The anger boiled up inside her; it bubbles and steams until eventually, she will launch, roaring and soaring into the stratosphere.
His head, by contrast, was always in the clouds. He always seemed so damn chilled out, with a sense of complacency which by its very calmness, ...really irritates her. She calls him Teflon shoulders; nothing seems to stick. All the worries of the world seem to just slide off those broad shoulders.
Here she is, a blind woman, struggling every day, perhaps six per cent vision, she could barely read a book, even with the strongest magnifier. From the moment she opened her eyes in the morning, the challenges began. Finding her clothes, making sure the colours match, finding the toothbrush and toothpaste, (she swore he moved them, deliberately). Finding her phone (speech on her iPhone was a Godsend), her headphones, keys and her Bluetooth keyboard (for touch typing to her phone). Casual observers were always amazed to see her typing away furiously on a full-size keyboard while her iPhone showed only a blank screen (which helped its battery life). It was a struggle every single day. And did he realise? Did he care? No! He just sat there tinkering with that bloody website, telling her how he’d done this and done that to it. “You wait and see” he’d say “this is going to lift our sales. You wait and see. Success is built with lots of small improvements.” It all went over her head, and she could never appreciate these so-called achievements. She lived in a very physical world where just getting around was a challenge while he lived in an ethereal virtual world of dreams and visions. His so-called achievements weren’t tangible, real things. In her mind, they were make-believe, will-o’-the-wisp things without substance.
She was trying to keep this show on the road. And there ‘Mr Teflon’ was NOT looking after himself and indifferent to her struggle, tinkering all day, but achieving what? Nothing. That’s what. How many cigarette breaks did he take? He seemed to be out on that balcony every five minutes. The smell of smoke on his clothes bugged her, like an itch she could never quite scratch. They say when you lose a sense, the other senses compensate. Her sense of smell was definitely heightened and smelling that smoke, even though he didn’t smoke in the house, really infuriated her. He’d promised to stop. Of course, he had. In his pathetic way. Half listening in another of their arguments. ‘Yes dear’ in his patronising voice, ‘of course I’ll stop, I know it’s not good for me, you’re right’.
So she bought him the book.
Two hundred and thirty-nine pages of magic that would free him to stop smoking for good. The book everyone was raving about, the Alan Carr Easy Way to Stopping Smoking book. So many people had read it and given up straight away. Had he read it? Hell No! It just sat there on his desk collecting dust, while he tinkered. What did he have to show for it, all this work? He’s out on the balcony again, smoking. The steam is building; she can feel it all red and powerful, surging. The pressure is mounting. Doesn’t she mean anything to him? Nothing at all? It’s hard enough being blind but worse to have a husband who doesn’t care for her or worse for himself. “JUST READ THE DAMN BOOK!” she wants to scream. Such a simple thing, it will take him only a day or so. She’d bought the book for him, went out of her way to get it from the bookshop, a major challenge in itself, had it wrapped nicely with a blue bow. All he’d done was grunt ‘oh thanks dear, that’s very thoughtful’ and put it to the left side of his desk. He’d promised to read it that day. He’d promise to read it many times, but the book stayed on the desk gathering dust.
She was sick of this, sick of everything. It had to stop.
It was her or the damn book. Decision time!
She heard the balcony door close. He was back. The steam was building, pressure bubbling up, like a pressure cooker she was getting ready to blow. She walked down the stairs (eleven steps) to the office and flung open the door. He was sitting at the desk with his stupid white headphones on, the ones she’d bought him; she could hear the beat of music faintly from them. It irritated her that she had entirely lost the dramatic impact of her entry. She knew this room, the stale funk that he worked in, the number of paces from the door to his chair (four). She steps over to where he sat and poked him aggressively in the back.
“What? I’m working! What is it?”
“Didn’t you hear me calling you?” She hadn’t been calling him, but why give up an advantage when you’ve got one? He didn’t hear the door flung wide; ergo he wouldn’t have heard a call from the other room; ergo points for her. And what do points make? You got it, prizes.
“No, were you calling me? Sorry, Babe, I was in ‘the zone’. You know?”
“NO! I don’t know. ...I’ve got one simple question for you. WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO READ YOUR DAMN BOOK?”
“What book Hun?”
This just fires her up, even more, he knows damn well what book if she was angry before she’s on rocket fuel now.
“THIS F’ING BOOK YOU IDIOT!” Her fingers reach for his book on the left of the desk; she can just make out its shape. Her hand crawls across the desk, exploring the landscape and then finally discovering the book, she slams it down on his table with a loud BANG! “Your Stop Smoking book, you idiot! You promised you’d read it. How many times have you promised? Don’t I mean anything to you? Do you even want to read it? Don’t you want to stop?”
“I do babe. I just haven’t got round to it.”
“Haven’t got round to it? Haven’t got round to it? Are you stupid? You have so much time. If you wanted to read this book, you’d have read it. If it were something to do with the bloody website you’d have read it, wouldn’t you? But because it’s something that might be GOOD for you, you can’t be bothered. Well let me tell you, I’m sick of you and this lackadaisical attitude. I’ve had enough. You’re never going to read the book. I don’t know why I ever thought you would! I’m stupid! Stupid to believe you might take something seriously. Take some responsibility for yourself. I don’t know why I wasted my time and money going to get that book for you if you can’t even be bothered to read the damn thing!”
She grabs the book and taking the cover in both hands; she begins to pull and tear. The book is tough, tougher than she expects and all she manages is some faces of strain and effort with little destruction, which only serves to wind her up even further. It feels like the book is laughing at her, giggling with glee at yet another failure. She wrenches and rips but to no effect.
“Babe, what’re you doing? I want to read that book, I really do.”
She moves on to the softer white pages inside the book, the flesh of the book and grabs a few pages and rips them out, throwing them at him in her blind fury. She is like a banshee, a whirlwind of destruction, white pages fluttering out of the centre of the typhoon.
“This is what I think of your wanting to read this book! If you want to read it, you can go and get your own bloody copy with your own damn money because you won’t read mine.”
More pages fly around the office, falling on the floor, desk, chair, she is getting into her stride now and has built quite a rhythm. She’s finding the process quite cathartic although she would never admit it to him. She’s getting all her pent up aggression out on this book, all the years of disappointment expelled in the destruction of this inanimate object. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but it wasn’t, it seems mightier than a woman scorned.
When she finishes, there is nothing left of the book but its covers and a few stubby pages. There is also little of her left; she looks deflated. All that boiling steam and aggression has dissipated; what is left is an empty shell. She throws the cover at him in one last act of defiance, turns and storms back upstairs to the lounge panting slightly from the exertion.
Several minutes pass in silence. Clearly, the husband feels from experience, that time will be the best healer and discretion the better part of valour. He waits for the storm to pass and then very gingerly makes his way upstairs.
She is slumped on the sofa; all anger evaporated, she is a spent force. He smiles when he sees her. She hears his quiet approach.
“Well, what have you got to say for yourself?” She says.
He smiles with warm, friendly eyes, full of love and simply says.
“That wasn’t my book.”
He hands her the eviscerated book ‘Zen and the Art of Stress Relief’.
“I’m impressed... this book really works”, he smiles.
And with that, the sunshine pierces the storm clouds in a finely targeted beam. She giggles tries to suppress it, tries to stay mad at him with all her might even as the dam crumbles and is swept away. She is suddenly rocked with mirth. They are both laughing now. She rises and reluctantly shuffles to him, he enfolds her in his arms, those safe, warm arms.
Submitted for writers online Nov 20 short story about senses.