He sank back into the soft cushion of the chair. It felt great. It was expensive, to be sure, close to three hundred dollars, but worth every penny. Jenny and he had picked it out for his birthday. The old chair had hurt his back. He admired the leather of the arms. It seemed that he spent at least half his day, night really, working in his upstairs office preparing for class or basketball practice; it was an investment.
As he fired up the computer, he closed his eyes for a second, and quickly found himself back in kindergarten class when he was five years old sitting at table by himself with a small carton of milk and half eaten graham cracker sitting in front of him. He looked around the room and saw all of his classmates sleeping on their blankets. It was nap time, and he was being punished for not drinking his milk. Mrs. Johns was pretending to do class work, but he knew she was secretly sending him mind messages ordering him to drink his milk.
With his eyes closed and firmly committed to the traumatic emotion trapped in the memory he didn’t see or hear Jenny enter the room until she was standing there by the desk and cleared her throat.
“Danny, I don’t love you anymore, and I know I never will again.” She wasn’t angry. The words came out all matter of fact like, and it was only the fact that she kept blinking her eyes that betrayed the fact that she wasn’t talking about something mundane.
“I told you two months ago that I’d give us a chance. I did and now I realize I deserve better. I need someone stronger than you Danny, a lot stronger.”
He was speechless. He could see his reflection in one of the pictures hanging on the wall. He looked like a fish out of water his mouth moving and nothing coming out. Finally his eyes flooded and the words tumbled out, “I didn’t….I didn’t want….I didn’t mean to hurt any….anybody.”
She gave a ghastly smile looking like a cruel guard telling a prisoner a joke, “I know that, Danny. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything whether you meant to hurt me or not. It’s just that I’m been thinking, and have come to the conclusion that I deserve someone better.”
From that point on, he didn’t listen. It was all a blur anyway. It was true that she had told him two months ago that she was unhappy. She had even left for a couple of days before returning and giving him the conditions. She told him that they would try for two months to change things for the better. He’d been on his best behavior ever since walking on eggshells.
On his birthday, they’d gone out together and bought the chair, he’d sensed a change for the better. Jenny herself had even made the suggestion that they opt for the more expensive model considering how much work he did on the computer. They’d even driven over to the coast and had a nice dinner at Finnegan’s that night and had walked on the beach for a while before making the drive home.
That night, she’d laughed at his jokes and even smiled when he remembered his first birthday after they were married when they were so poor that she had put a candle in bowl of Taco Bell beans and he had blown it out. He could even see her eyes mist up in the moonlight as he recounted that when she had asked him what he had wished for, he answered her with a kiss and the words, “That on our thirtieth anniversary, we walk along Seine in Paris with our grandchildren asleep back at the hotel.”
He was given hope on the ride home by the fact that she had slid over in the seat and sat near him.
Her last words as she stood at the door of his upstairs office, “You’ll find somebody else. You’re still young enough and if you drop ten-twelve pounds, you’re still pretty handsome. Some lucky woman will come along and snatch you right up.”
With that she gently closed the door, and he heard her footsteps padding down the stairs. He had never felt so all alone in his entire life. He looked out of the window at the school where he worked across the street from their house. The aisles were empty. It was a Sunday. He thought to himself that if you had to inhabit a cold, empty universe, this was the chair to do it in.
He closed his eyes and once again found himself back in kindergarten. All of the kids were awake and looking at him all strange. He thought he heard Mrs. Johns say, “I told you to drink your milk, Danny. I told you.”
He stood up and knocked the milk off the table with a sweep of his arm. “I wasn’t trying to hurt nobody, Teacher. I just hate the taste of milk.”