A Garage With No Windows
By Mark Martin
He ran into her three days ago in Wal-Mart of all places. He’d expected this every day for nearly the last twelve years and each of those days started with the same expectation that today could be the day and ended with the same disappointment of finding out that today was not the day.
For the first few years he almost feared it since he wasn’t sure he could handle it. For the next few years he tried to pretend that he didn’t expect it as he watched his wife get ready for work. Each of those days ended, after he kissed his wife goodnight, with the thought that it was for the best, he had moved on, had found someone else.
Each of the days after the divorce he decided he was deluding himself anyway and he felt guilty for involving someone else in those delusions. Those days ended with him feeling foolish and immature for even entertaining thoughts of the meeting.
On the bad days he let his mind wander, fueled by alcohol, thinking that the two of them could actually start up again. Those days ended with fragmented thoughts shattered by misery until sleep came and turned the night blank.
After ten years the days started out strong and ended without fear. They ended with him thinking it was safe to meet her now. He could handle it, there was no fear left. He felt strong and he wanted her to see him then, confident, in command of his life. He ended those days with disappointment for a different reason. He was disappointed that she couldn’t see how well he’d done for himself.
After eleven years when the misery set in and the resin-soaked days blurred together he hoped he didn’t see her but almost expected the irony of it. Wouldn’t it just be his luck, he thought, to see her now, at his lowest, not confident, not in control of his life but rather swimming in emptiness. These were the days that he dreaded the meeting but in the back of his mind hope still sat, right where he left it.
The days of the last two years he found the acceptance of reality was beginning to unseat hope. The days blurred together, not from a substance-induced blindness but from a reality-induced hopelessness, an acclimation to the nature of things. But even during those last two years a glimpse of a blonde head would still cause his heart to pause and his eyes to drill into the image until he was sure it wasn’t her. Although those moments gave him an adrenaline fix his hopelessness remained right where he’d left it.
Imagine his surprise when three days ago he walked around the corner carrying a shower curtain and a box of microwave popcorn and there she stood. He had no time to think how he’d act, no time to prepare. There he was, face to face with his hopeless wish. She was as beautiful as he remembered.
He watched her as they caught up on the events of their lives and he wondered if she really was stunning or was it his feelings back then that made her so. He was never objective enough to answer that question. That night he lay awake replaying every syllable in his mind and looking forward to the lunch she had suggested for two days later.
The next day, the day in between, he felt hyper awake even though he only managed maybe ten minutes of sleep. He felt foolish for noticing the richness in the colors of the everyday things he passed, for noticing how easily that old hope was dusted off.
That last day their meeting went even better than he could’ve expected. They easily slipped into their old comfort. He marveled at his own strength as she told him of her husband and son. He impressed himself with his ability to tell his own story without a hint of desperation.
It felt to him like they both fell into a joyful time warp and they laughed when they realized that the lunch shift had switched over to the dinner shift without them noticing. He was overjoyed when she suggested they head out for a drive. He thought himself the most fortunate man ever as they stood in line at the convenience store with a six-pack of beer.
Even her suggestion that they pull into his garage in case anyone saw them wasn’t enough to dampen the colors of the day. Nothing else mattered to him as they sat and talked in the car. He wanted to take her in and show her around his place but was afraid to seem forward, afraid to spook her. He felt calmed from sitting in the small space with her.
He was happy when she opened the first beer and handed him one, seemingly content to stay in that safe in between. He was afraid to be encouraged when she passed him the second beer but happy to just let the talking continue. He was afloat now and didn’t want to do anything to upset their raft of solitude.
When she leaned over and kissed him he melted into white noise. As things progressed he felt an instant familiarity and at the same time he felt exactly what he felt that first time, the feeling that things were finally set in motion.
As they sat spent he wished he could unfold himself so that every part he had would be in contact with her. When she leaned forward to put on her shirt he felt the coldness of the new air that touched his skin where hers once was.
As her thigh moved away from his he for a moment wasn’t sure where his edge was. The sound of his jeans as he pulled them on seemed invasive like something tangible that was in his way.
All he could hear was the color of her eyes as she explained how wonderful it was to see him and how impulsive she had been. He watched that same old determined line of her jaw as she reached forward and pushed the automatic garage door button hanging from his visor.
He was in a hurry to hear the last echoes of the closing car door fade into the past. He sat in silence listening to this day ending. He let himself experience fully the instant of weightlessness at the top of the parabola of his life. He felt gratitude for the ability to see this instant, knowing many never recognize it, as he reached for the automatic garage door button. He listened to the garage door close on his twelve-year journey.
He finally decided that there was something else to listen to: The music that accompanied him through all of her. He started the car and thought how glad he was to have the music handy so as not to interrupt his peace.
He let the music cradle him as he looked around at all thing things stored, all the things saved. He would have to move some things around to make room for the images of this day. He noticed that there was no more room. The garage was full.
Mark Martin lives in mid-coast Maine. His work has appeared in Prose Toad, Right Hand Pointing, and Unspoken Dreams.
Photo of statues courtesy of Arturo D., Mexico.
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