As the sun tucks into twilight across the city, the Friday exodus begins.
I squeeze in alongside all the other turtles jostling for position.
Reliable purveyors of long winded horns, and third finger salutes,
we inch across a troll’s toll bridge
and toward the promise of a weekend reprieve
somewhere down the road.
At our front door the sweet notes of a symphony pirouette around me –
like ballerinas spinning ribbons.
A vinyl purist, since we met, you’ve waited for me before putting the newest record on.
I am gentled by your tender gesture.
On the table, the wine is breathing and glasses sparkle in the candlelight.
I move to embrace you.
Potato chips, spilled last night, crunch beneath my feet, becoming part of the music.
“You’re home early.”
“I left at lunch. It felt wonderful to just do nothing.”
A tinge of envy clips my kiss.
I step away, eyeing the stack of unwashed dishes on the counters
and the laundry baskets in the hall.
“‘Did you at least remember the dry cleaning?”
My question spits like hot grease from a frying pan.
Stung by my waspish temper, your head falls forward and you look very young;
Like a small child who picked his mother a flower, from her garden, and was spanked instead of embraced.
I am appalled by my own words.
You, indifferent to my shamefaced apology, blow out the candles.
“You forgot the take out didn’t you? “
The music’s joyful tempo is usurped by your stroppy tone and my remorse disappears.
“You were supposed to do that too.” I mutter.
“I was not! How could you forget the damn food? “
“It wasn’t my damn turn.” I am red faced.
And we have regressed to grade-school, playground, squabbling.
In the background, the woodwinds section blows sour notes,
I drop my coat and say there’s cereal or leftovers to eat.
With a dramatic sweep of hand, you gesture toward the wine glasses.
“Oh that’s just beautiful! Oat bran always pairs well with a Chardonnay. Oh, and a nice Riesling for the day old food. What do you think?”
Our sheltered space swells with grievances.
Beyond our windows, an inky gloom grays the silver of the stars and washes over the pale watery moon.
Snarling, with hackles raised, we hiss and circle, like tomcats in an alley.
In the background, the string minuet sounds cartoonish.
We claw with words, our notes prolonged.
Spiteful jargon parries with insults, keeping time with a Coda of horns.
Then our shrill tones of, ‘you always’ and ‘you never’, warp the flute interlude.
When you pause for breath, I build to a crescendo to say one last thing.
Your eyes narrow to slits and you brandish the remote control like a baton.
You have become the demented maestro of this madcap orchestra.
Your mouth is set in a grim line of intention.
Your thumb mashes down on the volume button
until your skin turns white and the speakers crackle and squeal.
Musical notes careen through the air like umbrellas in a hurricane.
The violin concerto turns to nails on slate
My stomps down the hall become echoes of curses – percussion to your raucous nonsense.
I slam the bedroom door and the hollow wood sings its part in our discordant symphony.
In the thrashing racket of sounds
I hope your ears rupture
And you bleed (to death.)
I hope it’s out of my line of sight
So I can tell the callers at the casket that it was ‘so sudden’
And pretend I give a rat’s raggedy ass
About your sorry own.
In the morning you will ply me with fresh coffee and I will rise to fix our breakfast.
We will mix together apologies with the sugar from our teaspoons
The night, done with its malfeasance, will leave the restoration of us to the new day.
Kathleen Daley is a lifelong New Englander, enchanted by the muse of the seasons. She views her art as a God given gift that allows her to peek behind what is obvious and to coax out what is hiding. She delights in the full freedom of fiction and embraces the ‘What if?’ of a writers mind as the most stirring part of her existence.
At sixty-three years old, the former addictions counselor is also a lupus survivor, a staunch recovery and mental health advocate and the married mother of two beautiful sons.