By Albert N. Katz
Sam looks out the window again. He leaves his viewing to walk around the house and makes sure the front door is unlocked. He thinks briefly of locking it but changes his mind. Returning to the window, he notices that the few neighboring houses that previously had light in their windows are dark now. The road is suburban silent, a ghost town. He goes to the kitchen and looks at the clock. It is almost 1 a.m. The bars will be closing. Catherine should be home soon if she returns at all this evening.
He checks on the twins again, and then the room with his eldest, all three in deep sleep. He put the blanket over Laura; she had kicked it off since he checked last. He returns to the window and checks the road again. Catherine never talks about her nighttime excursions, or what will happen with the kids. He doesn’t ask, not wishing to hear the words come out of her mouth. But he knows she will leave, on a schedule of her choosing, and assumes that she will expect him to look after the twins, as he does with Georgette, the best remnant of his other failed marriage.
Back at the window, 2 o’clock now, nothing has changed outside. All is black except for the pale light from the lamppost. He notices a spider web in the corner, a fly barely struggling. The street is still bare. Nothing moving. He does what he always does in times of stress and, although an atheist, invokes some vague deity, asking for redemption and relief. Overwhelmed for companionship, he walks downstairs to find his sheltie. Old now, Charlie has never disappointed him, has always been faithful. He has the urge to hold him, bring him to sleep on the comforter and feel the warmth of a live, loving being next to him. But Charles is in his bed, paws running in his sleep, and he does not wake him.
He returns to the front window and glances at the clock. 2:15. Time but nothing else has changed since last he looked out. He knows better but nonetheless phones Lorraine, a colleague from another university department who was his lover for a short period, long before he met Catherine, both of them recovering from their own failed marriages. Wisely, she broke it off, the two of them having too many unresolved issues. Lorraine was a good friend to him during those days and still is, even after her second marriage and the birth of her daughter.
He lets it ring three times and just as he is about to hang up there is an answer. A frantic voice on the other end, probably thinking one of her folks has died. Who else phones after 2 a.m.?
She recognizes his voice right away.
“Sam? Sam, are you alright?”
He starts blubbering. “She’s out again and I just needed . . . ”
“Hell, Sam. It’s 2:30 for god sake! I can’t talk now. I’ll wake up Donald and Charlotte. Christ. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Stop being such a patsy.” There is a pause before she continues, more softly, “Let’s have coffee tomorrow. We can talk then. Now, just go to sleep!” She hangs up.
He tries to sleep, falls into a reverie, and awakens with a start when he hears a car pull into the driveway. Lights out in the bedroom, Sam looks out the window, sees Catherine get out, then bends over and kisses someone. She enters the house, not even trying to be quiet, and draws a bath. She has always bathed afterward as if the act of sex is dirty. She seems surprised that Sam is sitting up in bed and climbs in beside him and turns the other way. She doesn’t say a word. Her body radiates cold, not warmth.
“Catherine, we need to talk.”
“Not now. I’m tired.”
Usually, this is the point where Sam says, “Okay, but we have to talk tomorrow.” And she’ll say, “Fine.”
But then they don’t.
Usually, that’s as far as it goes, but for some reason, Catherine continues. “There is nothing gained for you to stay up, you know. I really don’t care. I’m tired and I’m going to sleep.”
I don’t care. Her words bounce off the wall and back again, hitting him harder with every pass, evoking each time Lorraine’s words, “Stop being such a patsy,” until—bang—it all spills out! “Catherine, I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want us to go to counseling. If you aren’t willing to give that a real shot, then we should get lawyers and work out our lives apart. And I sure as hell don’t want you to spend the night in bed with me.”
Although he immediately wants to take it back, he doesn’t. She seems surprised and starts to say something but stops. He expects a fight. But no, she just gets up and leaves the room. Doesn’t say a word. He hears her footsteps and then the guest room door opening.
Sam tries to fall asleep again. In the quiet of the room, he hears the fly in the spider web, frantically struggling now. He thinks of freeing it but then decides to let nature run its course.