Rebecca took another plate, soaked it in sudsy water, and rinsed it off. As she was doing so, the doorbell rang. Now who could that be? Phil was still in some wine-induced haze upstairs, most likely. She hadn’t planned on any visitors. She walked briskly to the door and swung it open enthusiastically, stopping it an inch from the wall. She had forgotten to do that once, and in her cloud of excitement, she hadn’t noticed the drywall was cracked until a day after she stopped telling Phil “what nice folks” had come over, stopping every few minutes to look pointedly athim, as she had known he was here that day, but hadn’t bothered to come down and eat her lovely bean dip, but of course he couldn’t appreciate the art of making bean dip. After all, he was Phil.
She scanned the man from head to toe. Crisp would be the best way to describe him.Crisp slacks, shirt, freshly shined shoes, and a smile pulled over his teeth just so. She saw the briefcase in his hand and mentally groaned. Maybe if she politely refused him, he would leave. She could deal with him for a while anyway. She was always excellent at dropping hints.
“Why, how d’you do! I wasn’t expecting any visitors this afternoon.
” Somehow that blew right over his head.
“Hello ma’am. I’m here to tell you about a new deal from SuckItUp vacuums. It’s an excellent value and it’s got more functions than EVER in this years edition! For example, have any pesky stray animals you don’t want in your yard or house? Well, animals be gone! All you have to do is switch to the animal setting on the handle! Or how about annoying mother-in-laws? We’ve got your solution…
” Here she zoned out. This is what usually happened. They ranted about the “excellent value” and “once in a lifetime” deals, constantly edging closer to the door should she attempt to slam it in their face.
Approximately halfway through the lecture, she decided to interrupt him. “Well you’ve got me convinced! Just let me go get my husband, he’s the one who handles the purse around here.” And a six-pack a night. God, what had she seen in him?
She clomped up the stairs. As she made her way to the master bedroom at the end of the hall, she vaguely wondered why she hadn’t kicked him out by now. Marvin was out of the house. There was nobody left to impress, nobody for her to sell the idea that everything was fine, that she hadn’t seen him sneak out a few years ago at night once a week, to some flashy convertible waiting in their driveway. She was still debating on asking him about it. No, asking about her. As they tore away from the house, she saw a streak of auburn hair pouring out of the car window.
She opened the door, still expecting him to be there. It was that day of the week, where he would disappear with Miss Red Hair, as she had come to call that witch. She looked around for her wallet hoping he hadn’t taken her money to go on one of his drinking sprees. It would have been an extra blow to her if he was using her paycheck to entertain the awful woman. She sighed with relief, as it was under the towels in the bathroom sink, right where she left it. She tossed it onto the bed as she left the room.
Heading back down the stairs, she saw the salesman still on the front steps, smile gone. However, as soon as he heard her coming around the bend in the stairs, he perked up, looking exactly as he had when she left. Was he some sort of robot? Despite the heat of the Oklahoma sun, he hadn’t even broken a sweat. His tie was in the exact same spot. He was still holding thebriefcase.
“I’m sorry, but he is not available at the moment.
” The salesman clicked his pen, looked up, and renewed his brilliant smile. He belonged in a toothpaste ad, not the real world.“Thank you for your time ma’am. Are you sure that you wouldn’t reconsider? This deal won’t last forever you know.
” “I’ll go to your website if I do.
” Never mind the fact that he hadn’t mentioned if they had a website or not. All that mattered was getting this salesman out the door, right now. She began to shut the door as he walked away. Grabbing her phone from the counterwhere she left it when did the dishes, she flipped through her contacts until she reached “Phil<3”. How ironic. She pressed the name on the screen and put the phone to her ear. It rang a few times before there was a click on the other end.
“Hello, you have successfully called Phil. Unfortunately, I can’t come to the phone right now…
” She hung up before that stupid voicemail finished. She had been getting his voicemail a lot lately, too much for her liking. Bullshit. That’s what this was, that’s all Phil was. He couldn’t be bothered to answer the phone when his wife called, he couldn’t bother to be sober, He couldn’t bother to remember his keys. Well, she wouldn’t put up with it anymore. One of these days– no, no more indecision. She was changing the locks tomorrow. Oh, she’d bring it up to him, to be sure, just to see if he was listening. She was through with second chances, through with Phil–She was thrown out of her train of thought by the door shutting. Phil was home. Oh, well.
She had already faked being pleasant once today. Might as well put on an encore, right? “He-ya sweetie, how was work? Another salesman stopped by today, and-”
Here she stopped, for Phil looked… odd. For once, he came home with his sport coat and all his other articles of clothing on and in the right place, each shoe on the correct foot. A glance out the window told her that his car was home, right next to her Honda Civic. Everything was right, perfect in fact. So why did she feel that something was off? It must be the fact that he seemed sane and sober for once. And sober his expression certainly was.
That was it, no begging, no “sugar,” no “baby,” not even that wheedling tone she had grown used to.“Now what’s eatin’ ya, hon?”
If that salesman earlier was a robot, Phil was a statue. She mentally pasted her mental image of Mr. SuckItUp next to him. Phil snapped out of his funk, turning on the extra charm with a smile. She looked away, then looked at him again in alarm. In those few moments, Phil had merged with the imaginary salesman-no, that wasn’t right, he couldn’t have- But he had. The suit, the tie the smile, it was flawless. And to top it off, he had shifted until he was in the exact space her mental Mr. SuckItUp had been. If Phil hadn’t been there a minute ago, she never would have believed it. But Phil was gone now. He had been replaced by some awful blend of Phil and not Phil. And then, her husband-or was he her husband? She wasn’t sure.- was brought back into being by the sound of Phil’s voice.
“It’s nothing, baby. You know me, I’m juuuust fine. Just… thinkin’ is all. How much money you got in the bank?”
Where did the salesman go? She could still see traces of him. “Just enough. We’re gettin’ by.”
“By ‘getting by,’ you mean enough for one of our jobs to cover the house?”
No, that couldn’t have ever happened. What was that anyway? “Well, I guess so. I mean, it’d take some extra hours, but at least my cleaning jobs could pull it off.”
“…Good. That’s good.
” “You sure you’re okay?”
Here he broke, and any resemblance to the picture-perfect salesman had shattered. If she looked carefully enough, she could still see little fragments of the brilliant smile trapped the creases of Phil’s shirt.
“Yes, I’m peachy, okay? I come home, try to be nice, sober, I don’t know, and when I try to be normal for once, you just start thinkin’ something’s eating me! YOU try being fired for no damn reason and see how you like it!”
Rebecca was taken aback, shocked. Where had that dreamlike Phil gone? Yes, she preferred the odd merging of the two men. He looked like he’d be more polite than Phil. He reminded her of the Phil she’d married, the guy who was light on his feet, quick with a joke (or a kiss, he never said no to one of those), easy going. In a word, perfect.
Then it hit her what Phil had said. Forget the locks. They didn’t matter anymore. Phil would listen to what she had to say for once. “This is you tryin’ to be nice? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. I’m ‘trying to be nice’ every day of my sorry life, pretendin’ to everyone that you are just some big dreamboat, makin’ excuses for your drunk ass not botherin’ to show up to our own wedding anniversary that I put up on the calendar on the fridge in giant letters, in bright red marker two months before! Sittin’ there on our first date in years after Marvin left home by myself in that Italian restaurant uptown,that I reserved myself by the way, sitting there for a half hour, until you texted me, askin’ for a rain check! Goin’ off every week with Miss Red Hair, zoomin’ off in that stupid car, doing God-knows-what before comin’ back in an hour before sunup!”
Here she stopped for breath, eyes blazing, watching his expression, now a perfect picture of surprise. How ironic.
Here she cut him off. No, this was her time. She wasn’t going to be tricked into listening to him again. She had listened to him for twenty damn years. Not making that mistake twice. “Don’t think I didn’t notice, but I kept tellin’ myself that you were gonna change, that this would just, I don’t know, go away or somethin’. And maybe I told myself that because if I thought it enough, I would actually believe it. Don’t give me any ‘we can work this out,’ because I’ve got nobody left to impress. Neither of us do. No Marvin, no neighbors, no friends. The neighbors found out the truth about you, hon. Marvin’s too busy getting his life together and finishing school to care. Friends? What friends do we both share? Honestly, Phil, I hope you can get another job, because I’m through.”
Phil looked stricken as Rebecca turned on her heel and decisively marched up the stairs to their bedroom. She slammed the door and looked around the room. What were the things that were hers in this room? She grabbed her suitcase, the hard-shelled maroon one, from the walk-in closet. She opened it and laid it on the ground, then turned to face her dresser. She threw her drawer open, grabbing a few of each item before tossing them into the suitcase haphazardly.
Briskly walking to the bathroom, she grabbed her shower loofah, all the fancy soaps Marvin had gotten her for her birthday last year- Phil had almost forgotten again. But she had to give him credit. After all, he had stopped at Walmart to get her a card. Never mind the fact that it said “Sorry For Your Loss” on it. But that didn’t matter. Nothing about Phil mattered anymore. A pack of razors and a towel completed her supply kit. She could buy everything else later.
Whirling around, she grabbed her phone and charger along with her pink rubber pocketbook.Stuffing the remainder of her necessities into her suitcase, Rebecca steeled herself to leave the room a final time. She hadn’t forgotten anything, she was sure of that. So what was she afraid of?
She grabbed the handle of her suitcase and headed down the hallway. Had it always been this long? She lifted her suitcase as she headed down the stairs. Where was Phil? Senses on high alert, she scurried out the door and shoved her suitcase in the trunk of her car. She opened the driver’s side door, and was surprised to see Phil sitting in the passenger seat, placing something on the dashboard. Looking at it, she saw that it was her collection of photo albums. She was about to say something when Phil stopped her. “No, don’t say I can keep ‘em. Don’t want ‘em. Just… didn’t want you to forget nothing.You always brought these along whenever you left home.”
He was right. She wanted to thank him, but it got stuck in her throat until her anger twisted it into something completely different.“Get. Out.”
Phil obliged, even shut the car door quietly. Still, he did watch her as she drove away. No tears, though. Phil never had been a man who stood for the very concept of tears. She didn’t listen to the radio like she usually did, just drove in silence. She steeled herself as she felt something burning in her eyes. She was not, would not, cry for the concept of Phil. “Just like a business trip.” At the first stoplight it hit her; she never finished washing the dishes.