He decided she was crazy. He was brushing his teeth, and it dawned on him the stress she was going through finally had taken her over the edge. Last week he pushed the idea that she should see a psychiatrist, ostensibly as a way to get her mind off of flying, which they both knew she would have to do if she wanted to go to Seattle to be with her daughter, her husband, and their new baby. It wasn’t so much as flying as being on a small plane that she minded. She would have to travel from their regional airport to Philadelphia or New York to catch one of the larger planes, and those little 20-seaters that operated out of their city would take her over the top. The claustrophobia would have her peeling the walls by the time the plane landed if she already hadn’t caused an accident at 30,000 feet trying to break through the tiny windows for air or freedom.
She was always on edge. This was her personality and he had accepted it many years ago, that and the crazy stories of her earlier marriages, the secrets concerning her family, and that god-awful farm. What occurred there that she couldn’t talk about it?
Jeez, he spit bloody toothpaste into the sink, his gums were bleeding.
It was clear she had had a rough life; he felt that if he remained calm and didn’t ask too many questions, she would work it out internally – that’s what she said she wanted to do, wasn’t it? But, after all these years, he was starting to think this required something like a miracle, say, like self-healing from cancer. She said she could do this and he had been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but without knowing what it was and now seeing what it was doing to her, he had to wonder. Maybe the psychiatrist could tell him if he could get her to go.
He once tried to bring up those years when she was a kid, but she wouldn’t have it, and visiting the farm to see her dad still alive out there was out of the question. The only thing she told him: when she was sixteen she went to the barn to milk the cows, met up with a boy – a local kid she barely knew who had joined the army six months earlier – and never returned. Three marriages later, forty years later, she was here with him. He heard more about the rotten things the other men did to her than what it was like growing up with her older siblings. She told him once, when they signed their marriage certificate, Ethel came from her mother who died when she was a baby. They called her Sissy and she never mentioned it again.
He put his tooth brush in the holder and gargled, spitting a stream of watery-red toothpaste into the sink. It was all too much he decided. He looked at himself in the mirror and wondered if his eyes had always been this sore and when was the last time he had gone out and gotten a haircut? He was a mess; she was taking him down with her.
He looked beyond his image; he could see her typing away on his computer on their bed. Now who was she writing to? – He hoped it wasn’t the sheriff, once again. She had destroyed her own computer in a moment of anger, and before that, her cell phone, and, most recently, she swore her I-Pad was on the fritz, but was she at fault for that too? He just didn’t trust her alone and found reasons to stay around the house, at least until she calmed down. And at night he slept lightly, if he slept at all, waiting for her to fall sleep, then worried half the time if she would wake up without his knowing.
But lately, her storming off in a rage for no reason – at nonsense as far as he was concerned – suddenly showing up with groceries at 3 AM and not putting anything away – hadn’t he come downstairs in the morning to melted ice cream that had seeped all over the counter and onto the floor – the drugs, the doctors, the stories, the walks, the conversations he could hear her having with herself, the endless calls – who was she talking to anyway? The calls, in particular, had him mystified. He asked her a couple of weeks ago and she said her daughter, but when he saw the bill the calls were to the farm. Something was happening and his sitting back and letting her work through it wasn’t working. He needed to talk to her daughter before she arrived in Seattle. Maybe she could get through to her.
He sighed and turned from the sink, “Honey, I am going to make some breakfast. You want something?”
She looked up at him. “Toast,” she said, pausing, “and Sissy can join us.”
His eyes squinted; he wanted to say, “What?” Instead, he asked instinctively, “Who am I talking to?”
“Jane,” she replied matter-of-factly, returning to her typing.
“Oh,” he responded, now that’s a first. “And where’s Sissy?” he asked.
She giggled in spite of herself, afraid to look at him, like she had burning secret she was dying to share…