment felt too easy. “You do that and call me…”
“Would you rather I didn’t tell you?” He interrupted. “I could’ve kept it a secret.”
“I’d rather you didn’t do it in the first place,” her voice cracked on the last word, almost sounding like a cough. No, she wasn’t about to cry, she told herself, she wouldn’t give him that satisfaction… assuming he would feel satisfied to know he broke her spirit.
He didn’t respond to her last point, he went on with his pathetic reasoning he had already repeated three times that day while she attempted to put on her old trench coat (first putting her arms in the wrong sleeves, getting it right the second time). “I didn’t know if she would’ve said something to the other students or faculty. I didn’t want people talking behind your back. I thought you knowing could help avoid any discomfort, get you ahead of any of the tales and…” his voice losing steam as she faced him again.
“So this,” she was so angry she had to work to get each word out in something less than a scream. “So this—this!— is for my benefit?”
“I didn’t say that.”
She turned to the door and she heard him take a step closer behind her. She whirled with a speed she would not have thought possible before this morning. “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!” She said holding up her finger like a librarian silencing a child. “You are not coming outside.”
“Why the Hell not?”
She spoke slowly, hoping it would help him to understand her point. “Because I don’t want the neighbors to see us arguing, I don’t want Ms. Florence to hear us going at it. If she hears, if she sees, everyone in the neighborhood will see. I’ll become something to be pitied, you will become… Even though, knowing her and her ears and eyes, she probably has pictures of you and…” She couldn’t even finish her sentence or even say the name. (Her name was Alice. Alice, it felt like a swear word now to her, something to be blurted out only in anger. Alice was 19. Alice had cute frickles and a slightly twisted smile. Alice thought she knew everything and up until 8:10 this morning Alice sometimes reminded her now-furious professor of herself at that age.)
She gasped. It was as if she lost breath, or some higher power had turned her voice box off. “I… I…” Her mind, her wonderfully brilliant mind that she could always rely on, was failing her for the first time that she could remember. It was like a little death. Her wonderful reality she created was falling apart around her. All she could do was mumble, “Just stay in here.” She then picked up two of her bags and her purse and left out the door as quickly as possible.
Of course he followed her outside, stopping the door from slamming in his face. “You can’t tell me what to do!”
“Clearly, you don’t need to explain that to me now,” she said walking forward to her car, She was so grateful her voice had returned, and it was as clear and as crisp as she liked it to sound while lecturing at her college. That was exactly where she wanted it.
She was trying her best to carry her purse and two bags; she mentally cursed herself that she would have to return to that house (she already had a hard time thinking of it as her home) for the box filled with the copies of her book her publisher wanted her to push at the conference. It all felt so trivial now, and yet here she was going through the motions of a reality dying in increments around her.
She wanted to curse at everything; from the house to him to even the weather. Yes, even the weather angered her right then. She always hated those in-between moments in nature, she found it all lazy, but why she couldn’t say exactly; like mother nature couldn’t make up her mind and wanted to be all things at that moment. So there was light rain, there was snow, there was mud, and there was ice; all things wet, cold, and messy. The part of her that loved literature couldn’t help but think it was symbolic of her marriage and nature was mocking her on her own literary terms.
Damn them all.
She wanted nothing more than to scream until her voice went hoarse. She almost too aggressively dropped her two bags on the ground by her car. If her laptop was in that bag instead of her purse, it would have been history, a collection of broken keys and memory.
She opened the back door of her car, and froze. “No, no, no, no, no,” she said, shaking her head for each quick no. “This is not right.”
What?” he asked quickly. “What is not right?” Was that a hint of hope in his voice?
“I’m taking your car.” She slammed her door on her gray coupe, struggled to pick back up her bags, the bottoms now wet and muddy, and turned to the other car in the driveway. The mustang, his 1968 red mustang GT, his dream that he worked on for years… The car, she realized now, that he worked on more than their marriage; his first midlife crisis, he had two she could point to now. In her literary professor mind, metaphors and symbols were falling around her like the drops of the cold rain. She couldn’t escape the point that this moment, this morning, was a turning point in her life, a plot point, something that would define her. “It’s my baby now.”
“It’s my car,” he said, stunned, and then added stupidly: “I drive it.”
She glanced up at him with as much venom as her eyes could spit that damp morning. “If you can fuck one of my college students, I can drive your car.”
He had no argument for that—how could he?—and watched helpless as she opened the front driver’s door, throwing her first bag and purse into the passenger seat and the second bag into the backseat. Now she just had to think of her box of books. That would be heavy, that would be difficult and awkward to carry, but she was not going to ask the cheater to carry it for her.
As she moved away from the car, she noticed out of the corner of her eye the rustle of the blinds in the neighbor’s house. Oh, good, Ms. Florence wasn’t missing a thing. Wonderful.
They were a performance piece now, a little play, for the entertainment of others. He created this show, and all she could do was play her part, her role as the angry mistreated wife.
She pushed past him with a shove into his chest with her shoulder (the chest she once would hug for comfort, squeeze close in passion; now she was hurting it, hoping for a bruise, right near his still beating heart); he flinched which made her a little happier, and walked onto the lawn—past the tree they planted when they moved in and the Shakespeare roses she never spends enough time caring for—up to the mud-covered path to the front door and her waiting box of books.
He didn’t offer to help carry it. No matter how small her arms were to the size of the package, no matter how much she grunted out under its weight, he didn’t offer even the slightest hint of help or acknowledgement, lost in his own thoughts. She hoped some of those thoughts were regrets, but did it matter? No, she had no time to think of it this morning.
Why did he have to tell her this morning?
This morning of all mornings?
Did he think she would just eat her cereal, not understanding the severity of his words, and then leave for the four day conference happy that everything was out in the open? And even if she wanted to save this marriage would she feel safe with him by himself for four days… No, she couldn’t think thoughts like that yet. It was all too soon.
She put the box on the wet hood and lowered the front seat of the driver’s side, attempting then to position the box in the backseat. It was almost too big. If she was even an inch taller she would have had issues with the front seat too far forward.
“I love you,” he gasped out.
“No, you don’t,” she returned, “if you did you would have died before breaking my heart.” It felt so cheesy to her after the words left her mouth, no matter how true, reminding her of all the bad romance stories (many including vampires) that her students would dare bring up in her classic literature courses.
She started the car. The old engine exploded in noise; she found it wonderfully loud and aggressive, covering her thoughts and possibly his pleas, if he was pleading.
Yet… no… with her spirit she couldn’t just end there, not with that cheesy line hanging in the air. No, she had to say something more, something biting, something harsh, cruel, and so very proper for the moment. Something that summed up all of her anger at that moment. She rolled down her window, shouting over the lion-like roar of the engine. “Try not to fuck anyone while I’m gone.”
And then she rolled up the window before he could say something in return, inwardly enjoying that little moment, thinking almost strangely casual that it would work in a book, if she ever got around to writing a book that was fiction as compared to academic about fiction.
As she pulled away she heard one last outburst from the now wet broken bunny she was leaving behind, but it was not directed at her.
“Did you get all of that Ms. Florence? Did you?”
She rocketed the car into the airport with a reckless abandonment she never would have considered before. It almost felt like the racing video games she would sit on the couch and watch her husband play out of the corner of her eye back when they were young (him focusing on his game, her reading a book with her feet resting on his lap). That was long past; she would never have the patience now to watch him and his silly games. Actually, if given the time at the moment, she would have thrown all of it out the window, watching his little joys shatter on the pavement.
She smiled at that image. That would have been nice. It wouldn’t have been fair of course, nothing she could do to him would make it equal to what he did to her, but it would have still felt good.
She skipped the entrance for the parking garage, choosing to park in a no-loading zone. A security guard was standing there by the door, watching with a hint of something between shock and surprise. He may have been confused but all she could think was that it was all strangely perfect.
“Here,” she said, tossing the keys to the guard, who awkwardly caught them, his mouth now agape.
“You can tow it or keep it, it’s your call,” she said slowly and with no emotion, giving even a little smirk at the end.
It would have been all so smooth, so very smooth, if she didn’t realize when the plane hit the runway that she left one of her bags and the box full of the copies of her new book in the backseat.
If you would like to learn more about Permanent Spring Showers, you can reach me at AJAD.Southard@gmail.com.
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