Zebra, Mule, and I stood abreast, as always, and studied the newcomer. Sea Horse reared up from his pale green tentacle of a tail. His upper half resembled the cavalry horses behind us, complete... [+]
He came into the kitchen one day yelling and cursing about our taxes, our bills and the fact that he should never have bought this house in the first place. Too much maintenance was required and he had no idea how expensive it would be to keep the place up. I warned him against purchasing an old house, having grown up in one myself, I predicted this burden. I told him the horrible stories of my parents having to spend every last penny of their monthly paychecks to keep our house. I told him that we had to give our family dog away to the neighbors, that it was either my sister’s braces or a warm house in the winter. He didn’t seem to be affected by the hardship that was my childhood. Instead, he offered up some words of wisdom, which were of course helpful twenty years later. “Your parents could have sold the house, you know. That thing was really on it’s last leg...like pouring money into a blackhole,” he said. I should have defended my family and our old house but all I could do was sit still and stare longingly out of the kitchen window at the flourishing tomato plant.
That night I got into bed next to him. We were rarely intimate unless there was a special occasion which I didn’t really mind. Every time I slept with him I was poignantly reminded of a fire that once blazed and crackled with an everlasting passion, now just a heap of damp kindling wood. Although we stopped sleeping together forever ago, he always leaned over and kissed me goodnight. It wasn’t until this night that it started to repulse me. There was something so routine about it that nauseated me and I began to wonder why he even kept up with this nightly habit. I thought about getting out of bed once he fell asleep and going downstairs, maybe making some tea and catching up on a weeks worth of work that I had been putting off. Instead, I simply rolled over on my side, clutching a fistful of cool sheets, my head wedged between two pillows. Our bodies laid parallel on the bed, like two trains running in tandem on their respective tracks, never colliding.
I used to work as an editor for the local newspaper, a job that grew tedious and stale over the course of just three years. Each day of the week filled me with a chilling sense of monotony. I often wondered if I would ever have a different experience, would we would ever take a trip to Peru just to eat ceviche? Would I ever learn to play bridge? These are the kinds of questions that popped into my head around 8am when I arrived to see a fresh stack of articles piled high on my desk, chock-full of punctuation errors, grammatical mistakes and plagiarism every now and then. I’d skim through the articles about a high school basketball team making it to semifinals, a four year old hero who detected a factory fire across the street from his elementary school. I quickly sifted the pile for the more urgent articles, ones about the governor and how he plans to pull our state out of debt. Those articles went straight to the top while the brave toddler and fruitful athletes were tossed to the bottom. There was something about disregarding these equally, if not more, important articles that struck me as immoral. In fact, when I first started the job I made a sort of bet with one of the other editors, Camille, that I would read and edit every single article that ended up in my pile, no matter how trivial. I felt obligated to give each one a chance. “Good luck with that. You’ll drive yourself nuts,” she said as she sipped her coffee, leaving a ring of splotchy red lipstick on the cup. It pissed me off then because she assumed that I was as lazy as everyone else in this world and it pisses me off even more now because she was right. It’s not that I couldn’t do it, I’m a fast reader, and I can spot mistakes like a hawk. I stopped because it made editing feel like work and I just couldn’t have that. This is when I realized that the job itself had turned one of my passions into a laborious task, nothing more than a vehicle carrying me to my next paycheck.
I sat down at my computer before even thinking about my pile. It looked like someone had attempted to build a fortress out of used paper but failed miserably. After staring at the white screen for several minutes, something appeared. It started out as a red, bean shaped, fetus with a green umbilical cord creeping out of its stomach all the way to the top of the screen and wrapping effortlessly around the computer. I could see the infant’s heart pulsing swiftly through its skin, dispatching blood to the rest of it’s tiny body. I watched in awe as it grew and grew right in front of my eyes. I even pinched myself a couple of times to make sure I was conscious. What shocked me even more than the red baby growing literally in the middle of my office was that I felt comfortable throughout the whole thing. Something told me not to be afraid, that this was supposed to happen. About a minute or two after the fetus appeared, it had blossomed into a full grown heirloom tomato, just like the ones in the yard at home. I reached a clammy hand out to touch the exquisite creation, but nothing was there. I lurched forward and grasped for anything I could get ahold of, even if it was just a feeble, lanky stem but I felt absolutely nothing. Within seconds, the tomato dissipated, leaving me unfulfilled, yearning for something that was once there.
I snuck in through the back door which emitted a loud creak as I gently pushed it open. Luckily he was the type who could sleep soundly through a thunderstorm, an attribute I always envied. It was still early in the morning; early enough for me to brew a pot of coffee and pour a cup for each of us. I left his on the counter. I tiptoed around the bed where his body laid still and heavy, letting out the occasional snore. I quietly pulled clothes off of their hangers, pictures out of their frames and toiletries out of their cabinets. The room didn’t look much different. After setting a large canvas tote bag on the counter, I walked out to the yard. Water droplets covered the tomato plant, sliding down the fruit like tears on the rosy cheeks of a toddler. Truthfully, I never liked tomatoes. I avoided them at all costs, always asking for my meals at restaurants sans tomatoes. I grabbed an especially ripe looking tomato and separated it from its stem. My teeth sank deep into its red, seedy flesh. Translucent red juice dribbled down the sides of my face, tinting my white blouse. The acidity agitated my tongue, forcing my lips to twist into a distorted pucker. As I looked up at the azure morning sky, something about the sour juices waltzing atop my tongue and the ceaseless migration of the clouds told me that all would be right.