I am a shit writer, or, more appropriately, I feel like I am a complete crap writer. I know I am my harshest critic, but I also happen to know it to be true. There are 94809587394857 errors in this. You can feel free to rip it apart, from an editor’s stand point or because it is complete trash, just know that it was something that was rattling around in my head for the last week or so and I really just wanted to get it out of my brain. This is a first (and likely only) draft that has ZERO revisions in it. This is as raw is it gets. Mind the typos and the changing verb tense (I know it runs rampant). This is the first in what I hope to be many “microfiction” works – I understand that microfiction doesn’t have a set definition or applicable size, so, just roll with me.
I am also very well aware of the influence Raymond Carver has had in my writing style. Haters gonna hate.
“Where were you today?”
“I asked you where you were today” he said again, in relaxed tones.
“Oh, you know, the usual” she replied, looking into her coffee cup.
He stood from the table and walked to the counter, taking only a few strides as the house they were living in was considerably small, especially given the financial status of both of them. His stride, while not bounding, was also not like floating. It simply was, and that was much the way he presented himself.
He reached into the cupboard and withdrew a rocks glass moments later.
“Do you want one?”
“No, I think I’ll be just fine” she replied as she held up her coffee mug, a boring brown mug that could be seen in nearly any greasy spoon, no-name diner. She put her mug back on the table and clasped both hands around it. The light above the table was somewhat harsh and unforgiving, but it also made everything seem very real, and with the realness came the happiness and despair.
With glass in hand, he walked back over to the refrigerator and freezer, swung open the freezer door and placed a few ice cubes in his glass. He rattled the glass and ice as he closed the door and went searching for his bottle of whiskey, which was tucked away in the usual place. The kitchen, from where he was standing, was only a few feet across and a few feet long, no more than his height in both directions. The countertops were old and worn in places and the sink was in desperate need of a new faucet. The cabinets, few as there were, were also in need of a new coat of paint.
He poured his whiskey and held the class and the amber fluid up to the light above the table, the light refracting through the cubes and liquid. “This,” he said, “this reminds me of a kaleidoscope I had when I was a little boy. Did you ever have one of those and just stare into it and see all things you wanted to see, even if they weren’t there?”
She looked up from her coffee, her normally bright eyes, a piercing gray like a polished steel, seemed dim. Her hair was long, to just below her shoulders, and dark, somewhere between deep, dark walnut and black. On this night, as she had been doing lately, she wore it lightly curled in certain areas, with the rest remaining wavy. She sat at the table staring into nothingness.
“Did you?” he asked.
“Did I what?” she replied, raising her eyebrow.
“Did you ever have a kaleidoscope when you were a child? Did you see all types of things and imagine them to be there even though they clearly weren’t?”
“Oh, no, I can’t say I ever did. Well, no, that’s not true. I did that with the clouds or when I closed my eyes at night. I could see all types of shapes, animals usually. I could see them and point them out to others and they…they just couldn’t see them.”
He took his glass and turned out the kitchen light, leaving just the light above the table and a distant table lamp in the bedroom, casting a warm glow in the hallway. He joined her at the table, sitting across from her. They both had long since changed into casual clothes for the evening, he into a pair of blue jeans, wearing thin in the knees, and a beat up t-shirt that used to have the logo of his old hockey team on from his time playing; she was in her favorite old gym shorts and her sweatshirt from her college sorority.
They sat there in silence. One would sip from the drink in their hands and the other would fiddle with something. They sat and stared out of the window in the kitchen. They stared into the darkened sky through the branches of the tree by the house. They sat and the they stared at one another.
“Do you remember the first time we met?”
“Where is this leading?” she asked.
“Nowhere in specific. Do you remember?”
“Yes, I do.” She took another sip from her coffee. He watched as the raised the cup to her lips, thin and pink like rose petals. “I remember it. You. You were so nervous, but you didn’t let it show. You just presented yourself as you were, take it or leave it.” She lowered the mug, having talked in to it, and continued. “You showed up ten minutes late, which you did apologize for, and then just…just kinda acted like yourself. I liked that about you.”
He took a deep drink from his glass. “Mm-hmm. And we sat in the corner of the bar, away from all the noisemakers and people making fools of themselves. We sat and talked for, what? Two hours? About nothing. Just complete get-to-know-you stuff while we measured each other up.”
“How did we get to this?” she asked him, somewhat mystified.
“What do you mean?”
“This,” she said, as she simply spread her arms out, indicating the totality of their lives, from the house to the drinks to the beat up old clothes. “We’re both professionals. We make enough money. Why can’t we move to somewhere nicer? Why can’t we go out like we used to? Hell, we don’t even kiss and play around like we used to. Where did the spark go, or did this just become the logical next step and safe business decision for both of us?”
“You know the answers to, well, most of those questions. I told you, I just need to get through this year and I’m looking at a decent bump in salary. Sure, we could afford something nicer, but this will do for now.” He looked down at his glass, which was now empty. His hair, getting long and somewhat scraggly, fell down in front of his eyes. He pushed his hair back out of his way and looked back up at her. “I wish I could give you the life you wanted, or rather, the life you deserve, but I just don’t know if I can. I like what we have here. We built this from nearly nothing. It may not be impressive, but it is ours.”
She sighed as she flicked her hair back. “I know. I know. And that does mean something, but don’t you feel, you know, something is missing? Doesn’t it feel different now than it did a few years ago?”
He couldn’t deny that things did feel different now.
“What do you suggest?” he asked.
“I really want to move. I think a change of scenery would do us both a lot of good. I love this town, but I think we need a shock to the system, or at least somewhere we won’t get shocked every time one of us goes to use the clothes washer.” She chuckled and smiled as she said the final part.
“Yes, but where would we go? We both have jobs here. Good jobs, mind. There isn’t a decent town within 40 miles. Besides, I really like it here. I wanted to wait, though. I wanted to wait for the raise before we moved, but I guess we could -could- start looking at new places. Would you like that?”
She smiled at him, took her final sip of coffee and got up from the table. She walked over to the sink and placed the mug in the basin. He watched her as she walked and moved. Everything seemed effortless for her. She was elegant in her movements, even when in benign housework.
“You used to look at me like that all the time. You have no idea how it makes me feel when you look at me like that.”
She walked back over to the table, only this time she bent low right in front of him, gently placing her hands on his cheeks. They stared into each others eyes for the longest time. She closed her eyes and gently placed her lips on his. He, too, closed his eyes and returned the kiss.
“Come on. Let’s go to bed. We can talk about this all in the morning.”
She let go of his face and walked away, turning down the hallway toward the orange glow of the table lamp in the bedroom. He watched as she walked down the hall, slowly removing her sweatshirt.
Her voice carried from the bedroom into the rest of the house as she spoke to him.
“All I wanted from you was to give me some hope for the future. All I had hoped for tonight was some sign that my voice was being heard. You gave me that. We can worry about details another time. Just as long as we are going somewhere.”
He took his final sip of his whiskey and placed the glass in the sink, running water in both his glass and her mug. He took one final look through the window. The faint sound of owls hooting could be heard through the glass.
“Are you coming to bed or not?”
“Yes, I’ll be there in a moment.”