In Black and White

Contributor: April Winters

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Remember how it used to aggravate you that I read the newspaper cover to cover? Today would have been a good day to go straight to the comic section and forget the rest.

I take a sip of hot coffee as I turn the page and there you are, looking more handsome than I remember. The expression you wear as you look down at your bride is the same one you used to give to me. My vision turns watery; I feel as if I ate one of those huge rocks we saw on the way to Reno.

Remember that trip; how you yelped and did some fancy footwork when you put money into that slot machine and the dollar turned into a hundred? You went from man to little boy in seconds, and I was charmed when I watched your happy dance.

Memories of the Reno trip trigger others: movies we watched, nightclubs we frequented, the Bon Jovi concert I surprised you with not long before you left. How you showered me with kisses when I showed you the tickets. How you were so disappointed in the live band. “Amy,” you asked, “why don’t they sing the songs the way they used to sound on the radio?” It was my job to make you smile again, so I figured I’d hazard a guess. I said they were probably sick of singing the same songs for twenty plus years; they probably try to change them up a bit to keep from being bored out of their skulls. I thought you’d laugh. You just looked sad and more disappointed.

I don’t know how long I’ve sat here staring at your picture, thoughts of our time together somersaulting in my head. My coffee is cold now as I continue to gape. The longer I look, though, the more I can’t deny what I see: the expression on your wife’s face matches yours. As much as I’ve always loved you, I don’t think I ever felt as committed as your bride looks.

Maybe that’s why you left.

You used to talk of marriage and family, but I showed no interest. How could I? The only point of reference I have is of my parents yelling and screaming at each other. Dad slapping Mom so hard her ears must have rung. I was five the first time that happened. Picture a frightened child drawn to the noise who stands in the doorway and witnesses the abuse. Then picture that child’s cries and the angry man who yells at the little girl to go to her room. I was too scared to move, much to my regret. Dad, face contorted, rushed over and grabbed me, smacking my backside with each step to my room. After that, I stayed in my bedroom and sang stupid songs as loud as I could whenever they fought again.

I’ve read that abused children repeat the pattern. I didn’t want to do that to you. Or to our kids.

There’s another thing I have to admit to myself the more I stare at your wedding photo: you’ll never be mine again.

I close the newspaper, aware for the first time in two years that it’s time for me to let you go.

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April Winters’ work can be read at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Short Humour Site, Short-Story.Me, and here at Linguistic Erosion.
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