You’re a Fool.She stood at the door staring at the man she married a lifetime ago. He slept on his stomach; she was disturbed by the largeness of it.
“You’re a fool, Kenneth.”
His eyes opened and surveyed the grey walls before falling onto his wife standing in the doorway.
“I love you too, darling.”
He closed his eyes again.
The pale grey walls in the brick house on the corner in the suburb of the town where both their parents had grown up.
He ate over the kitchen sink, he never picked up the crumbs… she did that, watching him.
“You’re a fool, Kenneth.”
“I love you too, darling.”
“You always leave the crumbs in the sink, Kenneth. By the time I get home from work they get soggy.”
He lifted his head from the newspaper it was buried in.
“Sorry, darling, I was reading the sports section. What was that?”
“Never mind, Kenneth. I’m going to work.”
He sat down on the couch with a bowl of cereal. Second course. It was Wednesday the 11th of October.
She arrived home every night to the house in the hamlet of the town where both their parents had grown up. Most nights it was 7:00, most. Tonight it was 9:50, Wednesday the 11th of October.
For one year he had started his day with toast over the sink and a bowl of cereal on the couch. His wife went to work at 8:00 and was home at 7:00. He was always sure to be home before 6:00. Tonight he was too late, taking his shoes off as his wife walked in the door.
“I’m home, Kenneth.”
“I see you, darling. Late one tonight?”
“I could say the same, Kenneth. Did you pick up the crumbs like I asked this morning?”
“I didn’t hear you ask, darling!”
“You’re a fool, Kenneth.”
“And you’re a bitch, Julia.”
She pulled off her boots and watched him walk into the grey kitchen; the sky matched the walls, and the pallor of his skin.
“Are you just going to continue in this?”
“In what, Julia?”
“Are you going to keep walking?”
“There aren’t many places to go besides where I’m headed. Where I go.”
“I swear to god, Kenneth, rinse the sink before I lose it.”
“Christ, Julia, there are people that can help you with disorders like this.”
He put a piece of white bread in the toaster and turned around smirking.
“You always clean it up anyway so what’s the point of talking about it this much?”
“I clean up your mess, and my own mess, you bastard. I’m the only one doing anything productive in this house.”
“I’m productive too!”
“But you’re not, Kenneth.”
“Does that make us any different? Are you so superior just because you clean up?”
“I think Kenneth… I think we’re less different than I originally thought.”
His toast popped and he ate it dry, leaning over the sink staring out the large kitchen window.
She sat at the kitchen table. Rubbing her temples to aid “the headache” she never really had. He’s always known. She just found out but realises that she’s always known too. They both knew that their eyes were too cold to meet any more.
“I’m going to bed Kenneth. One of us has to get up in the morning.”
“Whatever, Julia. I’ll be up for a while.”
The stale kitchen air was hushed as she stared at the grime under his fingernails, he at her unwashed hair.
“You’ve gotten so old.” They both thought it of each other but neither said a word.
She went upstairs.
“You’re a whore.”
“That’s a double standard.”
It was the 27th of October.
He was out. She had her first day off since he called her a bitch. She thought about his grey skin as she looked at the walls. Sunlight. She needed the sun and she needed the life she thought she could have with him. She was almost tall enough to reach the sun.
“I need to be home more.” She thought.
It was the 14th of December.
She cleaned the house, top to bottom.
“It’s okay, it’s okay it’s okay.”
She couldn’t get it out of her head. She justified it to herself over and over and over. Tonight, tonight she would do it. She entered their room.
The bed and the wall it stood against got none of the natural light streaming in from the window. She put down her laundry basket and stared into the suburb she understood better than she understood her husband.
“I hate this fucking place.”
As she stood up she noticed exactly what she had been hoping for. Peeking out from under the bed. Her guilt evaporated and was replaced with the smugness she had been pining after. There it was. A gift from whomever was up there, she used to think she knew that answer. At least she had one thing to grip onto with certainty. She waited for him to come home.
“Give up, Kenneth.”
“Why darling, whatever do you mean?”
The two glasses of wine they drank were larger than either of their hearts at that moment. As the wine depleted, neither knew, but their hearts shrank alongside the drinks. In a happy home so to speak.
“I found her things under our bed.”
“It’s not just me giving up.”
“Whatever do you mean, my love?”
Her sarcastic tone made him falter; that didn’t happen often. He went on, angry at her ability to still get under his skin.
“I ran into him about three weeks ago. He was coming from our house, and your perfume was on his neck.”
“You hugged him?”
“Aren’t you happy?”
“I guess so.”
They looked at each other. Their eyes truly met for the first time in weeks. Fire in hers and indifference in his - no surprises. They each took another sip of wine.
“It’s for the best.”
The words were spoken at the same instant, coming from both of their tightly pursed mouths. Simultaneously destroying them both, but throwing the bigger picture in their faces. It tore because tradition demanded so, but their heads and their hearts knew that in the long run, this was the one true path to happiness.
“What do we do?” The fire in her eyes turned to ice and then melted. They were two people, destroyed but happy.
“We move on.”
“Is it that simple?”
“Haven’t we proven how simple it is to each other yet?”
“I reckon so.”
“Isn’t it at all strange?”
“Of course Julia, Jesus Christ.”
“Well you just seem so calm about it all!”
He looked at the woman he had once loved, once cared for. She could die today and his heart would carry on being happy because he was rid of her pestilence, her arrogance, the sadness she brought in the door, taking her boots off every damn day at 7:00. Yet there was something holding him back from jumping for joy, like he always imagined he would do when this moment finally arrived. He could leave, justified in his own mind for doing so.
“Do you love me, Julia?”
“I did, shouldn’t that count?”
“It means nothing now.”
“Fuck you, Kenneth. It’s been years since you loved me. I’m not the only guilty party.”
“Human nature dictates…”
“Stop. I don’t care how qualified you are, you won’t tell me about my nature.”
“Oh, do tell all mighty Julia, what would you like to hear?”
“That you don’t love me either.”
He threw back his wine and whipped the glass towards the sink. She looked at him, her eyes freezing back over. The one moment of humanity between them, gone forever. It wasn’t a graceful transition.
“I’ll be leaving then.”
“Good because she’s coming here.”
“A weighty assumption to make.”
“You just said you’re leaving.”
“I get half, that’s the deal.”
“Ah, so the important points come out.”
“As if you care, Kenneth. Do we have a deal?”
“We both signed it.”
“Women are more protected.”
“According to you, I’m not productive.”
“But you have the money…”
“Who’s to say?”
It was her turn to whip the wine glass. The effect, however, was a little more dramatic than she intended.
The giant kitchen window smashed and the snow blew in within seconds.
“You’ve lost it.”
“Tends to happen when your husband won’t talk to you, at all.”
“I’ve kept my shit together, Julia. You’re not the only victim in this.”
“I don’t care anymore, Kenneth. I really and truly don’t.”
“Cover the window.”
“Do it yourself, I’m leaving. Be gone by 11:00 tomorrow morning. I’ll be by to gather my things.”
“Oh darling, so quick to give up on love.”
“We both lost it long ago, Kenneth. Fuck off and grow up.”
She whipped her head around, halfway through the foyer, on her way to putting her boots on.
“You’re a fool.”
She put on her boots and left. She drove around the corner away from the house, pulled over and began to sob. It was slow at first. Then faster. Then faster. As she continued to cry, Julia realised the sunshine liberation she had so desperately clung to as her last escape was here, but it was less gratifying the more she thought.
“Another man. Eventually another house, another lack of love.”
Humanity was ugly. Her sobs only contributed to the thought that,
“I am alone.”
It had all gone so wrong. She used to love him, maybe she still did, if he could get as deep as he was, under her skin. Sunshine seemed worthless in the light of winter night.
“I am alone, but it’s okay.”
She had chosen to leave him, his mind and his heart.
He looked at the broken window his wife had smashed minutes before.
“Did I ever love her?”
Yes, the answer was yes. He hated her too, though. The way Julia, fucking Julia, had done what she did and yet he was still the bad guy and there she was inside his brain, under his skin, in his soul as the woman it had all begun with. Would the new one be any better?
“Another woman, the same house, eventually another lack of love?”
He was unsure, he hated that.
He looked at the broken window, covered it by taping garbage bags over it, turned off the kitchen light, and went to their bedroom. Shakily he picked up the phone and called. He felt dirty, he hated that too.
She looked back at where the house was a few streets away. She turned back and drove into the night towards sunshine. She was unsure how welcome it would be when it finally appeared though. She was unsure, but away from him felt clean. The morning would need cleaning, but she could deal with that.
It was unresolved. At least, the foolishness had ended.