Stacy Pease’s favorite things end up on paper. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband and fat baby—she loves her so. She currently works as the Associate Head Coach of Women’s Soccer at IUPUI.
“She’s not even listening,” I say.
“She is,” he says.
“I am,” she says.
I feel my sadness sink deeper into the room’s obligatory sofa, the unbearable weight of our truth anchoring her and I to the stink of these threadbare cushions. I am going to lose her here. After ten years. Here in the stench of thick, stale air and that rotted flower pot shoved into the dusty window frame. Where academic books stack lazily on untouched shelves and a terrarium dangles crookedly from a rusted brass chain in the corner. Here, where tension hangs in a storm cloud over all our heads, threatening to rain.
She knew me then, no matter what she says now. When I carefully buttoned black trousers and tugged my jacket over nervous shoulders, certain the lapels lined up just right. When I tied the laces of leather shoes too tight to feel my toes and tugged the knot of my tie so tightly I feared it may never come undone. She knew me as I waited for her at the end of that long aisle, fingers trembling in the depth of my pockets, searching for something to calm my nerves and steady my feet. Something that meant I belonged here. I stared at those candles that flickered on the windowsills that night, uncertain flames dancing in front of the cold glass and the people that gathered there. A light in the dark. She was that for me.
“Then she doesn’t care,” I say.
“She does,” he says.
“I do,” she says.
This time she can’t even look at me. Her hair is as red as I’ve ever seen it, pulled back harshly, accentuating her rouge-dusted cheekbones and the way she no longer cares for me. Her dress pants and silk blouse are midnight black, paired perfectly with high heels that shine in same scarlet shade as my broken heart. Despite the office’s heavy, dull light I can still see her. She thinks I can’t, but I can. Even the relentless dust circling in the air, working hard as a chalky camouflage, can’t hide her.
But she could see me then, even if she says she didn’t. When she brought the baby home and the floorboards shook with cries – in the night, in the day. In the moments in between. When I snuck out to the porch, unhidden by the creaking door decorated with rusty hinges. She could see me when I pretended time had stopped in the quiet of smoke, but mostly in lukewarm liquor, the relieving burn building as it traveled down my throat and buried itself in an angry chest. I waited until the baby lay asleep sometimes, until she’d crept upstairs alone, and then I’d come creeping too. Into bed, under blankets, intoxicated by the peace I felt in my loose limbs.
“You don’t love me anymore,” I say.
“She does,” he says.
“I do,” she says.
It’s the shrink’s turn now, and he’s searching nervously for a safe place that his eyes might land, hiding behind his tortoise rims and smudged lenses that he thinks build a wall between us. His wandering eyes finally decide on his shoes, faded black and faux leather, rubbed raw at the toe that beats an anxious rhythm into the tired Berber carpet. That same murky orange stain sneaks further out from under his arm chair, pinning me in the room’s loneliest corner. A familiar tingle dances in my chest and begins its work down my arms and out through my fingertips. There isn’t air enough for us all in here.
I disappeared that day. The kind of boring Tuesday you’d forget had ever happened if it wasn’t for the way the world shook beneath your feet. The kind where you walk right up to that office door, open like she doesn’t give a damn, lights dimmed and purple flowers resting in a shallow vase you never gave to her. He stood there too, and close enough their lips could touch. He caressed her cheek so gently, but stood so tall and so strong. The way I’d once tried to do, but could never get quite right. Her eyes glittered even though the light was dim, with that calloused hand on her forgetful cheek. I waited, but she never saw me there. I waited, but she never saw me again at all.
“But you’re leaving,” I cry.
And in the silence of this moment after, I feel the room grow cold, and the stretch of the swollen storm cloud finally bursts open. A rain heavier than you’ve ever seen falls wildly and carves out streams of anguish down the cheeks of my face, the bitterness of this moment ripe in my mouth, a copper penny on my tongue. With every silent and broken bit that I am, I plead for the storm to end. I plead for her not to go.
“She is,” he said.
“I am,” she said.