Prettier than any flower

It’s a neon November, and the boy at the loud bar is trying to come up with something smart to say to the girl, a friend of a friend who is slouching and smoking ultralights and kind of looking around. He exhales and asks the girl if she wants to go some place quiet, like outside for a walk.

“You mean in the dark and the cold with an odd boy I don’t know?”

He nods.

“I’d love to.”

Two weeks pass, and the odd boy finds himself clomping along a path with the slouching girl on a warm afternoon. She tells him about her mermaid job and how she can train a pig to swim and how her father walked away after 31 years of marriage.

“I murder relationships, too,” she warns, smiling a little, as they put one foot in front of another and step into a yellow glade.

***

The man blames her sometimes. He wants to train for bike races and meet friends at clubs and hike the Inca Trail, but there isn’t time or money and even when there is, he’s too tired. For a while, he holds on to who he was, the athlete, the traveler, but when the second baby arrives, he lets go. Some days he wants to pull the blinds and stay in bed all day.

The woman blames him, too. He sleeps through the baby crying and he doesn’t close the bathroom door anymore and he zones out when she talks about her job and he’s pissed off most of the time. Some days she can barely stand to look at him.

***

It’s a black January, and the odd boy is riding his bike on an icy night to the slouching girl’s house. She hasn’t answered the phone for two days, and he’s determined to find out what’s going on. Right now. This very evening.

As he rolls past her car and stares at her dark house, the boy gets his answer, without peeking in her window, without even slowing down. He just knows. The boy pedals down the empty street, and the girl sleeps in the still house, and the boy knows he’s been dumped.

A month passes before the odd boy finds the courage to dial the girl.

“Happy Ground Hog Day,” he says into the receiver. He wants to admit that he really phoned because he misses her, but the boy doesn’t dare. He doesn’t dare tell her his hurt is as heavy as an anvil. He doesn’t confess that he gets drunk almost every night.

“I’m glad you called,” the girl says.

“I am, too.”

He doesn’t admit that he writes her poems in notebooks and on napkins. He doesn’t tell her that her voice is prettier than any flower.

***

The man fails on Valentine’s Day. He stands in line at the grocery store to buy flowers and a bottle of cabernet and chocolate just like last year and the year before.

“You shouldn’t have,” the woman says like last year and the year before.

He’ll fail on her birthday and their anniversary and Christmas, too. She’ll be gracious and remind him that the gift doesn’t matter, but truth is, it does some. Almost everything matters.

***

It’s a green March and the slouching girl is knocking at the odd boy’s door. Her eyes are pink from red wine and too much sun and too little sleep.

“Walk with me?” she asks.

“You mean in the dark and the cold?”

“Come on.” She tugs on his shirt, looking at him sideways, smiling. “I don’t have cooties. Not many anyway.”

And the odd boy knows. He just knows.

***

The man and the woman are finally kicking back after working all day and making dinner and bathing the children and cleaning the kitchen and feeding the dogs and folding the laundry.

“Who are you again?” the woman asks.

“I’m pretty sure I’m your husband.”

“My husband, eh? That’s good to know because you’re sort of cute.”

“Only ‘sort of’?”

“Sure. I’d do you. I mean, why not.”

The woman looks at him sideways and smiles, and her expression takes him back, back to March all those years ago, back to the slouching girl at his door.

“I might just take you up on that one of these days,” the man says, and he sees her, sees her to the bone, this girl, this woman with the career and the wide grin, this mother with the wrinkles and the sagging skin. She’s still a knock out, even after all this time.

“Good night, Husband,” she mumbles a few minutes later as she ambles towards bed. Her ankle is swollen from jogging that morning and her posture is getting worse and her voice is still prettier than any flower.

“Sweet dreams, Wife,” he says and lingers for a few seconds in an emotion that’s as soft and kind as summer mist.

Then he notices the remote and picks it up and turns the TV on.

Note: Some of this fact; some of this invented. I suppose that means it’s like everything else that’s ever been written. Also, I cannibalized several sentences from a post I wrote on this very blog a couple of years ago. I can do that, right? Eat my own.

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2 Responses to “Prettier than any flower”


  1. 1 Martianqueen February 27, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    You had me at neon November. Always loved this one. Reminds me of the lobster post.


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