A marriage is like a tree branch. A healthy branch can be bent by extreme forces without breaking. A dying tree breaks with the simplest touch. Jon mulled this over as he drove home to work. He’d like to think that it was an original thought, but he knew he’d heard it in a movie somewhere or read it in some book. In either case, it didn’t matter how extreme those forces were when someone sets the damn thing on fire. Healthy or not, the sucker would still burn to the ground.
As he slowed down to stop at a red light, he started laughing at that thought. It wasn’t one of those small series of chuckles, but a raucous laughter that could sometimes only be seen in an insane asylum. When his sanity came back to him, he realized that his passenger window was rolled down. Glancing to his right, he saw that the people in the car next to him were looking at him. The nervous looks on their faces only provoked Jon into that insane laughter once more. Needless to say that when the light turned green, the car next to him sped off quickly.
Jon took his time driving the rest of the way home. It didn’t take that long. Plus it wasn’t like there was anyone there waiting for him to arrive home. That had disappeared two years ago. Pulling into the driveway, Jon switched off his engine and sat in the car until the lights turned off. It was typically quiet in Plymouth, the small city that he and his wife had decided to relocate after Jon had graduated from college. The city that they had moved from wasn’t that bigger, but it was noisier. Someone could get lost in all that noise. The same could be said for quietness, something that Jon came to discover in the days following his wife’s announcement that she was moving out.
After about ten minutes of sitting in his car surrounded by silence and darkness, Jon left his car and walked up the steps of his front stoop and unlocked the door to the two story starter house that he had bought five years ago. If Jon had his way, he’d never have bought the damned place. He’d tried to delay moving out of their apartment complex as long as he could, but he couldn’t stall any longer. It didn’t help things when one of his neighbors smoked pot regularly in the hallway and another neighbor was so dirty that cockroaches had migrated from that apartment to Jon’s apartment.
Closing the door to his three bedroom, one bathroom tomb, Jon went through his newly minted nightly routine. First he changed from his work clothes to a t-shirt and shorts. Then he made dinner for himself. Typically, he would microwave two cups of rice with a can of buffalo chicken for twelve minutes. During that time, Jon would pick up the food bowl filled with kitty chow and sit outside on his front stoop.
During his first week without his wife, Jon had adopted a kitten. Some of his friends had encouraged him to do that because a cat was somewhat independent and it would provide Jon with at least a little companionship. The cat had lasted an entire week before it ran away from him. He’d opened his door one night after a long day at work and the cat had ran between his legs and never looked back. Jon spent almost an hour looking for the feline, but the damned cat was black and it was already dark out. It was like looking for a needle in a stack of needles.
Every night or so, he’d catch glimpses of the cat running around the neighborhood. Often times, Jon would see him running with a group of cats. He didn’t really know why he sits outside for twelve minutes every night with the same bowl of food. Probably the same reason he didn’t file for divorce in the last two years.
He always held out hope they’d return.
The microwave dinged and Jon stood up and gave one final shake of the food bowl. Finally, he walked back into his $57,000 coffin, closed the door, locked it, grabbed his bowl of buffalo chicken and rice, grabbed a Diet Coke from the fridge, and turned on the television. The only real thing that gave him any pleasure was the old reruns of The Office. Seeing Jim and Pam’s marriage work even through the hard times in the waning seasons was something that Jon enjoyed.
After a few hours of television, Jon turns it off and sits at his desk trying to write for the next three hours. Frustrated, Jon slams the laptop closed. He sat in silence for the next few minutes trying to calm himself down. It seemed that his ability to write was another thing that had left him about the same time as his wife and the kitten. Two years ago, Jon would joke with his best friends that everything came in a series of three. First his wife, then the kitten, and now his ability to write. Two years later, Jon wasn’t joking anymore.
Eventually he’d grow tired of sitting at his desk staring at the computer screen. The damned blinking line seemed to mock him. Sometimes Jon would turn on the radio or the music on his phone, anything to drown out the silence that seemed to smother his ability to write. When his wife was still around, she’d be in the other room playing a video game or watching Netflix. During the first few months of the writer’s block, Jon had tried to simulate that noise. It didn’t matter though because nothing would work.
Mentally exhausted, Jon would always end the day by turning to his wall calendar, taking out a black Sharpie, and crossing out the current day.
“Forty days till D-Day,” he said before going to bed. He hoped that the next day would be better.