The Seven Year Itch: Prologue

Trixie stood in front of the full-length mirror, tweezers in hand; ready to attack any stray eyebrow hair marring a perfect arch. The movements are methodical point, pluck, smooth, point again. No attention paid to the woman in the mirror, the music in the background, or the man standing in the doorway.

Wake up Wake up, Gotta get this paper, Get this cake up. Gotta do my hair, Gotta put on make up…

Suddenly Trixie stops, moves from a crouched position in front of the mirror, leans her face away from the glass and actually looks at herself. It’s been a year since she’s done this, just stood there in her bra and panties to examine her body.

A year ago circumstances were vastly different. Her belly rounded, full of life. Little  Tadgh was on the way. A flatter belly remains, only the stretch marks zigzagging across her skin betraying her previously pregnant state. Her eyes hone in on the widest stretch mark, mouth pursed in a frown. Eyes wander upward. Dark brown curls frame her face and cascade past her shoulders, the light glinting off sun-bleached highlights. Freckles fan across her nose and cheeks. Biting her lips, a pink hue tints her puckered mouth. Eyes travel south to full breasts outlined in Calvin Klein’s latest orange lace bra. She lifts her hands to cup them, feels the weight that never left from the milk that used to be housed within. Lower still, quickly past her stomach and the memories. Matching orange bikini panties enveloped her hips. Turning sideways, she sees her butt which thankfully is still perky. Moles dot her “runner’s legs” as her mom used to call them; strong thighs, full calves, dainty ankles. Glancing downward still she notices pink toes, fresh from the pedicurist. A noise alerts her to the man standing in the doorway, watching as she pores over her body.

For a second their eyes meet and she sees the long abandoned lust etched in the depths of his hazel eyes. Trixie gives a cheeky smile to his reflection in the mirror, and starts to undo her bra. He straightens, looks away, his gaze landing to the dresser where their family photo stands. Her smile falls; a blank disinterested mask replaces her once seductive grin.

Alex clears his throat as Trixie turns around.

“I’m leaving for San Diego again today. I didn’t want you to wait up for me. Sorry I forgot to tell you”. With that he walks away, not looking at her.

Please somebody tell me what’s going on. My baby’s gotta suitcase. He’s telling me it’s too late. Don’t nobody, please don’t ask me why…

The song change timed perfectly with Alex’s departure. You’d never guess that Alex was her husband. That he vowed to love and cherish her. That a year ago he was behind her as she stood in front of the mirror, his hands on her full belly, his nose buried in her neck. Her pulse fluttered, and little Tadgh kicked at the same time. Alex lifted his head, a wide grin on his face, his future football star making his presence known.

In the distance the front door shuts. And the old images flint away.

I can’t stop my heart from leaving through the door. I can’t unpack my heart because he won’t look at me anymore…

Always chasing rainbows

“I’m always chasing rainbows, Watching clouds drifting by, My schemes are just like all my dreams, Ending in the sky. Some fellows look and find the sunshine; I always look and find the rain. Some fellows make a winning sometime, I never even make a gain, believe me, I’m always chasing rainbows, I’m watching for a little bluebird in vain.” Judy Garland

I keep thinking that one day it will all make sense. There has to be an equation, right? Some divine code, decipherable through the gathering of life experiences. One day I’ll be able to add up all the numbers, multiple all the sunrises, subtract all the sorrows, divide by all the joys and come up with either a positive or negative number. A blimp on graph. A baseline that makes complete sense.

No. I’m still at 0. Is that even a number? It’s more an inert integer where no matter how you manipulate it, the value remains untouched.

I wanna touch zero. I wanna add days to it, to prolong it’s life. I wanna rip it up into shreds and stomp all over the confetti of zeros at my feet. I wanna shove all the zeros down my throat until I choke on numerical madness and then feed the regurgitated remains to the pigeons. I wanna spread around zeros like an infectious disease until the epidemic puts people into a panic, demanding billions of dollars to develop a cure. The antivirus for keno-zero-phobia stocked on every pharmacy shelf.

I wanna hate zero. Blame the causality for every horrible, despicable, heart wrenching thing that ever happened on its inability to mean anything. I’d like to cast zero back into its dark abyss. Etch words on the box I opened warning others to beware of the curse that comes from playing with zero.

Oh what I’d give to be wrapped in the arms of 1. Cocooned in the embrace of 2. Play hide and go seek, laughter echoing through the trees, with 3. Swim laps in a pool of 4s. Skate down the street as rays of sun bounce off 5. But I can’t.

I can’t seem to escape zero. No matter where I bunker down, I look over and there zero is looking at me. Shadowing my footsteps, splashing in puddles, as we walk through the rain.

You start to wonder if zero is following you. Or are you chasing zero?

Gone

“Dark the oceans, dark the sky, Hush the whales and the ocean tide, Tell the salt marsh and beat on your drum, Gone their master, gone their son, Dark to light and light to dark, Three black carriages, three white carts, What brings us together is what pulls us apart, Gone our brother, gone our heart.”

There’s a gray dress that hangs in my closet. Not hidden. Not lost. No it just hangs there in plain sight, reminding me, haunting me. And there it remains. Watching me. Untouchable yet present.

It’s not an ugly gray dress. It’s more nondescript than anything. The kind of gray you forget exists until you see smog polluting the air. Or rain clouds before the threat of a thunderstorm. The type of gray you could pass by a thousand times without notice. It’s only saving grace, a black button adorning the neck: uniting the collar and providing appeal.

I’ve worn the dress twice. All the same, I’ll never wear it again. Even more, I won’t throw it away.

You see, I buried my brother in that dress. “Buried” is the wrong word for the mockery of a funeral that was held for the parting of a beloved. “Buried” implies that my brothers body rests somewhere in hallowed ground, where you can visit to mourn and reminisce.

I guess I should say I wore the dress the last time I saw my brother. “Saw” also seems off in this context. It would make one think that the seeing was mutual; as if there was a capacity to be seen as well as to see.

A more apt way to describe this last porting would be to say the final memory of my brother’s lifeless body was in this dress. A gray dress with a black cardigan on one of Arizona’s hottest days.

I dressed as if I needed to make an impression on such a somber occasion. I dressed with the hope that death didn’t warrant such drab attire.

I remember falling, wailing— a pool of gray abyss. A chill transmitted from trying to warm a corpse. A piece of myself dying along with the death I felt in my brother.

You always think you have more time. Ultimately when everything is taken away, you’re left with an unwearable gray dress.

The Seven Year Itch: Chapter 2

Present day

While Trixie decides between which scrubs to wear today, she thinks on Alex’s hasty goodbye.  Even after seven years together, he still doesn’t know how to leave properly. After a moment’s hesitation, Trixie realizes she shouldn’t be so harsh with him. He has gotten better over the years. At the peak of what you might call their “good years” he would at least buss her on the cheek or put his forehead to hers before leaving, creating a closeness that Trixie craved at the moment.

Trixie reaches for her day planner, a habit she kept since college, trying to think of all of her appointments today. Finding today’s date Trixie notices that she has work from 8-4, then group at 7, which gives her enough time to go to the gym. She’ll need the intense workout to clear her head before the group therapy session this evening. It’s her turn to share, talk about the events of the past year, the turning point leading to the distance in her marriage and the crossroad where she’s currently standing.

All of the couples in group have had similar experiences, a series of moments that hold them hostage and haunt their movements. Alex went for the first two sessions, until he found the whole experience taxing and overwhelming.

“Why do we have to keep reliving what happened Trixie? I don’t want to continue to talk about past events. We’re here, now. Let’s be happy for today. You need to move on. I’ve moved on.”

“It’s like you want me to pretend he never existed. A AingilÍn, my angel. I carried him. I listened to his heartbeat. I felt his hand squeeze mine. I can’t just let that go as if it never happened. I want you to go with me Alex, I need your support. I need help to move on.”

“Trix, I can’t. I can’t keep going week after week to hear these sob stories. I’m sorry this happened. But life doesn’t stop because of a tragedy. We have to move on Duchess.”

Alex was always good at compartmentalizing his life, sectioning off difficult emotions until he either repressed them or was ready to handle the aftermath. Trixie used to envy that trait. Now what she feels is a mixture of resentment and despair. Mentally shaking off bad memories, she heads to the closet in search of her gym bag.

After a 10minute search she realizes Alex must have taken hers by mistake on his way out today. It was a mistake to buy matching grey bags, the only distinction being the navy handles on hers and the black handles on his. Trixie starts removing items from Alex’s black-handled bag, prepping it for her own use. On the bottom of the bag Trixie discovers a disposable cell phone, not Alex’s normal smartphone. Opening the phone, Trixie sees the same number listed repeatedly in the call log—‘Stunner’.

That’s what Alex used to call his conquests in college.

Scrolling through the text messages her eyes can’t help but alight on love words and a rendezvous.

Trés Café 8pm. I made reservations. See you soon love-bug.

This latest date is set for tomorrow, when Alex is supposed to be in San Diego. But Trés Café is off Walnut Street in Montclair, right outside the city, near where Alex grew up. When Alex would want to connect with his high school friends after work, he’d go to Trés for dinner and drinks. This can’t be a coincidence. Trixie looks down to see it’s 7:15, if she doesn’t leave soon she’ll be late for clock-in and to relieve the overnight nurse. Throwing clothes in the bag, Trixie places the drop phone on top, sealing it in the zipped duffel. She grabs the rest of her work stuff and her purse before shutting the bedroom door.

It’s time to confront ‘love-bug’ and figure out what the hell is going on.

Photos line the halls from the bedroom to the stairs and down to the ground floor. Pictures from college, of family gatherings, of Trixie and Alex’s wedding, the honeymoon in Fiji, holiday celebrations—this was their life. And with one text message, Alex had called in to question the sincerity of every smile and sentiment captured on film.

Tears threatened as Trixie reached the garage, passing the ½ drunken juice Alex left on the counter, juice she would normally grab to finish on her way to work. Now she couldn’t guarantee where his mouth had been. Her husband. Her best friend since freshman year of college. Looking up, Trixie wonders what will be taken next.

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