MONDAY: Good Bye John

BY GAYLE ETHERINGTON

Copyright is held by the author.

“I’M GOING now.”

Merritt Rainford placed her teacup on the coffee table a little harder than intended and noticed her carelessness had caused two perfectly formed drops on the highly polished mahogany surface. The brown liquid in the saucer covered the pattern of pretty blue periwinkles giving the illusion they were drowning.

Standing, she made her way to the man at the doorway. He was wearing her favourite of his suits — the grey one that made his eyes appear almost silver in colour. The crisp white shirt beneath would smell of starch and bergamot. He was freshly shaven and his hair was still damp where it met his collar.

Merritt let her eyes roam over her husband’s face studying his laugh lines and greying temples. How unfair that the years had been so kind to him and so ruthless to herself.

She thought about the arsenal of makeup and lotions in her upstairs bathroom, the bimonthly appointment to cover her roots and the ice cream in the freezer that she couldn’t eat. Somehow the mirror, direct sunlight and younger women had become her enemy in this war on aging. With no hope of victory, the effort and responsibility of maintaining something so intangible was as exhausting as trying to capture a rare butterfly.

In her finer moments she wanted to say “Fuck it” and see what nature really intended for her. Scream to the heavens that the history they had together should allow for sagging breasts, a thicker midsection and weak eyes. The mirage was to grow old together, forgive and accept the ravages of a lifetime. When did she become the last soul standing with her finger in the dam? What would happen if she just let go?

What do you see John when you look at me? Can I compare to her?

When she reached him, she put her hands gently on his tie. It didn’t need straightening but it had become a habit of hers. A reason and purpose perhaps to give herself permission to touch him.

He gently wrapped his arms around her, holding her as if she were a delicate teacake fresh from the oven. “I’ll be home Friday at the latest,” he murmured, placing a light kiss on her lips. A ghostly touch, warm and dry that left behind no trace of ever being there.

She knew the dance, and her next move was to take a step back as he picked up his valise and made his way to the door.

“Call me when you get to the hotel.”

He glanced at his reflection in the hall mirror, “It’ll be late Merritt. Maybe after midnight.”

“That’s fine. I just want to make sure you arrived safely.”

As he made his way down the walkway he stopped and looked out onto the lawn. “Make sure Flynn gets this cleaned up. Honestly Merritt, I don’t know why you wanted this bloody tree in the first place.”

She gazed at the Magnolia. Its petals were falling like snow onto the grass. Their pretty pink satin already turning into decay, defining a fragile fleeting moment when splendor turns back into ordinary. No matter the season, from budding, full glory or losing its colour, it owned its grace and mess without explanation.

As the town car pulled away from the curb, she waved knowing he would not return the gesture.

13 comments
  1. The second last paragraph is a prefect metaphor for the decline of her own relationship — “the splendour” of her marriage as defunct as the petals. To be left behind and to be betrayed are life’s most crushing moments. He does not wave as he heads to the hotel and we know another woman who has not lost her bloom awaits. His embrace and “dry kiss” — the ritual of the “dance” truly touched my heart with their implications of rejection. Fixing his tie to have a reason to touch him was so very sad and said so much about their intimacy that was long gone.The death of a marriage is for the one left behind so tragic. This story captures the affects of demise of so many marriages that last a “fleeting” amount of time. The story also speaks of the universal unstoppable ravages of time on one’s outer beauty as she tried with lotions and potions to keep her outer beauty. Twas ever thus — for all men or women who have lived a marriage that has ended. This story reveals the absolute pain. Being left for another, like the perriwinkles in the saucer, is tantamount to drowning. This is a fine piece of writing that has tweaked my empathy for relationships that have ended in one leaving and one left with no wave good bye.

  2. Beautiful imagery crafted by describing everyday things, random acts and so very moving. My heart breaks for them. He has moved on and she is left behind. Well done.

  3. What a beautifully well crafted story. Will watch out for more coming from Gayle!

  4. The writing is well done, but I find the character of Merritt too defeatist. Of course it’s sad to be rejected like yesterday’s leftovers, but someone else’s interpretation of our value doesn’t make it true. Love lost is painful, but I personally think the pain comes from seeing ourselves in the distorted image of the person who is doing the rejecting. For that reason I find the protagonist’s attitude a bit irritating. She needs to have another look in the mirror. Oh, and one other thing: some men are jerks — period.

  5. I thank you all for the feedback on my story. It’s funny, but my intention when I started this piece was not to make Merritt a victim or John an asshole. Just a study on how distance, time and perhaps a certain amount of complacency can effect a marriage. Glad it brought out so many emotions.

  6. Hi Gayle
    relationships end for so many reasons — it is complicated in most cases as to why a relationship dies. I did not judge either character but just felt a universal sadness for the plethora of divorces and failed relationships in our culture and world wide. It is tragic in most cases although some relationships are better ended, i.e. see my story Neuroplasticity 🙂 Your story was for me a universal acknowledgement of the grief of a love that dies. Loss of intimacy is truly heart breaking when one stays behind. Lest we forget.

  7. […] we re-post a favourite story or poem from the CommuterLit archives. Today we present the story, “Good Bye John,” first posted June 16, 2014. Click on the link to […]

  8. Bev,
    While I respect your opinion, literature would be a bit thin without unrequited love as it’s oft used theme.

  9. A woman [character] with a little more spine might have made this story more interesting. I liked the imagery but can’t help feeling that she was at least partly responsible for her own downfall. It takes two to tango. At some point she was obviously out of step with her partner. I tried, but I couldn’t summon enough empathy to root for her.

  10. Alas, poor Ophelia. If only she had had more spunk….

  11. Thank you, Michael, for putting into words my thoughts exactly. Whether a person is the dumper or the ‘dumpee’, both parties need to examine their part in the play that defines their relationship. And to you, Jazz, of course I know that unrequited love is the stuff of literature, and of music as well. (Sad songs mean so much!) And you are right about Ophelia. If she had had had more spunk, she would have told Hamlet to go to hell. I’ve taught Shakespeare and I always felt that the characters of Romeo and Ophelia chose to be controlled by their emotions without stopping to consider the consequences of their actions. When passion conflicts with reason, the result is often tragedy — a theme depicted with unparalleled brilliance by one of the greatest playwrights of all time.

  12. Bev,
    Ophelia needed much more than spunk to get out of the mess she found herself in. Was her death the consequence of her actions alone? I think not. Would it be normal to consider on a minute by minute basis the consequences of all our actions? I know I don’t. Relationships are so much more complex than both you and Michael suggest: it’s not as simple as if you don’t like it, change. Life is not a mathematical equation whereby 2 plus 2 makes 4 – Always. There are many relationships with an overwhelming imbalance of power where the ‘dumpee’ to use your word, has no control on the outcome. And absolutely no control over another…!! Or as the sticker on the pizza delivery guy’s bumper states crudely but succinctly: Shit happens

  13. JAZZ
    Bang on! I thought the statement about Romeo and Ophelia choosing to be controlled by their emotions was a little simplistic and naïve.

    BEV
    The greatest playwright in history didn’t get there by short-changing human psychology. There are endless interpretations to Romeo and Juliet’s love and the complexity of their very complex relationship has kept literary critics busy for centuries writing about them. All I think you can say at the end of the day, after ‘analysis has had its run’ is to recognize the greater mystery. There will always be more we don’t know about ourselves than the knowledge we have already acquired. 2 + 2 is often 5…in our lives and…in exotic theoretical mathematics, as well. There aren’t ‘dumpers’ and ‘dumpees’ — an inelegant choice of words at best, there are just two people and unfortunately, in their own ways, they both lose.

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