Sadie wants a new house, says the one we have now is too small, and cramped, and cracked, and we need more storage, and we need to move forward because we haven’t been moving forward, and if we don’t move forward with this then we’ll never move forward with anything, and we’re not getting any younger I know, and I know, and I tell her that I know, and I’ve been thinking this already and I tell her that too.
Sadie is driving me to work because my car is in the shop, something with the headlights both going out at once, maybe a blown fuse, and we’re on the expressway, and it’s typical chaos on a Monday morning at rush hour with everyone racing to somewhere more important than where everyone else has to be, and plus this is Derby week and there’s a reckless energy in the air, and in the traffic, while Sadie weaves in and out, jockeying for position. The more Sadie talks about wanting a new house, the more she seems to speed up, and I grab the “oh shit” handle and hold on as tightly as if I’m riding in a New York City cab blindfolded. I can feel my heart throbbing hot and dense in my chest right beneath my suit breast pocket, and my mouth is dry, and I remember that I forgot to take my pills today so I look out the window, up at the cerulean sky and the aimless clouds like layers of marshmallow fluff to try and calm myself, and I’m briefly reminded how spring is my favorite time to be in Louisville—then Sadie hits the breaks and accelerates.
Sadie says she’s sorry if she’s lumping everything together, everything else we have going on in our life, because she hates gunny sacking as much as the next guy, and I’m the next guy and I especially hate gunny sacking because I’m so good at it, but something has to change because nothing ever changes with us and she can’t go another ten years with nothing changing. Sadie tells me she’s happy but we still need to change. “We need to change, buddy,” she says and I can hear in her voice that she’s starting to choke up, and I can tell from her face that she’s fighting back tears even with the cheap oversized black plastic sunglasses with rhinestone rims she wears since she lost the Ray-Bans I got her for her birthday that I thought with her olive skin and dark hair made her look like Sophia Loren and she refuses to let me get her a new pair when this pair that the girl at work gave her keeps the sun out of her eyes just fine although she reminds me of a female Elvis impersonator when she wears them but I don’t tell her that. I’m sad when Sadie’s sad, and I’m stressed when Sadie’s stressed, and I’m particularly stressed because I don’t like change, and I don’t see the point in changing just to change, when everything is fine the way it is. But apparently everything isn’t fine the way it is if I listen to Sadie, and I do, and I know, and I tell her that I know, and so it is that we’re going to have to change. A dollop of acid splashes up from the pit of my stomach, scorching, until I’m able to swallow it back down with whatever spit I have left, as a rusted pick-up truck towing a trailer loaded with lawnmowers of assorted sizes and varieties cuts Sadie off, and she honks and swerves and murmurs “what the fuck” and “idiot” as I tighten my hold on the “oh shit” handle.
I try to change the subject, recount nonchalantly an article I read in the local society pages about some well-to-do couple who got married at the zoo, at the sea lion exhibit, and how the sea lions were lined up along the edge of the concrete pond clapping like amphibious best men when the bride walked down the aisle. Sadie isn’t having any of it, silently death-gripping the steering wheel like she wants to choke the life from her Toyota, or from something, and sniffling. I wish I could say something, anything, to make Sadie feel better, to make us better, but I keep picturing our white Cape Cod and the brick patio out back overgrown by weeds, and the cracks in the hallway at the top of the stairs, and the half-bath I remodeled a few years ago with a fresh coat of paint and new fixtures when I was out of work, and the kitchen floor I retiled when I was out of work a second time, and the stucco pattern in the ceiling I would stare up at as I lied in that awful electric lift chair we rented from the medical supply store down the street that year I was sick while the home healthcare nurse changed my bandages, and I get a lump in my throat, and my lungs deflate, and I sink further into my seat because throughout all the good times and the bad times, and what if there were more bad times than good times, I’ve been in that house—even before Sadie. I sigh, and maybe it is time to move on, and it probably is, and Sadie is usually right about these things, and about a lot of other things, and I trust her, and I love her, and I don’t want to disappoint her, not anymore than I already feel I have whenever I gaze into her soft, brown eyes, and I tell her that I love her, and she nods, and adjusts her female Elvis impersonator sunglasses, and says she loves me too. Then she releases her death-grip on the steering wheel with her right hand and reaches over to touch me lightly on the arm, and I can breathe again.
Twenty minutes or so of white knuckle driving, and Sadie exits the expressway, and takes the surface streets downtown, and pulls up in front of my building to let me off, but before I jump out of her car, careful not to take any of the loose papers, or napkins, or fast food soda cups and straws that have been at my feet for this ride with me, I tell her to fax all of the paperwork to the guy at the bank to start working on the loan and we’ll see what he says and we’ll get going with this and we’ll move on because it’s time to move on and I want to move on anyway, with Sadie. Sadie curves her mouth into something of a smile, more relieved than anything but a smile still, and she exhales, and she tells me to have a good day, and I tell her to do the same, and she says to think about what we want to do later, maybe take a walk through the neighborhood to see the dogwoods in bloom or grab a bite to eat somewhere, then I get out and close the door, creaking, shut, and stand there as Sadie pulls away, as we both go on with our day.
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