They sit at opposite ends of the kitchen table, the raw end of an argument stuck in their throats.
Thirty-three years of marriage and no place left to go.
Outside the desert simmers in a broiling heat.
There seems no escape.
No way in.
No way out.
Trapped by their circumstances, they sit emmeshed in the hum of air conditioning and accumulated detritus of over three decades married. My god, how they feasted on each other in those early days!
Starved now for affection. Compassion.
They wait in their chrome and black-marble kitchen, time elongating. The jagged edges of their narrative have inflicted new and deeper wounds—the lifeblood of their relationship seeping away. Neither able or willing to stop the bleeding.
This latest confrontation the net result of so many others.
It’s clear, they face a future entirely divorced from the one to which they pledged.
How did they devolve from elation to desolation?
How did they come to be languishing in their emotional desert where nothing thrived anymore? Which even their children abandoned.
Their children. They have no hand for rescue. One a waitress blaming them for her shortcomings. The other an accountant—thriving in a world where the surety of numbers stabilized his life—shielded him from the messy miscalculations of others.
Especially his parents.
Two children. Nothing guaranteed.
April 1st, they married. Marisa and Alan. Thinking it a fine joke. All their songs had the word ‘fool’ in the title.
“What Kind of Fool am I?” “Chain of Fools” “Why do Fools Fall in Love?”
They danced to “April Fools.” A plaintive ballad from the eponymous named movie. The words seeming prophetic now.
A romantic fairy tale then.
About which they both could remember, but not reclaim.
The air-conditioning kicks off. Mourning doves bob their way up to the French doors. Alan shifts in his chair. Marisa looks up expectantly. She’s raven-haired yet and her Mediterranean beauty perhaps more compelling in its maturity. She once laughed often—unrestrained by conventions. Her fine white teeth in harmony with her olive complexion.
Alan used to carry a photo of her in his leather wallet until tattered and faded he dismissed the image. Never thought to replace it.
Everything has its meaning.
The doorbell chimes. Most likely the neighbor under the guise of needing one thing or another, but actually at the doorstep to borrow their time. Once shoehorned into their house, almost impossible to ease out.
Marisa responds to the cue with a turn of her head. Alan stops fiddling with his spoon. For the briefest of interludes, hope presents itself. Perhaps a third player could adjudicate their dispute.
This is a private requiem.
Besides, who can fathom the depths and complexities of a couple’s relationship? Often not even the couple themselves.
The door goes unanswered as does Marisa’s question. “What happens next?” It lingers between them like the prelude to a coming storm.
Each passing muted minute sealing their fate. Both wary of upsetting the indelicate position on which they are so precariously balanced. As if any speech or overt physicality will tip them over and whatever they still are will shatter irreparably.
Whatever they were.
Neither one wants to be assigned the blame.
Even though, when something’s damaged, there should be a reckoning.
The coffee in their white porcelain cups is cooling—as is the moment. The tension leaking from the room leaving them more and more deflated.
Allowing for a shift in their intentions.
Allowing for the possibility of an indecorous retreat.
Marisa sighs. She understands it will fall to her to break through the impasse. The world outside their deteriorating drama will demand her attention. Her’s mother’s doctor appointment. The laundry hung. Contractual obligations of a recent real estate deal signed and sealed.
The sigh is impetus for standing. She pushes back her chair creating a jarring sound which sits Alan upright. Their eyes graze each other, but rife with torment, they can’t engage and find another anchor. Marisa with the Van Gogh poster of the man in his mania which they bought in the Netherlands. Alan with the succulents in the cactus garden just beyond the patio.
He wonders how they survive the hellish heat. The succulents. She remembers the thousands of bicycles they dodged on the Amsterdam streets, laughing recklessly and all urgent to cocoon in their hotel room.
Many happy-ever-afters ago.
Marisa walks from the kitchen alert for his voice.
How it’s so often happened—their marriage stretched apart, but never entirely broken. One or the other pulling them back together. Providing the first plank in a bridge they’d construct from apologies and forgiveness—crossing that makeshift bridge, meeting halfway and calling it love.
But Alan remains silent. Unable to muster up any sort of verbal reclamation. No lifeline to reel Marisa back in.
Her slight hesitation at the door brings him to tears.
He knows what’s required. Needed.
They both do.
We all do.
Gavin Kayner’s plays, prose and poetry have won numerous awards and appeared in a variety of publications. These include – Quibble, Passager, Mazagine, Smoky Blue Literary Review, Helix Literary Journal, Witcraft and so forth.