It's depressing to notice that I used to be a much better writer than I am these days. Not sure what happened. I just stumbled across something I wrote years ago in a depressive little snit and, oddly enough, here I am three years later and I find it in a very similar depressive snit and here it is and it's gorgeous. Just really nice. Completely forgot it existed and I stopped writing it because I thought it was garbage. It's clearly not garbage. And now I want to finish it but I'm afraid to ruin it. I'll put it here as is for now.
Happiness used to be easier. It’s terrible now. So much energy and planning go into our happiness, every day, day after day after day after day. Terrible aching happiness. Milky grey happiness. Dull. Wrinkled. Laughter. Day after day after day. And on and on. I’m tired. Thrillingly tired. So tired. Sleep. Just sleep.
She’s gone. I don’t know where she went. The couch is missing. She left a note and an apple pie for me. I threw away the note and I don’t want to eat the apple pie just yet. It was sweet of her to do that. I love her apple pie. Perfect every time. If our life was more like her pie, she wouldn’t have left. I’d still have my couch. I’ll let the pie go for now. I don’t need the note. I know what it says. I think I know what it says. It probably says: “Dear Lewis. I left. Love Diane.” She’d know I wouldn’t want much more than that, especially now. I don’t like sad news. She knew me well enough that it was probably addressed to the trash can. Or maybe “Dear Lewis. Let the pie cool a bit before you eat it. There’s ice cream in the freezer.” I’d always eat the pie too hot. It’d wind up burning my mouth and then my chin and then the back of my hand. Fahb! I’d try to yell fuck, but it’d come out Fahb! Because that’s burned mouth for Fuck and Hot at the same time. I burned my mouth so many times through our marriage. I know there’s ice cream in the freezer. Even now, with her leaving, she’s going to take care of me a little bit. That’s what it all broke down to anyway, towards the end. It was just boring. We just served each other different foods. There was nothing left. Just Vanilla Bean and Pie.
She had to leave. She had a hat store to open in Seattle anyway. She always wanted to move back to Seattle. She’d spent time there as a child and found that the climate matched her disposition and provided a need for good, sturdy hats. She loved hats. When we got married she wouldn’t wear a veil. Her mother pleaded with her to wear a veil. The dress was her mothers, handed down for three generations. Diane obeyed from the neck down and the ankles up. She wouldn’t wear a veil, she’d find herself a hat. And she had really wide feet. Like a bear. Hilarious, but she was sensitive about it. One night at dinner she’d dropped her fork and I suggested she eat with her feet. Or something. I don’t remember the exact phrase because by the time I got to the meaty part of the line, her eyes burned a hole straight through me. She was furious. Didn’t say another word all night. When we got home she punched me in the ribs and laughed and ran upstairs.
She spent the time that women used searching for dresses looking for hats instead. She stole our car every Sunday morning, sometimes Saturday too, to search every shop, every store, every second hand place in town. She’d come home to me later in the day with a full report. Round hats, square hats, prim and neat hats, ornate and bespeckled hats. She’d spend an hour or more telling me about her hat adventures. I’d listen and listen and watch her eyes light up and search the invisible stores that she’d brought home with her. Reaching for hats on high shelves and calling them by name, designer and size. I love her stories, she’d get so excited. You could spend a day watching her laugh. My wife.
It’ll be a damn fine store, once she gets up to Seattle. She’s had it planned for the last five years or so. She built a little diorama in a shoe box and hid it in the cellar where she didn’t think I’d find it. I watched it grow over the years, the register changed places, shelves moved, the employees numbers dropped from five to two a year or so after she built it. She must’ve realized the cost of the average hat vs the average pay of an employee and how many hats she’d have to sell to support a five person staff. Smart girl, went to Yale.
That box. Amazing that you could keep a marriage in a shoe box. A tiny little space to keep it. Smaller than that pie pan over there. When we’d have fights, or after a slow stretch, I’d see sharp progression in the design of the store. I’d look in on it and the wall paper would be different, or the employees would be more detailed, the racks would change. One night we got into it pretty bad. I’d called her names. She’d smacked me. It doesn’t matter why. It happens every so often, to the best of marriages. Sometimes you hate that person. Hate. Genuine hate for the person you love the most. It happens to everybody. I felt so bad that night I couldn’t sleep. I walked to the kitchen to get a glass of water and saw the cellar light was on. She was hard at work.
The next day I woke up and her model had gained a second floor. The shelves moved up and down. Sliders controlled the employees, like those old arcade hockey games. Fabulous details had been introduced. Faces were flushed out, full and lifelike. Both were very pretty. Their name tags read: Justine and Amy. Justine was a leggy blonde girl with big red lips and an hourglass figure. Amy was an intellectual, a smart bun in her hair, glasses and a sensible skirt. My wife hadn’t made a figurine for herself yet.
It was quiet for about a week after our fight. I was sorry, but was also angry that she was constructing this new life for herself. It was something I couldn’t be a part of, I couldn’t go to Seattle. I couldn’t ruin her Seattle and her new life. I was resentful, and sad. She finally spoke first. Nothing groundbreaking, just something to shatter the silence. Something to let me know it was ok to talk again. A nervous little stammer that made it ok. And it was so brave, so brave of her to do that. I wouldn’t have been able to do it. What if I didn’t talk back? What if she spoke and I didn’t say anything? My brave girl. “I made some coffee, do you want some?” And I did. She always knew. She carried out a black cup of peace offering and we sat again in silence, but it wasn’t the same. We made some steps back in the right direction, we needed a bit to bask in the achievement. It’s what everyone does.
That was a Friday. Saturday morning I repaid her. I made her breakfast in bed. I got up at first light and went to the farmers market down the road. I got all her favorite things and loaded them in a bag. I said goodbye to Larry and made her a big breakfast. Bacon, eggs, fresh juice, some fruit for after. I loaded it onto a little tray we have for when I need to apologize or for a birthday or some special day, and carried it up to her. We shared breakfast and spent the rest of the day in bed.
The next day she’d rethought the second floor and removed it completely.
I come home from work every few days now and something is missing. The couch was the first to go. The most noticeable. Days would go by and I would wind up reaching for something that wasn’t there. I leave the remote for the television set in a little caddy that hangs over the armrest of my recliner. It’s called The Remote Holster! I bought it for seven dollars at Target. I walk in my front door, my back to the TV, ceremoniously situate my ass in my favorite brown chair and reach for my Remote Holster! On Thursday I went through the usual motions and the remote was gone. The Remote Holster! was gone. I kept slapping at my side looking at the empty space where my TV used to be. She didn’t have to take that.
I’m not really sure why she took the television, she never watched it. I bought it. I watched it. She left another little note on the floor where the TV was. It was folded up like the one before it. I didn’t read this one either. I just put it in my pocket and threw it away when I got to be closer to a trash can. I assume it read: “Took television set.”
It’s hard to figure out exactly when everything collapsed. It could’ve been a bad meal as much as anything else. We were so constantly set on making the other one as comfortable as we could be without really taking time enough that we were happy. Or the other was happy for that matter. We didn’t worry about being happy nearly enough, we focused to much on ‘comfortable’ that’s a dangerous place to be.
I made a bad steak a month ago. Maybe that was it. Maybe not. It wasn’t that bad. She said it was dry and didn’t finish it. I tried to make it up to her by offering to take her out for ice cream, or go to pick up ice cream, but she just went to sleep instead. It was only seven o’clock. She went to sleep instead of talking about me and our bad steak or eat ice cream and watch Law and Order. I’m not sure which Law and Order it was, but she loved them. She kept tabs on all the Law and Orders, which is no easy thing to do. There’s about nine of them now.
When I got home today my recliner was gone. And four of the knickknacks from the counter above the stove. We’d kept little things that we got from vacations and gift shops on the little counter above the stove, it was something we always did. “For the stove!” was a general exclamation from my wife once or twice a vacation. Then she’d spread them out on the hotel bed, and go over each and every one and weigh the pros and cons of the purchases. She’d settle on one and throw the rest away. It would bother me to be that wasteful, but she’d always done it and it made her happy, so I let her go. They were cheap anyway. Magnets and trinkets, or yo-yos and games. Little silly things that wouldn’t ordinarily be around a stove, but they delighted her and I’d liked her being so intently interested in something. It was good to see her so interested in something, anything. Just to have something to focus on.
She left once before. But not really. She just retreated to her mother’s house for a week or so. I don’t really know why. There was an unread note about that too. A folded slip of paper on her pillow when I woke up. She’d somehow managed to make her side of the bed without waking me, wrote a note and left for a week. She’d called the next day. She was furious, wondering why I hadn’t called her mothers house. The note was instructing me to call her there.