The Couple

January 13, 2010 § 15 Comments

They worked on opposite sides of the room, their eyes not meeting. Not for a lack of want or affection, but from what kept them occupied: a sick child, cleaning up the sick, worrying about the child, and putting the other children to bed.

When their eyes did meet, they were mirrored reflections of each other. Dark circles framed the whites of the eyes made red and blurry with fatigue. The status of his was slightly worse.

“Go to bed,” she said.

“I can’t.”

“Why not? Everyone’s in bed. I’ll finish cleaning out here.”

He took his pajama pants off. “We’re out of hand soap.”

They did need hand soap.

“No! You go to bed. I’ll go. I’ve come into a burst of energy. See?” She showed him the impressive prowess of her laundry loading. “Really. Go to bed.”

She turned her back to him and continued with the sexy work that is housewivery. With her hands full of assorted children’s toys, she went to their bedroom where a toy car waited on the floor. When she saw him again, he’d finished buttoning his jeans.

“What are you doing? Take your pants off. Go to bed. I’m going to the store.”

He smiled.

“Don’t smile at me. I’m leaving for the weekend and you need sleep.”

He put on his Birkenstocks.

She threw a power ball at a pile of laundry. “NO! I’m serious. Take your pants off and go to bed. I’m the one going to the store!” She was shouting. They never yelled.

He pulled his sweater on.

The toys dropped on the duvet comforter and she disappeared from the room. He met her at the front door where she fumbled on the floor with the laces of her shoes.

“DON’T. You’re not going. I’ve had eight Coke Zeros today. I’m fine.”

“Where are your car keys?” His voice was quiet and patient.

She didn’t know. “On the key place.”

The infuriating smile remained, amused at her torment. “I’m going.”

“Why don’t you listen to me? Let me do this for you. You’re so frustrating.” Abandoning the laces, they flailed wildly as she ran to her cardigan and put it on inside out. She reached for his keys.

He put them in his pocket and gently took her hand. “Do you know why I want to go?”

“To aggravate me.”

“I am tired. Because I’m tired, you are better suited to care for the children. You’ve had eight Coke Zeros. If the children cry out, they’d rather have a smiling, loving mommy come for them over a tired and cranky daddy, wouldn’t they?”

It made sense, this logic. “I’m not smiling and loving. I’m aggravated.”

The corner of his mouth twitched upward as he leaned in and pressed his lips to her forehead. “Will you let me go?”

“Yes,” she relented.

 As he drove away, she listened to the quiet of the house. No one cried out in need. On the couch she waited, hoping he knew how much she loved him.

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