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Tuesday morning, as I drive to school saddled with the slight nausea most are saddled with these days as they head for work, I consider my wife back home who at the moment, unless I’m severely mistaken in other people’s routines, shoos my daughter into finishing her breakfast and getting dressed, before the homeroom nun has another conniption over someone’s being late. ‘Come one, come on,’ I can hear my wife shouting. Then she will prepare herself for the telemarketing job she says she hates. I believe her nausea is worse than mine, and so I praise her efforts every chance I get when she halfheartedly reports that, somehow, she managed to sell three items during her part-time hours, despite the fifty others who balked being solicited on the phone about Septic Helper and had no remorse slamming the phone in my wife’s callused ear. This is what she does five days a week, calling people to see if they need the company’s magic potion which supposedly dissolves—without chemicals—the nasty and shitty deposits that lodge in their septic tanks. Talk about nausea…
      As I reach the toll plaza, I whisper a prayer she have a reasonably good day because if she doesn’t, she will be inclined to slam things in my ear when I return home, things I don’t deserve to be badgered about, and yet what is displacement if not a verbal attack on the ones we’re most familiar with?
    This is why love always seems to operate best at eclectic distance: you can’t see that certain someone, so she automatically, almost unreasonably, becomes the best person in the Tri-State. I play a song on my tape deck about ‘two fine people who love each other,’ by Cat Stevens. I know my wife has heard this song many times and likes it. And maybe it’s this damn car-line I must contend with creeping snail-like to the toll booth, or maybe it’s my dread having to extract teeth as I cram Gulliver’s Travels down my students’ throats, or maybe it’s the sun’s angle in the March sky making the Throgs Neck water beautifully sparkle, or maybe it’s my far-fetched notion at this very moment my wife has the kitchen radio on and is hearing this song at the same time, well, for whatever reason, I’m overwhelmed by the music and wish like the dickens it was Saturday morning right now, now, and not Tuesday, a Saturday morning back home—the familiar vacuum cleaner picking up odds and ends accumulated during the week, and jabbering cartoon characters as you open your rested eyes—and after arising from bed like a sultan, with my sublimely wonderful wife and daughter, I’d enjoy delicious pancakes and discuss vacation plans for Lake George or seriously reminisce about the great time we had there last August.
     Instead it is brutal Tuesday. Just look at the other commuters’ faces, they’ll tell you, mired in Sisyphean routine and cell phones and cold coffee, inching, inching their way to the obscene toll booth to pay four bucks to cross the bridge to get to work, and then paying four bucks to get back home to their families, cursing, like me, the high tide of the plaza on Tuesday morning that mingles brine and exhaust. Meanwhile, my sublimely wonderful wife—the one Cat Stevens must have had in mind when he wrote this song—steels herself for the task awaiting her, like some  martyr in the nineteenth century working her fingers far below the epidermis and having long ago ceased wondering about the meaning of life because her life is so…so excruciatingly meaningful; absolutely, like some distaff martyr who cries because life is hopeless and beautiful, hopeless and beautiful, a pendulum that just won’t quit. Oh no, my eyes are gathering moisture too. Please, God, don’t let her die today, not today. Who spiked my orange juice this morning with Mickey Finn melancholia? Why does home usually seem the most idyllic castle, with its pliant portcullis, when the job one is dissatisfied with looms ahead with an alligator moat?
     Love always seems to operate best at eclectic distance, when neither can see the other, especially when you arrive home that afternoon and apparently your wife hasn’t a clue you were enraptured that morning with her superb sacrifice, and were even ready to canonize her.
     No sooner have I opened the door than she blurts out something about forgetting to take out the garbage can in the back when I left this morning and then she blurts out that my daughter didn’t finish the tuna fish sandwich carefully prepared the night before and then she blurts out something about how her car is making a funny sound in the motor and why can’t I, her uncaring husband, have the car serviced properly the way other husbands do, and then she blurts out something about this and that, and I know as surely as the horizon is high she’s had another bad day at work. I’m again stunned, as I stand in the doorway listening to this tirade, this contrast between how I was thinking about her this morning, and during most the day at school, struggling to get through my classes without impersonating a teacher, and what I’m on the verge firing back at her now, because, let’s face it, I’m in no mood to absorb her punches with impunity, equanimity, or a loving smile!
       “Shut up! Just shut up!” I yell at her, sure enough. “I just walked in the damn door…”

      This eclectic distance I gently built seven
hours ago has been ripped to shreds like the gossamer it had to be. Even more
absurd would be any attempt to tell her how noble and loving I felt seven hours
before, because I don't think I'd be able to endure, with any tranquility, her
rolling eyes at this silly, stupid romantic stuff, and more harsh words. One
day I will learn the art of motorcycle m


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Stephen Sangirardi

3 comments to Refusal

  • Bob Grant

    Welcome back Steve!

  • Steve, it could be worse — your wife could have your job and you could have hers. Or Bob Grant could’ve added, “Come back again when you can’t stay so long.” Or I might have said, “It COULDN’T be any worse because this is the best of all possible worlds” (at least until Trump makes our corner of it great again). So, you see, it’s all in your head — just give it a whack or two with your (t)rusty hammer and you’ll things in a whole new light of the stars.

    Have a great day (and night).

  • Reminds me of a cartoon. Husband has just come home, stands outside on the doorstep, shoulders despondent, clothing in disarray, looks like he’s been beat up by a welterweight champion. Wife has just opened the door, her frazzled condition maybe even worse than his. Husband can’t yet see, but behind Wife are four children who have trashed the house and are whaling away at each other. One of the adults — it’s not clear which — says to the other, “I won’t tell you about My Day, if you won’t tell me about yours.”

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