“Honey, I’m taking a bath,” Craig said as I was leaving. “Can you get that stuff on the list?”
“Of course,” I said, grabbing the list from the table.
The list read:
Bicycle tire pump
I thought I heard him shout “I love you” as I closed the door but couldn’t be sure over the running water.
I waited for the garage door to rise then drove out of our cookie-cutter cul-de-sac and down our cookie cutter street and out of our cookie cutter housing development. The winter had been long and gray, but the promise of Spring poked through the clouds just often enough to keep me hopeful. I passed a dozen nearly identical housing developments, then the part of the drive where there was nothing (yet), before reaching the commercial district.
After finishing my list at the Target, I remembered Craig’s list. What I couldn’t remember was the last time he’d run a bath. He was a wake up, get in, get out of the shower kind of man. At least when he still went into the office. His alarm always sounded first and countless mornings I laid there awake, willing him to summon me into the shower, which he never did, but then again, I never imparted my will either, so who was I to really blame?
The pandemic hit Craig hard. His job went remote, and he hated not being as socially active as he once was at endless company happy hours that offered reason not to be home with me. That would have afforded him the luxury to not be home with the child coming. The child that just kicked. The child that was Craig’s even though he wouldn’t believe it.
I was only with Kevin once.
I’d had too many drinks at Craig’s company Christmas party. I knew everyone there but knew no one. I found Kevin outside smoking. I drank a whiskey soda that was a lot whiskey and a little soda. We talked for too long and too secluded by the fire pit about tv shows we liked and music we hated. Eventually I pulled him into a coat closet.
I apologized and I meant it and Craig promised we could get past it, but I wasn’t convinced.
I went to the hardware section for the duct tape. I went to the garden section for the trowel and the hornet killer.
I got a text from Craig: I love you and despite our problems, I cherish the time we’ve spent together.
Over the store’s loudspeaker someone said, “Jeffrey, your mom is looking for you. She’s at the Starbucks. Come there now.”
The heads of every woman over twenty-five spun in horror.
I went to sporting goods for the bicycle tire pump. Bed and bath for the towels. The galoshes I couldn’t make sense of, but I went to the shoe section and picked out a pair in Craig’s size.
Before driving home, I queued up “Big Me” by the Foo Fighters. The song reminded me of my adolescence. Years before I’d ever gaze upon Craig. I wouldn’t have given Craig the time of day then. He didn’t have long hair. He didn’t have holes in jeans. He didn’t wear flannel.
I took a longer way home and played the song three times.
I placed the bags on the kitchen island. I walked upstairs and heard music.
As I got closer to the bathroom, I made out Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues.”
I turned the knob.
I noticed the water gushing over the side of the tub first, which wasn’t so much all red as it was tinged. Then I noticed the post-it on the mirror: put on the galoshes and use the bath towels.
In the weeks that followed, I thought about the rest of the list. I also thought about how surprised I’d been. Most men go fast with a gun shot. I never imagined Craig had it in him to slice himself and quietly bleed out in our bathtub. If anything could be found to admire, it was that.
It hit me one day while sitting on the couch that spring had finally arrived. I was just beginning to show. The warm sun shining through the back windows willed me outside.
I rolled the bike from its tucked away spot in the garage and then out toward the street, but it rolled funny. I looked down and the tire was flat. I couldn’t help but laugh. I used the pump to fill the tire and went for a ride.
The following week, I decided to tackle the backyard. Spring had fully bloomed.
I carried the garden trowel outside. I wanted to focus on the flowerbed. I opened our pitiful garden shed and was swarmed by hornets from a nest just over the door. I got out mostly unscathed and used the hornet killer to kill the hornets.
Inside the shed there was a plastic flowerpot full of seed packets. I’d considered buying flowers from the home and garden store and planting them, but I wanted to watch something new grow.
I decided to plant only daffodils.
After weeding the flowerbed, I used the garden trowel and planted the seeds. The only thing left was to water them so I went to the shed for the watering can. I carried it over to the hose. As it filled, I noticed the base of the spout was cracked and had come loose from the rest of the body. I shook my head in disbelief and went inside to get the duct tape to fix it.