Archive for the ‘Post: 11.9’ Category

Wednesday, March 28, 7:39 p.m.

Jack arrives home as the sun dies behind the neighboring houses. I’m waiting for him on his front porch. His wife is sleeping in their bedroom, the door firmly closed.

He parks his rundown yellow Saab in the driveway. He shoulders the driver’s side door closed, hefting a sizeable briefcase and a dented travel mug marked with a peeling Washingtonian logo.

He looks tired. I can tell he’s sober. His eyes are sharper than I’ve ever seen them. They narrow with displeasure when they alight on me. I’m taken aback. He’s never looked at me in this cold, annoyed way before. I wonder if he remembers me from today’s crime scene…or from the alternate world he rejected?

Is there a glimmer of memory left from the time we sat on this very porch in another version of this day? I shouldn’t hope so…but I do.

“Jack,” I say, half-rising awkwardly, then sitting back down awkwardly. “Remember me?”

He doesn’t answer. He locks the car, pockets the keys in his gray Member’s Only jacket, and mounts the porch. He stops a good twelve feet from the couch.

“Yeah,” he says, staring down at me. “I remember you.”

“Where do you remember me from?” I say.

He squints slightly in confusion.

“I met your wife,” I say.

Jack jingles his keys impatiently in his jacket pocket.

“You woke her up,” he accuses.

“Yes,” I say.

He sighs hard. He jingles the keys harder.

“She’s sick,” he says. “It’s dinnertime. You should get going. Is Leo still here? I’m writing him up for bringing you here. And don’t bother to submit clips or a resume. Your name’s going on the blacklist.”

He doesn’t remember. After all we went through. I didn’t think it would bother me so much.

“We had a connection,” I say. “I didn’t understand why. It kind of annoyed me, to be honest. I was supposed to stay objective, but you made me feel sorry for you.”

Jack should look at me like I’m crazy. Instead, he walks slowly to the couch and sits. He sighs long and deep, dropping first his briefcase onto the porch, then his travel mug onto the couch cushion, and finally his forehead into his hand. He sits hunched on the couch, rubbing the worry lines above his eyebrows wearily. When he finally turns to me, I freeze as the blue lasers of his eyes strike mine. He’s so rarely been sober with me. His perceptive gaze stabs me to the core. He must be such a good editor.

“Let me guess,” he says. “You’re that new girl from my ex-wife’s therapy group. She told you where I work. Now you’re following me around because you want…what, exactly?”

“I don’t want anything. Except to find out if this is better,” I say. “Is it better, Jack?”

He doesn’t say anything for a long time.

“I know who you are,” he says finally. “I had Leo check you out after you left the first voicemail. I almost called you five times today.”

“Do you remember?”

“What?” he says. His eyes sweep me, then land on the five photos laying face down between us on the couch. He picks them up, glances at them, then stuffs them into his briefcase.

“Oh God, Jack, I’m so sorry,” I say. “She’s so…”

“She’s sick,” he says. “Did she tell you about the six times she’s slit her wrists? She did it in front of our daughter the last time, explaining the best way to go about it while Lucy screamed at the 911 operator for help.”

He stands.

“Look, I don’t know what you’re doing here, but you should go.”

I stand.

“Okay,” I say. “But…just tell me if this is better? Are you happy?”

“I’m not happy,” he says. “Are you kidding me?”

“Your wife survived,” I say.

“My wife—my ex-wife—do you know what she went through?”

“Not all of it,” I say.

“She,” he bites his lower lip hard, barely containing the rage I can see bubbling up through his pupils. “It’s none of your business. Did she tell you she has to have a catheter for the rest of her life because the bayonet tore through her uterus and her bladder? She lost all sensation down her left leg. She’ll never walk without a cane again. She lost an eye. She’s had nineteen reconstructive surgeries. There’s brain damage from the strangulation. She has diagnoses—plural. PTSD, alcoholism, compulsions I can’t even count. She can’t function—not as a mother, not as a wife.”

“So you divorced her?” I say.

He lets out a long breath and slumps against the house. Flecks of peeling paint form gray dandruff on his shoulders. He closes his eyes for a moment.

“I had to divorce her so we wouldn’t lose the house when we couldn’t pay the medical bills,” he says. “It wasn’t because she cheated with that guy in her therapy group. I understood that. It wasn’t really sexual, what they did. It…you don’t understand.”

“Do you want me to try to change it again?” I ask. “I’m not sure I can. This is the best I could come up with.”

Jack sinks slowly onto the couch. He covers his face with both hands. Between his fingers, he says something. I think it’s, “You owe me” or maybe the word is “own.” His shoulders start to shake.

I’ve never seen him cry before.

“Jack,” I say. “This is worse, isn’t it? She should have died.”

I have to wait nearly ten minutes, but at last he nods.

 

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