Stories Tragedy

The End, Less Possibilities

“Where do you think you’re gonna go?” her husband sputters, blindsided by his wife’s packed bags at the bottom of the stairs.

“It doesn’t matter,” she replies, dead-eyed and somber. She puts on her coat, the black one, the one for special occasions.

“The kids—”

“The kids are thirty,” she says, turning away from him to gather her things. “They have their lives. Now you have yours.”

Flummoxed, her husband racks his bourbon-soaked brain for anything—anything to stop this thing he cannot control. This is so unlike her, always dependable, always reliable, always there.

“So where do you think you’re gonna go?” he asks again, arms akimbo.

“I’m going to go away,” she says and closes the door.

She’s just taken her clothing. A few books. Nothing else.

She’s set up a bank account, pilfering funds over the past year as best she could. She’s tutored students after school for extra money. Babysat on weekends. Cleaned houses. Anything to get a small stake to make her claim. Actually, to reclaim her life.

Reclaim my life, she thinks, involuntarily smiling as the miles roll by.

Her car is paid for. A late model Toyota, it will last until she gets back on her feet. Driving at dusk, it is an ominous time to start her new life. But the month of June feels right. School is out. Summer feels like it has endless possibilities. She has months to worry about finding a job before the school year starts in the fall. And what school district doesn’t need a good English teacher?

As she approaches the freeway, she sees all sorts of exit signs. Again, endless possibilities. South? East? West? Anything but north. She never wants to be that far north again.

Without much thought, she takes an exit and it just feels right. The distance between her and the north grows, and she cannot help now but smile from ear to ear.

She drives through the night until her eyes burn with grit. She nibbles on an apple for dinner. She fiddles with the radio. She settles the dial on an old Billy Joel song.

The cold hands

The sad eyes

The dark Irish silence

It’s so late

But I’ll wait

Through the long night with you

By mid-morning she decides she needs to rest. Finding a cheap hotel off the interstate, she registers using her maiden name and pays in cash. She notices the free continental breakfast is still being served.

She enters the small dining area, children drowning their Fruit Loops in whole milk while their parents drink coffee and watch Fox News. Famished, she toasts two sad looking bagels and devours a couple of hard boiled eggs while waiting for the bagels to brown. Adding a cherry danish and sliced cantaloupe to her plate, she feasts. A meal fit for a queen!

Taking the elevator to her floor, she calculates her finances. There will be enough, she thinks. Later, she plans to use the computer in the hotel’s business office to research school districts. Actually, she’ll research towns and cities, too, because she is not entirely sure where she will eventually stop. This thought thrills her. The endless possibilities, she thinks, hugging herself. Her fatigue feels so deeply satisfying, as she crawls into the hotel bed. She hums the Billy Joel song.

The warm tears

The bad dreams

The soft trembling shoulders

The old fears

But I’m here

Through the long night with you

Sleep is elusive. She stares at the ceiling, sunshine peeking through the curtains. She stretchesenjoying the feeling of being sated from her large breakfast and the feeling of her body under the cool sheets in a whole big bed, all to herself. Just the laziness of being in bed at midday feels luxurious.

She pulls out her beloved dog-eared copy of Othello from her bag and re-reads her favorite parts. The paperback is heavily marked with her annotations from over the years, making it one of her favorite treasures. Shakespeare’s words are like gold in her mouth. She reads evil Iago’s lines aloud: “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy: / It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock / The meat it feeds on.”

She feels brave enough to pull out her cell phone from her old brown purse. Cautiously, she turns it on. With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, she counts 37 voice messages. Almost against her own wishes, she plays them all, one after another. All angry. All from her husband. All increasingly antagonistic.

. . . what makes you think you can just walk out . . .

. . . you are no longer a wife or a mother—you aren’t even a woman . . .

. . . when I come for you . . .

She throws her cell phone across the hotel room. She burrows under the covers and weeps. Exhaustion finally consumes her as she falls into a rich, dark, black slumber. Deep in the abyss, the Billy Joel song plays somewhere in the back of her mind.

All your past sins

Are since past

You should be sleeping

It’s all right

Sleep tight

Through the long night with me

She awakens when the hotel door opens, slamming against the wall. She briefly has time to calculate all of her mistakes. She had parked the Toyota out in front of the hotel. Although she had paid in cash, she used a credit card for a security deposit. She did not turn off her cell phone when she threw it across the hotel room, and her location was shared with her husband on her cell phone—for her safety.

But she is only an English teacher, not Iago, with all of his treacherous planning and cunning stratagems. And she is as innocent and naive as Desdemona, yet just as terrified as a similarly enraged husband comes to her bed. And like Desdemona, she is caustically upbraided by a husband, so out of control and blinded by an alleged jealousy, he will not listen. She tries to explain, but taking his cues from Othello, a play he will never read, her husband follows in Othello’s footsteps and picks up a pillow from the bed to quiet a wife.

She panics as he is too strong to fend off, her body pinned and thrashing under his. She hears him cursing her, feels him holding the pillow more tightly against her face.

He was always going to kill me, she thinks. There has been enough foreshadowing in this play. And for the first time that day, her possibilities do not seem endless.

As her body struggles to breathe, she returns to the highway, turns up the car’s radio, and plays the last stanza of Billy Joel’s song in her final thoughts:

No, I didn’t start it

You’re broken hearted

From a long, long time ago

Oh, the way you hold me

Is all that I need to know

And it’s so late

But I’ll wait

Through the long night with you

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