“Marriage is like a good stew,” said the bearded guru in an open-collar blue silk shirt and neatly pressed jeans. “It’s a delicate blending of flavors, spices and herbs.”
Tom squirmed in his seat. He turned to his wife and whispered loud enough for the people sitting near them to hear, “We paid twenty-five bucks for this?
“Alone each ingredient has its own integrity, but when integrated into a carefully created mix, a new and wondrous…”
“I can’t take this anymore. I’m going to pee.” Tom stood up, trying to inch his way down the aisle. The woman on his left made a “tsk” sound as he stepped in front of her. The man to her left made a drama of pulling in his big feet as Tom passed. He disturbed one more couple and then he was free. Walking to the men’s room Tom thought: Marriage is like walking through a crowded lecture hall trying not to step on anyone’s foot. No, no. Marriage is like a bowl of steaming stew with the handles on the inside. Hey, Tom thought as he pushed open the heavy doors of the lecture hall and headed towards the restroom, I’m pretty good at this. Maybe I can become a cliché consultant to marriage counselors?
Without thinking, Tom walked past the hall with an arrow pointing to the restrooms and out the front door. He was shocked at how chilly it had become. September in Atlanta was like that. One minute it was summer, the next an autumn wind chilled the air. Another marriage analogy, Tom thought. I should be writing this down.
Instead he started walking up Peachtree Street, looking at the array of hotels and concrete and glass office towers. Remembering reading that there are no peach trees planted along Peachtree Street, Tom contemplated another marriage metaphor. Marriage, like Atlanta, certainly isn’t all pink blooms and sweet fruit. There’s a lot of cold glass and hard concrete and, Tom stared at a huge pile of debris from a building recently torn down, it’s always under construction.
Tom stopped walking. He looked for a sign to discover what was being built at the site and what was torn down. He saw no sign. Too easy an analogy, Tom thought. I’ve driven by this spot a hundred times but I can’t remember what was there. By spring a new office building will sprout up looking like it’s always been there. The new building won’t necessarily be better or worse, but we’ll get used to it and then another building will come down and another will fill the void.
Damn! That marriage guru’s got me doing it. Get your clichés here! Tom wanted to shout aloud. Hot clichés, here!
Tom checked his watch. Sarah’s going to worry if I don’t get back soon, he thought. He turned and walked back, quickening his pace.
He thought of Sarah and her large, dark eyes. He loved her eyes more than anything, especially when he made her laugh. Somehow when she laughed her eyes got so big they looked like she might audition for an old-fashioned minstrel show.
Tom suddenly realized how little she laughed lately. How little they laughed. It’s not that they were going through rough times. Lord knows they’ve had rougher times than this. Tom thought of how hard it was when Sarah’s father died and her mother came to live with them until she passed. They raised two teenagers, for crying out loud. And that cancer scare was no picnic either. But they held tight and made it. They even became closer.
So what was happening now? Their children were grown and on their own. Jason seems happy, Tom thought, and his new wife calls us Mom and Dad so naturally. I wish Pam weren’t such a workaholic but she’s developing a successful law practice. She’ll slow down when she can.
And we’re winding down our own careers. In the next couple of years, I’m going to start looking for a buyer. It’s time I sold the business or at least took in a couple of partners and reduced my responsibilities. It’ll be good spending more time with Sarah. I’d like to do more traveling. We’ve been putting off that cruise around the Greek islands too long. Sarah can retire anytime she wants. She’s been talking about it for years now.
Things have never been better for us. The house is paid for, we have enough money to be comfortable. I didn’t invest with Madoff. What more can I ask?
Tom entered the hotel walking straight to the Magnolia Room where Graham Gunther, author of Marriage Is a Two-Way Street, still pontificated. He stood at the back of the room and watched Sarah, marveling at how much she still looked like the teenager he married more than thirty years earlier. He saw his empty seat next to her and rushed to fill it.
As he made his way down the aisle he heard a “tsk” from the woman sitting to his left.
“Where’ve you been?” Sarah whispered.
“Walking and thinking. Of you. Of us.”
Sarah took his hand and squeezed it.
“All marriages have their ups and downs, their peaks and their valleys,” said the guru in the silk shirt.
Tom bit his tongue.
“I missed you,” Sarah said. “This guy’s horrible. I missed your sarcasm.”
“Shh,” said the woman sitting next to him.
“Go shh yourself,” Tom said.
Sarah’s eyes bulged as she laughed aloud.
Tom and Sarah stood up to go home, delighting in annoying the woman sitting next to them, and still holding hands.
Wayne Scheer has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net. His work has appeared in print and online in a variety of publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, Eclectica, flashquake and The Internet Review of Books. Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories, is available at Thumbscrews Press.