Thursday, January 12, 2017

All Piling Up

The snow fell deep that winter. It covered everything. It piled until you couldn't hardly see the mailbox by early January, and then they had to dig out a hole in the snow for the mail to be put in the box by mid-January. The Jorgenson's dog had to wear little boots on its paws because of the salt everybody spread around. The cold and the salt made her paws crack and bleed if she didn't wear the little boots. She hated the boots. When you looked at her you could see her lowering her head in shame and she walked funny because of the boots. She didn't trust them. That was Sheila for you though. If you tried to give Sheila a treat she wouldn't take it from your hand like most dogs. She would make you set it down on the ground and then she'd smell it for a minute or two and look up at you accusingly, like you'd tricked her before. I never tricked Sheila. I like dogs. I wouldn't do that to a dog.

I was cheating on my taxes though.

And my wife, but she was cheating on me too. We both knew about the other's affairs. Hers was with a guy she liked in college. I had always hated him. He talked close to you at parties and tried to get you to agree with him about everything. It always seemed to me like he was trying to sell me something, like selling me on the fact that he and my wife weren't fucking.

I went the more traditional route. My little affair was with one my students, Irene. She was never going to play the piano professionally. Hell, I barely play the piano professionally and I'm a professor.  Irene had a real mind for music though. She was going to make one hell of a musicologist and I told her so one day after we had finished having sex. I told her the part about not being able to play the piano professionally.

"It's nothing personal, you just don't have the chops, and I'm only a little bit better than you. I know you'll be better than me in a couple of years." I told her as I stubbed out a cigarette.

She was still smoking hers and I thought for a minute that she was going quiet, quiet before the storm. I thought she was going subite to gather her energy before attacking me forte. She didn't do that though.  She just looked up at me, and said "I know."

As I waited for the storm that never came I composed a speech about how the assholes with the talent get burned out anyway. They have to practice six hours a day and study for another six and that's just to break even, and the truly talented assholes have been doing all of that since they were seven so they've never had a life, and it's much easier and better in my opinion to just be a professor. But all I said was "It's nothing personal" and the awkwardness filled the room. You could hear her old radiator ticking as the metal warmed up, hear footsteps deep somewhere in her old shitty apartment building.

Outside it was starting to snow.

That winter I stopped cheating on my wife. I think she stopped cheating on me with Stephen. I'm pretty sure. We never brought it up. I think we didn't bring it up because both of us had gathered evidence of the other cheating. I was waiting to use my evidence on her when as a knockout punch in a fight. I had it planned out. She was going to get me on the ropes at some point, she always did. My wife, Sarah, is a much better fighter than I am. She kicks my ass up and down the street. Sarah remembers everything and she knows how to duck and dodge around arguments. I'll bring up something perfectly logical and she'll twist right past it like she's made of water. Like she didn't even hear me. Like what I said didn't even matter. Other times she'll act like I pinned her down and skewered her and she'll make me feel like a monster for it, and I just thought I was fighting fire with fire.

I really do love my wife.

I think it's just that we got married too young, or maybe I'm an asshole. I think they're both true. I am an asshole. Things can change, though.

Sarah was doing dishes that night I came back from Irene's. The night when Irene told me she knew she wasn't going to be a professional piano player. It was snowing. Sarah was doing the dishes with her back turned to me and I don't know what happened.

We're in our mid-forties, and long ago we talked about not having children. I think we both resented each other for how easy that decision was. What I'm trying to say is that our house had been cold and cerebral for a long long time. That's a big reason why neither of us really cared about the other's affair.

For some reason though, when I got home that night. When I saw her doing my dishes, it just came out of my mouth, the first thing I said when I walked through the door.

"I'm home." and I meant it.

It snowed a lot that winter, and we didn't care. Sarah and I, we didn't care one bit. We didn't care. We just fell in love again. Like we hadn't been since we were kids.

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