Every second Saturday
You’re awake early today. You get out of bed and run down stairs in your pajamas. It’s early enough that the cartoons are still on TV. Yes! Another few hours until all the good stuff makes way for live action teen comedies. You look up at the clock for the first time. 7 am. No one else is up yet.
You pile on the Coco Pops and drench them in milk. You love the slushy squelching sounds the cereal makes as you swirl it around. Bowl number one is okay but bowl number two is the best because the milk is already chocolatey brown by the time you’re ready for a re-fill.
The cereal box is showing signs of wear and tear. Too much wear and tear, you think. It’s only been two days since the big shop. She’s been refilling the same box with own brand Coco Pops! She didn’t think you’d notice but come to think of it, the milk isn’t as chocolatey as you remember. On any other day you’d confront her about the deception… but not today.
You look up at the clock again. Quarter past eight. She’ll be up soon. The eels start to swim in your stomach. That sickly nervous feeling starts to build. You check the calendar on the wall, just to make sure. In today’s box, handwritten, it says “weekend”. The box directly under today’s is blank and in the box directly under that it says “day”.
You worry that his calendar might be out of sync with yours. What if he doesn’t come today or if he thinks it’s a ‘day’ and not a ‘weekend’. Your calendar is never wrong but there’s only five pages left to turn over. What happens when you need a new calendar? You’ll have to make sure both of the new calendars are in sync.
Once he didn’t come and you worried that he’d come the next weekend instead but that would mean we’d be out of sync forever.
Today is a ‘weekend’, so you need to pack. You get dressed and throw two t-shirts, two pairs of socks and two underpants into a bag. You need two of everything just in case.
By half past eight you’re all ready. You leave your bag and coat by the door, just so you’re ready and he won’t have to wait. Don’t forget your toothbrush. You don’t need toothpaste. He’ll have toothpaste.
You look up at the clock. An hour and a half to go. You hear her moving around upstairs. You hear her coming down the stairs.
“You’re up and dressed early”, she says.
“Am I?”, you say.
You hope she knows what day today is and that it’s a ‘weekend’. You watch cartoons and try not to look up at the clock. Two more cartoons to go and then he’ll be here.
You look up at the clock. It’s half past nine. Nearly there.
“Where’s your bag”, she says.
“It’s by the door”
“Go get it for me, will you?”
She wants to make sure you packed everything correctly. You hand it over. Twenty minutes to go.
“You don’t have a shirt in here”, she says.
“What if you’re going somewhere nice, you’ll need a shirt”.
Seventeen minutes to go.
She re-folds your t-shirts and adds an extra shirt. You place the bag back next to the door. You want to put your coat on to save time but you have to wait until the doorbell rings. Then you can put your coat on.
You look up at the clock. Five minutes to ten.
The eels are really making waves now.
You’re not allowed to look out the window. You wait in the living room.
One minute to ten. You hope the doorbell doesn’t ring too early. You can’t go until after ten. If he rings it too early and doesn’t ring it again after ten, then you can’t go.
10 am. The eels are swarming around violently now.
You hope he doesn’t beep the horn again. If he doesn’t ring the bell you can’t go outside.
The bell rings. One short blast.
She looks out the window, to make sure he’s back in his car before she opens the door.
While she does that you put on your coat.
She opens the door and stands inside, out of sight.
“Give me a kiss”, she says.
You give her a kiss on the cheek and walk outside.
The street is deathly quiet. Your strides become more confident as you cross no man’s land. The sound of the door slamming shut behind, signals a sense of relief in your stomach. You breath in the fresh morning air. The day is full of potential. You wonder where you’ll go. You grab hold of the door handle and hop into the passenger seat.
“Ready to go?”, he says.
We pull out into the street and leave the house behind us. We’ll be back here again on Sunday night but right now that seems a whole world away.
Twenty five years later you find yourself back in the house as a visitor. You’re told to empty your clothes into the washing machine.
“I’ll just give them a quick spin”, she says.
“They’ll be ready before you go… When are you going?”
“He’s collecting me in the morning”. You say.
She doesn’t acknowledge what you said but you know she heard you.
You wake up to a text message the next morning. He’s on his way. He’ll be here in half an hour. You think; maybe you should have told him to collect you in a neutral location but he insisted it was no trouble. You wonder if he still remembers where the house is.
A fresh text message lights up your phone.
“I’m outside now.” It says.
You see the car out the window, waiting in the old spot.
“Alright, I’m off.” You say. But your bag is empty.
She’s re-ironing your shirts, carefully re-folding them and stacking them at the end of the ironing board.
“There’s no need to do that. He’s waiting outside”, you say.
“Let him fucking wait!”… She says. She doesn’t look up. She continues ironing and folding.
You feel the eels slither against each other again as they swill around in your stomach.
You don’t say anything.
She hands you the folded clothes and you stuff them in your bag.
“Okay, see you in a few days.” You say and walk out the door.
You hop in the passenger seat of the car. Neil Diamond is on the stereo. You remember it always being Neil Diamond or ABBA or Bagatelle.
“Ready to go?”, he says.
We pull out into the street and leave the house behind us. You think about telling him how awkward it was with her. But you don’t say anything.
“Took you a while to come out. Was she there?” he says casually, his eyes fixed on the road.
“Was… he there too?”
“Yeah, but he wasn’t up yet.”
“Likes to sleep in does he?”
“Ah.. yeah. I suppose.”
“Is he a good man? He is? You like him?” He says. Still eyes forward.
“Yeah, he’s grand. I like him.”
“So he’s a good man and you like him.
Is he a good looking man?...
Would you say?”
“Ah, I dunno… Not particularly. But I wouldn’t call him ugly.
He’s a middle aged man so…” You trail off. Then start again.
“Are you asking if I think he’s better looking than you?” You question back.
“Ah no. It’s just. They’ve been together…
It’s been a long time since I’ve been back here.
Knowing that she was just there. So close… Just inside there. You know?”
He doesn’t turn his head from the road. Either do you. You see something out of the corner of your eye. Is he..? You don’t want to know.
“Next time, I can meet you somewhere else.” You say.
“Yeah… okay.” He says.
“That might be the best thing to do alright.”