TITLE: Eventide 11/16/2019
By John Hunt
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Silently, his wife stared, her eyes distant, her thoughts adrift an endless void. Dressed in a suburban romper, in her suburban kitchen, in a house at the end of a suburban block, she searched for something, some solace, some remediation of her discontent.
“I’m not happy with our cabinets,” she said to her husband of thirty years, “or our counters, for that matter.” Then, with a deep sigh, she concluded, “And especially our tile.”
To her left, at their kitchen table, the balding, fifty-something-year-old sat, his nose in an iPad, his mind a million miles from her. He looked up briefly, and with a grunt, acknowledged she had spoken, then returned his gaze to the glowing blue screen. Immersed most days in an online issue of Popular Mechanics or Modern Sailing (which seemed enigmatic, considering he’d never set foot on a boat), it appeared, with his recent embrace of technology, he experienced a renaissance of sorts, a renewed interest in the written word.
The woman had the very suburban name of Phyllis; although one could refer to her as Carol, Samantha, or any of the cookie cutter monikers that populate suburbia. With her dyed, bobbed hair, she perused her granite counters, along with the smart appliances that told her way more than she needed to know. Then, turning toward the man with whom she had shared the majority of her life, she sat erect and announced, “I think we should remodel the kitchen.”
With a given name of Walter, her husband went simply by Walt; although he often mused he should have it changed to Brick Wall, or Empty Chair, since the woman never listened to him anyway. Without so much as a glance in her direction, he formulated a reply, completely unsurprised by her proclamation. “We just redid the kitchen two years ago,” he said. His gaze fixed on that small screen before him, he connected some white lines and zoomed page. Then, leaning back in his chair, he half-smiled, commending himself with a nod of approval.
Noting Walt’s preoccupation with the device, Phyllis’s curiosity got the best of her. Too old for Minecraft, and too simple for architectural design, her husband’s sudden venture into artistic expression seemed out of character. And as with other such endeavors, she deemed it a preoccupation of little importance. “What are you doing on that thingy?” she asked.
Walt paused and closed the app, then opened a webpage and began to read the news. “Just drawing…something, something, something,” he muttered, his voice trailing.
In a nearby living room, within sight of the kitchen table, a pillow suddenly captured Phyllis’s attention, a pillow atop an upholstered bench, cockeyed, and to the discerning eye, out of place. She turned her head to inspect the item, then spoke to Walt in an accusatory tone. “Did you sit on the Queen Anne?” she asked.
Peering over the top of his iPad, Walt thought, nearly out loud, “Who, in the world, would want to plant their butt on that hard, uncomfortable piece of…?”
The doorbell suddenly rang, prompting Phyllis to get up from her chair and scurry to the entrance. With an enthusiastic giggle, she opened the door for her neighbor, one of the many housewives who jockeyed for bragging rights in the association. Rolling his eyes, Walt got up from his chair and mumbled something, nearly inaudible and essentially to himself.
Such was the orchestral movement of each day, the two of them hearing, yet not listening, speaking, but not conversing. To the casual observer, one might consider it a tragedy, really, a sad indictment of their fractured lives, a victim of both the modern world and the technology suppose to make it better. Or one could conclude thirty years together had worn on the two, the ember having faded long ago, snuffed in the conspicuous consumption of suburbia. Or perhaps, behind the veil, lay a greater purpose, a thread of destiny about to unfold. Walking out to their detached garage, Walt opened the side door, closed the blinds, and removed a tarp from a large object.
Accrued in a lifetime of experience, vested in the multitude of days and weeks and years, time passed quickly for Walt and Phyllis. Jobs came and went, kids grew up and moved on, and they found themselves at the intersection of middle age and senior adulthood, not quite to retirement but beyond the frenzied pace of youth.
The next day, as Phyllis stood at their patio door, she stared, beyond the cobblestone walk, past the landscaped bushes and manicured lawn, at the entrance to the garage some thirty feet away. There, behind the blinds of the window, Walt worked on something, some random project, some construct of which he tinkered every day. “He’s become fastidious with fidgeting,” Phyllis said to herself. Chuckling at her alliteration, she congratulated herself on her use of the word of the day, then annunciated it again, “Fastidious.“ The word sounded strange to her, an odd assortment of letters in a sequence having never before formed on her tongue. “Fastidious.“ Then, noticing her hydrangeas, she frowned. That year, within the period of which Walt referred to as the “Summer of Her Discontent,” the flowers had grown disproportionately awry, randomly sprawled along the side of their garage. At the onset of summer, the middle two had already outpaced the ends, their heads lopped over the decorative walk, their orbs suspended like softballs in midair. Vexed by their asymmetry, Phyllis convinced Walt to uproot the plants and rehabilitate them. This naturally occurred many times over, as the left side, invariably, rebelled, followed by the right, and so on. Each time, Walt would dig and rearrange the foliage, the rich black dirt dripping from the roots and leaves slapping his face. She recalled his clumsy frame, with stems and branches in his arms, cussing as they slid from his grasp and onto the lawn.
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