by Christopher Iacono
Eric lifted his right fist, ready to knock on the door. His gold wedding band glittered. He tried to twist it off, but it had been a few years since he had put it on and it wouldn’t budge. He sighed. I shouldn’t be doing this. But Karla hasn’t been the same since Jeffrey was born. Working and caring for a child, who had just turned eighteen months old, left Karla with very little time for him. So now he was inside the apartment building of a pretty twenty-two-year-old co-worker, standing motionless, his fist raised to the door. Pictures of Karla and his son flashed in his mind. He rubbed his wedding band and knocked.
Karla’s cell phone rang as Jeffrey used his unsteady legs to rush toward the TV. “Hello?” she said while grabbing Jeffrey’s arm. She was already flustered from working and spending most of last night trying to get him to sleep. The noise from the TV and his refusal to sit still agitated her even more. “Yeah, I’m going to be late again,” Eric said. “Okay, love you,” she said. “Love you too, Brenda.” Brenda? But just as she was about to ask who Brenda was, he hung up. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach. She was about to punch his number when Jeffrey had fallen and started to cry. She scooped him up and pressed him against her chest, rubbing his back, whispering, “Oh, it’s okay, sweetie, you’re fine.” When he stopped crying, she sat him next to her on the couch so they could continue watching the video. Over a gentle version of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A, close-ups of various objects filled the screen, including a thaumatrope with an empty vase on one side and flowers on the other. When it spun quickly on its string, the two sides flickered in quick succession, and the flowers appeared to be inside the vase. Her eyes wandered to Eric’s usual spot on the couch. The knot, which she had forgotten about, returned, and her hand gripped the cushion she was sitting on. Who’s Brenda?
Both Sides Together
Once inside the house, Eric used gentle footsteps to make his way from the living room to the kitchen. His phone rang. He pulled the phone out of his pocket, but it slipped from his hands and fell with a thud onto the hardwood floor. After he picked it up, it rang a couple more times while his fingers fumbled to flip the switch to silent mode. Jeffrey started to cry. Eric took a few steps back and peeked into the living room. The light from the silent TV glowed on Jeffrey, who was squirming on Karla’s torso while she was lying on the couch. He rushed into the kitchen and dropped his briefcase on the floor and the phone on the counter before racing back into the living room. Karla had sat up, whispering to Jeffrey, “Shhh!” but he kept crying. Eric grabbed Jeffrey and held him against his chest. “Sorry to wake you,” Eric said. “Why don’t you go to bed?” He took Jeffrey into his nursery, sat in the rocking chair, and together they gently swayed back and forth until the boy calmed down.
Karla didn’t go straight to her bedroom. Instead, she trudged back to the kitchen for a bottle of water. After downing half of it, she spotted the phone. Perhaps he had saved text messages from this Brenda. Wait! He works with a Brenda—young girl. She reached over but stopped. Even though they had given each other their passcodes, they had agreed to never look at each other’s phones… but had he broken his agreement to remain faithful forever? No, I’m just being paranoid. Still, she couldn’t stop thinking about Brenda, and their marriage became an illusion as two shadowy figures entered her mind, holding each other, giving each other kisses filled with passion and lust. She took a deep breath. Her wedding band gleamed as she reached for the phone.
Top photo cred: Jacob Rank, Unsplash.com
Christopher Iacono lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts. You can learn more about him and his works at cuckoobirds.org.