When you’ve had enough, you’ll tell him. You’ll make him understand it’s nothing personal. It’s just that it’s rained for twenty-two straight days and it’s been the coldest May since 1926. It’s that you drink three cups of coffee each morning and still can’t stay awake between two and three p.m., can’t sleep between two and three a.m. And Mondays are bad but Tuesdays are worse. Saturdays aren’t what they should be.
It’s that there will be no kids home from college this summer after all, no rotating pantry items, blaring TV, laundry humming in the dryer. One staying for summer classes, one simply staying, preferring friends now to family.
It’s that someone left The Early Life of Jackie O at the hair salon and Tammy, your stylist, told you to keep it because it had been there a month, she said, and no one wanted books anymore. And now, while your friends dream of family vacations, lazy weekends, Netflix binges, you’ve been dreaming about the Bouviers.
Park Avenue in autumn, winter, and spring, East Hampton in summer. Irish immigrant grandmother hidden away upstairs. Jackie, doted on by her alcoholic father, “Black Jack,” bestowed with all rich little girl things: horses, dance, art and French lessons. She looked like him, which meant, of course, she was beautiful.
You don’t dream about the later years, because why let those color what came before? Still, everyone knows the closing scene: Her and John encircled by the motorcade, speeding toward the book depository, Jackie in her pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, waving, smiling, and suddenly, crawling onto the back of that limo to retrieve a piece of her husband’s skull.
You don’t dream of these things, but you don’t kid yourself. Who can revel in joyful beginnings when you know how sadly they’ll end?
Lately you’ve been wondering: Are you too old to take up dressage, and what would it cost, and where? You’ve been considering ballroom dance class.
Rain streaming down the front window, where he always promised to put a window seat for you, a place to tuck in with a book, take your mind on holiday, spirited to where the pages take you. There is no window seat. Only the cracked frame around the panes, that burned spot on the sill where you left a candle too long, a colored glass crystal hanging from the lock by a clear plastic string, a gift from your son one Christmas, you can’t remember which one.
You knew a girl in college who grew up poor and married into wealth. After graduation, you visited her, when you were still living like a student, creaky wicker furniture in a rented apartment. This girl lived in a mansion. You sat with her on her floral living room sofa and drank tea from her wedding china. She set her cup down and looked around. I’m afraid to sit on my own couch, she told you. Your cup was so delicately thin. You felt you could bite straight through it.
When you’ve had enough, you’ll tell him. For now, you listen to the rain, you pour a cup of coffee. As he heads off to work, you try not to notice his thinning hair, his wrinkled shirt. Stay dry, you say.
Just last night you dreamt of sailing—wind and sun, not a cloud in the sky, filmy scarf tied over your hair, one hand shading your round Greek-key sunglasses, the other holding a copy of Vogue. At the helm sat John, his back to you, broad shoulders in a blue polo. Beside him was Black Jack, young and handsome, highball in hand. He turned to you and nodded, lifted his drink in a toast. Enjoy, he seemed to say, while sunlight dazzled the water behind him, so bright it hurt to look.
Cathy Cruise’s fiction has appeared in journals such as American Fiction, Blue Mesa Review, New Virginia Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Phoebe. Awards include a New Rivers Press American Fiction prize and a Washington Independent Writers Award for Short Fiction, among others. Her first novel, A Hundred Weddings, was released in 2016. She has an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and works as an editor in Virginia. Her blog is writedespite.org; website: www.cathycruise.com.