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That One Over There

Along the path, she can run the length of her small city and back again. Everyone at home knows that when she says she is going for a run that she won't be back for around two hours. They do not know it takes her far less time to make the run, but some of her friends do. Sometimes she's worried she has told the wrong people.
Today, as she does her warm-up stretches in the grass, she watches from behind her sunglassed eyes as another woman walks down the park path. The woman is tall and willowy, wearing a faded flowered skirt, a newer brown shirt, cinched at the waist. Her long brown hair is slightly disheveled; maybe. Brown, sensible sandals on her feet. A modern day hippie. That woman probably has only sensible thoughts in her head too. Drinks homemade carrot and wheatgrass juice in the mornings. She is probably everything Jolene has ever wanted to be. She has never wanted to be this tiny, blonde-bodied shell that she is housed in. A pat on the head and warm, sweet smiles. For fucksakes. Her whole life she has been indulged. She is a free-spirit too. A poet. Just like that woman walking by. She probably makes her living off her paintings, Jolene bets. Goddamn it. Why couldn't Jolene do that? She would never be taken as seriously as that woman is.
But she is—no, she was—mostly satisfied in her life. Thought everyone else in her house was too. But no. Her husband tells her he wants to be unfaithful, or maybe it is faithful because he is telling her that he wants to do this, and no, he has no intentions of leaving the marriage. He won't do it, if she says no, he tells her, but he really feels he just needs to do it. He loves her still. More than anyone else. More than the kids, Jo, more than the kids, but honestly, don't you ever just want to fuck someone else?

She was 15 years old when they met. He was going to be 20 in a few months. But he played hockey for an OHL team and her father loved hockey, so no big deal was made about his age. She was allowed out with him two nights a week. Just have her home by 11, then soon it was by midnight. On other nights, he would come sit with her on the porch or sit with her and her father in the front room watching hockey or baseball. Jolene's mom secretly hoped for grandbabies.

Of course she wants to fuck other men. Yannik Bisson. Tom Cruise with vampire hair. Zac Efron. She hadn't minded her daughter's High School Musical phase. She'd watch the girls over and over as they learned the dance routines and sometimes she even joined in. Much cleaner dancing than what she had been exposed to at the same age. She loves her husband the way that women who have only been with one man do. Faithfully. She doesn't think of other real men. It doesn't cross her mind.

Her head is too full as she runs. Full of the movie of her married life. The other times when things were not so good. She falls down, a dip in the path made from winter wear, and bearable pain. A voice behind her, a hand on her shoulder. "Let me help you."

Michael is remembering those times too. Like a few years back, when, for the first time, he wanted to strangle his wife's perfect little neck. He wanted to watch her all-knowing eyes bulge just for a second. No longer than thirty seconds. He's never imagined it longer than that. Don't judge. It helps him cope. There's some girls up in Toronto he can buy for that and a few other things, if she lets him do this. He would never do those things to her. She's too little. He loves her too much.

"One month," she says to him. And you can't be here."
"Whaddya mean I can't be here?" he says. "Where will I go."
"I don't know. And I don't care. We will tell the kids you are away for your job. Whatever. They're little, they'll believe what they're told. But I can't look at you coming home and wondering if...and what...and no."
He understands now. "Maybe I can stay with Brent."
"And--I'm not done--maybe I will too."
"Do what?" he asks.
"Do whatever, whoever I want."
"Jolene..." he begins, but can't finish. How do you explain your base perversions to your tiny, blonde wife? You don't. He knows she won't do anything or anyone anyway.

As it turns out, he doesn't end up doing much of anything for the month he's gone. He tries at first with a few of the big city bar flirts, but he either passes out or can't get it up. He starts think he doesn't want to lose a few hundred dollars to try out some of those other things he has always wanted to do.

But she does do something. When Michael calls her three weeks later and says he wants to come home early, Jolene makes him wait it out, so she can continue a little while longer.

Michael doesn't ever move out of the house again and twelve years turn to 22. Their last fight, that had been something else. A bad one. His finger, louder than his words, pointing and jabbing at her from across the supper table. “Fuck. You. Jolene.” Just like that. Right in front of the kids. But he took down the monstrosity he was building in the backyard. They both grudged for a week.

So maybe she's not so happy now. Nope, not too much these days. She's really not. She shakes her head and bites the inside of her lip and heads to the kitchen. She's waiting on a phone call. 6:16. And maybe, she figures, she will make them all one last meal. Who knows? Maybe she'll be getting herself out of here tonight.
But there is Michael on the floor, his face is pale burgundy, and she sees the relief in his eyes when he stretches his arm out towards her, at the same time the phone rings. She rushes over and picks up the handle and quickly places it back down. Holding the handle firmly, she wills herself not to cry, she counts to five, then picks it back up and dials for an emergency. She goes to Michael and cradles his head in her lap, fingers smoothing his hair, as they wait for the ambulance to arrive.

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