Light emanated from the screen door piercing through the darkness to provide an isolated spot the night had failed to claim. As Richard stood in the dull glow, he prepared himself for what lay on the other side.
Happy wife happy life, an expression tossed around by friends, family members, even mere acquaintances like a toy football that Richard failed to catch. Just the thought of hearing this remark directed at him, even in passing by someone who meant it to help, had potential to ruin his day.
Each time he heard it (and by now it had gotten to about every week), he despised the person who taunted him with such a simple solution without any knowledge of his personal life. Richard knew that a single mistake held the potential to nullify this advice in its entirety. Although To the average person it would mean nothing, to Richard the insult of this seemingly-benign-but-actually-quite-the-opposite phrase elicited a response that no other set of words had the power to.
Upon Richard hearing the saying, coals were dumped into the furnace inside of his soul. The blaze’s dull orange glow darkened and filled with a new vibrant energy, becoming a fierce red and igniting a distasteful passion. With the heat inside of him soaring, he had no choice but to bite his tongue to keep the inferno from leaking out of his mouth and burning the outside world.
After preventing an unwelcome portion of his inner monologue from being heard, he responded with a humorless laugh and a casual “Right.” The fire then dampened due to the steady downpour of a brooding storm cloud overhead.
The realization that he had little control over his own situation crept its way into his mind and transformed the space into a model of itself. For days (even weeks) after he heard the expression directed at him, the thought lingered and became a constant reminder of his various flaws.
“Come in,” A voice on the other side of the door beckoned him forward, rousing him from his thoughts. Looking up he found himself still standing in the same position outside the door. He walked through the door to see a familiar face sitting in front of him, illuminated by the same manufactured yellow light he had stood in outside the house. “Why were you out so late,”
“I just worked late,” As Richard responded, he avoided her gaze by focusing on setting his keys on the rack next to him.
“Worked late?” If given just the look on her face to observe, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume Richard had just confessed to a murder. “That’s the third time this week,”
“It’s fine, I’m here enough already,” After a long day, Richard’s joints ached and his head felt filled to the brim with the useless clamor of the day's activities. He began walking toward the living room to rest before she stopped him with another response.
“I need help around the house,” As she spoke she stumbled over her words in a frantic attempt to keep him listening. “You’re never here,”
Richard wanted to deny this. Before he made it out of the room, he stopped in his tracks to turn to her, but as he opened his mouth he found he had nothing to say. He wanted to tell her that every chance he could he stood by her side, needing nothing more than to be next to her, but that wasn’t the case. The impact of his absence on her life had nearly brought her to tears.
“I know you’re sneaking out to see her,” As Richard heard the words escape her mouth, he knew he knew there was nothing he could do to persuade her that it was false. He had attempted to avoid her catching on by using various excuses, but by now the My car broke down’s and the The traffic was terrible’s had worn out. The mounting suspicion of an endless need for excuses, Richard thought, must have led her to uncover the truth.
“Yeah,” Richard looked to his feet to see the same black dress shoes he had worn to work for the past year. The tips of them had become littered with various scuffs and scratches. The glue fixing the sole to the rest of the shoe had come undone in various places, leaving visible gaps between them, “I’m sorry.”
As he stared down, he noticed their position on the ground. Each of his feet sat in the same place he had placed them when he walked in. This type of control was absent within other aspects of his life.
“I’m not mad,” Her voice shed its agitated style to return back to a calmer, more soothing tone. “I just wish you would've told me”
“She needs me,” Richard looked up to see the corners of her eyes begin to wet with tears. He hadn’t intended for his situation to get this far out of hand. After his mom had gotten into a terrible car accident, her physical state had been declining. In his attempt to provide for his mother, he neglected his other half, “Every day she’s getting worse, I just want to be there.”
“You don’t have to go through this alone,” As she spoke, she stood up and stepped towards Richard. She outstretched her arm to him, offering her support to him. Richard tilted his head towards the hand before him, and then fell towards her, wrapping his arms around her.
As the two embraced, Richard felt a warmth he hadn’t felt since his mother’s accident. Not the type of warmth that fills one's body after an unjustified blow to their pride is received. Not the type of warmth from giving a gift and feeling your heart flutter as the person enjoys it, or even the type of subtle warmth that quickly spreads in the upper pants region after an unexpected “spill”. While the two stood holding each other in their arms, he felt the bittersweet, comfortable warmth of knowing you have someone standing by your side despite the army standing to your front.