By Lori Fetters Lopez
Some days it’s enough that he breathes. The exchange of air grates on my psyche like the high-pitched squeal of a six-year-old at the sight of a spider. A childhood dream to be a pilot, he sits with his hands grasping the yoke of a computer flight simulator. At his perch, he can turn from the pretend to the surreal. An endless choice of television shows filled with intolerable stupidity, followed by commercials selling drugs with side effects more damning than the symptoms they claim to cure. It all culminates into a farce. He’s been deployed for months and I’m left with only the memory to fuel my fire.
Hands on hips, I look at the obstinate water softener spewing its juices over my walls. I’m lost in incredulity wanting to collapse into the wet. Yesterday, I replaced the damn thing, the day before, the water heater. It mocks. Disgusted, I walk into the garage where the car lays in shambles begging me to crawl beneath its underbelly hoping for an altered result. First, the valve cover gasket, then the radiator, and now the gas tank. The large door stands open revealing that another rain has brought our grass to grow. The lawn mower sits in the corner, a pigheaded child too engrossed in a video game to go to the bathroom, it leaks. Fixed before he left, obvious the repair was in vain; the first fill drains onto the floor. The mailbox leans forward as if reaching for the next letter too long overdue. Someone crashed into the pole and I replaced it. Too tired for more, I forgot the concrete anchor to gird its pole. I could call someone, pay someone, but that’s not who I am. I persevere.
There’s dinner to be made and I go inside. Fewer to feed, as the children have grown and like ravenous animals devour the fruits of my labor. I stare over the sink from the kitchen into the family room. His black leather chair faces a dark computer desk. The silence stretches like the sound of the ocean in a seashell.
I miss him. His stupid haircut and birth control glasses. His half smile that’s always followed by a chuckle at simple pleasures. I could use his help as the house crumbles around my feet, the dog whines, and I drown in self-pity. He’s off serving his country, proudly wearing the pixilated shades of green I associate with baby poop. Reveling in the excitement of the challenge. Risking his life. Risking our happiness, as if I don’t matter.
If he were here, I realize, nothing would change, but his dulcet voice complaining about the ineptitude of the cashier at the store. The price of milk. A car rolling through a stop sign would bring rantings about laws poorly enforced. A knock at the door and the paperboy stops to collect what’s due. An echo of his comment on the stylings of today’s youth, filters.
With a sigh, I take solace in the fact that I’m capable of handling near every situation. I know this comforts him, a peace of mind that I’m able to care for hearth and home, while he defends them. Water continues its summons, the puddle expanding. I pick up the torch, pull the trigger, and watch as flames eruct. In the back of my overtired mind, I imagine I’m Sigourney Weaver about to barbeque a bunch of freaking aliens.
Lori Fetters Lopez is an author, military wife, mother of three, sister, dog owner, friend, and postal worker. She is the author of several yet-to-be-published novels and a handful of short stories featured in online and print publications.