Brooding with leftover anger and resentment, he stared at the page, unable to read.
The book, by Lee Child (a Christmas present), was a thriller (which he usually enjoyed), but an argument was displacing his attention. It’d been a stupid argument, not worth even recounting, but it was another in a string of stupid, exhausting arguments. One a day? Hell, on a good day, it’d be one a day. Most days, there was one in the morning before they left for work and another in the evening. They were part of the routines.
He was tired of that routine. He decided that if he could, he would change his life so that he and his wife had never reconciled after they’d separated. That had happened less than nine months in (nine years ago). His life would be so much more pleasant, wouldn’t it? Her, and her attitude. It infuriated him.
Maybe, instead, it would be better they hadn’t had children. Much had changed when she’d become pregnant. The pressure to succeed, save money, and everything else, had ratcheted up, becoming relentless. Besides, they hadn’t been getting along well before that point.
He loved his children, though, although they worried and wearied him. A friend said that having children was all about the three Ws: worrying, wearying, and weaning. That sounded right.
Maybe, instead of not reconciling, he would not marry his wife. Then there would be no children. He tried imagining that life. He’d be like Grover, alone on holidays (and declaring that he liked it most times, but also decrying it on other days), but doing whatever he wanted, whenever. But he’d asked her to marry him because he loved her. Probably be better then, to have never met her. But if he’d never met her, would he have ever met anyone and fallen in love? (What an expression.) Yes, he had other girlfriends. He’d been popular.
Setting his book aside to watch football on television for a moment, he waited for some spirits to show up, someone to tell him how different his life would be if he’d never met his wife and married. That sort of tale had been written to death. Hadn’t there been movies with that theme? He waited for the television screen to change to a movie where he was the star and the plot was that he’d never met his wife and married. But that would’ve required many other changes, since he’d met her in high school as freshmen.
He had to consider all that would’ve all changed to keep them from meeting. One of them would not have been in that school (or maybe just not that year) (but both were good students), or their activities, likes and interests would’ve needed to change. He tried peering into the past to see what needed to shift to stop their meeting from happening. Maybe they met but didn’t fall in love. That’d seemed instant for both of them, like destiny.
Wiping her hands with a dish rag, she stepped into the room. “Kitchen’s clean.”
“Good.” He heard the dishwasher running.
“Are you hungry? Can I make you a sandwich?”
“Okay, sure, thanks.”
She smiled. “Want a beer?”
“No, thanks, that’d be good.”
She glanced at the screen. “Who’s winning?”
“Titans, third quarter.”
“That’s not who you wan to win is it?”
“Well, there’s still time for it to change.” Smiling again, she turned and left the room.
One child hit the other. A scream erupted. He leaped up, refereeing, consoling, explaining, parenting. A few minutes later, detente achieved, he sat down with a slow exhale and looked at the television. The third quarter was almost over but the score hadn’t changed. He picked up his book. He couldn’t remember where he’d stopped reading, what was happening, or what he’d been thinking about.
Turning the page back, he began reading again.