A Story

OCTOBER 12th, 2017

“I want to. I just can’t.”

These words play over and over in my mind like a scratched up CD.

“I want to. I just can’t.”
“I want to. I just can’t.”

How strong is the “want?” That’s what I want to know. I had heard him hurl these words at me and refused to believe them. But that didn’t stop me from feeling the twinge of finality in my veins, blue and snapping like a gas fire.

It had been months now. Well, two. But the toll it had taken on me would make you think it’d been years.

 “Sweetie, you look tired.”

The plump waitress whose nametag read Brenda patted my arm in a way only Southerners could pull off.  “Why don’t you grab yourself one of them Cokes over there. I won’t tell.”

That was yesterday. I had taken refuge in the local meat and two, picking at a plate of chicken and dumplings the size of my face. Half moon carrots floating in the gravy like little orange boats without a sail, unsuccessfully weaving in and out of the cavernous mountains of dough built around them.

She was right. But I was way beyond tired. It’d been 61 days since I’d slept for more than two hours. And today I was back in our apartment, curled up in a kitchen chair wearing the only item he’d left – a UVA t-shirt, soft and worn with time.

My notebook lay sprawled out in front of me with a list of possibilities. And by list I had one item. Under “Reasons!?!” all I’d jokingly come up with was:

1.      FBI agent

Scribbled out angrily at my own immaturity.

My frustrated fingers run through my hair involuntarily, slicking back the thin brown wisps he’d kiss every morning on the way out the door, gently pulling me up toward him so he could reach my forehead. 

I run over the last few weeks Tyler was here in my head. The night before he left was nothing out of the ordinary. It was a Thursday and we’d both come home from work, put our sweat pants on and immediately plopped in front of the TV with a bowl of Cheerios and the latest episode of House of Cards.

That night we had fallen asleep in our usual position; him laying flat with one arm above his head, me diagonal, head over his heart. A rhythmic beat I’d fallen asleep to for over 3 years.

I didn’t realize that night would be the last.






I can’t remember the last time I got something in the mail.

I was leaning against the counter, still sporting my button-down and slacks like I hadn’t been home for a solid 45 minutes. Still standing there, mouth open at the words I’d just read on the paper now becoming damp with sweat in my hands.

 I heard a clink by the door and turned, my heart pounding in my chest as footsteps and the jostle of keys grew louder. Hiding the paper behind my back, I watched the door open quickly and two seconds later Willow was prancing toward me with a smile on her face, just like always.

“Hey babe! I missed you.”

She kissed me quick and soft on the lips and nuzzled her face into my chest, waiting for my arms to wrap around her in welcome like they did every night after work.

I reached behind me and discretely slipped the paper on the counter, face down, stretching my arms around her slender frame in a hug that meant more than she knew at the moment.

“I missed you too.”

She looked up at me and smiled and then walked away in a blink, toward the fridge. Her mind already on dinner, energy always cranked up to high despite the long work hours and morning kick-boxing schedule she kept up without fail.  

I studied her back as she knelt up and down outside of the fridge, opening drawers and gathering produce for a home-cooked meal. Slipping the paper down by my side, I turned to walk out of the room.

“I’m gonna go change!” I said, making my way toward our bedroom, out of sight, and twisting the knob to shut the door in silence.

I flipped the paper over in my hands and read it again, line by line. Each letter, every word, as if they hadn’t been read a hundred times over since I peeled the seal open with delightful curiosity.

She can’t find out. I felt my stomach twist and churn like it hadn’t done in years. Low could never know about this.  

Laura MaddoxComment