A little something I’ve been working on for a long time. It’s changed a lot of the years and currently looks almost nothing like it did originally and there are still some things that I’ll probably change. But it’s at least presentable now (I think).
He couldn’t remember a time when he had been this happy before. She laid her head on his lap while they talked and he gazed up into the deep blue sky. Had the sky always been that crystal clear? Is this how it felt to be in love? He had told women that he loved them before and he had never said it without meaning it. But it had never felt like this. HE had never felt like this. If he truly meant it the other times he said he was in love – and he did mean it – then what was this? Was there something stronger than love? Or was he just now finding out what love really was? THIS was a feeling that he could definitely understand people writing and composing and dreaming about down through the ages. That’s exactly what he wanted, too: ages upon ages with her by his side. That would bring him peace. That would bring him happiness. That would be love.
As they finished their picnic lunch and started to pack up, he breathed in every detail and poured over it in his mind, so he wouldn’t lose it. He turned his gaze back to that perfectly blue sky. He closed his eyes and felt the gentle breeze with just a hint of…was that jasmine? He listened to the soft chirping of the birds in the trees. The trees. Even they were perfect, casting just the right amount of shade on this bright, sunny day. With every subtle bit of the day burned into his memory, he opened his eyes and turned them again to her.
“What would you like to do for the rest of the day?” she asked.
“You, of course.” His typical response elicited the usual silly laughter that he once would have found corny. He never seemed to mind such exchanges with her. He lived for them, in fact. Before meeting her, he would have mocked any of his friends for the same behavior, but now he didn’t care. He loved the way that she made him feel and he loved the person that he was when he was with her.
Suddenly, a blaring siren, shattering the tranquility and the hopes of the day to come, pierced the early afternoon’s calm. He closed his eyes against the din and felt his entire body lurch slowly to one side. He opened his eyes and saw the flashing red digits before him: 6:00am.
Still groggy, he slowly sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, resting his feet very nearly, but not quite, flat on the floor. He let out a plaintive, early morning sigh and rubbed his eyes as he turned off the alarm clock. His wife murmured next to him, rolled over and resumed her sleep. He turned and looked over his shoulder at her, unable to make out much more than her shape in the dim pre-dawn light streaming through the window. It’s not that he didn’t love her, he did. She was a good woman, probably better than he deserved. She was a beautiful woman. The years had been no more unkind to her than they had been to him. Why was he even thinking about this? Was he really sitting here, comparing the woman he’d been with for so long to some fantasy woman from his dreams?
He got out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. Even without turning on the lights, he easily made his way through the darkened hallway – it was a trip he’d made a thousand times before, a trip he was sure he’d make a thousand times again and another thousand times after that. Somehow, it had never occurred to him before just how much of his morning he sleepwalked through.
He went through his usual morning routine. He showered, he shaved and he made his way back to the bedroom to get dressed. He pulled a pair of slacks from the dresser and a shirt from the closet. He straightened the wrinkled shirt as best he could, found a tie that didn’t clash with it too badly, slipped on a comfortable pair of socks and slightly less comfortable pair of shoes. He sighed again. How many was that this morning, four or three? Why was he suddenly noticing these foolish little things?
He leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek before heading downstairs. She murmured something unintelligible, but most likely sweet, to him without opening her eyes. A bowl of soggy cereal, two pieces of only slightly burnt toast and a glass of orange juice later, he was out the door, in the car and on his way through the dim, grey morning to the office.
This was another trek he’d made a thousand times before. A thousand? Twice a day, every day, for just one year worked out to almost a thousand: seven hundred-thirty, in fact. He’d been doing this for a lot longer than one year. But that included weekends, so maybe it was only five hundred or so a year. Why was he trying to figure this out in his head? Why did he even care how many times he’d made this same trip? He knew he needed to focus on driving and stop obsessing on this. With that, he turned his attention to the road as the streetlights started to go out and the sun started to crest the horizon. But he had definitely done this more than a thousand times; a lot more.
He may never have had an exciting life, but over the years, he had at least grown used to most of it. One thing he still hated, though, was the lighting in the office. It always seemed like the lights were wrapped in tissue paper: they never seemed quite bright enough, but somehow the glare from them still gave him headaches. He sat down at his desk, adjusting the ergonomic back support cushion which always seemed to slide out of position during the night. He also hated the way it made him sit. That and the lights; everything else was fine. But sitting awkwardly in the chair was better than the back aches that plagued him for so much of last year, so he dealt with it. The back aches had passed and the headaches weren’t that bad. Certainly people in the world had things a lot worse than that, right? So who was he to complain?
He spent the morning as he spent most mornings, staring at a tiny black screen at rows upon rows of numbers, gazing into the lives of people wealthier and probably happier than him. That wasn’t really fair to say: he wasn’t an unhappy man. He had a good job, a nice home and a loving wife. He even felt a faint smile creep across his face as he turned his gaze from his computer screen to the picture of his wife and him next to it on his desk. She was a wonderful woman and he was lucky to have her. The picture was taken on their honeymoon. They had decided to skip the usual honeymoon hotspots for something all their own, a quiet little getaway. That particular day had been particularly beautiful. He remembered the blueness of the sky, the singing of the birds carried on the gentle breeze and a life full of promise that stretched out as far as he and his new bride dared dream. At that moment, it seemed like that was ages ago.
He ate his lunch at his desk, not because he didn’t have friends at work, but because there always seemed to be so much work that needed doing. He wasn’t disliked around the office and coworkers asked from time to time if he wanted to join them across the street. They asked today, in fact, but the work wasn’t going to do itself. So he grabbed a sandwich from the vending machine and took a few bites of it while he worked. He washed it down with some coffee that had been sitting in the pot in the corner of the office since he came in that morning.
That afternoon was more of the same. As the day trudged on, he fished a bottle of aspirin out of his desk drawer for the headache that was starting to form behind his temples. That was usually the sign that it was time for him to go home for the day. He decided to run through one last batch of invoices. As his coworkers filed out of the office, they said goodbye – he tried to answer each of them, but thought maybe he had missed a couple. He hoped not, he didn’t want to appear rude – they were mostly good people.
An hour or two later, he got up to leave, glancing one last time at the photograph on his desk and smiling what, he realized, probably looked like a sad little smile. He forced himself to smile just a little more. It had been a good day: he’d gotten a lot of work done. Things were looking up for the week.
He made his way down to the lobby and out into the parking lot. The sun was just starting to set, casting a faint pall over the parking lot and the city beyond. He got into his car and listened to the news on the radio on the drive home. Politics, war, crime: more of the same.
Dinner was on the table when he got home. It would probably need heated up, though, because he was late.
He ate while she talked about her day. One of her friends had done something or other, he didn’t quite catch who or what. The guy had come out and finally gotten the washing machine fixed, though, so that was a good thing.
He decided to stay up and work on a few reports for work as she got up off the couch to head up to bed. She followed him into the study and kissed him goodnight and asked him for the one thousandth time not to work so hard; he was going to give himself a heart attack. He smiled at her, promised to come to bed soon and kissed her again. She was a good woman, worrying about him like that.
At 6:00am, the alarm once again cried out the start of a new day. She mumbled in her sleep and rolled over, as she did every morning when he got up. Today, the alarm kept on blaring, though, desperate for attention. She opened her eyes and saw that he wasn’t there. She called out to him. Nothing. She turned off the alarm and got up, calling his name. She checked the bathroom and went downstairs and found him in the chair in his study, sleeping. When he wouldn’t answer her, she shook him, she cried out for him, and then she just cried.
The ambulance arrived quickly and carried him to the hospital. The doctors couldn’t say for certain what was wrong with him. He simply wouldn’t wake up. Some sort of “mini stroke” they said, or possibly a mental “break”. As best as the doctors could tell, it was in his hands now – he simply had to choose to wake up and return to her. He had to fight; he had to choose to come back. She held his hand and cried softly, calling his name and begging him to open his eyes again.
He couldn’t remember a time when he had been this happy before. She sat next to him and took his hand in hers. The gentle breeze carried a soft scent of something – maybe jasmine – and her voice, gently whispering his name, calling him to open his eyes so they could get going. He loved the way his name sounded on her lips. He slowly opened his eyes. Had the sky always been that crystal clear? He listened to the soft chirping of the birds in the trees and smiled.
“What would you like to do for the rest of the day?” she asked, as they stood.
He took her hand in his, gently kissed it and smiled again. He turned and walked with her through the grass and into the gently swaying trees; there must have been a thousand of them.