“What a beautiful morning,” Bonnie said with a sigh as she seated herself at the table in the breakfast nook across from her husband.
“Mmmhmm,” His nose was buried in the newspaper, as usual, his coffee cup steaming at his elbow and a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray in front of him. Bonnie’s gaze wandered over their small but bright kitchen, at this moment flooded with beautiful early-morning sunshine. Her orange juice, fresh from the refrigerator, was making rings of water on the surface of the glass tabletop. She amused herself absentmindedly, drawing interlocking rings with the bottom of her glass.
“Please, dear,” John muttered, after a particularly loud clank of glass on glass. She looked up, but he hadn’t even stopped reading his paper. She sighed.
With his head bent over the paper like that, she could see the spot on the top of his head where his dark hair was starting to thin out. His glasses were perched on the very tip of his nose, and his forehead was starting to shine a little from sweat. It wasn’t even that warm in here, she thought, as she got up to go make some toast.
Buttered and jammed toast in hand, she leaned her hip against the counter and watched John as she chewed meditatively. The only movement he made was to turn the pages as he got to the end of each article. His cigarette, one long tube of ash, had long since stopped smoking.
Bonnie finished her mouthful and swallowed. “You know, maybe today we could go for a walk after work. What do you think?”
John turned a page.
“What do you think?”
“About what, dear?”
“About going for a walk?”
“Now?” He finally glanced at her, with a mildly disapproving look on his face. “I’m reading the paper, dear.”
Bonnie rolled her eyes. “I know that. I said tonight, after work.”
“No you didn’t, you just asked if I wanted to go for a walk,” John’s eyes returned to his paper.
“Never mind,” Bonnie muttered, taking another bite of her toast. She pushed away from the counter and wandered over to stand behind John as he read about the latest disaster to befall the stock market.
“Bonnie, I can’t read with you hanging over my shoulder.” John flipped the page a little more forcefully than usual.
Bonnie took a deep breath and sat back down at the table. Taking another bite of toast, she chewed and swallowed. It seemed that the sound echoed through the nearly silent kitchen. She stared at an oblivious John as he flipped another page in his paper. She sighed again, loudly. John’s eyes closed briefly. Slowly, he removed his glasses and set them on the table next to him and carefully folded up his paper and set it to the other side. Clasping his hands, he set them on the table in front of him and finally looked directly at Bonnie.
“What seems to be the problem?”
“What do you mean? I don’t have a problem,” Bonnie retorted, startled.
“Obviously you do, dear. You’ve been sighing your head off all morning and can’t sit still. What’s the problem?”
“Well, I mean, nothing, I guess.” She paused. “I mean, jeez, John, I just wish we talked more. I mean, every morning we do the same thing. We get up, come in the kitchen, you make your coffee, I make my toast and orange juice, you read your newspaper and I watch you read your newspaper. I try to make conversation and you shut me out. I feel like we’re going nowhere here. Like we’re at a dead end.”
John pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. “You know, Bonnie, all day I deal with bullshit. I work in a department where all I get to do is type numbers in day after day and listen to the asshole next to me argue on the phone with his wife about the takeout menu for the night. The girl across from me gives me headaches painting her nails and removing the polish three times a day, and the guy behind me cranks up his country music every time he’s got the chance. I spend all day having to do everything everyone else wants me to. For that reason, I like to start my mornings with a newspaper and coffee and a little piece and quiet. That’s obviously too much to ask, I take it.”
“It’s not too much to ask, John! But where’s the romance? Where’s the excitement? Where’s the sparks?”
“Sparks? Over breakfast?”
“John! Be serious! This is important to me!”
“Bonnie, come on. What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about that maybe this isn’t working! Maybe we should just call it quits!”
“Maybe…maybe this is just not working. Maybe things between us have just, you know, died.”
“Died? What are you saying? You want a divorce?”
They stared at each other across the table. The silence stretched uncomfortably as Bonnie opened her mouth, trying to form the word “Yes”. Finally she realized her mouth was gaping foolishly and she shut it, staring helplessly at John. He was gazing at her with a peculiar expression on his face. Breaking their eye contact, he looked down at his hands, then back up to Bonnie. He stretched out his hand to cover hers.
“I love you.” The simplicity and sincerity of his statement took her aback. Her eyes stung and she looked down. “I love you, Bonnie, and I treasure every day I spend with you. You are a blessing to me and you make my life worthwhile.” He paused. Bonnie looked up, tears welling in her eyes, as he searched for words. “I go to this job every day that I don’t like, because I want to provide for you. I study in my free time so I can get my degree, and I do this so that I can get a job that I like, a job that pays well, so we can retire and go do the things we really want to do.” He paused again and looked down. “I do this because I love you.”
Bonnie opened and closed her mouth a few times, searching for words.
“Now, if you still want to get a divorce, you better explain exactly why, because I am not just going to walk away from this without fighting you on it. So speak up.”
Bonnie was still gaping like a fish. John waited patiently, his hands tightening on hers as he gazed at her, still with that peculiar expression on his face. The silence stretched again as she searched for words to express how much hearing what he said meant to her. John must have seen something of it in her face, because that tight, faintly anxious expression faded from his eyes, to be replaced by the most profound, shining look of love that Bonnie was left breathless. He leaned across the table and kissed her softly and lingeringly. Leaning back in his chair, he squeezed her hand and released it, then replaced his glasses and picked up his paper again, opening it to the middle and resuming his reading.
Bonnie got up from the table slowly and walked through the kitchen in a daze. Maybe she should just take her shower since she wasn’t capable of stringing together words into a coherent sentence just now. Just before she left the room, John spoke.
“And I’d love to take a walk with you tonight after work. I’ll bring home some wine.”