“I really don’t mind, it’s up to you honey”.
He doesn’t even look at her, not even make the effort to stop reading, sheltered behind the fortress of his newspaper. The black and pristine coffee table stands between them looking impassable as if it were some sort of forbidding ocean isolating the two of them, continents apart. Her long knitting needles forms a cross on her lap, the unfinished work dangling limply and grazing the floor. She just sits here on the armchair, glowering at the prints, hoping for spontaneous combustion that would prompt him to take action. But the paper only produces a crisp sound as he turns the page and for a moment, muffles the ticking of the clock timing their silence.
For all she knows, she could be naked right now, in the muscular embrace of a young stud, heaving and puffing, her face creasing the antimacassar, mascara staining it, voluptuous moans drowning out the sound of the worrying clock. And still, there he would be, his feet fittingly slipped in warm loafers, the cuffs of his pants frayed by the heels, legs slightly apart , this wall of a newspaper hiding her fancied lover from the blue eyes running along the lines, glasses perched on his nose, and thinning parting grey hair waving on each side.
It was she who asked for the dangling bulbs above the counter, he who complied in installing them. At some point, it became necessary to have all the furniture sandpapered, coarsely daubed with white matt paint. The panes of the sideboard had been done away with and replaced by chicken coop chain link. The old lino imitating cheap Italian mosaics had been duly torn off. Grey-painted floorboards are now covering their place, save for the bathroom, bamboo mats of course. He had said yes to all of this and obliged. Flea markets have no secrets for her and she has a reputation for being a tough haggler. “Let's make it a twenty, see how it is all wobbly, it's going to take Charles ages to fix it. Doesn't this look like a stain to you? What with the washing, the refitting, be a dear a ten will do.” He generally looks at her with a smile on his face, hands behind his back, nodding dutifully at her requests, handing her his wallet when she asks for it.
And here it is, this 1960’s retro armchair straight out of a Kubrick’s movie, one she can't recall. And here she is, shifting in her seat. Her deep sighs cannot disturb the unnerving stillness of the columns. It's always been the same for sex. She always has to coax him to bed, even though the frequency of intercourse has been steadily on the wane as they have grown older. He is always ready for a tussle in the hay, as most men you would think, but she has always craved for something different. With the kids gone, she has deeply pondered over the kitchen table as a potential outlet. Being caught off guard in the middle of the washing up sent sparks down under, shivers and tingles. The prospect of an effusing uncontrolled passion, even a little rough, feeds her days and in the morning, as she chews on her toast while absent-mindedly stirring at her cup of coffee, even the sound of his footsteps is disappointing. She wishes she could hear the floorboards creak under the weight of a dream-induced arousal, see her breakfast tray swept off the table, the fine bone China cup shatter to the floor while his manliness would already be standing at the ready, peeping out his ungirdled bathrobe.
But all she hears in the morning is the shuffling feet. All she sees is the benevolent smile. All she gets is a dry peck on the cheek.
“What about driving to the store? We ‘re almost out of veggies.”
“Sure, thing honey.”
“I also need to check on this new shop they ‘ve opened. Maggie says they ‘ve got the finest clothes”
“Might as well, have lunch outside, feels like ages since I last had lobster”
“What about having the John's around, they look like they want to swing”
“Great idea, honey!”
They are times, she is certain he does not listen to her as if he were in some distant lands, away from the tediousness of their everyday lives. She feels the same when going to bed at night. She gets another dry peck for a kiss and feels like she has been punched in the stomach when he rolls around on his side and seems to go snoring instantly. The space between them feels achingly wide as if they were sleeping in different rooms, different houses, different cities and different worlds. She regrets telling him about the restaurant as she already knows that she will be the one picking the parking spot, get inside first and ask for a table for two, order the wine and appetizers and end up choosing what he would get.
“Sorry honey, you know how it is with me, I never know what to get. Should I go with the sirloin or the fish? the baked potato or the French beans? The cheese or the yogurt? The pie or the cake?” But she knows it already too well. She knows that she ‘ll be deciding when they will drive to the store. She already knows how the day will end, how the week will end with the kids coming over and her preparing food for the family while he will be hanging about the kitchen waiting to be ordered around. The end is so plain to see that tears are now welling up. She would like to scream at him, tell him how she hates his stupid loafers, tell him about the fate she had in store for the newspapers, how she would like to roll it into a tube.
The newspaper is being folded, she looks at him. He gives her a smile. He looks as if ready to get up.
“You know what darling?”
“Yes?” her voice is unsteady, too shrill to contain her emotion. She tries to stop her lower lip from shaking and her eagerness, from showing. The former fantasies are already rushing in flashes before her eyes. This is what is great about fantasies, they can never compare to real life, they are always tailored to our needs, aiming at correcting reality.
“I think, I’ll take the rubbish out.”