Joanne Alabama walks into the house and immediately takes off her shoes. The van is clean now and full of gas. She examines her nails under the lights of the mudroom. She rubs her feet, curls her toes and lets out a sigh. Jeff is standing in the kitchen furiously flipping through maps on the table. He looks tired. She feels tired. She runs her hands down the legs of her pants like she is trying to get the creases out of a really nice dress. She moves slowly into kitchen. He looks up at her and smiles faintly.
Jeff stops paying attention to his wife and stares blankly at the big star next to Washington D.C. Joanne walks over to her husband and puts her arm around his neck and kisses him softly. She stops talking and her head stops hurting and for a brief second their arms wrap around each other and she can feel them breathe in and out in unison.
Jeff Alabama feels the soft lips of his wife touch gently against his neck. He drags his pointer finger along a red curvy line that goes from New York into Pennsylvania, the feeling of her nose on his skin.
The map out on the table is full of colorful lines of all types of roads from all over the country. Jeff searches for Route 5, I-80, any road or name he can think of. He just stares at the map for anything at all.
Lately, he has been trying to think about the most boring objects around him at any given moment. He then focuses entirely on those objects whenever Joanne is around him. Jeff sees it as his way of protecting himself from the pain of living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed with someone who he no longer knew how to touch.
He looks at the map. He thinks about nothing. He thinks about nothing as hard as he has ever thought about anything in his entire life. He thinks of anything that might help stop him from thinking about how her arms used to feel around his neck. Anything that doesn’t remind him of the times they had when they were younger. When they felt because they were together their world was indestructible. Anything to keep from having to turn around and stare into the eyes of his wife.
A few seconds pass. Joanne says nothing. He doesn’t know what else there is for him to say to her. In the silence he feels her arms let go of his waist. She backs away from the table and moves into the living room. The TV turns on and the sound of a commercial jingle about bathroom cleaner fills the house. The side of his body where her body just covered feels cold against the air in the dining room. He stares at the white walls of the living room. They stare back.
What he planned to do right then was go up to her and grab her and kiss her and say: “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I love you. I’m sorry.”
Instead Jeff folds up the entire nation off the table and stuffs it into the back pocket of his jeans. He turns and kisses his wife softly on the forehead and walks up the stairs unable to say anything at all.