my first short story for creative writing, loosely based on the true story of one of my coworkers.
I avoid divorce cases, because I have found no logic in loving a person. Marriages turn into divorces because people try to reason with love; they try to color love in blacks and whites when love only comes in shades of grey. I tried to reason with love once, and before I could realize what I was doing, it was too late.
She wanted nothing other than to become a wife and a mother. Since childhood, my dream came packaged in a courtroom with judges, questions, and convicts. Simply put, I was going to be a lawyer.
“We can do this thing together; you get your degree, and I have my kids. We’ll be happy together,” she said with her lack of reasonable doubt, her thrill of whimsical dreams.
Law practice is not a fatherly career; it involves travelling, possibly leaving for a couple weeks at a time. I have to have flexible availability to meet with my advocates. Staying up into early morning hours to research precedents and file paperwork is a requirement if I wanted to do well at my job. My career would only cheat a child. I do not cheat children, and I most certainly do not cheat her.
Sometimes when confronting a decision that determines the rest of one’s life, such as where to go to college or who to marry, one experiences a flash of divine confidence toward a particular path, as if it is not anymore a wish, a leaning towards, but a must.
I still remember the moment. As I walked diligently from her apartment, my shoes scathed against the wooden floor confirming the justice of my choice. My decision to walk away was only right. The sound of her muffled snivels through the door cracks was apparent as soon as I shut the door.
‘But,’ I reasoned with myself, ‘to have what we both want…’ the sound of her sobbing continued. ‘This will get easier.’
I glared at the stairway, the sun revealing dust in the air as it shown through the clammy windows onto the stair railing. I took my first step from her door.
One day, about a week later, I heard someone screaming outside of my house. It was shrill and serious, not like the careless screech of kids playing in a pile of leaves. Then, I heard my name. The screaming was her voice. She was outside weeping for me. It was horrible, actually, and so silly it made me angry. I drove her back to her apartment, and though she tried to “reason” with me, she was the one being irrational. She needed to move on, I told her. And though I secretly hoped someday I would hear her call my name outside, though I lived in the same house where she could find me all these years, the reason caught up to her and she never came back again.
We crossed paths ten years later. I stopped in the Rudy's bar and grill for a drink after a long day dealing with house evictions and unqualified disability applicants. The bar was a fairly clean one, almost as pure as a coffee shop with a faint mist of strawberry tobacco pipe smoke and aroma so slight of ale. I sat on the barstool to order my drink and turned my face to her, as if the scent of her hair knew me and made itself edible in the air. I knew it was her as soon as I looked. She was sitting at a booth alone.
I turned my face sharply forward, staring at the sierra-tinted beer mugs hung upside down on the wall. My choice was clear, as if already predicated beforehand; I was going to talk to her, however vulnerable it made me. I hoped two things, that she was single and miserable like me. As I approached the booth, she noticed me and her eyes grew so wide I did not know if they would ever close again.
“Warren? I…,” she said. She did not yet close her eyes.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
I stood before her at the table, and I did not want it to be awkward. But it was, after ten years of closing that door, after hearing her call for me, it was. I motioned my hand toward the seat across from her, and she affirmed that I could sit down. My hands trembled, and I purposefully kept them underneath the booth, embarrassed.
“How have you been? It’s been, wow, about…” I said.
“Ten years now. And I’ve been great,” she finished in a polite manner, but noticeably distant.
“That’s really great!” I said, smiling fake. I’m certain she noticed.
“I am a mother.”
“Oh, that’s...” I started.
“and a wife.” She said.
I forgot to breathe for at least fifteen seconds.
“That’s awesome. Boy or girl?” I asked, trying to sound interested. The fake smile was starting to hurt my face.
“Son. He’s four, and his name is Bradley,” she stated, as if rehearsed. She did not look at me directly, but stared at her beer mug as she talked, fingering circles around her beer mug.
“I congratulate you.”
I told her about the law firm I shared with a few associates, trying to make it sound as interesting as possible. I asked her about her family, and she was delighted to tell me how happy she was. Her husband had a business degree and worked for a bank downtown. Her son was the “light of her life.” Truly, I was glad for her. Her willingness to open up was refreshing. Seeing me probably wasn’t her idea of a good time.
“I really messed up.” I had to put it out there. I may never get this chance again.
“Yes, you did, and now you are too late.” She looked at me for the first time, and as soon as she caught my eye, I looked at the table in fear she would think I was a creeper for staring at her.
“I’m sorry. If I could go back, I would.”
And I would.
Sometimes I pass by her house and see her son riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in mid-summer. She does not know it, but I wonder if I had only opened her door one more time, listened to her logic instead of mine, sat on her loveseat and gave her a wordless hug, would her son have my eyes?
I knew that he would.