Write On!

How She Ended It

In Responses on February 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm

By Jennifer Strange

Inside the box of stale breakfast cereal, she found her marriage. Not in a metaphorical way, now. I mean she found her wedding ring right there in the corn flakes with the dried strawberries and such. She couldn’t remember when it got there, but it must have been that last time that she poured the cereal from the box into that airtight plastic container. Trouble is, the plastic tub isn’t as big as the box, so the bites left in the box are a craps shoot: either they’ll still be good after she eats a few bowls and remembers to top off the tub, or they’ll have become breakfast, lunch, dinner, and grave for weevils.

So there’s her marriage, all dusty with sugar and corn bits, fallen down in a bag in a box in the pantry in the dark. By the time she’d missed her ring, she couldn’t imagine how long it had been gone. What with the dusting and cooking and taking out the dirty cat litter days without end, it could have been last year for all she knew. His always sat on a shelf in his closet, and she never took hers off. Must had fallen somewhere. She figured it would turn up.

I helped her look once. She suggested we try the garage because she had recently reorganized the brooms. We stood near the mop and I toed a nearby bucket. She turned over a dustpan. Then she looked toward the garage door and declared the search pointless. We returned to our tea and hummus.

He rolled over every night. She edged away without thinking about it, turned to her belly, breathed deeply unto sleep, and stuck out a foot to the cold. This made waking an easy affair—sliding out on the coffee-pot side of the bed and doing her exercises in the dark while it brewed. She chose the same mug every morning and watched the early news.

Their marriage fell into the cereal in much the same way: they gave each other “to do” lists, they forgot to discuss dinner, they sat on separate couches, they primarily talked about the cat. Mundane life is a blessing to the settled, but they passed their days neither content nor discontent. She did not despise him but simply stopped noticing him, the way one can avoid every piece of furniture in a familiar house even in the dark. So she avoided him.

When she found her ring that morning after so long without it on her finger or even in her mind, she thought it might be a cheap prize. Then she paced it to the pantry and back to the stove. She wondered if she should put it back on. She wasn’t one for ceremony and now had grown accustomed to the freedom of so many fingers.

That’s about when he came to the kitchen looking for coffee. Grabbed his mug and the milk, passed her close, and turned back to see what she had in her hand. Looked at her face, then back at her hand. Reached his hand out to hers. Then pulled it back gently without ever touching her. She was glad—didn’t seem like his place, she thought. And she walked her ring to her jewelry box for safekeeping.

That morning was crisp and bright, the clouds knitting small and accidental lines across the long sky. We sat in the kitchen like always as she pulled the story around. I ate the leftover bread with butter made from yogurt; she just talked. I slurped my tea and didn’t much care. After all, I’d helped her look once.

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  1. Wow. Excellent piece…well written and resounding!

  2. Oh, his hand reaching but not touching … I’m going to be thinking about that image all day.

  3. […] February 2012: “How She Ended It“ […]

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