Wednesday, August 01, 2007

End of the Rat Race

In younger days, everything was equally urgent and all things were critical. Was she adorned in the latest fashions? Did he have the hottest car? Were they vacationing at the fanciest locales? Missing one step would devastate an entire month's image.

Something unreachable, invisible, just out of grasp, was always required to complete their happiness, leaving an unfilled void at all times. Someday, they might find "It" and then, suddenly, like the sun breaking through a stormy sky, everything would be perfect. Until then, additions kept coming, agendas overflowed, and dollars kept draining. Constantly striving for perfection, most times they overlooked what was good.

Their schedule was no longer their own. Fighting traffic for hours in late model autos serving as communication central, entertainment centers, and even mobile kitchens, they would text message "I love you" to each other a few times a day so they would have at least have some connection. Over time, even that became a preprogrammed memo stored in speed dial - intimacy with an efficient edge.

As the future became the past, the bills mounted, the pressures piled - the treadmill snapped.

"I'm not happy anymore," he said. He wasn't looking at her; instead his eyes were fixed on the almost-consumed cake with "Happy 45th" on the top. The guests had departed and his words bounced off blank walls and echoed as they fell heavy to the floor between them.

She was neither angry nor surprised. He was merely the first to say out loud what they both felt.

Marriage counseling, frustration, and crying (by both of them): a long road back but they made it. They had tried so hard to do everything perfectly, to lead a fantasy life; it almost cost them their own.

Now - tonight - she watched him cut through "75 Years Young" on the white frosting as the crowd sang "Happy Birthday," no one more enthusiastically than she.

When the guests left, as they lay in bed, he reached out and squeezed her hand gently.

"I love you more than I knew I could," he said as he was drifting off to sleep, "You're as beautiful as ever. I'm so lucky."

His eyes closed, a smile fixed on his lips.

Staring into the mirror across the bed, she saw deep lines etched in her face, white in her hair, spots on her skin, and a lovely, sleeping elderly man beside her. She put the book in her lap down, shut off the light, slipped under the blankets behind him, putting her head on his back and as she closed her eyes.

Funny how things turn out, everything now was as close to perfect as she ever imagined.

Note: this is a sequel to an earlier post. It was requested that I complete the story by a reader.

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