Roommates

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BY PETER J. STAVROS

Sadie says we’re roommates. She says she loves me, and it’s fine otherwise, but that we’re just two people living together – we share a house and we share a bed but we come and go like roommates.

“There’s no passion anymore,” Sadie says, the way she gets when she’s been dwelling on something for a while and it finally finds its way out, a sense of urgency, a bit agitated, a tremble to her voice, flushed cheeks, moist eyes, arms outstretched then clutched to her chest. “What happened to the passion?”

We are sitting on the floor in our living room, on the herringbone sea grass rug we bought at Pottery Barn after our wedding with a stack of gift cards from people who hadn’t bothered to check our registry, drinking red wine and sharing a hummus sampler platter that the Middle Eastern place around the corner has half-off on Wednesdays, our kitchen and dining room in disarray, gutted and stripped, a renovation project that has gone on for too long with no end in sight, dust everywhere despite the canvas tarp that hangs in the entranceway to cordon off the construction, scratchy on my skin, gritty when I eat.

I watch, useless, pondering how to respond when nothing comes to mind, as Sadie drives a triangle of warm pita bread through the tub of roasted red pepper hummus, carving out roads and trails that lead to nowhere, wide arching loops that end back where they began, before delicately sticking a corner of a hummus covered pita triangle into her mouth, that mouth, those lips, and chewing. Sadie says maybe we should talk to someone, maybe that guy that girl from work recommended, that therapist in the strip mall next to the Panera who she and her husband talked to last fall when they hit a rough patch and although they ended up divorcing anyway she said the guy was okay, not all preachy, or pushy, or condescending, not too touchy-feely, not all weird, just someone we could talk to to talk our issues through.

“We need to talk our issues through,” Sadie says, sticking the rest of the hummus covered pita triangle into her mouth and washing it down with a swallow of red wine from a plastic tumbler since we packed all our wine glasses with the rest of our stuff and put them away in cardboard boxes for the remodel. “We gotta do something because nothing is working and this isn’t going away on its own.”

I say “I know” and “you’re right” and “I agree” and I do, all of those and more, although I do wish this would go away on its own, and I wish a lot of other things would go away on their own, but life isn’t like that no matter how much I wish it were so.

As we sit there on the floor in our living room with dust everywhere despite the canvas tarp and I drive a triangle of warm pita bread around in the lemon basil hummus and create the same roads and trails to nowhere as Sadie, with the rattling of the air conditioner kicking on the only sound as the conversation stalls, I strain to figure out how it came to this. There was a time we had passion, I can remember, but I can’t remember exactly when that was and I can’t remember exactly when it went away, as if remembering that, identifying the precise moment and location when the passion went away, might yield some clue to return it. But that part is blurred, like the print in an old library book smudged by years of oily fingers.

I can only vaguely recall that we did have passion, Sadie and I, somewhere within our thirty years together, when we couldn’t wait to be alone, running stop signs, scrambling hand-in-hand up the stairs in the dark, giddy with anticipation, every nerve and synapse charged and firing, sweaty palms, weak knees, hearts pounding in synch like a drum beat. All of that is nothing now, nothing but a distant memory, forced even further distant by the present, with no passion Sadie says and she’s right, dozing off in the evening in front of the TV watching our programs in sweats and wool socks, acknowledging with a nod and a shrug that something needs to change and still we end up here. I sigh, and I take a gulp of red wine from the plastic tumbler, and it has become bitter and flat to me and singes my throat as it makes its way down.

“I love you buddy,” Sadie says softer, lower, almost apologizing when perhaps I should be the one to say I’m sorry. She gives up on driving any more triangles of warm pita bread through the tubs of hummus, and leans into me, and kisses me on the cheek, but I’m lost in thought, straining to figure out how it came to this, so all it does, Sadie’s kiss, is make my face wet and I have to resist the urge to wipe it with the back of my hand and instead I take another gulp of red wine even though I can no longer stomach it and it’s enough to make me gag.

I tell Sadie that I love her too, and I do, and I want to work this out, and I do that too, and to myself I hope that everything will be alright but I’m not so sure it will. Something has changed inside of me, that much I do know, and have known for a while, a fire that has gone out that I can’t relight no matter how many matches I throw at it. And I’ve seen this movie already, various versions, some starring me, some starring others, and then cut to a scene, warped and scratched and grainy, of a young me moving through our house from growing up, undetected as little kids are apt to do, and stumbling upon my parents in a conversation just like this or something similar that I wasn’t supposed to hear but I did anyway, and freezing, a sinking feeling collapsing me that maybe people weren’t supposed to last forever. I stop the film and hate myself for even considering blaming anyone else, however questioning if I might be repeating patterns established long before.

The thought alone of that somehow jolts me to action and I lurch towards Sadie, awkward yet well intentioned, over the plastic tumblers of red wine and opened tubs of hummus and foil container of warm pita triangles that resemble paper footballs, and I reach my hand behind Sadie’s head, through those thick curls with stray streaks of gray I notice in the light of the late afternoon sun ricocheting the right way, or the wrong way, from the canvas tarp that cordons off the construction to no avail because there is still dust goddamn everywhere, and pull her tight, and I kiss her, honestly kiss her, and I mean it this time. I can taste the garlic on Sadie’s tongue and I can feel the heat of her body against mine, and I want to melt into her, how we used to, how I would imagine when we first met, and I cherish the moment, for as long as I am able, until we have to come up for air. It makes me feel slightly, ever so subtly, if only barely, a little better, finding that there is still something there, something within me, something that I can share with Sadie, as I’m no closer to figuring out how it came to this.

Maybe that guy that girl from work recommended can help, and whatever he tells me to do I will do it because I can’t just wait for this to go away because nothing works out that way except for when the wrong things go away whenever I do nothing, and I’m not ready for that because if this goes away then I so do I, and I’m not ready for that either.


Peter J. Stavros is a writer in Louisville, Kentucky. His work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, The Boston Globe MagazineHippocampus MagazineFiction SoutheastJuked, and Literary Orphans, among others. Peter has also had plays produced, including as part of the One Act Fest at M.T. Pockets Theatre in Morgantown, West Virginia, and the Festival of Ten at The College at Brockport – SUNY, for which he was named Audience Choice Winner. More can be found at www.peterjstavros.wordpress.com.

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