Wednesday, July 12

What did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?

When she woke up, the apartment was filled with a morning twilight and very cold. She was alone, so for a few more minutes she huddled in the blankets William had left when he got up to go to work or sleep or wherever it was he went. In an effort to get up and around, she pushed the power button on the space heater with her toe, and pushed herself to a sitting position on the couch. The city outside the window was grey and foggy. Rivulets of water ran their accustomed paths down the sheet glass. On sunny days, you could see the lines that the calcium-loaded water left on the glass.

Only half awake, Joan watched the city in its Saturday routine. Ships didn't come into the dock so often, but there were smaller boats out--the orthodontists and accountants were out on their little sailboats, grilling seafood and eggplant for parties and families. She wondered idly how many of them had golden retrievers.

By the time she had an estimate, the room had become several degrees warmer. Not warm enough for her toes to be on the hardwood, though. She pulled her the elastic legs of her sweatpants down over her feet, and waddled in a haystack of blankets to her room. It was amazing how fast she could get dressed when she was cold (hoodie and jeans in 10 seconds flat--the hard part was getting on the three pairs of socks).

Still half asleep, she went through her weekend morning routine of washing and brushing and picking up--it occurred to her to wonder at which point William's habit of leaving two empty beer bottles by the couch had become something she didn't mind picking up after. Somehow it had just become so familiar that it seemed natural. Joan beamed at them with sleepy affection as she tossed them into the recycle bin.

After cleaning up, she felt better. The apartment was warming up a little with the heater. She'd stood by the window with a cup of tea as the sun came out for a half hour, a cold white light that made sharp shadows on the walls and then faded quickly as the skies clouded over again. Suddenly, the flat felt small and stuffy, the very air unbreathable, so she grabbed an empty rucksack and headed for the market.

Fresh sausages, a few apples, and some dishcloths later, she stood under the awning of a newspaper stand and stood a moment to experience the smell of rain-washed concrete and vegetables and the odd smells of cars and paper--she knew her life could not last and that she'd lose it all one day. Or at the very least, her life was going to change. Or maybe she would just move out of the city. Anyway, it was a smell she wanted to remember.

Riding the bus home, she made a point to remind herself how lucky she was to have so much time to herself on a Saturday. She would even cook dinner when she got home, and maybe William would be home. Maybe the flat wouldn't seem so stuffy when she got home, either; maybe she should light some candles or something. She urged the bus up the hills of the city. Maybe she'd go out and see a movie after dinner.

As it turned out, William was not at the flat when she returned. The flat seemed a calm place after the market, and she noticed how very comfortable it was to have a place in which nobody could see her face.

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