A walk turns into a revelation on a cold winter night.
|I stopped dead in my tracks as soon as I realized where I was. I went for a walk to try to gather my thoughts, they’d been scattered lately. I stepped out into the snow from my efficiency apartment and turned my collar up to the cold as I lit a smoke. It was a perfect night; quiet streets, snow slowly falling through the calm winter air and the peace that only winter can bring. I set out down the street with no destination in mind, allowing my feet to guide me while I tried to lead my thoughts someplace I could handle them all.
I’d moved across town six months ago after she kicked me out. It was as unexpected as it was painful. We’d been driving home from her parent’s house, a Sunday barbeque with the future in-laws. As we pulled up to a traffic light I looked over at my fiancé, the woman I loved, and saw in her place a stranger. I wasn’t sure what had changed, this woman hadn’t been there this morning, or ten minutes ago for that matter. I could see the pain in this new woman’s face as she looked back at me, this stranger took no delight in uttering those two simple words that changed everything, ‘It’s over.’
There are a million things that run through a man’s mind after something like that, none of them pleasant. Sure I tried to remember the good times; the laughter, the sex, the love but it never really works. I always ended up back at the questions. Was it something I did? Could I have stopped it? Should I have seen it coming? And those are the easy ones to answer. Don’t get me wrong, I coped, it may not have been pretty but sure could have been a lot uglier. I’d been sober for three years; I quit drinking after we started dating, and with a little help managed to stay that way. I’d never been one for drugs other than the pack of Marlboro Red’s, cowboy killer as she always called them, that I always kept in my breast pocket. She swore up and down that it was a disgusting habit and that I should quit but whenever she caught me, cigarette hanging from my lip, leaning against a wall doing my best James Dean impersonation she got that look in her eye that told me she secretly found it sexy.
I don’t know how long I’d been walking when I stopped so suddenly. It must have been hours because I was miles from where I started. I was walking along trying to walk softly so as not to disturb the snow beneath me when I looked up at the house whose clean, snow-covered sidewalk I was so unceremoniously marring, and realized that I had seen this house before, many times in fact. The last time had been six months ago, after backing my bags on a Sunday afternoon. I pulled out of the driveway and across the street sat the house I now looked at.
I was in a dream state as I slowly turned my head. Sure enough, there it was, my old house, our old house, her house. She really had done a wonderful job decorating for the holidays. Lights neatly hung on the porch railing and along the roof line even peaking with the garage. That part struck me. She hated ladders, everything about them. She hated heights and never trusted ladders, always thought they were going to collapse underneath me. I swear most times I was on a ladder she was holding her breath. I racked my brain trying to figure out how she got those damn things up there until I felt the nip of a snowflake hit bridge of my nose.
I must have stood there a while because when I looked back the way I came even my own tracks had started to be overcome by the soft blanket of snow that was still falling. Just then I heard the car coming from the other end of the block and saw its headlights casting their unnatural glow on nature’s freshly whitened canvass. I didn’t think too much of whoever it was until I saw the car pull into the same driveway that I had pulled out of the past summer. It wasn’t her car but I hadn’t heard about her moving. It wasn’t until I saw her climb out of the passenger side that I realized I’d been holding my breath. That’s when he opened the door and climbed out of my old life.
He was about my size, similar height, similar build, similar style. You probably could have confused us from a distance. ‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘she has a type.’ Their laughter brought a familiar knot to my stomach as I watched them walk inside, carrying bags of what were no doubt the Christmas gifts that her and I should have been exchanging. I stood there, unnoticed, until they got inside. I could see their happiness through the plate glass in the living room, the one with the curtains that she insisted I hang but never bothered to close. As they embraced in front of the tree and shared a tender kiss, I wandered back into the night and started my long walk back with only one question left on my mind, ‘I wonder if she let him use the ladder?’