It's 3:37A.M., and I hear a voice next to my bed. It's a man's
voice—not Luke's. It's coming from the clock/radio. I try to keep my
eyes shut, but hear "traffic and weather on the 8s," neither of which
seems particularly relevant given the hour. It wouldn't be like my
husband to sleep through an alarm. I open my eyes, and see the thin
stripe of light under the bathroom door.
I'm mumbling, and he doesn't answer.
This time, my voice sounds too loud for the middle of the night, like
I'm shouting up the stairs for him to pick up the telephone. Now I'm
more awake than I want to be.
"Hi, Hon." He is speaking softly through a crack in the door so he
doesn't bombard me with light in the middle of the night. "Are you OK?"
Now that he's answered, I'm not sure why I've called him. I reach
over and turn off the radio myself.
"You forgot to turn off the alarm."
"I'm sorry," he says. "Go back to sleep."
Luke gets up at this un-Godly hour because he has to be at the
station by 4:30. His morning routine is as regular as a well-produced
news broadcast: alarm at 3:30, snooze alarm at 3:40, bed shake at 3:50.
Then mornings become electric: shaver, Sonicare—followed by the shower.
At first, I slept through these ablutions, but recently, I have heard
Luke and come into consciousness. His morning sounds don't soothe me
when I hear them in the middle of the night, nor does the garage door as
it vibrates, or the tires as they crunch over the gravel in the
driveway. And to make matters worse, this morning, I am aware of the
silence: It's 3:40, and nothing seems to be happening in the bathroom.
I don't usually choose this hour to compete for sink space, but this
morning, I feel too alert to go back to sleep. I get out of bed and
knock lightly at the door.
"Hey, Ken, it's Barbie. You ready for our date?"
"Not funny," he says through the closed door, but he's laughing.
When I come in, it's so bright that I can't see anything.
"Wow—how can you do this every morning?"
My hand is covering my eyes. I crack open my fingers so I can adjust
slowly to the light.
"Sunglasses," he says. To my surprise, he puts a pair in my other
When I open my eyes, I see myself in the mirror, curly hair tangled,
wearing a big T-shirt and cheap aviator-style glasses that look like
they came from a local drugstore. I've never cared much about my
appearance, but I'm having a bad hair night. I'm no Barbie. Luke,
meanwhile, stands before me, a picture of green, still wearing a towel.
He's perfectly coifed. I don't see him undressed much these days—our
schedules are out of sync—but he looks slimmer than I remember. I no
longer see signs of his mid-thirties around his mid-section. Since his
promotion, he has begun working out with a personal trainer two
afternoons a week.
"What are you doing up so early?" I ask.
"I didn't sleep very well," he says.
This is the first time I've truly woken up with him in months, and I
feel strangely embarrassed, like I've just slept with someone for the
first time and now we have to figure out how much privacy the other
person needs. I give him a hug around his waist and put my head on his
bare chest. I can hear his heart beat—slow and steady as always. He
kisses me on the head.
"It would be nice to slip back to bed," he says in a soft voice, "but
now I get to go out into the pitch dark and drive to the office."
It's a rare flirtation for us these days. I really do miss waking up
"You might want to put on some clothes first," I whisper.
He walks over to the dresser and I take off the sunglasses; now my
eyes have to readjust to the darkness. I can barely see his towel come
off, and the boxers come on. He wanders over to the closet. Using only
the light from the bathroom, Luke buttons his blue oxford in front of
the full-length mirror in the corner of the room. Then it's back to the
closet. Hangers scrape along the bar. He picks a dark suit, probably
blue, steps into the pants, tucks in the shirt. He chooses a tie, moves
to the mirror; he is watching himself as closely as I am watching him.
Why are we watching him so closely? This should all be routine by
now, but it's still a little new for us. His promotion happened only
three months ago. My husband, never one for subtlety, had announced the
biggest news of his career this way: "Guess what—I'm going to be a big
head on the big screen."
He'd phoned me at the theater, where I was making calls in my office.
It was three days before Halloween. It took me a few seconds to register
what he'd said.
"Don't you think that's a bit elaborate for a Halloween costume?" I'd
Dead air on Luke's side of the phone.
As it turned out, I'd completely misunderstood him. I thought he was
referring to the Halloween party at our friend Jane's. Everyone knew he
was an on-camera reporter. I'd assumed he wanted to put his head inside
of an actual television set as a costume.
"Sweetheart," I said, sounding annoyed, "there's no chance I will
have time to help you make that get-up. We're just starting dress
"No, Lize," he said. "I just got a promotion."
I was thoroughly confused at this point.
"I'll be anchoring early morning cut-ins and the noon news," he said,
also a little irritated that I didn't understand him. "This is huge,
Hon. I can't believe they tapped me for an anchor position."
He sounded like an actor who had just landed his first big part:
elated while imagining the stage fright. I was excited for him, and said
"But will you really be able to sit still long enough to read a
teleprompter?" I asked.
This was not an obnoxious question. Everyone, including Luke, knew
that he'd never met a cop or a crook that he didn't want to chase down
for an interview.
"I'll manage it somehow," he said. "Maybe they can tie my shoelaces
to the desk."
It turned out that the shoelace trick wasn't necessary. Now, three
months in, Luke often obsesses more over the words he reads than the
actual news. He can come home fuming about a split infinitive sneaking
into his copy when the viewers arguably care more about the laxative
advertised during the commercial break. Looks like this is a permanent
move indoors, and I don't know what is more peculiar—that my husband has
become a talking head or that we now have an eyebrow brush in our
Fully awake at 4 o'clock in the morning, my eyes are back in
nocturnal mode, and I can see the familiar crack in our ceiling. We have
been in Florida for three years, but I still haven't gotten used to the
hum of the air conditioner in the middle of winter. Happily, I don't
mind the cold air at the wrong time of year as much as I used to. It
feels like we have been on a long vacation; at first I was homesick, now
I'm getting used to the climate. It's hard to know the next stop, if
Luke will move from this broadcast market to another anytime soon. We
could be here for a year—or forever. But something besides Luke's job
has changed, and neither of us has adjusted. Why are the anchor and his
"Do you think you could ever wear khakis again to work?" I ask.
Luke comes over to the bed and leans over close to me: shaving cream
and toothpaste, the dim light darkening his eyes. My husband has a
"Maybe some day." He kisses me gently. He's so close that I can't see
if he's smiling. "After all, I only exist from the waist up. I could
broadcast in my boxers."
Now Luke has his suit jacket over his arm—he's ready to leave, even
though he's fifteen minutes early. With only the green light from the
alarm clock casting a glow, he looks like a businessman sleepwalking in
a hotel room. The only thing missing is the suitcase.
It's two days later, five minutes before noon, and I'm sitting in my
office, talking to the theater's accountant on the telephone. Marv is 80
years old. I've only met him a few times, but we talk often because Luke
and I recently decided to use him as our personal accountant. He's
afraid to retire even though he lives in Florida.
"Great news," Marv says. "You're breaking even so far this season."
When I became director, the theater wasn't self-sustaining. I've
lived in fundraising purgatory ever since.
"Don't mess with me, Marv," I say. "You're an evil man if this is a
"Would I kid you about that?" he asks. He fires off a few questions
about expenses and then says he has to go. "But I have to ask because
I'm curious," he says. "What's going on with Luke? He looks different."
"What do you mean?" I try not to sound too alarmed, even though
that's how I feel.
"I don't know. Like he's younger—or maybe happier. Has he been
playing a lot of golf?"
The questions about Luke have increased since his promotion—from
friends, relatives, just about everyone. But golf? That's never come up.
It makes me wonder if I've missed something important.
"He doesn't play golf," I say. "He's too busy."
"Well he looks great—he sounds great. But tell him I didn't like the
tie today. He's got to get rid of the tie."
I hang up with Marv and realize that it's 12:10. I don't do this
everyday, but I close my office door and turn on a small television that
sits on a file cabinet in the corner of the room. The top stories have
already come and gone. A commercial is running for a laundry detergent
tough enough to fight kid-induced stains, which reminds me of a
conversation Luke and I had last night at the neighborhood Chinese
restaurant. We were sitting across from a couple that had a toddler old
enough to eat by himself, but not without a bib. Fried rice and
dumplings covered the floor under their table.
"Do you think we'll ever be ready for that?" I had asked. I've
recently been thinking that we should try our luck at having a child,
but have hesitated to come right out and say so. It was the first time
we'd spoken about kids since Luke's promotion.
He squinted a little, pondering my question while chewing a mouthful
of chicken lo mein.
"I think we'll have to settle into this a little more," he said.
It was a fair answer, but I wasn't ready for it. In the past, Luke
had expressed more interest in children than I had. His new-found
hesitation threw me off.
"Not that I'm so anxious," I said, "but aren't news anchors settled
Luke laughed—louder than made sense, given that we were in a
restaurant and I wasn't trying to be funny. A couple at a nearby table
looked over at us. Was it Luke's laugh that drew their attention, or did
they recognize him from the news?
"I've always wondered who came up with the title 'anchor' anyway,"
Luke said. I noticed for the first time that he held his chopsticks
improperly—with two fingers on the top stick instead of just one. After
twelve years, I still had plenty to learn about my spouse. "Can anyone
honestly sit in front of a camera that reaches hundreds of thousands of
people and feel anchored?"
A knock at my door interrupts my musings. Before I can tell whomever
it is to enter, Rachel, the box office manager peeks in. She's young,
reasonably nice, but an unbearable busy-body. I've often wondered if she
were the right choice to interact with the public.
"Just looking for the keys," she says.
Rachel doesn't usually open the box office this early—in fact, I'm
frequently alone in the theater at this hour. I feel self-conscious,
like I have been caught on a personal phone call.
"I'm just checking out the news," I say and invite her in to retrieve
the keys. She takes the ring off my desk and stops to look at the
television. Luke is on, talking about a threatened garbage strike.
"I think he's reading better than when he first started," Rachel
It's hard to accept sometimes that people have an opinion about
Luke's screen presence—that he has to evolve so publicly. It's
especially hard when someone like Rachel has every right to chime in. I
have the urge to turn off the television right in the middle of Luke's
story. Instead, I watch along with Rachel. Much as I hate to admit it,
Luke does read more naturally after three months—with the appropriate
amount of gravitas.
At the end of the garbage story, Luke's co-anchor comes on with a
story about a four-alarm fire in an abandoned warehouse. Cynthia Merrick
is a beautiful brunette with green, almond-shaped eyes. She wears bright
suits and squints a little for emphasis when she reads serious stories.
"I'm much tougher on female anchors than males," Rachel says. It's a
peculiar sign of chauvinism for a theater person. "But I must say, I
kind of like her."
I don't know why Rachel's comment bothers me, but it does. Now the
music comes on underneath Cynthia—it's time for yet another commercial
break, and Cynthia and Luke both appear in the picture.
"And I think Cynthia and Luke are a good fit," Rachel says. She is
speaking to the television, not to me. This always happens when I watch
Luke with other people.
"Sometimes anchor pairs are so goofy," she says, "but those two seem
to have a genuine rapport. Like they go out for beers after work."
I feel like I want to take off my loafers and throw them at
Rachel—"Young Box- Office Manager Dies in Freak Shoe Attack"—but I
restrain myself. Mercifully, she leaves my office before the news comes
back on. What sort of public display of affection is she referring to?
When Luke returns on the air, he introduces the sportscaster, Jim
Roscoe. I focus on Luke's tie. My accountant Marv was right: it's bright
yellow and draws a little too much attention to itself. Now I'm looking
at a three-shot with Luke, Cynthia and Jim. It's a three-way
conversation between all the anchors, where they act like buddies in a
Luke: "So what do you have for us today, Jim?"
Jim: "How about those Stallions?"
Cynthia: "They may go the whole way…"
Luke to Cynthia: "Hey, I didn't know you liked college hoops."
Cynthia to Luke: "Doesn't everybody?"
Jim Roscoe starts his coverage of the day's sports, but I can barely
hear what he's saying. I'm stuck in the back-and-forth that has just
ended. I'm hearing Stallion highlights, but I'm thinking about what
could be happening in Luke's life that I could be missing, what I may
have been missing for these past three months, maybe longer. I'm
thinking about Marv—Luke really does look happy—and the toddler at the
Chinese restaurant. My throat tightens as I hear news of the PGA
Master's tournament. I wonder if I should go home and start checking
credit card receipts. I need to watch more carefully, but for now, I
turn off the television before the news ends and I have to look at
Luke's tie one more time.
Does Luke really care how much Cynthia likes basketball?
One o'clock in the afternoon seems an unlikely time for an office
party, and I am here under dubious circumstances. I should be at the
theater, calling up local businesses for the pennies we need to keep our
doors open. I wouldn't need to be in an aubergine pantsuit with my hair
up in a bun. My suspicious mind would be otherwise occupied.
But Luke mentioned before he left this morning that they were
toasting a rise in the ratings after the show. WAVE's noon news has
jumped from number three to number two since Luke started anchoring.
When he told me about this little party, I couldn't help myself. I asked
if I could come. He seemed a little unnerved by the request.
"Family members never show up for office parties except at
Christmas," he had said.
"But I missed the Christmas party."
Meanwhile, my request had muted my husband. Having uprooted me so
many times for his work, Luke wouldn't want me—the uprootee—to feel
unwelcome. And I haven't been to the station since his promotion.
Finally, after more than a few seconds of thought, he had said it would
Walking into the station always makes me feel short; the narrow
hallways have low, fiberboard ceilings and gray carpeting. Today I'm
wearing heels, which makes matters worse. This place is so unglamorous
as to be ironic: what looks so sleek on television couldn't be more of a
The young woman at the front desk calls Luke to tell him I'm here,
and then she buzzes me into the newsroom. I walk into the vast space,
full of messy cubicles and desks strewn with videotapes and newspapers.
No one is here except a college-aged kid sitting at the assignment desk
answering phones. He must be an intern because he's wearing a blue
jacket and tie and looks better-dressed than a regular employee. He's on
the phone, but cups his hand over the receiver when he sees me.
"Can I help you?"
"I'm just meeting Luke."
"You'll have to call back," he says into the phone, then hangs up. He
jumps up to talk to me. "Does he expect you?" I suddenly feel like a
"Yes," I say. "I'm his wife."
He nods. "Oh, OK." He seems less suspicious and more curious. "I
guess you know where to go."
I don't, really, but I nod as I pass him and head toward the back. I
walk past a wall with a big WAVE11 logo on it; it's blue with wavy water
painted through the call letters. Despite the eerie emptiness, there is
a hum from all the electronic equipment: computers, telephones,
videotape decks, routers, and of course three televisions that hang
above the room. The pictures flash wildly, but someone has muted all the
Luke works in a glass-enclosed office with mini-blinds, and I see it,
tucked away in a corner. He has complained that the office sets him
apart from the rest of the staff in a way that makes him uncomfortable,
but it comes with the new territory of anchordom. I can see what he
When I arrive in his door, he looks up from the computer, but only
for a second.
"Hey," he says, then resumes typing.
Even with his jacket off, he looks like an anchor—his tie and collar
are pressed perfectly around his neck; he keeps his shirt sleeves rolled
down while he works. He hasn't washed his face yet, so he doesn't show a
wrinkle—his skin is smooth and falsely peach.
"What are you working on?" I can't imagine what could keep him so
engrossed when the newscast ended a half-hour ago.
"Just housekeeping," he says.
I look around this new office and can't get over how neat it is. Desk
clear except for a few files and a computer; books straight on the
shelf; nothing on the floor except beige carpeting, which smells new.
The television isn't even on. He displays an eight-year-old picture of
us on Fiji; it sits on a credenza behind him. We lounge, carefree, on
perfect white sand next to water so blue it looks like a computer image.
Luke hugs me around the waist and has his head on my shoulder—posing
playfully in the moment, without a hint of self-consciousness. He has
kept this same picture with him in every reporter's cubicle he has ever
inhabited. I'm relieved to see it in this office. We have made it
together this far.
Finally, he puts on his suit jacket and comes over to where I'm
"Sorry about the wait." He takes my hand and kisses my cheek. "Did
you see the broadcast? I really botched the third story."
"I missed it." What I don't say is that in a moment of insecurity, I
ran home from work to change my outfit.
"I tripped over a line." He laughs—it's really more of an exasperated
sigh. "It happens often enough, but you feel like the Wizard of Oz when
Toto pulls back the curtain."
I see a strand of his hair on his jacket and pluck it off. "But it's
a big relief when Dorothy finds out who the Wizard really is," I say.
He squeezes my hand and gives me a half-smile. As we walk down the
hall, his palm feels damp. We walk fast, like we're late. It occurs to
me that he's nervous, which in turn, makes me nervous. A person who
appears in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers every day shouldn't
be nervous at an office party.
We turn the corner and enter the sound stage which houses the set for
Luke's broadcast. The blond-wood anchoring desk and two chairs sit empty
on a large pedestal. Three cameras, unmanned and on wheels, surround the
set like the towers of a fortress. The rest of the stage, with its gray
floor and padded walls would normally be empty. But this afternoon,
Luke's colleagues mill around two tables set up with sandwiches and an
ice chest full of soft drinks. As we get closer to the tables, we hear a
few greetings from his colleagues, but mostly, people aren't saying
anything. I don't know if they shy away from him or from me.
Teddy Alrud, the executive producer shoulders his way over—everyone
calls him Rudy. Before Luke anchored, he didn't spend much time with his
executive producer; big muckety-mucks like Rudy had to deal with the
800-pound gorilla. I guess with all that fitness training since his
promotion, Luke has put on a few pounds of muscle.
Rudy slaps Luke on the shoulder, holding out a hand for Luke to
shake. Rudy has met me once before, but Luke still introduces me as if
we are strangers. He shakes my hand more softly than Luke's.
"Eliza, your husband is saving our ass," Rudy says to me.
"It's a great team," Luke says diplomatically. I smile like a
"You can be sure that management is happy when they let me buy
everyone lunch." Rudy looks around the room as he says this. Is he
looking for someone in particular, or is this just a survey of the
kingdom? I begin to wonder, then, Rudy raises an arm like he's hailing a
taxi. Cynthia has come up from behind us wearing a camera-friendly pink
suit. She surprises me. She actually looks as good in person as she does
on the air.
"Hey, folks!" Her smile reveals exceptionally white teeth. I wonder
if they've been bonded. "Sorry I'm late."
Luke, who hasn't held my hand since we walked into the party, now
"Cynthia, this is my wife, Eliza."
"Finally. It's nice to meet you."
Why haven't I met Cynthia before? I wonder if I have kept so busy
that it just hasn't happened, or if Luke has kept his colleagues away
from me so effectively that I've bought into the notion that work and
home don't mix.
Teddy has started talking to Luke, so Cynthia talks to me.
"Did Luke tell me that you recently did a production of Fences?
I love that play."
"We did," I answer politely. I wonder what else Cynthia knows about
me. "I'll have to get you down to see the next show."
Someone must have called Rudy away—Luke is now listening to me and
"I love the theater, but I never go anymore," she says.
"You have a high-maintenance job," I answer. I speak to her as if we
have known each other for years. "The last thing you need is to go out
Luke fidgets a little—as if he is trying to fit his shoulders more
squarely in his suit jacket.
"Lize and I sure don't get out much," he says.
"Actually, Luke and I never go out at all anymore." I feel like I'm
at a cocktail party and I've had a little too much to drink. I don't
know why I'm telling Cynthia anything I wouldn't want her to broadcast
on the news. "We're lucky if we can watch half a video before he
collapses at 9 o'clock."
"I guess you know as well as anyone how much this job saps a person,"
Cynthia says. She's still talking to me and has hardly acknowledged
Luke. "Take shopping—I used to love it, now it's just a chore."
I'm smiling now. I don't know why, but I feel giddy. I'm stuck in the
pink of Cynthia's suit. I can't stop myself.
"Luke must really be a novice," I say. "He's never once complained
about all those new suits he's had to buy."
Cynthia laughs. "You're right. Luke and I have swapped mall stories.
That's not an errand he's going to resist anytime soon."
"C'mon—they're a great tax deduction!" Luke says playfully—more to
Cynthia than to me.
Cynthia's chin comes down and her eyebrows arch. I've seen this
incredulous look on television; she's given it to Luke in their
back-and-forths. "So now you're going to tell me that you're buying all
those colorful ties to keep your accountant in business?"
This repartee is too familiar, like a scene between Katherine Hepburn
and Spencer Tracy.
"In the end, some things just become a nuisance," Cynthia continues.
"Luke and I have actually talked about having the station manager bring
in a hair stylist so we don't have to leave work to get our hair done."
Luke rolls his eyes. "All right ladies, can we please preserve just a
little of the male anchor's dignity?"
For my part, I had always assumed Luke went to the same barber who
has cut his hair for the last three years. Cynthia has just unwittingly
broadcast some news. I wonder if they go together or separately to get
their hair done.
Cynthia excuses herself to talk to a tall man whom I don't know. She
says she will find us later, which I don't believe is true. Luke takes
this as a cue to move us over toward the tables. We greet co-workers
whom he has obviously gotten to know well over these months—he smiles,
talks, laughs, introduces me. Now he seems calmer, more jovial. I try to
focus on the names, the stories, but I'm distracted. Cynthia is across
the room now; Luke may be oblivious to her whereabouts, but I'm not. She
mixes well, chit-chatting like everyone else, but one can always find
her. She definitely stands out in a crowd.
And now it occurs to me. Kate and Spence were never married. They
just had an affair for 25 years.
It's three days after the office party, and I'm sitting in the
driver's seat of an old van that we use at the theater to move props.
While I don't expect to wait long at this metered space across the
street from WAVE, I have an ample supply of quarters just in case. One
of my favorite rep actors taught me a deep breathing exercise a few
months ago, but it doesn't help me stay relaxed. I try tapping my
fingers on the steering wheel.
In the past week, Luke has been coming home a little later than
usual. I know this because I've had a rare break—the theater is dark—and
I've been arriving home by 5:30. Luke is usually there by then, but he's
been coming home around 6:30. He says he has been working out longer
than usual. I don't believe him.
Before Luke left the house this morning, he packed his gym bag. I
mumbled that I would be working late.
"How late?" he had asked.
"About 8:00 o'clock, I think."
I could just make out in the dark that he was looking for something
in his bag. He stopped for a moment.
"I won't wait for dinner if that's OK," he had said.
The blonde wig I'm wearing has begun to itch, but I'm afraid to
scratch my head. The only thing worse than wearing this wig would be to
get caught wearing this wig. I focus hard on the itch, closing my
eyes and imagining myself scratching and scratching. It works
miraculously well, and I actually feel relief.
When I open my eyes, I don't expect to see anything much—maybe a
school bus passing by, or a traffic cop writing parking tickets. But
there they are—Luke and Cynthia—leaving the station, not exactly
together, but at the same time. It's a shock to my body, like jumping
into a swimming pool that's colder and deeper than I expected. I start
the car, and keep my eyes on them.
They part ways with a "see you later" kind of wave—could mean in an
hour or could mean tomorrow at the office, it's hard to tell. I'm
thinking that if you set off on an adventure, you have to be ready to
see it through, wherever it might take you. Maybe I'm not ready for this
I see Luke's blue sedan leaving the station's parking lot. I pull out
of my space, speeding up a little so I don't lose him. Keeping him in
sight isn't hard; old detective shows teach you all you need to know
about trailing someone. The problem is that I feel sick to my stomach,
unlike any self-respecting PI.
We move through traffic slowly, heading away from town. The only
thing I know is that we aren't going home. My disguise sunglasses are
big, brown and mirrored. They make everything look sepia. I don't
usually wear sunglasses because my eyes are dark brown and not
particularly light-sensitive. I miss the green of the palm trees, the
blue and white of the sky, even the gray of the pavement. I hope that
I'll get my life back when I take them off.
First stop, the dry cleaners. I drive past the storefront and park
about a half-block ahead of Luke. He goes inside with an armload of
clothes and comes out five minutes later. I welcome signs of a
recognizable routine. When we start to drive again, I imagine all the
mundane things that Luke might do this afternoon: the dry cleaners, the
post office, the gym, the Cuban restaurant for carry-out. Maybe in ten
years I'll confess that I trailed him and ended up watching him eat
arroz con pollo all by himself in the privacy of our living room. We'll
have a good laugh.
Luke has moved into the right lane and unexpectedly turns into a
strip mall parking lot. He pulls into a space close to the stores, so I
choose a spot closer to the road. I'm surprised to see him head into a
pharmacy—we have one only a couple blocks from our house. An unfamiliar
pharmacy feels dangerous. That's where an underage kid might go for
cigarettes, not where a thirty-seven-year-old anchor heads for
When I follow him inside, I'm about ten steps behind him, a risky
business for a wife of twelve years. It's a heavy blow when I realize
that I'm not the only one who will wear sunglasses inside the store;
Luke's aren't mirrored, but they still give him some privacy from the
outside world. He grabs a red basket, and I do the same.
As he walks along the aisles, he looks sure of where he's heading.
He's been to this pharmacy before. We pass aisle 5 - candy, aisle 4 -
school supplies, aisle 3 - cold remedies. How could it be that I am so
close to him, just five steps away, but he doesn't know it's me, doesn't
even realize that someone is following him? He looks straight ahead,
like he's in the anchor's seat.
He turns down aisle one, moves past a counter with aftershave and
perfume behind it. I stop at the hair dyes, pretend to look at the
boxes, but in the corner of my eye, I watch Luke as he continues down
the aisle. He stops about halfway. I try to look busy, putting a bottle
of blonde hair color in my basket to match my wig. Then I walk slowly
towards him—past the hair notions, the brushes, combs, and picks, and it
suddenly occurs to me where we are. Cynthia could be standing down the
aisle, but it's not Cynthia, it's Luke, in his warm-up pants and an old
gray T-shirt, not caught on a jog or on assignment, but in the cosmetics
section of an out-of-the-way drugstore. He's standing under a Revlon
Now I know that I've found my answer. The last three months aren't
about betrayal. This is an unavoidable affair, one that Luke is having
with himself, and I have no choice but to remain a witness. I don't stop
to look at him now. I walk right past him, because I don't need to see
what shade of eyeliner he might be buying.
As I leave the pharmacy, I try to take off my sunglasses, but it's so
bright I have to leave them on. All of this change in Luke will keep
happening, not out of view, but slowly, before my eyes. It could happen
one day that I turn on the news and recognize him again. I could also
watch him and conclude that I don't really know him anymore. I tell
myself, because I have to believe it, that I'll be able to accept
whatever soap and water don't wash away. On television, I think, he
won't disappear from sight.
Laura Levin has an M.A. in Fiction from The Writing Seminars at Johns
Hopkins University. She worked in television news for over a dozen years
and is now writing for her local newspaper in Rockland County, New York,
where she lives with her husband and two children. This is her first
published short story.