"I worry about you sometimes."
For a while, there is silence, with only the clink clink of her spoon as it goes around and around in her mug. She clears her throat.
"I worry about you sometimes."
She raises her gaze to meet his. It seems wearier than he remembers. He has to look away. His eyes drop to his hands-- brown, calloused, folded obediently in his lap. There is only the spoon as it goes around and around and around.
He looks up from his hands. "There's nothing for you to worry about."
Clink clink clink "John," her voice falters, and he can't help but wince at the sound of his name.
"John, we... we've been living here a long time, and-- and you've been in this business a while now."
She never used to stutter.
"John, dear, I know we've been talking about moving since we got married," she continues, "somewhere nice in the suburbs."
This. This again.
"I've told you. I've told you a thousand times!" He hates himself, hates the fury in his voice, "we're going to--"
"'--wait until you strike big. Then we'll settle down.' Yes, dear, I know, but please, listen to me." He can feel her trying to suppress her panic. He softens.
She takes a shaky breath. "You've been telling me for nine years now. And I've been waiting. I've been waiting for you to strike big. But you've been at that factory job for so long, and we're still in this old place, so maybe it's time to-- to try something new."
She takes another shaky breath.
"After all, we've been saving for some time now, and our finances have been pretty stable, better than they've been for a few years now, at least, and--"
She is speaking faster now, "-- and I was thinking we could sell the washing machine - the old one in the foyer, it never quite works right anymore - because most houses come with washing machines nowadays anyway." Her eyes have taken on a dreamy look-- one he hasn't seen since their wedding day. "I could get a job as a housekeeper or maid or something to get in a little more cash so we can afford a nice place that might have a chimney-- yes! a chimney with a big mantle and a green, green lawn--"
She quiets. For a while, there is nothing but the buzz of the ceiling lights. He leans forward, propping his elbows on the tabletop. He rests his forehead against his tightly interlocked fingers.
Almost as if to beg. Beg for her forgiveness.
"Anne... Please... we can't afford this. You know we can't. We've only just started saving a little something up; you remember the days when we were living paycheck to paycheck. I promise you, Anne, we will move. It just won't be now. Just give it some more time, a few more months. I'm so close to getting that promotion, so close to getting you that nice house with that new washing machine and chimney. Please, Anne, just give me more--"
"I can't, John."
Her breath catches. He looks up and sees the betrayal in her eyes.
"I can't... I just can't anymore. I've been living in this damn place for nine long years, John, waiting and waiting for you to tell me we can leave. The bills are only getting higher, and this damn floor is only getting harder to clean, and the damn washing machine can hardly turn anymore, and you're telling me to wait some more. I've been patient with you," her voice rises in pitch, "I've put off my own dreams, the ones that I've had since the day I married you-- How hopeful I was then! How naive!"
She is screaming now. "How naive to think that I could get my brick house and white porch. That I could get a green lawn instead of this filthy place. That I could have a family, kids to raise and feed and play with, and grandkids--"
She chokes on a sob.
She collapses into inconsolable weeping. She buries her face in her hands, ashamed. He looks away.
For a while, there is nothing but her crying.
As the sun begins to set and the sky dims, they are still sitting at the table. Her coffee has long since gone cold. Her sobs have diminished to quiet sniffling. Her arms are crossed across her abdomen, almost as if she is cradling herself, consoling herself, reprimanding herself.
Silence settles like dusk in the room. They do not look at each other; they cannot.
For they know that after their eyes meet, there would be no more pretending, no more nodding and smiling and hoping the other can't see through the facade-- they would understand each other: their mutual grief, their horrible secrets. They would know, and that would be the worst of all.
So they only look away, embarrassed.