So here’s chapter 1 of a very, very, rough, rough, never-been-edited novel that I finished last year. I started it when I was 20 years old, interning at a publishing company and grotesquely in love for the first (and only, I suppose) time. This was the result of that surge of inspiration. After I finished a few chapters, I got extremely caught up with…well, life, and didn’t touch it for a couple years. Then I found myself heartbroken and filled with a new kind of writing energy. I finished the entire novel in less than six months. One day I’ll give it a good edit and maybe then I’ll try to publish it, but for now, I’m fine with just having it rest on my laptop, and now the first chapter being shared with you, whoever you are.
P.S. WordPress fucks up all the indenting when you paste, and I’m too lazy to go through and fix it all.
The Waiting Room
By Alysha Mendez
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was waiting.
“Why are you still here, man?”
Everyone was staring. Some simply amused or curious, some with amazed mouths open, some with suspicious eyes, and others with pure envy. I didn’t know why the hell I was still there. But I was definitely regretting telling this man that I’d been here for over half a day. Most people didn’t give two shits about me, everyone just ignored each other actually. But when I told this guy how long I’d been in here, he started spreading the word and now, apparently I was some sort of spectacle.
“Hey man, I said why are you still here?”
I was too busy watching Nina. She was lying in our bed, staring at the ceiling, wrapped in nothing but my holiest white undershirt. She looked beautiful, hair tangled in black mobs around her, her eyes were always more green than brown when she cried.
I snapped out of it when the guy shoved me.
“I SAID WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL HERE?” His whole body was shaking. “I LOVE MY WIFE TOO GODDAMNIT!” He was yelling at the receptionist now. I just went back to watching Nina. She had moved her arm from over her chest to behind her pillow.
“Mr. Pierre, I understand, but there’s nothing we can do. You have about two minutes now. I’m sorry.”
His shouting turned to sobs. I could feel more eyes than before burning into me from every angle.
“Johanna and Fernando Alvarado!” The receptionist made a check on a clipboard as a round-faced pregnant woman was led out of the side door.
Nina rolled onto her stomach. I wanted to kiss the arch of her foot, the skin behind her knees. It suddenly hit me. I forced myself to turn away from my view and walked over to the balding man lying in a ball on the floor.
“I don’t understand.” I stared at the tears soaking into his mustache.
“Are you an idiot?” He glared up at me. “You get to wait.”
As I opened my mouth to ask Wait for what? the receptionist called, “Luis Pierre!”
He stood, slowly, and brushed off his gray slacks even though they were pristine. “Lucky bastard,” he muttered, leaving me to gaze after him in complete bewilderment. Looking back, I wonder how he knew. I guess he just figured, what else would I be doing, waiting there for so long.
I stumbled over to the tiny gray-haired receptionist. Her body looked like a 12-year old, her face like an 80-year old. The name tag on her white button-up read “Ruth.”
A red-haired woman who was clutching the arm of a chubby, red-haired little boy was leaning across the desk. I caught the end of her question, “…any way I can find him?”
“No ma’am, I’m afraid not. Yes, Mr. Floyd?” Ruth looked at me expectantly. The red-haired woman drew her son in closer to her hip and whispered, “How do you do it?” I looked from her to Ruth, Ruth to her.
“Um.” I craned my neck to see if I could see Nina from here. I couldn’t. I started to get anxious.
“Mrs. Stevens, may I ask you to please sit back down? Mr. Floyd is new.” Ruth sounded one tone away from robotic. Yet comforting. An understanding robot.
“Oh.” The woman looked at me the way I would look at a cross between an elephant and a Chihuahua. She walked away, her son peering back to stick his tongue out at me.
“Mr. Floyd, I’m sorry no one has spoken with you yet. It’s a really busy time of year. Why don’t you take this packet? I’m guessing you need the English version?” Ruth handed me a thick, stapled stack of paper and then called out, “Diana Peng!” I couldn’t help but notice the look she tried to hide—fighting to stay professional. I was apparently a freak.
Everything reminded me of Nina. Our freshman year of college when I went with her to buy a pregnancy test (false alarm). Junior year when the health club was raising STD awareness and Nina forced me to get tested with her (also a negative in case you were wondering). Strange that this place obviously had a hospital-esque vibe. Definitely not my idea of heaven, which is where I thought I was when I appeared in this bright room. But there are no clouds or angels playing harps.
To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen after death. I expected them to scrape my body off the highway and wrap it up in a sheet, to later be shoved into a box, which would then be tossed into the earth. Simple really, like gardening. But somehow my body wound up here, unscathed, same clean work clothes, tie straight. I closed my eyes behind the wheel of my Jetta and when I opened them, I was standing in front of a large window watching the aforementioned scraping process. So my body’s in two places? I don’t know. I don’t feel like a “soul.” What is a soul? Who even says we have one? Everyone thinks they’ll have the answers after they die, but apparently, you just get more questions.
One Week Ago…
I walked inside to the smell of spaghetti and garlic toast, one of the few meals Nina can cook well. My nose led me into the kitchen. I don’t care that she cooks it every Tuesday or that the guys at the office make fun of me for bringing the leftovers every Wednesday. She’s been making it for a decade and I think my body would shut down or something if I didn’t have it as often.
“Hey Booger, how was work?” She smiled and stirred the noodles a bit. I noticed a spot of sauce on her bottom lip and I was quick to kiss it off.
“Eh, it was alright. As good as the financial planning world could be.” I kicked off my slacks and hung them on a kitchen chair.
“Babe, I wish you’d do something you love. You’re not an old man. It’s not too late to do something crazy.” She held out a piece of turkey meat on a wooden spoon. Here we go again.
“I’ve told you so many times, we spent our entire 20s being dirt poor. I don’t want to put you through that again. You teach high school English, baby, your salary won’t exactly hold us.”
“Put me through what exactly? You know that was the most fun we’ve ever had. We did everything we’ve ever really wanted to do. We travelled across Europe for God’s sake. We lived in New York City for two years. It was bliss.” I noticed another sauce spot on her shirt.
“But we’re gonna start trying to have a baby soon.”
“Oh, are we?” She grinned.
“We are 30, Nina.” That’s what we’d always said. That was the magic number.
“I guess my uterus is ready.”
And we microwaved the spaghetti later.
I was back in front of my window now thinking, shouldn’t this room be a lot bigger? People die every minute, yet there’s only about 50 people milling around. Some reading magazines in the leather airport-looking chairs. No one looked confused, like me. What were we all waiting for? A private meet-and-greet with God/Satan? Our journey to the Golden Gate/fiery depths of Hell?
Nina was finally asleep, I could relax. We’d always promised that when our wrinkles sagged across the surface of every one of our limbs, we’d find a way to say sayonara to the world together. We contemplated a hot air balloon ride gone wrong, popping pills, a dramatic plane crash (me being the pilot of course)…so obviously, I was worried that she would try to catch up with my unexpected departure. But so far, just a lot of sleep, a lot of avoiding people, food, and showering. I was too early. I left her, her worst fear.
I’d sat at the window for a whole day. People were making funeral arrangements. And I had a packet in my lap that would hopefully explain why my name wasn’t being called by Ruth. Maybe nobody wanted me. Maybe I was getting to return to life, like Bruce Almighty. I watched Nina breathing for a little bit longer until I felt like I was lying next to her, her breath hitting my ear softly. Then I turned over the first blank page.
Hate to inform you that you’re dead…blah, blah, blah (skimming)…Out your window you’ll see…blah, blah, blah (yeah, I got it)…Your Exit (ah-hah! I’m guessing this is the right section).
After arrival, your name(s) will be called shortly. As your name(s) is/are called, please exit through the side door. You will have no recollection of this room until your next visit.
My reading was interrupted by a really young guy, maybe 19 or 20, abruptly sitting down right next to me (everyone was pretty spread out). He smelled like weed (he smelled like high school).
“So what have you figured out so far?” He winked and nodded towards the packet in my lap.
“Um…” Did this kid work here or something? Is it possible to have a job after you bite the dust? Ruth obviously works here. Or is she not dead?
“You’re a newb, right?” He flicked his sandy bangs out of his eyes and grinned.
“Sorry, what?” Christ, I’m old. And I really shouldn’t even be thinking “the Lord’s name in vain” in a place like this. Never too late to be saved, right?
“Your first time here?” He pushed his aviators down from the top of his head to the tip of his nose.
“Oh. Yeah. That obvious?”
“Just a little. If old Ruthie’s not helpin’ you out much, I’m a pro around here.” He laughed, a loud and short burst. So this was my savior? I was briefly reminded of the song, “What if God was One of Us?”
“Jude Floyd.” Might as well get comfortable with the kid.
“The Beatles, nice dude. Jake Reynolds.” He grabbed my hand, didn’t quite shake it, and slumped further down into his chair. “So seriously, what do you know?”
“Well, we’re dead for one.” I tossed the packet aside as he let out another quick burst of laughter. “Everyone leaves pretty quickly after getting here, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Except me, which people do not seem to be pleased about.”
“Listen, people read the packet, they know the packet, but they still have hope. Human flaw I guess. Not your fault. They’re probably just having trouble placing you.” What the hell was he talking about? He leaned forward, elbows on knees. I did the same.
He sighed. “Ever heard of reincarnation?” Oh shit.
“Well that’s a fancy version of what really happens. This is my tenth life.”
“Are you telling me I’ve been waiting here for 5 hours to get turned into a plant or a cat or something?”
“Five, really? Wow. And fuck no, this is a strictly human-to-human operation.”
“So what you said about people having hope…”
“Well, you know, most people want to be with someone specific for all of their existence. But the packet says what the packet says. They’re just in denial.”
“Nina.” Slowly, the pieces were coming together.
“That your girl?”
“My wife.” He saw the glint in my eye.
“Well look dude, I’m sure you love her and all that, but you won’t remember her one bit after you walk through that door. A new woman every life, it’s pretty awesome. And when you come back to the waiting room, AKA when you die again, you get to chill as whatever life you liked best, AKA Jake Reynolds. Good times, man.”
Way too many questions were begging to be let out, but I asked the one I was most curious about. “Why do some people take longer than others?”
“Lemme put it this way—even though you won’t remember your past lives while you’re living another, you’re still in there. In the body, I mean. It’s just new skin, you know? The ‘you’ inside has to fit your surroundings I guess. But shit, I haven’t been in California every time, so I guess that’s just a theory.” Yet another short cackle.
“So this packet doesn’t tell you all that stuff?” I felt like I was shaking, but I wasn’t.
“Hell no. Well, I mean, yeah, but not in those words. They gotta keep it interesting I guess. It does explain how there are like, a billion of these rooms. Makes sense.” His dimples remained permanently. I was starting to get annoyed.
“So every time you come back here, you remember all of your lives?”
“Yup. Every little detail. Kind of makes my head wanna explode sometimes.”
“So every time, you wind up in a different waiting room or what?”
“No, no. This is my home base. ISN’T THAT RIGHT RUTHIE BABY?”
“But how do you know which life you liked best?”
He took off his aviators and gave me an Are you serious look. “Dude…you just know. I mean, look at me. This was obviously my most attractive life. AKA the hottest girls AKA the hottest memories.”
I couldn’t imagine having a happier life than the one I had with Nina. Unless it’s a longer life with Nina.
“Jake Reynolds!” We both looked behind us at Ruth, who gave Jake an exasperated raise of her eyebrows. He just laughed more.
“Maybe I’ll see you around, buddy. Good luck, newb!” He clapped me on the back and made his grand exit, blowing “old Ruthie” a kiss before diving, yes, literally diving through the side door.
This was ridiculous. I walked over to the desk, checking on Nina first (still sleeping, on her side now).
“Mr. Floyd, did you read your packet already?”
“No, Ruth, I’d much rather talk to you. Plus, the packet doesn’t explain why I’ve been here 10 times longer than all these people. I just learned more from a 500-year old, yet underage, surfer than this shit.” I slammed the papers onto the counter and tried to lower my heart rate. I don’t usually get “bothered.” I’m extremely placid. Nina calls me Jude the Nude sometimes because she thinks all nudists are relaxed hippies.
“Be that as it may,” I’d told her the first time she explained her stereotype, “I hate being naked. So that just won’t do as a nickname.”
“You don’t hate being naked with me.” She gave me the “Let’s be late to work” look. I love that look.
Ruth bit her lip and whispered, “Mr. Floyd, if I knew why you were still here, I would have told you hours ago. I’m sorry.”
“But you realize what everyone thinks, right?” I softened my voice.
“That you’re waiting.” She looked down.
“Not waiting for my named to be called.”
She gave up. “Waiting on her.”
“Exactly. And I’ve decided, why not? Who cares what the damn packet says? So if anybody asks, yes, that is what I’m doing. I’m waiting on my wife.”
I walked away, back to my window, ignoring the stares and gapes. Nina was waking up.
Four Days Ago…
“Your eyes are like the Atlantic and Pacific.” Nina rubbed by eyebrows with her thumbs, as if she were trying to lay them down flat. She always did that in the mornings.
“Oceans…” I muttered, still half-asleep.
“Yeah, oceans. I hope our kids get them.” She nuzzled into my chest.
“I like your eyes.” I stretched.
“Boring, poop brown.” She kissed my nipple.
“Well I hope they get your everything else then.” I rolled on top of her, licking her shoulders, neck…
“MR. FLOYD! MR. FLOYD!” Someone was tapping me with those god-awful plastic nails, hard. I opened my oceans and unstuck my forehead from the glass. It was just Ruth.
“I was having a really good dream.” I squinted up at her and then glanced down at Nina. Before I fell asleep, she’d been crying in the bathtub. Now she was back in bed.
“Yes well, I’m sorry. No one has ever slept in here.” She put her hand on my hip and shook her head, like I was a science experiment gone wrong.
“Yeah, I thought heaven was supposed to rid you of hunger, thirst, all those earthly pains.”
“This is not heaven, Mr. Floyd. And I take it you’d like some lunch?”
My stomach growled loudly. “Is there a special of the day? Holy Hamburger? Mary Meatloaf? Angel hair pasta?”
“Very funny. Come with me.”
I looked uneasily out the window.
“She’ll be fine.” Ruth once again gave away with her eyes that I was like a Ripley’s Believe It or Not showcase.
“I’ll be right back,” I whispered to the glare of the glass.
Ruth walked me behind her desk and through a door that I had never noticed. A break room?
“Are you dead?” Might as well be blunt.
“No.” Her whole body tensed, but she didn’t hesitate with her answer.
“So this is literally your job? What do you tell people? How did you apply, was it listed on Monster?”
“I tell people the truth, Mr. Floyd, that I am an administrative assistant.”
“Yeah, to God!” I was gaping. She glanced at me with pity and then opened a fridge and pulled out a brown bag. “I mean, that’s your boss, right? Seriously, how did you swing this? Are you a nun?” I was no longer hungry, this was way too fascinating.
“Look Mr. Floyd—“
“Please call me Jude.”
“Look Jude, I am not a therapist, I am not a babysitter, and I am not a nun. I do not need to answer any questions, I do not even need to be feeding you. I gave you a packet, you obviously haven’t read it. From now on, here’s the break room, please clean up after yourself. However, I’m sure you won’t be with us much longer.” Her voice finally sounded less robotic. She slammed the brown bag on a table and crossed her arms.
“I’m sorry if I upset you Ruth, but I just want to know more about this place.”
She sighed deeply. “This is The Waiting Room, what else is there to know?”
“Plenty. I’ll start with: is this really a reincarnation factory?” I peeked inside the brown bag. An apple and a tuna sandwich. I would’ve preferred the Holy Hamburger.
“Mr. Floyd, I need to get back to the desk. I’m sure there are at least ten names that are ready by now. Plus, my shift’s almost over. Maybe you’ll find Joe more helpful.”
“Jude. And can I take this into the almighty waiting room?”
“No, Jude, people will gawk.”
“People are already gawking Ruth!”
“Must I really bicker with you, Mr. Floyd? You must follow the rules here, understood?”
“Are you sure you’re not a nun?” She threw her hands up and stormed back to her desk while I took about 30 seconds to scarf down the sandwich, shove the apple in my pocket, and get back to Nina.
Two Days Ago…
“I did it.” I came rushing into the living room, where Nina was grading Hamlet papers and eating Hamburger Helper.
“Did what, Booger?” Her voice trailed off, she was deep into Red Pen World.
“Nina, listen. I did it! I took out a small business loan today at work. We’re gonna create a new town.”
“That’s amazing! What shall you build first?” She kissed me long and hard before I could answer. I breathed in her perfume.
“Well the loan is actually enough to get started on a small movie theater and a cookie shop—my two favorites.”
“Babe, are you serious? This is so great! Even though I’d rather you start with a decent pizza shop!”
We had moved to one of the smallest cities in Texas—it contained a Dairy Queen and a Dairy Queen parking lot. But teaching jobs were scarce and Nina jumped on the chance. Plus, Austin wasn’t very far away, so I was able to find a boring bank job easily. But we were tired of driving for 30 minutes every time we wanted to go on a date. Most of the time, we just stayed in, dreaming up things we’d build right around the corner if we had the time and money.
We cuddled on the couch and finished off the stroganoff while I rambled on and on about starting my own business. It was all I ever wanted to do. The only question: when to quit my job.
“I shouldn’t even be helping people with their finances. I’m not even good at it! Look at me, about to open my first business while simultaneously trying to impregnate my wife. I’m the one that needs advice.” Nina giggled and kept scratching my back.
“Stop worrying, Honey. If you want, I’ll start taking my birth control again…it’s only been a few days.”
“No! I want a mini mixture of us running around here. I want more than one. I’ll just make sure my businesses succeed. Small feat.”
“Have I ever told you that I love you more than all the eyelashes in the world?” She was so random sometimes.
“You’re never out of new ones, are you?” I brushed her bangs away from her eyes, but they soon fell back into place.
“You should try it, it’s very satisfying.”
“Alright. I love you more than all the freckles in the world.” I’m not very original, she was the poet. But hey, I thought it was cute.
“Oh c’mon, everyone knows there’s more freckles than eyelashes in the world.”
“Are you kidding me? There are millions of people who don’t have one single freckle.”
“Yeah but then there are other people covered in them.”
“But it doesn’t matter because everyone has eyelashes.”
“That is false. Besides, have you ever counted your eyelashes? Not that many.”
“Have you ever counted your freckles? You have way more eyelashes.”
She was probably right, but I thought I was fighting a fair fight. “Are you forgetting about the ones on my butt?”
“No, those are my favorite.”
She smiled that smile where the creases of her mouth formed fake dimples. I loved those. She always said her body tried so hard to produce something she had always wanted. I told her one day that they weren’t that special, that in Chemistry, we learned they were actually a dominant trait. She didn’t care. She got pissed, ranting about how she would have a boring recessive gene.
I probably would’ve come up with something better than freckles if I would have known. I would’ve done a lot of things.
“You must be Joe.” I stuck out my hand. Ruth had finally left (strange to think we’d actually be friends one day) and an extremely hairy, middle-aged man had replaced her.
“And you must be Jude.” He smiled to reveal a mouthful of braces.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised that you already know my name.”
“Yeah, you’re creating quite the stir. But hey, who wants to live a boring life, right?” He followed that one with a roar of laughter, turning the almost visible skin under his thick black hair bright pink. “Too soon?”
“Nah, I don’t mind death jokes. But I promise I’ll laugh next time if you help me out.”
“What do you want to know?” He folded his hands over his protruding belly. “Debbie Tennant!” A tall, beautiful black woman strutted through the ominous door in red high heels.
“Seriously? That easy?”
“Well you’ve almost been here an entire day. I figure you’re doin’ just what everyone thinks you’re doin’. Might as well let you in on the biz if you’re gonna be here awhile.”
“Wow. Ok. Thanks.” I was dumbfounded. He was nothing like Ruth.
“Ruth was that hard on you, huh?”
“Well I guess she’s just trying to do her job.”
“Yeah well, she’s been here since the beginning. Never seen anything like you. I think she’s just worried.”
“How is it possible that she’s been here ‘since the beginning’ if she’s still alive? She told me she was alive.”
“Well one thing I can’t tell ya’ is someone’s personal stuff. I might as well just give you her file!” Another loud roar of laughter. “La Shawn Stewart!”
“So are you alive too then?”
“You bet your ass I am. Different this time though. I’m a happy man now.”
“What do you mean?”
Joe sighed. “I stuck a rifle under my chin about ten years ago, but I was given a second chance to live a better life, do better things. Paul Foster! So I woke up in my apartment, holding my rifle and my new work schedule for this old place. Best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Wow. So this is some kind of redemption for you guys?”
“Nah, it’s not like that for all of us. Like I said, I can only tell ya’ what I can tell ya’.”
“So who’d you talk to? When you died…”
Loud roar of laughter. “Ruth. She told me that I needed to ‘get my act together’.”
“So you came here?”
“Yup. I made my decision and she handed me a nametag and a schedule.”
“So what if you would’ve chosen to…stay dead?”
“I woulda been sent to another life, endin’ in the same way.”
“Who would ever choose that?”
“You’d be surprised. Most people don’t wanna wake up in the same body, in the same apartment, with the same feelin’ in their gut.”
“Hmm.” That was a lot to take in. But I was determined to squeeze as much information out of this guy as possible. “So the billions of people on Earth, they’re just the exact same billions that have been living since the beginning of time?”
“Well, some of ‘em. You’re new, obviously. That damn population rate. Keeps gettin’ higher. People like baby-makin’ and I don’t blame ‘em.” This man laughed more than anyone I’d ever met. I would’ve loved meeting him while I was alive. Probably at a sports bar. But right now, I just needed answers.
“So once you’re…created or whatever, you just keep living lives, century after century…forever?” I had a brief picture in my head of an old TV show I used to watch with my dad—“Highlander”, starring Duncan MacLeod, the centuries-old, sword-fighting badass who could only be killed if you chopped his head off and took all his powers.
“Well it’s not that simple.” He made kind of a wincing face. “You could wind up anywhere. I mean, in any time. It’s, uh, kind of hard to explain. The packet explains better than I can.”
“Are you saying that your lives aren’t in chronological order?”
“Exactly. I have no personal experience since I’m, ya’ know, in one of my lives right now. But I’m sure I’ve lived in plenty of places and years…or maybe this was my first life, who knows.”
“Right…since you only remember when you’re in this…place.” I rubbed my temples. College was a piece of cake compared to this “lesson.”
“When you’re in this place because you’re dead, not because you’re at work. You’re gettin’ it!” He picket at something in his braces.
“I’ve seen a ton of movies, Joe. But how can you physically, actually, be reborn in the past?”
“Hell if I know, buddy! That’s just how it works I guess. The packet says it’s a ‘continuous cycle’.” The thought of being born before 1980 was not appealing to me. At all. Nina would be happy though. She loved the fashion and the language and the simplicity of the past.
“You gonna be here awhile, Joe?”
“Yesiree. A full eight hour shift.”
“I’ll be right back.”
Nina was still in bed. Her mom was sitting on the edge.
“We were trying to have a baby Mom.” Now they were both crying. I felt the need to look away, but I couldn’t. It was like our infamous need to stare at a car crash. But I caused this crash.
I watched Rose stroke Nina’s head, brush her hair away from her face, rub her back…and I felt my eyes drooping.
We finally rolled out of bed and said goodbye. I only pecked her lips, thinking how late I already was for work. But she understood. She didn’t like it when I messed up her vanilla lip gloss anyway.
What 30-year-old still wears vanilla lip gloss? She’d punch me and say “This 30-year-old.”
She waved out of the doorframe as I sped down the highway and the next time I’d see her wouldn’t be in fake dimples and sticky kisses. I only ever saw a work email, opened on my phone, and then an 18-wheeler for a quick second, as I was sliding into it. And then darkness. And then the bright waiting room. And then her again, through a window, untouchable.
They said she didn’t need to identify the body, that they used my teeth or something. How CSI right? All they really mean is that the body’s too messed up and they don’t want her going psycho. As if seeing me would’ve made it harder than it already was. As if she already didn’t have a picture in her head of what I looked like. She had seen blood, it was hard to miss. So what would’ve been the difference? But I guess I’m just saying that. I’m glad they didn’t let her see me. She probably would have gone psycho. Trying to piece me back together or something. She didn’t even believe them when they said I was dead.
I kept on thinking about time and how it all matters. The cliché, what if I would have been with her for five more minutes? Then I would’ve been on the highway five minutes later, and then there’d be no wreck. Or I’d be stuck in traffic because of a wreck killing somebody else’s husband. But seriously, what if I would’ve kissed her goodbye one more time? A long, 30-second kiss. Taking off all of her Bath and Body Works “Cake Icing.” Would that have made a difference?
Someone had taken my shoes and placed them neatly by a police car. How strange.
“Ma’am, I think it’s time you head home,” some officer gripped her shoulder. I glared at his wedding ring creasing her shirt.
She was hugging the black dress shoes.
“Did you hear me, ma’am?”
She glanced at the 52 card pickup of “Jessie the Jetta.” She always had to name my cars. And then she headed home to curl up in bed, surrounded by everything we had taken so long to build together.
A year and a half later, she took the shoes off her desk and put them in a box in our closet with all of our pictures. I forgot to take the sticker off the left one, she did that for me. It was dirty and faded, $44.99 Size 10.5. Later, she took the sticker out of the trash and smoothed it back on the bottom of the heel. One of the corners refused to stick, curling up, no matter how many times she laid it flat. She kissed it over and over for hours, tears soaking into every inch of leather.