“Honey, I’m taking a bath,” Craig said as I was leaving. “Can you get that stuff on the list?”
“Of course,” I said, grabbing the list from the table:
- Bathroom towels
- Duct tape
- Garden Trowel
- Hornet killer
- Bicycle tire pump
I thought I heard him shout “I love you” but couldn’t be sure over the running water.
I waited for the garage door to rise then drove out of our cookie-cutter cul-de-sac, down our cookie cutter street and out of our cookie cutter development.
Winter had been long and gray, but the promise of spring poked through the clouds just often enough to keep me hopeful.
After finishing my list at the Target, I remembered Craig’s list. What I couldn’t remember was the last time he’d run a bath. He was a wake up, get in, get out of the shower kind of man. At least when he still went into the office. His alarm always sounded first and countless mornings I laid awake, willing him to summon me into the shower, which he never did, but then again, I never imparted my will either, so who was I to blame?
The pandemic hit Craig hard. His job went remote, and he hated not being as socially active. Missing the endless company happy hours that offered an escape from me. That would have afforded him the luxury to not be home with the child coming. The child that was Craig’s even though he wouldn’t believe it.
I was only with Kevin once.
I’d had too many drinks at Craig’s company Christmas party. I knew everyone there but knew no one. I drank a whiskey soda that was a lot whiskey and a little soda. Kevin and I talked for too long and too secluded by the fire pit about tv shows we liked and music we hated. I didn’t find Kevin especially interesting. No more than Craig. Just present and willing. It was more about a general disinterest long growing inside of me.
So, I pulled Kevin into a coat closet.
It meant nothing. I told Craig that night. He said we could get past it, but I wasn’t convinced.
I went to hardware for the duct tape. Garden for the trowel and hornet killer.
A text from Craig buzzed: I love you and despite our problems, I cherish the time we’ve spent together.
Over the store’s loudspeaker someone said, “Jeffrey, your mom is looking for you. She’s at the Starbucks. Come there now.”
The head of every woman over twenty-five spun in horror.
I went to sporting goods for the bicycle tire pump. Bed and bath for the towels. The galoshes I couldn’t make sense of, but I went to shoes and picked out a pair in Craig’s size.
Before driving home, I queued up “Big Me” by the Foo Fighters. The song bled nostalgia for my adolescence. Years before I’d ever gaze upon Craig. I wouldn’t have given Craig the time of day then. His hair wasn’t long. He didn’t have holes in his jeans. He didn’t own flannel.
I took a longer way home and played the song three times.
I placed the bags on the kitchen island and heard music upstairs. Approaching the bathroom door, I recognized Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues.”
I turned the knob.
The first thing I noticed was the water tumbling over the tub’s side, which wasn’t so much all red as it was tinged. Then the post-it on the mirror: put on the galoshes and use the towels.
Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His short fiction is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine and Bull: Men’s Fiction. His memoir Bridges is forthcoming from Bull City Press.