Friday, February 21, 2014
Damn That 20/20 Hindsight
He didn't know what to think when he looked at her. He asked himself, for probably the thousandth time, "Was this really the same woman I had married seventeen years ago?" He saw a big woman who once took pride in her appearance, to a point that most people thought of her as pathetically vain.
But she hadn't really been vain, not in the slightest. She didn't really care what other people thought of her, which was intrinsic to vanity - she simply cared about how she felt, and her appearance was secondary to that. She liked to feel good, and for her that meant sitting down in an economy airline seat without feeling like an anchovy in a tin, it meant wearing clothes without fear of bursting a seam.
But now...now she didn't care at all about how she felt, almost as if she was numb to sensation. The drivers seat in her Camry had broken down on the left side, and the clothes she wore seemed to wear out before she tired of them. It had been at least five years since she had looked at the nutritional information on anything she prepared for dinner. it had been at least four years since they had actually gone out to dinner.
Elliot tried his damnedest to remember the last time he actually enjoyed being around her. It had to be at least six years ago. "What," he thought to himself, "happened six years ago that led to this?" His mind raced, attempting a review of the past six years in chronological order.
Was there some major event that could have triggered her descent into slovenliness? Had he done or said anything? Elliot cross referenced everything he could remember - where they lived, the people they lived around, his job, her job, their friends, their family members, arguments and heated debates that had engaged in, gifts they had bought each other, vacations they had taken, people even remotely close to them who had passed away.
He made lists of every major and minor occurrence in both of their lives and tried to figure out how any of it could have affected her in such a way that she just stopped caring about herself as she once did.
And then he saw it. Just about five and a half years ago, a fairly minor event, but one that could have definitely affected her adversely if taken the wrong way.
It was August and they had gone to the beach. It had been years since they had spent a day on the shore, and he recalled how nice it was to be out in the sun, how nice it was to once again see kids playing Frisbee or tossing footballs.
Two young kids, part of a group that had been playing a game of touch football, had come barreling towards their spot on the beach, and tumbled head over heels right into them. One of the kids had gotten up almost immediately, apologized profusely, and went to pick his friend up off the sand and almost on top of her. As the friend was being helped up, he quipped to the other kid, "Man, good thing that whale was there to break my fall!"
She had reddened worse than an Irishwoman with a sunburn, and turned to him with a "Aren't you going to say something!" glare. He said nothing. He just put up both of his hands in a gesture that he hoped said, "Kids, whattaya' going to do?" It didn't, not to her.
He realized that now, five plus years too late.