The Tradeoff

 

Ezra grabbed his pipe and headed out the door. He walked behind the garage and out of the wind.  Holding the bowl of the briar pipe, he filled it with Cavendish from a pouch. The flame of his lighter bent into the bowl as he inhaled in short gasps. The glowing tobacco soon released a familiar otherworld aroma that pleased Ezra at times like this.

Only moments before Delores had been yelling, nose to nose, at Ezra, her white spittle flecking his face.  “You’re a mealy-mouth pea brain,” she told him.

Now no matter how he figured, Ezra was never sure about what it was that added up to make Delores so furious almost every night. She did find him once looking at a woman posed in a two-piece bathing suit on the internet.  And that night she accused him of adultery. And after that night Ezra wouldn’t be allowed to ever to forget the error of his way. Delores’ slurred ‘reminders’ of that day were so often and so vivid that Ezra became a serial “adulterer” by proxy.

But Ezra was sure that the Margaritas and wine Delores had been drinking before he came home from work had taken possession of her. There would be no reasoning with Delores that night. Time and a safe distance would be required to maintain Ezra’s sanity, but face to face rebukes and then a full-throated rejection would have to come first.

Burning with alcohol fueled anger Delores would declare, on more than one occasion, “I am going to my mother’s house for the night!”

And so off she went. And each time she did Ezra wanted to call the police and tell them that Delores had been drinking and shouldn’t be driving. But he did not call. What if she accused Ezra of abuse or something else just as crazy as what he was hearing night after night? Her amplified “righteous” indignation seemed to know no bounds. And though he hated himself for not calling the police he also wanted to be rid of the madness for a few hours. In the still house Ezra thought of his kids, asleep in the car, and cried.

Though Ezra couldn’t define what ignited Delores’ anger for days on end, he did know what irked him. When asked by a marriage counselor what each of them wanted from the other, Delores said “words of affirmation.” Ezra took this to mean “show Delores that he loved her.”  And though he awoke early and had taken her coffee and chocolates to her bed in the morning before going to work and had often given her flowers, he wasn’t verbal to the extent Delores was. He had to work out the words of love.

In the same counseling session, Ezra had asked Delores to have coffee with him in the morning before he left for work. The afternoon return home would be filled with the kids and Delores wanting attention from him. But time spent with Ezra in the morning would never happen. Delores’ late night wine drinking and movie habit had her sleeping in past the time Ezra went off to work. Ezra never did work out the words to say what bothered him, though each day came and went as before. But Ezra didn’t need words for a pipe in his hand and the smell of pipe tobacco in the air. On his fiftieth birthday he had bought a pipe.

Reflecting night after night with pipe and a briar of glowing Cavendish and at a distance from the incendiary, Ezra soon came to realize that his fallible existence was Delores’ problem.  Delores had come into the marriage hoping that Ezra would make all things new. She wanted someone to take her in, to cover her mortality with a cloak of look-the-other-way love and be the transcendent one – a kinsman redeemer. But the Fallible One turned out to be a “mealy-mouth pea brain” that could do no right. The Fallible was to be put out, the embers dumped and scattered. After a year of paralyzing quarrels and unrelenting verbal abuse, Delores told Ezra that she wanted a separation. “Get out or I will force you out!”

Upon hearing these words, Ezra grabbed his pipe and headed out the door. He walked behind the garage and out of the wind. Holding the bowl of the briar pipe, he filled it with Cavendish from a pouch. The flame of his lighter bent into the bowl as he inhaled in short gasps. The glowing tobacco soon released a familiar otherworld aroma that pleased Ezra at times like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Sally Paradise, 2016, All Rights Reserved

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