Where Have We Gone?
His second kid leaving the house, finally; that’s where it really began. For twenty-six years Bern had rolled that event over in his mind, examined it, prodded and calculated, dissected it with the razor edge of his imagination. But reality has a bad habit of disappointing, and Aaron’s departure had been no exception. What should have been a moment of liberation, of unparalleled freedom and of a return to life as a newly-wed couple turned into another disappointment. Bern had been surprised by how lonely he’d felt when Aaron had packed all of his things into three shabby and packing-tape reliant cardboard boxes, loaded them into the back of a Civic, and driven away from the little house in Calgary, going god knows where. He’d called a few weeks later, just to say he’d arrived, he was fine, happy and all. Bern and Trish, it turns out, didn’t automatically revert to living the lives they’d led before the kids. In the blue smoke and earthy fallout of Aaron’s Civic they’d turned around and headed back into the house, without saying a word. Dust frozen in fossilized amber rays, the distant hum of cars on the overpass, warm wind swaying the curtains to sleep; it had all seemed so other. Bern looked over at Trish. Her eyes were wet around the edges, and lifeless, as if Aaron had packed the deepest parts of her away in those boxes. They’d sat at the dinner table around tea and cookies, avoiding each other’s glances, an unpracticed silence settling over the things they’d collected together; furniture from Ikea, trinkets from trips they’d taken, even their photographs. And things hadn’t really improved. In time they’d started talking again, about little things, things that had to do with the house, or the garden, or the weather. They’d gone out a few times, for dates that seemed to rival their first in terms of awkward silences. So they stayed home mostly, he reading and she scratching at dirt in the garden. Bern wanted desperately to find his wife, to peel away the twenty-six years of mothering which enveloped her like the skin of an orange. In truth he feared what he might find: just pulp perhaps, or nothing at all. Had she given herself entirely to it? Weren't you supposed to?