In and Out – a short story
I fell out of love with her today.
I don’t know how or why, but I did. My saving grace is that I didn’t do anything about it. I sat across from her at our little table in our little kitchen, dimly lit but golden because everything is yellow, from the tabletop to the curtains to the lights. I watched her chew, which is an excellent way to fall out of love with anyone. She chewed her wheat toast with apricot jam noisily and distractedly, smiling down at the giraffe she was doodling on the paper, right beside — oh, in fact, over — the article I had intended to cut out and frame because it hailed the historic win of my favorite baseball team. I watched her hair fall messily over her eyes, and how she flipped it carelessly away so it stood up like a cockatiel for a few seconds before falling back into her eyes, starting the cycle over again every thirty seconds or so. I stared at her, took in how messy and untidy and silly she was, and I winced.
It made me sad because five years ago, all that messy, untidy silliness had endeared me to her greatly. I was enamored with her childish light. Now it seemed garish, blinding me. For a precariously long moment, I wanted to reach over, snatch that paper out from under her pen, tell her to chew with her mouth shut like I was her father, and go and eat my breakfast alone in my armchair. But I didn’t. Thank goodness.
I looked closer at the toast crumbs on her chin, at the hazy film of frizz on top of her newly chopped bob, and the giraffe that she was so delighted in. Again, I winced, so I looked away. I looked out the window, at the cloudy morning, thinking about how it rained all night and how she had curled up in the small of my back like a kitten. How even then, I felt a bit hot and stuffy and annoyed by her presence. It’s a repulsive feeling to realize you rather wish you could sleep on the couch instead of with your own wife, just for one night.
I looked back at her, upset with myself, and found she was putting the last few details on her giraffe, which involved a lot of dark shading, right over the final paragraph of the article I had intended to put on the mantel. I looked away again, not sure what to do or say. I didn’t trust myself. I shook my head quickly, stood up, and walked to the kitchen counter to turn on the radio. I tuned in to a classical piece that, for a moment, turned our kitchen into a moonlit lagoon. The effect wore off rapidly, as she called over her shoulder, mouth full, “Put on something fun, Greg!”
I sighed and turned the thing off. I returned to the table to eat my own breakfast. She was finished with her giraffe, and she looked out the window. I looked at her. I watched her brows furrow a bit as she anxiously observed the remains of the storm. She looked like the sun with a cloud making its way across it. She suddenly looked at me, and our eyes met. I was still solidly out of love with her, but I smiled gently. She blushed a little, smiling back. She reached across the table, palm up, inviting my hand to hers. I took it, and I smiled at her again. In love or out, I was in with her, and I intended to stay. I squeezed her hand and took my plate to the sink, glad I didn’t do anything about it.
Today I fell back in love with him.
It wasn’t like the first time when I fell for everything I perceived him to be, and the infatuation painted him in an exquisite light no matter what he did or said. I was sitting across from him at the kitchen table, eating my toast and sketching on yesterday’s paper. I like giraffes but can never seem to draw one that looks funny in a good way, but today something was going right. I concentrated on the giraffe’s tail, trying to get the curve just right, munching on my first slice of toast.
As I drew, I thought about how nice it would have been to go somewhere this weekend instead of just sitting around. I yawned and pushed my hair out of my eyes tiredly, smiling down at my giraffe.
Across from me, he stood up and went to turn on the radio. He put on some stiff classical piece, full of flutes and harps. I called to him over my shoulder, “Put on something fun, Greg!”
He sighed and turned it off. I sighed, too. He had taken to sighing a lot lately, and I wish he wouldn’t. I always felt like there was something he wanted to talk about, but he didn’t think I’d understand. I pushed that thought away as I finished shading the giraffe’s shadow, and sat back to look at it as he resumed his seat at the table.
I looked up through the window and cringed a little at the sky that was still heavy and dark gray. It had stormed all night, and I feared it would start up again. I like rain but dislike wind, and seeing so many tree limbs down and twigs scattered everywhere made me nervous about the old maple that already seemed to be leaning over our roof. I recalled last night, being genuinely afraid any moment the old tree would snap and come down right over our bedroom. I finally scooted right up against him, took some comfort from his warmth and the movement of his breathing, and slept poorly, startling awake at every thunderclap. He stayed asleep the whole time, lucky.
I noticed him looking at me out of the corner of my eye, and I turned, looked at him, surprised to find him studying me so intently. Lately, I’d felt invisible, or at least transparent. He smiled at me, a very gentle, warm smile, like the sun peering out from behind a cloud.
I smiled back, surprised, and overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude. My cheeks felt warm, and it was an odd but welcome thrill, to feel I’d suddenly spotted him a long way’s off in a crowded room. I hesitated, but reached out my hand to him, wiggling my fingers slightly, beckoning him closer. He took it and smiled at me again, warmer this time. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what. He squeezed my hand and stood up, taking his plate to the sink. I watched him fondly as he silently walked to the coat closet, got his jacket, and headed out to clean up the yard of all it’s broken limbs and twigs.