Putting Groceries Away

By Jim Woessner

After they parked in the driveway. After she got out of the car. After he reached over to retrieve the groceries from the backseat of the convertible. She told him about the affair. She had been silent all morning. But now, standing next to the car, she couldn’t stop talking. A torrent of words without a breath between them. He looked at her wet face in an unpracticed way, not knowing what to say. The affair had been going on for months, she said. She hadn’t planned for it to happen. It just happened. One of those things, she said. And she felt terrible. He wanted her to stop talking, to take a breath. He wanted to ask questions, to have her start from the beginning. She said she didn’t love the man, had never loved him. The affair was brief, she said, but it was over. It should never have happened. She didn’t know why it had happened. She would have told him before but she was afraid. And then she went silent, like a passing storm. She stood quietly, looking at the pavement. He sat in the driver’s seat looking at the dashboard.

The morning was bright, warm for February. The top was down. Neither of them knew what was supposed to happen next or what to say or how to respond. He wanted to get out of the car, walk around to the other side, and put his arms around her. He wanted her to have her feelings and whatever space she needed. He looked at her. “I guess we need to talk,” he said. More silence followed. He looked at the bag of groceries. “These should be taken into the house and out of the sun.” She cried, ran into the house, and filed for divorce.

Five years later, they sat on the carpet of his condo drinking wine. It was the first time since the divorce. He was no longer the skinny kid, and she was more beautiful than ever, and just as desperate around the eyes. “I never actually had an affair,” she said. “It never happened. I was testing you. That day when I told you I was having an affair, I wanted you to hit me. I wanted you to prove how much you loved me. But you didn’t. You couldn’t. You just couldn’t do it.”

He took a deep breath and looked at the carpet. He examined it more closely than he had on the day it was purchased. He leaned on one hand and with the other brushed the long, twisted wool threads slowly back and forth. He found it incredibly soft and sensuous. But the pattern, he thought, the pattern was much too busy. And although he loved the gray-blue color, it never matched anything in the house.

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Jim Woessner works as a visual artist and writes poetry, short fiction, and plays. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College, has had two of his plays produced in community theatres, and has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous online and print magazines.

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