I never planned on losing interest in my husband, it just sort of happened. Like when the paint starts to chip off of your fingernails. Or when the chain on your bike starts to rust. It got old. Our situation got old very fast. The debt, the alcohol, the lack of a sex life. I didn’t see him as the same rich, handsome, successful lawyer I met in college. He was this poor, sad little car salesman now. Putting in overtime just to make ends meet. His physical appearance didn’t change at all. But he reminded me of a puppy with its tail between its legs. Every time he saw me, he was embarrassed. I mean, grow a pair, seriously. He still drank. He tried to hide it but I knew. I just quit caring enough to say anything.
I met James at the Farmer’s Market. I could tell, right away that he was a hard worker. He didn’t have a slender build like Matt. He was muscular and tan. I can’t tell you the exact moment we met. Or what our first conversation was, because it was casual. So casual that none of it felt wrong. It was totally innocent. He walked towards my car with me, genuinely interested in our conversation. He asked what I did for a living, if I had any kids. Once I’d bored him with my copywriting job and childless life, I quizzed him. Do you have kids? Nope. A wife. Nah uh. What does he do? An investor, you could say. Buying houses to fix up and sell for profit. Something about it was attractive, so much more attractive than a car salesman.
We didn’t exchange numbers, but I caught myself wandering back to that conversation, over and over. And I realized that my husband never came up.
He knows I’m married. Of course he knows. It’s a small town; most people know who I am. Right?
I saw him again at the library. The public library. A free escape from our poor, empty home. We sold a lot of our furniture on Craigslist for extra cash. My beloved Kate Spade ottoman. A bassinet we’d probably never get to use. We even got rid of one of our cars. Granted, a two person household doesn’t really need three cars. But it was hard to let go. Matt’s first car, almost an antique now, was a 1979 Camaro. It sold for a lot of cash. Made a decent contribution to our financial situation. Nonetheless, our home went from a luxurious sanctuary to an empty museum. We held on to the necessities. And my books. I couldn’t part with any of them. Plus they wouldn’t have sold for much.
But I couldn’t justify buying them anymore, so I reluctantly checked out the library. And to my pleasant surprise, I saw James again. He was sitting at one of those tables in the back, reading a book called Real Estate Investing. He was the only one in there, besides the librarian. So I walked around and waited for him to look up.
He remembered my name.
“Oh, hi.” I whispered, suddenly aware of the nosey librarian listening in to our conversation.
“Whatcha lookin’ for?” He sounded kind of southern. I wonder where he’s from.
“Oh, just something new,” how cliché, I thought to myself. And then I initiated it.
“Hey, I could really use your help… My kitchen sink, it’s, uh… doing something funny. Clogged up, maybe?”
“Sure, when can I stop by?”
“How’s Saturday? Around 3?”
“See you then.”
Today’s Wednesday. I’ve got two and a half days to mess up my sink.
I walked into the house to find Matt on the couch with a glass of what I could only assume was bourbon. He looked up from his laptop and slammed it shut. “Just, uh, looking for some more work.” He stood up to help me with the groceries. I’d stopped at Whole Foods afterwards for some stuff to make dinner.
I unpacked the ingredients, keeping my eye on him as he sat back down on the couch. “Any luck?”
“Finding another job?”
“Oh, right. No.. no leads yet.” His voice trailed off as he began typing furiously. It’s sad that I couldn’t care less about what he was up to. I put a pot of water on the stove and waited for the bubbles. I start assembling spaghetti for the second time this week. We can’t afford steak and seafood dinners anymore. I miss wine.
The doorbell rings, and my heart drops. We hadn’t any visitors since we sold everything. Now’s the moment of truth. Whoever’s there, on my doorstep, was about to find out that we lost all our money. I look at Matt, willing him to go send them away. Tell them we’re sick or tired. Or really busy planning a party. But he doesn’t even move. His eyes are still glued to that damn laptop. I walk to the front door and just through the glass, I can make out long blonde hair. It’s Matt’s sister, Claire. She seems antsy, peering in through the window, ringing the doorbell again. I open it quickly, brushing my hair behind my ears, trying to look busy.
“Hey, what’s going on?”
“I can’t stop by? I have some great news!” She starts removing her coat before she’s even inside. Inching her way into the doorframe.
“Landon and I are pregnant!” Claire squealed, clapping her hands. She still hadn’t noticed any of our missing furniture. Typical Claire, always so self-absorbed. I couldn’t help but envy her happiness, as she plopped down on the couch next to her brother. He gave her a one-armed hug, so as not to let go of the laptop, and kissed her on the forehead. They went on for a few minutes about Claire being a mom and Matt being an uncle. Then she noticed.
“Hey…” her voice trailed off, as she peered around our spacious home, “What happened to all you guys’ stuff?” She stood up, both hands on her hips. I crossed my arms, feeling defensive.
“We’re just trying to get rid of some clutter.” I spat, already getting angry.
“It’s ok, Linds…” Matt walked towards us, “You can tell her.” I looked at him, confused, and looked back at her.
“We’re getting ready to remodel. Had to clear out a lot of that old junk.” I can feel us falling into a deeper hole. “Oh… Ok…” Claire murmured, still unsure of Matt’s lie. “Well, I’ve gotta get home. Landon’s on his way home from work and I still haven’t told him the news!” She hugged Matt and waved bye to me. We never really got along. I watched her get into her Lexus and instantly filled with rage.
“Why would you lie to her?”
“You really want her to know our situation? She’d go straight to my parents.”
“Well maybe we should go to them ourselves. We’re in deep shit, Matt. I can’t do this anymore. Cheap food, no furniture. I feel guilty for even buying a book! Maybe they could loan us some money.”
He looked past me, considering what I’d said. “No. We can’t. If I give them a reason not to trust me with their finances, it’ll all go to my sisters. I can’t let that happen.” He says this as if they’ll die soon. They’re not even 60. These people went to Vegas for their anniversary last year. They’re not going anywhere for a while.
Saturday came quick. Matt got up for work at about 8, the dealership opened at 9. I brewed some coffee and sat at the table with him. We don’t talk much anymore, aside from the occasional argument about money, so I try to just be near him. So he doesn’t realize that I’ve fallen out of love with him. He pours us each a bowl of cereal and sits down next to me.
We take turns making breakfast. It’s always been the deal. Even when I first started sleeping over at his apartment, when we were in college. Some days I would wake up and make pancakes and eggs. Other days I’d wake up starving and he’d pour me some oatmeal or cereal. Matt’s absolutely useless in the kitchen. He always had his mother and sisters, or a maid to wait on him. In a way, I thought it was adorable. A useless little boy that I could take care of. The idea sounded domestic. I liked it. I honestly wasn’t a great cook. But when I married Matt I had to figure it out. His parents suggested we get a housekeeper. But without kids, I felt like we couldn’t really justify it. We were happy, though. Happy and in love and rich. I never thought we’d be here, poor and pathetic.
The doorbell rang at 3:01, and there was James. He looked even better than I remembered.