Bleak cold mornings made the journey into work all the more unappealing. Mondays were bad enough, but Fridays were depressing all the same, because they arrived so quickly and reminded me that life was racing by at this stage in my life. Not to mention that Friday was only two days away from being Monday again.
Childhood is a moment in life always taken for granted for lack of knowledge of its true value. Who would know that the days were simply lengthened because we filled them with a multitude of mindless tasks and actions? We regarded our evolution with indifference. Before we are aware of it, life itself has taken the reigns. When once, each day felt like a week, now it passes swiftly by, threatening to go unnoticed if we choose to blink too long. I, personally, hadn’t even caught up with my life, as of yet. I’d planned to achieve so much more by this point, but to no avail. Rather, here I was on a chilly November morning, having left my country home before day really broke, waiting for a train, amongst others who looked on with the same expressions of defeat -all seemed lacking in strength and ambition. We were all gray together, and we blended into the morning without having the grace to disappear, as I certainly wished I would do. I waited for this train every morning, just so it would take me out of the suburbs and into the city and bound to a job that required nothing more of me, but to add and divide and multiply. Accounting was not my major in college, but it had become my career. It gave me the opportunity and the feigned pleasure, to find as many ways to screw an already slipshod system. Yet still it did nothing to validate my existence. Had I the energy, I would scream out, “Lord, why have you forsaken me”? in anguish; although admittedly, with no where near the justification allowed of Him that first uttered the words. But I stood quiet, for the mere fact that this was my own doing and I had no one else to blame.
I watched as the train rattled in, rocking from side to side, and then screeching to a halt. I waited as some bustled off and tons crammed on, not caring about the pushers, as I’d become one also. Nudging in all directions for wanting of a place to sit, but I was not quick this morning and stood instead for the long, long journey into the city. The fragrances mingled as usual. I tried to read from my neighbor’s folded paper, not completing any article, however, since he was a faster reader than I. We all leaned on each other; comrades on a similar mission. No smiles, but familiar nods, as if to say, “Another day, yup, I know how you feel.” I looked in between the heads to the outside world where the dreary day veiled everything that not long ago had been green and luscious and basking in sunshine. Another winter was upon us. I hated winter.
As the journey met the half way mark, the train had emptied a little so that breathing had become a possible feat. Seats had become available and I found mine finally, opposite a dark haired woman wearing black stilettos. She read her newspaper intently as her body rocked and jerked inconsistently from side to side with the momentum of the train. She also held her paper folded in her right hand, and in her left she clutched a Starbucks coffee which she sipped every few minutes. Her nails were painted orange and she wore a diamond wedding band. When I looked up at her face, she was staring back at me with slight amusement. I hadn’t realized the length of time I’d taken to size her up, but she’d felt the gaze obviously and I looked out the window quickly out of embarrassment.
“Can I offer you the funnies?” Her eyebrows were raised. She was mocking me.
“Do I look like a funnies kind of guy to you?” I wasn’t as amused as she was.
“Oh, poor you, is Monday having its affect on you?” I looked back at her. She was stunning as always, her dark hair loose over her shoulders.
“It’s not funny,” I said, reluctantly playing along.
“Well, it will be Friday soon, right?”
“Shut up.” I was still looking out the window.
“How long have I known you now?”
“A month,” I threw in.
“Six weeks,” she corrected. “Six weeks and I feel like I know everything about you.”
“Everything…Susan and I should meet and compare notes.”
I looked at her seriously. She was smiling down at the paper, but when she looked up, her expression became somber, suddenly registering her own words. It was the first time she had mentioned my wife’s name since the first day we met on this same train.
She was wearing a brown suit the day we had exercised the introductory formalities six weeks ago. She had accepted the seat I offered her with great appreciation. Setting down her arm full of books onto her lap and opening her coffee with ease. The books were the perfect conversation starter. She was three years married with one child. I was eight years married with three. For a week following the initial introduction we compared first meetings with our spouses, humorous kid anecdotes, and work related instances. Our banter was more enjoyable than the subject matters, which were shallower than I wished, but we were new at this. Our rhetoric was similar in its attempt at restrained enthusiasm and our words were often laced in playful cynicism. She was an attorney at a prestigious firm in the city. After that week, our family lives were no longer the issue of conversation.
We saw each other every morning after that. Twice a day, in fact, since we had also managed to time our journeys home, although I’m not sure how coincidental that really was, regardless of what our justification concluded. Soon it became apparent that these would be instances in which I was able to take a moment out of my life and evaluate its many aspects. These moments were ours alone, it soon became apparent.
“I’m thinking of dying my hair blonde.” She said it as she continued to read her paper.
“Oh, please don’t involve me in such tripe.”
“Tripe?” She looked up.
“Tripe,” I said more slowly and this time looked at her directly.
“Nice,” she said and looked back down.
“Oh, you’re not going to mope now are you?”
“I don’t mope,” she said. Again her eyes scanned the paper. She turned it over, gave me a quick, blatantly fake, smile.
“You do.” I insisted, “All women mope.” The train had arrived at her station and she stood up without a word and left.
On the journey home she had to sit next to me this time for lack of options.
“Blonde wouldn’t suit you.” I said.
“How would you know?” She turned to face me. I looked back at her, silent for a moment.
“I just know,” I said and turned to look out of the window.
Nothing else was said for the rest of our trip home.
It was a few days later that I couldn’t find my usual dark headed companion, but instead was forced to sit next to a blonde in beige stilettos. The nails were still orange and the ring still sparkled.
“You were right,” she said. There was no need for me to respond. I couldn’t even laugh. I was too depressed with it being Friday. An hour passed and I felt her lean her head against my shoulder. It was a first that forced my eyes to close but for a brief moment. I thought about my day at work -another first. I tired to recall the projects I worked on that day, pushing my mind to focus on that and not on other issues that would do me no good at this moment. I thought about everything I could, so I didn’t have to think about her.
“Did anyone hear about Bryant’s promotion?” Arthur Frasier gossiped worse than any female employed at Simon and Taylor CPA Services. I was having lunch with the three most tolerable gentlemen at the firm, in a nearby restaurant, and as had become the norm in my eight years here, I allowed the conversation to drift in and out just so I could respond whenever I was called upon. It was an intricate undertaking being a part of anything that involved any of my colleagues. I would rather not have to justify any ridiculous conversation by actually partaking in it. It was all empty tosh and it was a waste of a life and a conversation, so rather than continue on in a fashion unbecoming of me, I turned to the older gentlemen and excused myself.
“Just fine. I have a quick thing I must do before heading back.”
“See you there, I suppose.”
“Right,” I muttered and I left, sucking in a much needed breath as I hit the cold air.
The city represented everything that I hated. It was congested with selfishness, arrogance, and indifference, mingled with a hint of self loathing and pity, all enveloped in pollution and overpriced bad food. It was nauseating. Primarily because I knew I fit in there in some shape or fashion and that was hard to swallow. The day was feeling longer than usual and I knew why. I walked hurriedly through a sea of people headed in the opposite direction. I was feeling anxious and stuck. I glanced at my watch. It was only one-thirty. The idea of returning to the mundane was unbearable, but I had no choice. Who knew that at this point in my life I would not be in control? As a child you live under the roof of your parents and they decide your every move until emancipation. Then you think that your life is your own and you can do whatever you desire, but that’s all an elusion, especially when you fall into the role of husband and father. Then you have no choice. The happiness of your family is your new objective. You work for them and all of a sudden you wonder when exactly the time will come when you finally feel like a man. When will that day come?
The rest of the day was exhausting. Time was on hold. There was no excuse but there was a reason and the guilt was eating me up inside. The only way I was able to continue on was to refocus and I had to do it immediately. I was becoming good at that. I had to be in order to live with myself.
“I had an exhausting day…” she began.
“That makes two of us, so how about we don’t relive them by assigning their every detail the topic of this conversation.”
“Wow. I think yours was worse than mine.” She looked out of the window and said, “Vermont is absolutely beautiful in the winter.”
“Vermont is a hole,”
“What are you talking about? It’s breathtaking this time of year.”
“The people are strange in Vermont.”
“Oh, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Absolutely not, you have no idea.”
“I see, okay fine then let’s drop it.”
“Well, I think you should visit the place before you criticize it,” she flipped through her magazine in obvious frustration.
“Fine, let’s do it, when should we go?” I turned to her and she looked back at me silenced.
“Vermont would be a wonderful place for you and…for you to go and visit. I’m sure you would like it,” she looked down at nothing.
“Maybe you’re right.” I said looking out of the window. The carriage had cleared and so had the seat next to me. She got up and sat next to me and I could feel her looking at me. I could hear the faint rustle of fabric as her neck turned every so often. I was able to hold off the anticipated feeling. I was able to stay reserved, and I wondered if that was because I was a man.
“What is it?” I asked finally. It was a whisper almost. I looked down before turning to face her. She looked quietly at me. Were words running rampant in her mind too? If so, she hid it well, and I wondered if my own eyes were giving me away. She said nothing for a few moments and finally she sighed, “Well I was just thinking about all the mindless errands I have to do this weekend.”
“That’s what you were thinking.”
“Yes, I was thinking about how I had to take…” she stopped, smiled and added, “well you really don’t need to know the details, do you?”
“No, I really don’t.”
“I suppose you have a number of projects that need seeing to also.”
“I’m sure I do.”
I watched as she fiddled with her diamond ring, turning it one way and then another. She saw me watching and stopped immediately.
“I never could understand how someone fills a multitude of roles in an attempt to keep it all together. Working full time, and performing that professional role, along with being a parent and a…”
“You know we don’t have to do this,” I interrupted.
“Have this mindless discussion. It’s all irrelevant, don’t you think?”
“Well, so what if it is?” She seemed offended and although it was not my intention to upset her, but rather free her of any obligation she felt in having a discussion, I’d hit a nerve. I wasn’t sorry though, but rather amused at the selection of emotions I was being witness to.
“Well, it’s just not very becoming.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, for goodness sake, woman. Would you stop it?”
I had done it now. I had completely offended her to the point that any veil of ambiguity that may have still divided us had been sliced open to reveal a raw truth that only existed in friendships, relationships, and marriage. I had taken us from our quixotic place to a place of absolute acquaintance. We were no longer in the honeymoon stage. I had blown it. She wasn’t looking at me any more. She wasn’t even looking at her magazine. She was looking ahead at something far in her mind that I had no business intruding upon. I wanted to say something, but it was obvious that I had said too much already. So I shut up, but just too late for it to really count.
The next day my seat was there, but hers was taken by someone else. I looked around me as the carriage cleared, but she was not there. I bumped, pushed, and squeezed my way from carriage to carriage, until I found her standing in the corner looking out the window. She saw me coming and watched as I got closer. She watched as I broke through her personal space and stopped with just enough space between us for me to lean forward and whisper in her ear.
“I’m sorry.” I pulled away slowly and looked into her glazed eyes. She said nothing. I leaned in again. “I’m sorry,” I repeated. And again she said nothing as I watched a tear form in her eye. I went to lean in again, but this time she pushed me back gently with the palm of her hand.
“Ok,” she whispered. “Ok, you are forgiven,” she added. I leaned my head toward hers so that our foreheads almost touched, but not quite, and I looked at our feet. She was wearing black pointed toe boots. “If I stand this close to you, I can hear your thoughts,” I said, still whispering.
“Yes. I hear it all.”
“What am I thinking?”
“Well, I’m not sure that that should be public knowledge,” I looked up at her. I felt her breath on my cheek, and I knew that the question of infidelity was long overdue.
“You’re probably right.”
We stood there, staring at each other for the rest of our journey. Our skin almost touching, our eyes locked, but we said no more. Then when the train came to her stop, she got off the train, but not before one more, “I’m sorry.”
The morning breeze smelled like death, as I imagined death would smell on a cold frosty morning with snow only days away. It was an appropriate stink in the light of everything. I looked around me, realizing gradually that I was only the same on the outside, and wondering where along the way I had changed. I knew what I wanted to do. I’d played the scene over and over, and its effect on me revealed a sense of vulnerability within that which I never knew I possessed. I knew what I wanted and although it emancipated me in one aspect, it trapped me further. I’d made my vows.
The anticipation increased as I watched the train move in. I felt her breath against my skin as the train screeched to a stop. I knew what I wanted to do. People bustled off and I waited. My comrades boarded and I waited. The train moved off and I waited. As my usual carriage pulled away I looked at where she sat usually and a red headed man had taken her spot. My feeling of anxiety was tinted with hurt, but I’d come to know her and what she wanted and I was relieved. When the next train pulled in, I thought of Susan.
(Anna, written by T.m. Gaouette ©T.M. Gaouette. All stories were written by T.M. Gaouette and are the copyright of T.M. Gaouette. Please do not copy and paste any part or all of this story. For permissions, visit Book Business.)
Creating an intimate relationship with someone other than your spouse- this is the underlying theme of “After the Honeymoon.” This happens more often than people realize, and in some cases it leads to more. What a sad situation. My ‘hero’ in the story, if you would call him one, moves into this relationship without self-control, without acknowledgement. Who would expect it? Who would admit it? Is he in denial? Are they both refusing to see the truth?
Maybe in the confines of the train they can be anything they desire to each other, but before they get on and after they get off they live in the real world. But even on the train reality makes itself known. At first, as an offering to each other and their spouses, indirectly giving permission to create the connection in the first place. But after the formalities are over, that life is set aside. But it still pushes in now and then. Reminding them of what?
I love this story because the connection between the characters is so natural. But therein reveals the sadness. Each character is already taken and each is already settled, and because of this, each should be very careful about the connections they make.
“I’m sorry,” he says. Why? Why is he sorry? Is he sorry for what he said or is he sorry for allowing it to go as far as it did, or is he sorry he even made the connection. Whatever the apology relates to, it’s time to let it go. “I’m sorry,” he says. And even though the reader doesn’t know what he’s referring to, she does.
I’m not going to give too much away because I’m interested in your perspective.