A Day in the Strife

Also available in ePub format.

Voices at the next table sounding muffled by even a short distance and the white noise of the burger place. You can only make out her voice, and even then you only catch one word in three. His voice is a deep and soothing drone attempting to placate her. From what you can make of her voice, the argument is revolving around responsibility. Imagination begins to kick in, and you begin to wonder at the lovers. Of course, you assume they are lovers. They could just as easily be office mates arguing over who left the report on the desk and didn't get it to the big boss on time. The comments on what one expected the other to think are far more interesting if they involve a rough moment in a relationship.

You wonder what brought them together in the first place. A bar is the notorious choice. First seeing each other through a veil of smoke streaked with dim light flickering as candles. They could be co-workers struck dumb at the first sight of each other and exchanging shy smiles while passing in the halls. One finger brushing oh so accidentally against the other. It could have been an ad in the paper, sounding far more desperate than romantic.

Chance encounters are always fun. You think of the time your friend Prax tried to set you up with this woman who worked at a cafe he liked. Misha is very mezzo-soprano just the way you like them. So you went by the cafe, missing Misha, but hangout anyway, reading a copy of Madame Bovary of all things. The cafe is crowded, and someone bumps someone, bumping someone, and sending another's cup of coffee all over your table.

She apologies again and again and again. Chance encounters are always fun. The next thing you know you've been chatting for three hours, and all you know is that she is married. Her name is Cricket, waitressing her way through school, and working on her Masters in Creative Writing. Didn't know there was such a thing. Doesn't waitress at the cafe, but she hangs out here to avoid going home to her husband. Married people are bad luck. Don't know how you talked for three hours. It was fun.

Visit the cafe again and miss Misha one more time. You run into Cricket, discovering just how much she writes in the cafe. Say hi but nothing more, which is impossible. Cricket is just too likeable. Look at your watch to find another three hours have left you with a married woman.

Bad luck. Very bad luck. If you talk to her again, she'll go home to her husband while you'll go with a broken heart. Prax won't let you avoid the place, saying Misha has got to be there this time, and you run into Cricket never even learning if Misha was working. Suggesting dinner, you can't say no to her smile, and you learn what a soulless prick her husband is, leaving you wanting to scream that she should just walk out the door and never look back.

You don't scream anything, thinking you want her to leave him and walk into your arms. Home-wrecker! Home-wrecker! Not wanting to see her again, you find yourself escorting her to a darkened movie-theater. On the walk home, she asks if you love her. Home-wrecker! You lie, saying only that things could turn that way if you spent too much time together.

She suggests a hotel, claiming to have an open marriage. Somewhere and somehow, you turn her down, not wanting to dabble in divided loyalties. You want her all to yourself. She has to leave her husband, but you refuse to give your blessing.

Haven't spoken to her in more than a year, and you've regretted every day you haven't spent with her since then. It would have been so easy to tell her to leave her husband. Live with you. It would have been good. It would have been fun. You had that much in common. The divided loyalties haunt you. Break one marriage, and you'll break another. You'll talk to someone else in a cafe. Place one of those ads in the paper wanting a discreet relationship.

Life with Cricket would have been good. One day, you would have found yourself in a burger place, arguing over where you spent the night. People listening. Imagining things. Forgive them. They cannot help themselves.

A Day in the Strife – copyright © 1998 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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