spider summer still again
Date: Nov 13th, 2009 4:44:54 pm - Subscribe
The clock on the wall seemed to slow as the minutes and seconds ticked past and the sun started its slow descent from high noon in the courtyard the window facing her desk looked out over. Every day was the same in this office to her. She did her secretarial work, she filed her papers, she wasted time away. On her desk is an angel figurine given to her by her daughters for mother’s day with an inscription beneath it quoting John Lennon “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” that she’s fixated her thoughts on this particular afternoon.
When she was young, she had an ideal of how her life would be. It included an adoring husband, two point five kids, a dog, and a picket fence around her perfectly trimmed yard. She never envisioned life occurring the way it did.
The light streaming in through her window dissipated as the sun disappeared behind the building and she was left looking out at a desolate yard to see people scurrying in and out of the fifteen story office building. Deadlines were approaching as the day drew to an end, and important documents would inevitably go unread as the working middle class hurried to get home to their families.
This was not in Lucy’s plan, working a desk job every day, only making it home in time to be filled in on the events of her daughters’ lives. She’d hoped to be part of their lives, living it with them, rather than hearing about it afterward.
Work was slow now and had been so for a couple of weeks. Lucy filled her days writing paperwork and reports, none of which were very consequential. By the time four o’clock comes around, she’s already turned off her computer and packed her empty Tupperware that once held her lunch of garden salad into her oversized tote. She’s out the door before the second hand makes a full revolution of the clock.
Rush hour out of downtown Minneapolis lasts a couple hours just as everyone begins their journeys home at the same time. On a good day, Lucy could be home by a quarter till five. Alternate plans allow her to miss the four o’clock rush, but only delays her eventual trip back to her small town life.
It’s four-oh-five and she’s heading further downtown, in opposite lanes of traffic than everyone else, seemingly hitting every green light she crosses. By four-ten, she’s pulling into the visitor lot of an expensive hotel called “Millennium Hotel” that overlooks the streets of Nicollet Mall that never seem to sleep. At four-fifteen, Lucy has meandered up to the fourteenth floor to room 1420.
“Hey you,” a low, masculine voice answered in response to her visage in the doorframe, his hearing was so finely tuned to the sound of her key turning in the door that he frequently beat her to opening it, “I was hoping I’d see you today.”
“What a silly hope that should have been a certainty,” already Lucy was lost in his green eyes reflecting her blue. Together they seemed to create a swirling pattern of sea that they could somehow sail away on. In this landlocked state, this was their only escape.
He steps back, an invitation, giving her just enough room to squeeze past him into the privacy of the room. His brown hair rustled in the slight wind she created by the action. “Where’s the husband think you are today?” as he swept her up into his muscled arms.
“At work---he’s so naïve,” It was the same lie she told him every night she snuck to meet Harrison at the apartment they rented on the top floor of the hotel they first began their affair in. This had been an occurrence growing in frequency for the past couple months. He was a runner for another legal firm in the area when they met the day he’d stopped by her office to drop papers off for a case. He had neglected the existence on her left ring finger and continued to romance her anyways by finding excuse after excuse to return.
It had been so long since Lucy had been romanced that she couldn’t bring herself to reject his attempts. Here was a guy that noticed the small lovely characteristics of her being. He didn’t take her for granted, he adored her, he showered her with flowers and gifts and attention. It’d been ages since her husband had extended the same courtesy. They only ever went out on their anniversary and flowers were only ever a product of the seldom occasion in which he would need to apologize for something.
She tried not to think too much about him while rendezvousing with Harrison. She had merely fallen out of love with her husband, Tom. She wished him no ill will, and had enough conscience to know that he deserved better than this, she merely lacked the courage to do what was right.
But now, in this moment, was what she made herself focus on, and the way Harrison was looking at her that made her stomach flip twice over. His gaze usually had that effect, but there was something different about this afternoon. The air was thick with intensity and meaning as they stared at each other in the cold environment.
The rich burgundy walls had a stale quality to them that came from the years of tenants they’d seen walk in and out of their structure. The same non-descript landscape painting hanging above the bed and in front of the bathroom door since the opening of the hotel was always a source of unease to Lucy, as though she carried all her feelings for her affair in those paintings. Such a familiar quality about them, she loved the comfort that brought. At the same time, she had seen the paintings before, in other hotel rooms while on vacation or business trips, and she hated thinking herself possible of such a thing more than just once in her lifetime.
“I left Renee last night,” his voice jarred her back to reality. “It wasn’t fair to her, and all I want is you. Her heart hasn’t been in it for years,” Lucy never believed he would actually leave his wife. She knew men said things in the heat of the moment that they didn’t mean. It was only now that she noticed a pile of luggage sitting by the far window. And there he stood, beaming down at her still wrapped up in his embrace. She couldn’t help pulling herself away from him.
“What? Why? Why didn’t you discuss this with me?” was all she could manage to sputter out. Her casual fling had suddenly become something more serious than she’d ever thought of it becoming. She had a husband, she didn’t want another one.
This was obviously not what he had hoped her reaction would be. His face fell and he defensively retreated his hands to his pockets, as they lacked her body to hold any longer. “I thought…I guess I just thought this is what you wanted.”
“I do, but I don’t---I can’t explain this. Not right now,” and with that Lucy turned to leave. Harrison extended his left arm to stop her, and she suddenly realized that the cool touch of metal on his finger was absent. That just made her flee faster. She reached the elevator just as it closed and didn’t even take notice of which floor it was going to. Anywhere but there. Besides, there was no where to go but down from where she had entered.
This was her life now. Running away from the reason she abandoned her family. She couldn’t bring herself to tears, because she knew she’d brought it all on herself, but self-pity began welling up in her stomach to the point she thought she might be sick. She grasped tightly to the growing stitch in her side. The elevator dinged and Lucy exited, not even taking note of which floor she was on. She had to keep moving. She had no idea where she was running to, but the fear of getting caught was greater than her uncertainty.
Wandering around on the tenth floor, she expected the layout to be similar to that of the fourteenth, only to realize how sorely mistaken she was. There were signs pointing towards the elevator, to the ice and vending machines, to rooms 1030-1060, how were there no signs pointing towards an exit?
She had just rounded the corner in the direction of the vending machines, and the floral print on the wallpaper was beginning to nauseate her with its constant repetition. It was as though she was getting motion sick. She’d been trying to steady herself by focusing on the maroon carpeting beneath her feet. Sounds ahead made her stop her mindless trance. There was a young family just exiting their room. The couple were in their late twenties.
“Honey, do you have the key with you?” The blond-haired woman suddenly seemed in a panic that she had just locked themselves out of their room as she frantically searched her pockets for the plastic card.
“Nope. Don’t you have it?” her red-headed mate said back to her, a smile playing ever so subtly on his lips as he watched her fret a second longer before pulling the key from the back pocket of his faded jeans. She merely sighed and took it from him, shaking her head slightly as she entered back in the room to grab what appeared to be a miniature umbrella.
She slipped it into the stroller with what appeared to be their two-year old girl. She sat there with her strawberry blonde curls bouncing all around her face as her parents made another comical verbal exchange over whether they had the key this time or not.
“I don’t know…you are forgetful. Maybe I shouldn’t trust you with it,” he said as he playfully tickled her sides trying to make her surrender the subject of conversation.
“John!” she suddenly seemed conscious of Lucy’s presence in the hallway and gave up the fight by handing him the room key just in order to stop his affectionate attacks.
“Might you be able to point us in the right direction of the Basilica of Saint Mary? Thought we’d show Courtney the architecture of it,” he motioned towards the little girl that reminded Lucy of the classic caricature of Strawberry Shortcake, still sitting in the stroller
“Sure, out the entrance, turn left. Take Grant Street to Spruce Place. Once you hit Hennepin Avenue, you should be able to see it,” Lucy was surprised she’d actually been able to form words at all, much less the ability to explain coherently directions to a place she hadn’t been in fifteen years.
A quick “Thanks!” was issued from the woman, whose name was never disclosed, and they strolled away lazily, John’s arm around her as she pushed Courtney quietly contemplating the flowers on the walls.
Definitely still in the honeymoon phase, Lucy thought as she continued her quest for an exit. As if bending to her will, an orange glowing “EXIT” sign appeared above her head as she turned the corner with a door accompanying it. No more turns to decide between, no more flowers on the wall. Grey uniformity all the way down ten flights soothed her anxiety she’d created herself. Finally hitting ground floor, she breaks through to the sunny summer evening. She’d nearly forgotten what she’d been running from as she walked placidly back to where she parked her car what felt like hours ago.
Within minutes she was back on the familiar stretch of highway 36 en route to Stillwater. Twenty minutes later, she was rolling onto Main Street as cars emptied from the street. Old man Taylor was just letting his last customer out from the mom-and-pop grocery store called “Small Change” In approximately fifteen minutes, he’ll realize he locked his keys in his car again and have to call triple A, only to have them point out that he could have typed in his lock code to his door the entire time. Despite her dramatic situation, she couldn’t help but chuckle at the impending fate of his evening and the fact that some people will never enter the age of technology.
The stray cats are beginning to congregate around Mrs. Wilson’s front stoop. It’s about that time that she gives them their nightly cake pan of milk. It’s Friday, so she’ll also have the weeks scraps of leftovers to give them. One of the cats walks out in front of Lucy’s car so that she has to stop as though there were a cat crossing sign attached to the corner.
The sunlight streams through the left side of her four door silver 2006 Infiniti as she makes her way through the winding path north of town. The light caught the small diamond resting on her left ring finger and small orbs of color appeared in the car. Angels guided her car to the safety of her driveway as she pondered what life she wanted, and if that life was still possible.
The two-story grey house drearily came into view. The carport sat empty, devoid of her husband’s car or her daughters bikes. One of the girls had left their fan in their window that the wind was blowing in through, creating the image that the house was somehow winking at her with the window as an eye. Whether she thought it an ominous sign or not, she had no choice but to go in and face her decisions.
Of course the house was empty. She would be alone. Even when she’s home early enough, there’s no one to greet her, save for the quick note scrawled on a piece of scratch paper by her eldest declaring their whereabouts for the duration. The dogs were happy to see her, but quickly lost interest when they realized she wasn’t going to be playful for them. They resigned to playing tug of war with one of their chew toys.
Lucy walked upstairs to her bedroom, stopping ever so slightly to skip the third to last step, as it always creaked. Disturbing the silence would have made the experience real, not a dream the way that Lucy imagined it to be at the moment. Past the rooms in which she watched her daughters grow into the dependent women they’re becoming, one last door on the right and she’s standing in the frame of a lavender coated room. The lilac border around the bottom is beginning to fade and peel at the edges. The bed is centered in the room and contained an odd assortment of pillows that were clearly never meant to meet.
Sitting down on the bed, Lucy was forced to finally re-evaluate her life as the bed springs issued a loud squeak, breaking the bubble of her dream. She couldn’t continue her affair. But she wouldn’t keep lying to Tom. She wracked her brain for a solution that would allow her to keep Tom but to tell him the truth. After all those years, she wasn’t sure if he could be kind enough to forgive her what she’d done. Glancing to her dresser, she noticed for the first time in months the portrait of Tom and her at their wedding. The antiqued ornate frame was a Christmas gift from her mother the first year they were married and had been resting comfortably on her dresser ever since they moved into this house ten years ago. She realized for the first time that there were cobwebs forming over it, stretching from corner to corner of the metal curves of the frame. The sun played with the webs in a way that made it look like the lens had broken on their wedding day. Or perhaps just the glass was cracked.
If it were just the glass that was broken, that could be replaced and fixed. Was the fiber of their relationship still strong though? A daddy-long legs crawled out from behind the dresser and wandered out into the middle of the lavender wall. After a while, the spider must have crawled back under the dresser or escape through the window back to its natural habitat, but it went completely unnoticed by Lucy. She started at the wall as thought it had the answers scrawled in miniscule print, that if she just examined it long enough, they would reveal themselves to her.
And when she rose from the bed, she went to her desk and took out some stationery she’d gotten to keep in touch with family that she’d neglected. She wrote one word, “Sorry,” and crossed it out. Slowly she began writing more words, only to continually cross them out, each phrase sounding more like an excuse than the previous one, and each one begging for more forgiveness she knew she didn’t deserved.
She reached the bottom of her papers, and knew she had to make that last one count. "The girls are at my mother's house. I can't do this anymore. Take care of the dogs." She couldn’t take the lying to him anymore. It was the least she could do give him that explanation, but every other word she tried writing hurt far too much.
With that, she stood up, replaced her chair at her desk and turned to leave the room and as she did so, she thought she saw her long-legged friend creep across the pen she let lay on the desk.
At the end of the day, all her planning aside, her life was created. And she had to come to grips with the fact that it is what it is.
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