With shoulders as broad as theirs, they should have been able to carry the weight of the world. As they walked through the crowded mall, they held shopping bags overflowing with colorful cloth and sparkling shoes. They held shopping bags with things that were much too small for them, shoes that Cinderella could hardly fit into. They smiled and nodded, suppressing eye rolls and snappy comments that would only end with a bad day overall because a happy wife is a happy life.
So, with every new outfit to try on and every statement of, "no, dear, that doesn't make you look fat," or "yes, dear, the floral pattern will go well with your jean jacket at home," brought them closer to leaving, closer to being free, closer to the comfort of watching Netflix under the blankets. They remembered this. They clung to the hopeful philosophy, like that one kernel of corn that gets stuck between that front tooth and the gum behind it. They sent each other nods of encouragement and weak smiles as they passed, trailing after their wives like lost dogs.
Then, they were free at last! Taking the one staggering step out of the crowded mall and onto the sidewalk that was damp with the rain from earlier and had pink gum that shoes always found. They took deep breaths of air and rest their arms as they let the bags down.
"Thanks for shopping with me."
"Of course, babe, you know that I don't mind going with you."