|Dawn store out the window at her garden, where her plants had overgrown. The outstretched blossoms appeared to peer inside and glance back at her. She took another sip of coffee and heard the stomping from above quicken and grow louder as they drew closer. John stormed in, all frenzied movements of activity.
He dove into the kitchen adjacent to where Dawn was sitting and quickly went to the coffeemaker. He poured in a series of actions all too rehearsed. Dawn watched him, his back to her and let out a sigh. She took another sip.
“So what are your plans for today?” John asked in an absent voice.
“Oh… this and that.”
“Weren’t you saying something before about meeting Cat?”
“Yeah. But that’s only if she doesn’t flake out again.”
“She does do that.”
John walked toward her, fixed his tie with one hand and screwed on the lid with the other then leaned in for a kiss. “Well I’m off to work!” He was by the door at the trail end of the sentence.
Dawn had another sip and a sigh. Every morning had seem to begin the same and to even question the whole bored housewife thing would have seemed redundant. It wasn’t that she was unhappy, she thought. It had just seemed to even ask whether she was happy would suddenly bog her down in all these questions of what happiness was, what made her happy about her own life, and what was missing. All serving to complicate the point.
After five years of marriage, she stopped feeling the anxieties of a domestic life. Not that the same questions and worries no longer existed, simply that she had exhausted any well of emotion they might have drawn from. She was well enough, John continued to climb the corporate ladder, and her own days were spent warring against idleness. John provided and she well… she wasn’t quite sure what she did.
‘We could do a lot worst’ was where those thoughts always ended. And with anything involving doing worst, her thoughts naturally went to her little sister Cathy. She had called late last night from a payphone, lord knows where. Her voice had remained the same; high and full of energy, the type usually reserved for camp counsellors. Even as the rumble of trucks and Greyhounds nearly drowned her out, she exclaimed the same old story of ‘how she was back in town’ and ‘just had the inkling’ to check in. Yeah she was the type that used the word ‘inkling.’
Dawn had long figured out that `back in town’ meant stuck in some dead-end motel that had been the last stop for Jack’s band. The band with the ever changing name and line-up. Last stop and out of cash usually. Dawn dreaded these meetings but felt compelled to go anyways. Though her sisterly sense of protection had long since faded, her sense of amusement from Cathy and Jack’s unending adventures in failure continued unabated. Their problems were rarely serious and only seemed to contain the immediacy of a pothead freak-out.
Once three or four years ago, Dawn had received a call from the police asking if she would pick Cathy up. She ran a few red lights in a panic, wondering what stupid mess she had got herself into now. It was a whimpering night devoid of stars and the moon. She arrived at the Seedy Ave Motel to find her head hung low, body draped in a blanket.
“He hit me… he smacked me right at the back of the head…” Cathy sobbed.
And when Cathy saw a cop releasing Jack’s handcuffs, she went ballistic. Cursing his name while wildly throwing her arms, as if she could claw him between the two paramedics holding her back and the nine feet of distance between them.
When she walked over to Jack by the doorway, one look at their dishevelled room had revealed to her what had happened. Cathy and Jack’s fights were numerous yet always the same. Cathy would back herself into a corner and start punching and kicking the walls, the drawers, any inanimate object larger than herself. Jack would converge, his palms up, pleading with her in some small Beagle voice. And she would just bang away. Jack must have been close enough to wrap his arms around her before she slammed her fist once more… loosening the screws of the wall lamp hovering above her head and… well…
Still the image of her fury; the arms shooting out like streams of bullets, her long strands of hair wildly thrown across her face, her body; continued to resonate deep within Dawn. It touched a jealousy which was both shallow and deep. Shallow in the excited passion which Cat could feel for Jack, in fury and in lust. Deep in whether Dawn could ever feel and act in such a way for John; for anyone, for anything.
Even when Cathy was little, she would be consumed by her feelings. Crying jags would last for hours until dehydration became a serious concern, her petulance over the failure to be rewarded with some new toy would haunt the house for days. Her mind would always gravitated towards the morbid and the odd. Always fascinated over things that were not quite right: the fallen bird in the backyard, the headstones driven by on the way to Sunday morning brunches, her silent dumbfounded face when scratched and bleeding, the constant dissections of her dolls. At the time, such eccentricities neatly fit into column of childish naïvete but as time wore on it was Dawn who was the most exasperated with Cathy.
“Why can’t you just be normal?” Dawn often cried, she flung those words at her and Cathy would just look away. Allowing her oddness to take place in her head instead, doing little to mask the bemusement on her face. Yet why did Dawn so often feel angered by Cathy? Her peculiarness was often in sharp contrast to Dawn’s own level head. Was it the weight of having to cast off Dawn’s own childlike wonder? The loss Dawn felt because her age demanded conformity? Or was it simply how the world somehow excused Cathy for her behaviour while Dawn felt forced to accept the responsibility?
As usual, such thoughts left Dawn tired and slightly peevish. She lifted her cup for another sip and found the coffee cold. Lifting herself from her chair, she left to get dressed for her lunch with Cathy.
The café was an open terrace, green poles ran up the side the roof to form shattered lines of light throughout the patio. Dawn was early- as always, and ordered a coffee with the menu in front of her. She paid no notice to it though with her thick sunglasses, the open menu gave the outside observer the opposite effect. She found herself staring at the people walking by.
Mothers with strollers, punk kids with Mohawks and tattoos, children walking hand in hand with their nannies. These images moved by slowly yet flickered in and out of her consciousness. Without breaking her sight, she moved her left hand into her purse and feeling for the special compartment; she took out a cigarette and a lighter.
She had promised to give up smoking after she married John and for a time she did not smoke. But as the days waxed long and John began working deeper and deeper into the night, she doubted he would notice. And it became one of those light secrets one kept during a long relationship.
It was ten past and it was obvious Cathy was late. This didn’t surprise Dawn at all, the only surprise left was how late she would be. A loud rumbling bus drove by, stopped just past the café with a horrible squeal. And in moments, Cathy was within sight. Rambling along with her dirty curly hair in shambles, one hand carrying her hemp handbag and the other rifling through always searching for that one object. Dawn always wondered just what she was always looking for.
She sat down in a single flop. “Hey.” She said before continuing to dig through her bag, a poorly stitched tan thing with its colour long washed out and loose ends hanging off every inch.
“Didn’t know you still smoke.”
“I don’t. I just… do from time to time.”
“Don’t talk like that, you sound like an idiotic child.”
“Well I wouldn’t want to do that now, would I?” Cat replied in an exaggerated manner.
The waitress returned and offered Cathy the menu and took her drink order. A Mai Tai at eleven in the morning? Dawn raised an eyebrow. When she left, Cathy began perusing the menu, and knowing nothing else to say, Dawn stubbed out her cigarette and quickly lit another one. This entire scene, these forced socializations suddenly left her abysmally sad. She felt as if she was falling and anything she might have said or done would simply have added weight to the fall.
Dawn flipped a page and leaned her head in, she scanned the words and saw them fall off the page like rain off a window.
“What are you getting?” Cathy asked.
“I don’t know yet.”
The waitress returned with their drinks, taking out her notepad; she awaited their orders. Seeing Cathy’s shrug, Dawn gave her a dirty look for returning so soon but her sunglasses withheld her contempt. “We’ll need another minute.” Dawn said with a plastic smile.
Cathy could never forget that tone, that tone of which she had been at the receiving end of throughout her entire life with Dawn. She simply raised her eyebrow at Dawn and swallowed her thoughts on the subject. But they would not stay down, so Cathy asked for a drag of Dawn’s cigarette instead.
“Come on, out with it.” Dawn said handing her, her cigarette. “You never were one to keep it down.”
“Oh it’s nothing.”
“I know you’ve said that already.” Cathy replied with a shrewd smile.
Dawn felt as if she was losing control of the situation and quickly asked, “how is Jack?”
“Oh you know… th-the same.”
Cathy could barely make that out and Dawn’s lips stretched out a half smile knowing the blow had her dazed.
“I think I’ll have a muffin.” Cathy said, darting her eyes and changing the subject.
“A muffin for lunch?” Dawn took another look at the menu and noticed it was the cheapest food available. “No, let’s splurge a little.” Running her finger down the list, she decided. “How about some cheese fondue?”
“FAWN-DO… I don’t think I’ve ever had that.”
“It’s great, we boil some cheese and dip in some bread. It‘s lovely and fun.”
“Sure thing.” Cathy mouthed as she continued to flip through the menu.
Dawn started to relax, the sensation of falling slowed to a soft landing. The trite conversation offered a safe landing site, a placid area of much talk about nothing. The menu would direct their conversation and whatever there was to confess would remain light, based on food and minor prejudices, not amounting much to anything.
“Actually the pesto pasta sounds good.” Cathy proffered after Dawn’s welcomed silence.
“Pasta?” Dawn began derisively. “Why order something you can make at home. We’re out Sis, why waste an outing on something so ordinary? Something we can make at home. I mean, we’re here to enjoy ourselves and you pick the fifteen minute shake-an-bake order that any buffoon who can punch in numbers on a microwave can have at any time. My god, Cathy! What are we to do with you.” Dawn never once raised her voice, despite the venom behind her words or the outright hostility
“What are we to do…”
Dawn glazed a frozen look over her.
“Where’s that from?” Cathy continued.
“I think it’s…”
“Maria! What are we to do with a problem like Maria?!” Cathy said excitedly as her eyes lit up and her mouth made waves.
“Yes, yes it is.” Dawn said frigidly.
“Oh, come on! Remember when we first saw the Sound of Music! You loved it, you were dancing all over the aisle of the theatre.”
“Yes, dancing like an idiot.”
“No… you were always such a good dancer.”
“No, you always seemed to be the dancer.”
“No, I just move around a bit when I get a little greased. But you… you would glow and glide with such… such…”
“Well that was long ago.”
“No, I always wondered why you never became a dancer.”
“Because I wasn’t bulimic nor willing to spend fourteen hours a day training.”
“That’s not what being a dancer is about!”
“I didn’t say that… there’s just… more to life than silly dreams.”
“Well who says it’s a-”
“Cathy please. Think seriously.”
Cathy deflated quickly and landed limply over the menu.
“Now fess up, there’s no need to turn this into something. What is it that you need?”
“Well… to be honest. Jack’s given up on music.”
“And he’s got a job, a career one might even say.”
“No, I’m serious. He always liked to tour so when a friend needed a trucker at short notice…”
“A trucker? Well that’s… that does require fortitude.”
“Jack likes it, he really does. But he goes where the work and the money is…”
“Come on, out with it.” Dawn goaded.
“And he’s in Iraq.”
“The money is amazing and things seem to have settled down over there.”
“He’s really having the time of his life. The money’s phenomenal and you should see all the exotic pictures he takes there.”
“Well that’s, that’s great!”
“The only problem is…”
“Yes.” Dawn shot out like a duck call.
“The lease to our place is up soon and… we never really collected a lot of stuff. Always being on the move and all.”
“And I’ve never really lived alone for long much… it’s just… A big change is all. I lived at home most of my life, then with Jack. A big change I’m not too cool with. So…“
“So I was thinking maybe I could move in with you for a while. Just until Jack comes back. I’ll pay rent and all that if you want.”
Cathy store intently with a saccharine sweet smile, Dawn felt a lost for words. She felt struck, suddenly she felt the need to apologize profusely to Cat. All those dirty thoughts that went through her head, her entire demeanor… everything.
“Well?” Cathy asked searchingly.
“Well… lovely. It would be lovely.” Dawn said managing a smile.
The waitress returned and Dawn lowered her glasses to smile and say, “Why not? I’ll have a Cosmo and we’ll have the cheese fondue.”
As Dawn entered her car, she thought about what all this could mean. What on earth would come next but instead she found tears bubbling up inside of her and the whole nasty scene flashing by in front of her.
It was almost decade ago and it was yesterday. Jack had picked a forget-me-not and strung it on Dawn’s ear. Cathy saw this from the corner of her eye, the little sneak always spying on her older sister and her college boyfriend. English Literature majors both, mesmerized by the Sonnets and young dreams; they were lost in the flow of pretty words and grand reveries. But youthful dreams gave way to hardened realities, Jack’s poet/writer/musician career became more a drag to her emotions than the catapult it once was.
Dawn was cruel like so many times she so carelessly chose to be. She store intently into Jack’s eyes- those eyes expecting warmth returned, and took the flower out of her ear. Not knowing where to rest her eyes, she store at the earth. To be as hard and soft as the earth, she envied the earth at that moment. Looking back at him, she told him what she was really thinking: that they had no future, that he had no future, and thus he had no future with her.
Passion is a flame, it burns itself out. And then what’s left? A sink full of dirty dishes and screaming selfish brats all demanding your attention. And Jack still hasn’t proven himself yet, not for the normalcy Dawn demanded in adult life. Still, her head spun while she rested her head hard on the hard steering wheel, stifling a flood.
Dawn gazed out the window at her outside garden. The flowers remained standing, staring back at her in the kitchen. As John walked in, finding his wife transfixed at the corner of the glass window- he slowed his pace and stood beside her.
“Those look right to be cut, don’t you think?” He asked.
Dawn sat transfixed, the words were heard but did not fully digest. “Oh, I guess.” She mumbled.
“Is something the matter?” John moved his head in and grazed his nose against her ear, something he hadn’t done in years.
“No… no. I guess I’m just not ready to pick them yet.”
“Because it’s not the end yet. There’s still room to grow.”