Sunlight slants through the window. Struggling past the dingy eyelet curtains, it illuminates the accumulated grime on the yellow dining table. Kate slumps in a chrome and vinyl chair. The cracks pinch the backs of her thighs where her faded purple housedress has ridden up. She tries to blow the hair from her forehead but it is stuck there with the humidity’s residue. The spoon clanks into the bowl as it drops from her fingers, jarring in the silence that is not silent. The broken refrigerator fan constantly plays in the background of all conversations here: real or imagined.
She takes the napkin from her lap to dab the soup from her husband’s face, careful not to move his wheelchair from its place. Her other hand worries the salt shaker, the lady from the waltzing pair. The tuxedoed pepper man, broken many years before. Her slender foot encased in a fuzzy pink house slipper taps out a beat on the linoleum. She leans forward to pull her dress from her sticky back. The heat drains what is left of her. Suffocating, cloying, unrelenting.
She turns to look out the window. Her attention caught by a line of ants weaving their way up the window sill and out through a crack just below the old pane. Their treasures carried high above their heads as they race for freedom. The sight mesmerizes her, she loses herself in their contra dance. Steps perfectly timed, they sway back and forth. Pieces of her life held in their tiny arms; crumbs from the crackers she had eaten earlier today, or was it yesterday. She strains to see what other bits of her they are clutching in their bid to escape confinement.
A strangled moan diverts her attention. She glances at him, trying not to look into his cerulean eyes. She picks up a tall glass, condensation dripping down its sides. Then holds the straw to his mouth letting him drink his fill.
Her mind drifts beyond the yellowed walls of her home, far off to the places she wishes she was, or could be. Her eyes glaze, not seeing the tears slide down the face of the man seated next to her. A bird smacks into the window. She jumps, slammed back into the present. She watches it standing on the sill, shaking its head. Thinking to herself, Fly little birdie, you don’t want to be trapped here.
She watches it soar off into the darkening sky. Thunder rumbles, heralding the promise of rain. She lifts the hair from her nape, leaning forward, hoping for a breeze that isn’t there. She sits, eyes closed, remembering times with the wind in her hair. She raises her head to look at him, sitting in his prison, as trapped as she is. She rises to stand behind him. Rain bursts from the sky, staccato taps on the window. Sharp and unyielding. She stares at their reflection in the darkened rain streaked glass and for a moment sees, their faces side by side, what once was.