Thursday, August 4, 2011


When they came out of that room, they were one less. There is to be no mention of that room, even in conversations turned serious with quietness unbecoming of the both of them now. The quietness never lasted very long though. Usually it was Joel who’d start another conversation, the trail end of a topic from yesterday, his voice a forced chirp. The days blended so well together now, it didn’t really matter what day it was, when it started, or when it ended. Taking her cue, Patty would pick up the conversation too. The same thing played in different ways. They both welcomed it now, if only to fill the silence, which was worse.

Instead, they chose to live their lives in the confines of this room, their kitchen, nothing moved, save for the Sagittarius mug Joel would travel around to make ring patterns on the table. The mug was Patty’s. He was an Aries, of course, but somehow he couldn’t remember what he did with his own. Both were tacky gifts from their wedding. They would sit on the same position every morning before work, Patty in the habit of twirling her fingers around the table, staring at the life that went on outside, kids home for the summer to the chagrin of their parents. Patty’s expression hardens. His softens.

‘Close the curtains, Wel. That neighbor of ours is looking in again.’ said Patty, flinging her elbow on the chair’s back.

Joel looks at the direction she was staring at. Yes. That neighbor. He looks at them with the strangest expressions. It went from wonder to pity, sometimes both in a day. Joel stares back at him, then closes the curtains. It didn’t matter anyway. He didn’t like looking at Patty in the sunlight now. It hit her in the most unflattering of ways. Pale. She was always pale, far from the vibrant go-getter she used to be. In his mind, he imagines the sunlight passing over her out of sheer fear of absorbency. Sometimes Joel felt like that sunlight.

‘Have you organized the groceries yet?’ Patty cuts through his thoughts.

‘No. I thought you would. Just get what you want from there. I have to rush off in a while anyway.’

‘But I’m hungry. And I thought we could actually have some real breakfast today.’ Patty sighs discreetly just enough for Joel to hear.

‘I can’t. I have to go.’ He cringes, knowing where this was leading to.

‘It’s always like that now. I was hungry that day too. Do you remember, Joel? It was like this excruciating hunger, like being hungry too long and never eating at all.’

‘Let’s not do this today. Please.’

‘I think that was his way of telling me, Joel, to take care of myself, to eat more when he was gone.’ Patty continues.

Joel shrugs. ‘Probably. I have to go to work.’ He stands up and starts to move around the room, leaving all the mess on the sink, his jacket spread on the back of the chair.

‘You should’ve stopped me, Joel. You knew how impulsive I was.’

‘I know. I did.’

She wouldn’t remember now although Joel somehow did, in small chunks spread far in between. Of how he saw her once rubbing her belly as if smoothening an invisible bump. He suspected although he truly knew too late, and he saw the pills. Baby blue pills hidden on the inner intestines of her bag, clearly meant to be not seen. They were deceiving, these little pills. They looked so friendly, so ordinary, like candy. But he knew what they were for. He’d seen it several times from their early courtship years with him taking awkward trips to the farthest pharmacy in town where nobody knew him and he didn’t have to mind the awkward, sometimes amused, look of the lady-in-charge when she handed him the purchase.

It was in that room, the unmentioned, where he confronted her.

‘When did you know?’ he asked quietly.

Patty was rearranging some things on her dresser, always a mess, a maelstrom of panties, bras and stockings tossed everywhere from mornings when she often rushed off to work. The only indication she heard the question now was her slightly tighter grip on the brush.

‘Last week. I was late. So I checked.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ he asked, although in his mind he knew he’d never get the answer he wanted, or needed, anyway.

‘You know why.’ Patty is unapologetic, as she always is in the first round of their fights. He recognized that face, that stubborn modulation of her voice. It was reminiscent of nights spent arguing why she had to spend too many late hours at the office or why he seemed too needy of her all of a sudden. Spend some nights out with your buddies, Patty would suggest, or go get a new hobby, or something. Something.

‘I don’t.’ Joel says, sitting on the bed, rubbing his nape.

‘Don’t what?’ Patty asked, vexed at his typically ambiguous answers.


‘Because I knew you’d want to keep it, Joel’ Patty says, bluntly.
He nods, all the answer, encapsulated in that slight, if not weak, gesture. ‘We’ve been together three years. It’s about time, Pats.’

‘It’s not. It never will.’

‘But you should’ve told me.’ Joel’s voice is pleading. He is always pleading with her nowadays, to stay home more often, to make an effort to cook, to organize their budget, to visit their families, to fuck, to love.

‘I couldn’t.’

‘But why?’

Patty lets out a long sigh, the conversation starting all over again.

Was it that sigh that eventually broke the silence Joel often found comfort in? Because, if he listened well enough to the tones of that day now, everything that followed after was not silence, muffles maybe, the changing textures of Patty’s voice, from frigid manager talking to a subordinate to a pleading child asking for forgiveness. There were other sounds as well, sometimes he heard it in his sleep, but only from a secure distance, and especially when he didn’t sleep in that now unmentioned room. Sometimes, he’d hear his leftover coffee splashing on Patty’s skin or that mug with the tacky picture of a Ram crashing to the floor, or was it on her head? He barely remembers now. The problem with memory was, it is often the biggest chunks that are the hardest to swallow. All he knew was, when they came out of that room, they were one less. Yet he forgets this everyday when facing Patty across the kitchen table and ignoring her dull eyes and faraway expression, he is at last contented to have found his voice.

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