They’d been looking at each other for hours in silence. She came close to tears a couple of times while he remained steady as a rock. Neither was going to bend. He wanted to say so many things, but masculinity stopped him. Maybe too proud. Perhaps ashamed of what he’d done.
And she stayed quiet out of fear. Scared that if she said anything at all he’d walk out the door again; just like he had a year ago.
Standing there in the living room with the corner lamp on, her dressed in a nightgown, he had on a pair of jeans and a shirt, they both tried to remember when it was they saw each other last. He had become so skinny. The road will do that to a man. While she had picked up a little weight round the middle. Eating out of stress. Wondering when he was coming home. She ate doughnuts. Big cream filled ones with pots of coffee everyday. While he ran with coyotes. Picking up scraps, dead animals along the highways. Dried blood caked on his chin.
She didn’t want to hold him. Didn’t want to get hurt again. He wanted to tell her he was sorry. Wanted to apologize. Let her know that it wasn’t him that left her. Wasn’t his soul. His thinking was all screwed up, wiring was off. There was something not right about him. One minute he’d be in Terre Haute and the next day St. Louis. Hitchhiking along back roads, through small towns. Just him with a book bag.
She asked if he wanted coffee? He shook his head no. Asked him if he wanted to sit down? Again, he said no. What is it that you want? ,she asked.
He stood in silence. Finally said, money.
You need money?, he nodded. They both heard a dog barking outside. Howling. Did ya bring a friend along with ya?, she grinned. He shook his head. What’re you gonna do with this money? Spend it on what? When are you going to settle down?
I’ll take that coffee now if you don’t mind.
No, I don’t mind.
And they walked into the kitchen where pots and pans were piled up in the sink. She made a path to the faucet and ran water into the coffee pot. Filled it up all the way. You want something to eat?, she asked. I got doughnuts, he shook his head.
What was it like out there?, she poured the water into the coffee maker.
Cold. Lonely. Free.
I see. Is the cold and lonely part worth the freedom?
Yep. I guess it would be. I’m gonna have a doughnut. Sure you don’t want one, again he shook his head. She grabbed a wet cloth and tended to the dried blood on his chin. He leaned forward and kissed her. Why’d you do that for?, she whispered.
Just wanted to, he told her. She grabbed his face and kissed him hard then slapped him.
They stood there in silence. There was no longer a dog barking outside. It was just quiet. And they both looked at each other. That’s all they did. Just looked. The screen door was open. Cicadas began to sing.