They say that these are not the best of times, But they're the only times I've ever known
I go home to my empty house and eat day-old takeout for dinner with my dog, Jax. I don't like it much; it's Chloe's favorite, but she had dinner at the office yesterday. Today too, probably. I'm not sure why I even bothered getting it. Nostalgia, I suppose.
I sit with Jax and chain-smoke in front of a TV movie. Boat Trip. It's older than dirt but it even manages to coax a few smoky laughs out of me, which is more than can be claimed by most things the past few years.
When it's over I glance at the clock out of habit. 7 o'clock. Once upon a time, I'd wait for Chloe to get home and choose some sappy drivel she knew I'd watch because I loved her. But it is, of course, a stupid notion. I know better than to hope so.
I watch TV as an hour passes, then another before I hear her key in the lock, and Jax hops off the couch as if he knows what's coming. Chloe never liked Jax, or any dog really, but by the time I adopted him, she was too busy and I too lonely to care.
How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies, Perhaps we don't fulfill each others fantasies
I don't turn or greet her when she comes in. She sits on the couch next to me and it feels strange because I can't remember the last time anyone but Jax sat on that side of the couch.
She turns the TV off, and turns to me. I keep staring at the now-blank screen, calmly smoking my cigarette.
"James, we need to talk." She begins uncertainly.
"So talk." I shrug indifferently.
"Well I know I haven't been home very much lately and I know…" She trails off with a sigh of frustration. Lately? Try the last four years. "James...this isn't working." She blurts quickly. And it's a funny thing, all these years and I've never once stepped out on her; even when I've had almost perfect leave to do so. It isn't that we don't fuck. We just don't do anything more. That's the part that hurts.
Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes, I can only stand apart and sympathize
"I know." I don't look at her. She shifts a little, and something brushes my arm. I glance down. Divorce papers. She's holding them so they're almost completely covered up, but I know what they look like. I exhale, blowing smoke into her face. She turns away. She hates that I do it, but when I started smoking, she was working too much to care. We used to fight so much in those early days; when the promotion was new and unfamiliar. Before we'd reached the compromise that had somehow evolved into empty words and aching silence.
"Got a pen?" I ask, flat and business-like, gesturing at the papers.
"W-what?" She says, taken by surprise.
"The papers. You wouldn't have gotten them if you weren't ready to sign."
"Well, yes but I—"
"You work too much. I need a pen." I cut her off. It's been almost ten years—at least five of which I've spent lonely and miserable—and I can't believe I wasn't the one to do it. I've been ready for weeks, months. I had the papers ready, an affordable apartment near my job that was dog-friendly looked up and ready for move-in. So many times I'd meant to bring it up but somehow couldn't bring myself to do it.
For all our mutual experience our separate conclusions are the same, Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity, Reason coexists with our insanity
But in the end it was Chloe. I find a pen in the side of the couch and sign the papers. Chloe is crying silently next to me. I put my arms around her and she buries her face into my chest, sobbing now.
"I never meant for it to be this way. I swear I didn't. Jamie, I'm so sorry." Her words are muffled and I can feel her tears soaking through my shirt.
"How could this have happened to us?" She sobs hysterically. I tighten my arms around her and breathe in her scent in a way I haven't done in years. How indeed?
For we are always what our situations hand us, It's either sadness or euphoria