Are you going to wear that?
He looked down at his shirt then back up at her saying nothing as if to say yes.
I’m doing laundry.
And that was it. That was enough. He stood up and made to leave gathering up his sunglasses, wallet and car keys, his migraine medication and a pack of Juicyfruit and hoped for an instant it was an old pack; he always had them lying around, half-finished packs started on the run here to there, here or there, packs he never finished and left in the glove box or on the counter in the kitchen. Lately he noticed the gum had been reformulated, had a different taste, sweeter but flatter if that was possible, if that made sense, and he hoped that somehow this pack was from an old batch, pre-new and improved.
He was about to unwrap a piece and heard her sighs as she lumbered with the laundry basket and thought to himself I’ll wait till I’m in the car before I chew this. It will add some suspense.
Where are you going she said from somewhere out of sight. Except she said it like Where are YOU going and kept her voice level at the end, didn’t raise it, didn’t drop it, kept it even keeled right there where it always was, where it always would be.
Out he replied Gotta see a man about a horse he whispered deep down into the back of his head and down the back of his throat and down into the pit of his stomach where it fluttered like a dying butterfly to rest atop his fried egg sandwich, cup of coffee and vitamin d from breakfast. His doctor was concerned about a deficiency. But she had already turned her back and was lugging a load of laundry to the washing machine. I’m leaving and not coming back.
He imagined she turned with a look of surprise and sadness drawing down the corners of her mouth and eyes What she said Where? Why?
I have to get out of here. I’ve tried to explain but his imaginary voice trailed off…Babe he said wondering why he called her that anymore. If I don’t the same things will happen all over again. The same mistakes. The same sadness.
But she was sorting the whites from the colors and didn’t notice him leaving as he squeezed past her in the narrow hallway leading from the house to the garage.
He made it as far as the car before realizing he’d need some clean clothes so he went around the house to the back patio and sat down waiting for the laundry to finish. He stuck the piece of gum in his mouth. It was new and improved. Everything changes he told himself. Nothing stays the same