I received my first letter and box from Keith today. The mail man walked up to the door to deliver it. When I greeted him, it was with two snarling, wildly barking dogs entwined between my legs. Through the screen door the mail man gave me a wry look.
"I'll just leave them here," he said, gesturing to the front step.
I nodded, from the midst of my dog melee. Once he had left and the girls finally got it through their heads that they could stand down, I went outside and retrieved the parcel and post. There, on the crackling brown paper, was my husband's writing. He had written my name in large letters, lopsided, trailing off slightly to the bottom right hand corner.
It caused a feeling of great tenderness for him to wash over me. He does not like writing; English was not his favorite subject at school. I have seen him, his large frame bent over the counter tops, laboriously fill out required forms, for ATV insurance, for our marriage licence. I have seen how his hand grips the pen, so tightly one might think it was trying to escape and only by dint of great force could he keep it steady. It goes without saying, I think, that in the case of my husband and I, never had such opposites so attracted each other.
"Man, I wish I'd met you in High School," he's said on more than on occasion. The first time he said this, I gave him a side ways look, amused. He was driving, I remember, but where and for what purpose I have forgotten. "You would have been mine."
"In High School," I stated, "I was painfully shy, deeply invested in being a very good girl and not allowed to date even within my church. I spent my entire time reading. What makes you think you could have gotten me?"
"I got you now; I could have gotten you anytime," he replied, with a smug grin.
I thought about it, tried to imagine it. How awful was my time in High School! I walked the halls with my head down, figuratively and literally. My arms were always full of books, my heavy fall of dark hair bound back in a perpetual braid. I wore large glasses, as was the style in the eighties. I wore skirts and sweaters daily, I was always ashamed of my bulky, shapeless coats and my dingy, graceless shoes.
"How would you have done it?" I asked, curious now.
He shrugged and thought a moment. "I would just have come up to you, in the library... you were probably always in the library, right?" he asked, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. "I would have sat down next to you and just started talking." He thought some more and grinned again. "Hell yeah, I would have. You'd have been mine."
I knew that in High School he had been tall and lean, with a lot of red brown hair and a wide grin. He seemed always to be holding a beer in his hand. He already owned his own truck, he worked full time at a diesel engine company. He spent his weekends on his grandparents farm, working from dawn to dusk. Despite the hard work and the even harder play, in all the pictures, there is something so sweetly vulnerable about his open face, the emotion always caught there so clearly.
His guess was right- I had spent a lot of time in the library, huddled up in the chair, deliberately blocking myself from the outside world with the lives inside my books. I read even during lunch hour, munching away on the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that were my daily fare.
I tried to imagine if someone had come up and intruded upon my heavily fortified solitude, had simply plunked themselves down and said hello, what is your name, what are you reading? How at first I would not have realized they were even talking to me and then, in wonder to lift my head to see who on earth it was. And of course, recognizing him from a few classes, because he would have been boisterous in class and would never have been too shy to speak up, or to act out.
And suddenly, seeing this in my mind, I knew. I knew he was right, he would have gotten me. His sheer stubborn mindedness coupled with his engaging personality, his possession of all those qualities that I lacked and yet admired, would have inevitably worn down all my defenses and I would have given in.
This afternoon, the sun struggled to burn through the heavy, low lying clouds and I went out for a walk. I wore Keith's heavy farm coat, one I have seen in pictures of him as a teenager. The sky was smudged with overlapping layers of charcoal and pearl grey, patches of pale blue shown through and all the trees were burnished with gold. The wind sent the leaves sifting down through the branches to fall in damp heaps on lawns and sidewalks.
I got lost and had to make my way back by instinct alone. It was a strange sensation to come upon my car, shining silver between the pale green bushes, the house was shadowed by trees and set back from the road. It was strange as well to open the door to the shadowy interior, to know the house as my own and I felt a sense of loss.
The house has almost entirely lost the feel that it had when Keith lived there. It has become my own house now, despite all my adherence to routines established by our living together and by the clinging to small objects that are attached solely to Keith. Now they are merely static objects and memories, the progression of daily life has effectively overlaid all the old ways of being and knowing and doing that were wound up with Keith's physical presence.
Oh well. Knowing my husband as I do, it won't take him long to retake everything that is his and my solitude and the habits of my quiet, domesticated living will give way inevitably to his confident and masculine claim.
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