“I wonder what it would be like to be free,” she said.
He lowered his newspaper and looked across the room at her, how she lay with one bare, tan leg draped across the back of their ratty sofa, how her arm curled across the top of her head. A thick novel written by some dead philosopher lay tented on her chest, the spine rising and falling as she breathed.
He swallowed, waited for her to say more, but she only stared out the window, apparently lost in the clouds and the blue sky beyond and the tall buildings that framed them like art. Her hair spilled across the pillow, honey gold and sometimes pale as light, the surface of it smooth and hard with shine. And in that moment he spiraled, caught up in his love for her, in the yearning that made no sense and the fear that someday she’d want something more.
“We’re free enough,” he said, then swallowed again as if that could pull the words back.
She sighed. Then she picked up her book, and he felt her fly away, bound to him by only the thinnest line. He sat there in his flea-market chair, rooted and inadequate, wishing he offered more for her wandering soul. But he was what he was, the sum of his experience. He lived deliberately, thoughtfully, within the bounds of ordinary. She said he lived shackled to his stunted imagination.
He squashed the awful panic that burned like acid and raised his newspaper with trembling hands. Reality. That was good, something even he understood. He went back to reading his paper.
Greta Igl is happily married and has no desire to be free. For more about Greta’s writing, please visit her blog, For Write or Wrong.