Forty minutes later Frank arrived at the brick ranch style house that he’d won in the divorce.
He’d put up a vigorous, if not downright nasty fight to keep the house out of the hands of his ex-wife and her lover. After all, she was the one who had cheated on him, not the other way around. Why should he pay for her adultery? Let her new husband buy her a house. This one was going to stay his until he found someone, other than Karen, to buy it from him.
He sat in the car, in front of the house, trying to see it the way a prospective buyer might. The lawn was a tangled shabby overgrown mess. Mottled brown patches of dead grass were spread in a random pattern across its surface. The windows were crusted over with dirt. The red brick exterior of the house was badly in need of washing or sandblasting or whatever it is that they do to keep brick looking nice. Old newspapers cluttered the front doorstep.
“The house looks sad,” he thought, but that would be impossible. Houses aren’t sad – people are sad. But what if the person living in the house is sad, maybe then the house begins to reflect that person’s sadness. And he had to admit the house held bad memories for him. It was a testament to his failure as a man and as a husband. If he was ever going to recover from the divorce, he had to get out of this house so he could move on.
The passion had crept out of their marriage like a slow leak in a tire. One minute they were rolling along happy and confident and then everything went flat.
About three years in, their marriage had gone flat. They kept having the same arguments about the same old things. He’d stopped listening months ago but had learned not to interrupt her rant. She went on longer if he did. All he had to do was grunt at the appropriate intervals.
Even sex was the same – it happened on the same night of the week — right after the News but before Oprah — in the same position, with the same strokes and touches, and with the same groans.
It had been Karen’s idea to have a baby. In retrospect, he should have known better, he thought. It had been Karen’s idea to date, Karen’s idea to become engaged, Karen’s idea to get married, and Karen’s idea to buy this house.
She said a baby would rekindle their relationship. He just wanted some peace and quiet and to be left alone in his home.
“I don’t know Karen, things are pretty good the way they are.”
“No, they’re not Frank and we can’t go on this way. We’re drifting apart. We need something to bring us closer together. A baby would do that, Frank. A baby would make us a family.”
He wondered if she were saying those same words to Stanley, now. “Stanley the Stud. Stanley the baby maker. Stanley would give her the baby he couldn’t.
Stanley the baby maker had made love to Karen in this house – the house that he’d worked so hard to get for her. “And damn them to hell, in his bed.” The fuckers didn’t even have the decency to use the spare bedroom.
He decided to leave the car parked the front so that the real estate agent would know he was home, but then he thought better of it. Every since the incidence with Karen and Stanley, he followed a strict routine with regards to entering his home.
They’d tried for a year, to have a baby, with no success. After their last failure to conceive, Karen was determined to have some answers. She made an appointment with a fertility clinic. That was the beginning of the end.
The fertility docs could find nothing that would prohibit Karen from conceiving. They insisted she was fertile and should have conceived a child with ease. They were the ones who had suggested to her that she might want to bring her husband in for testing.
He remembered the argument had been loud – one of their worst, but in the end he had agreed to go. The testing had confirmed what he’d known all along since his stint in the Army. He had an extremely low sperm count.
“I’m sure the Army doctors explained to you, Mr. Roberts — the doctor looked directly at him while he spoke, ignoring the strained look on Karen’s face, that your low sperm count was caused by the accident you had. It will make it difficult, but not impossible for the two of you to conceive a child. I have here some things I’d like the two of you to try”, he said while handing him a picture book of sexual positions with a prescription taped to the front. The ride home was long quiet and awkward. He searched for something to say, but Karen had shut down. He had expected her to do one of her hour long triads.
All the signs of her affair were there for him to read. He just pretended not to notice them. That is until Karen slapped him across the face with her adultery.
He’d come home from a particular difficult case that had had him out of town for weeks and found the two of them in his bed. The way the stage was set, front door unlocked and unchained, candles lit, and romantic music playing, he knew Karen had intended for him to catch her. Clearly, she wanted out of their marriage.
In stunned disbelief, he quickly backed out of the bedroom so as not to disturb the couple making love in his bed. He felt as though he was having a heart attack. His heart pounded wildly in his chest and he was having difficulty catching his breath. All he could hear was the swish of the blood rushing through his ears.
He went into the living room and poured himself a drink, sat down on the sofa, and waited from them to finish. He wanted to get his gun and shot the both of them. Thank God his legs were too weak to carry him across the room to the closet where he kept his gun. His head ached something fierce and his vision was getting blurry. He raised the glass of whiskey to his lips again.
The sun was beginning to set and streaks of blood were splashed across the evening sky. Neighbors walked pass his front door, on the way to their loving and faithful spouses, unaware of what was going on inside.
Karen’s moans were getting louder. He poured himself another drink and called the Police to report a burglar.
She seemed genuinely surprised when the two cops, he’d called, burst through the bedroom door.
Rage was all that he’d had left back then and rage is what he’d use to get this house.
He’d stood up in open court and said, “Your Honor, I don’t feel it’s my responsibility to provide a home for an unfaithful wife and the man she brought into my home to screw – in my bed – while I was out working to pay the mortgage on that house.” The judge a white man in his late fifties had agreed with him, awarding him the house and Karen the contents thereof.
With a heavy sigh, he started backing the car out of the front driveway – deciding instead to park the car in the back by the garage. As he was backing out, he noticed with further sadness a bald spot on the lawn left by the moving truck Karen had rented.
That day was not one of his better moments as a human being, he thought. The rage inside him had reached an all time high, couple that with the fact that he’d been drinking all day, he made a mistake. One that pretty much assured that he would never get Karen back.
When he got the news that Karen and Stanley – Stanley the wife stealer — were engaged, he decided to get even.
It was a typical winter’s day in Baltimore — rainy, cold, and dark. Somewhat like tonight. In fact, tonight’s weather had stirred up a lot of the old memories.
Megan O’Shaunessy their next door neighbor and Karen’s best gal pal in the neighborhood saw what was happening and had called the newly engaged couple who immediately raced over.
He’d had every stick of furniture, every dress, every necklace, every shoe – anything that she’d left in the house — everything that she valued as hers — set out on the lawn. Karen was inconsolable when she saw the damage done to her things.
Stanley, the baby maker, had rushed across the lawn and pounded the front door with his fists in a futile attempt to get at him. That had given him a moment of triumph and dignity. It still made him smile thinking about the two of them rushing around in the rain trying to save Karen’s things.
He’d stood at the living room window finishing off a bottle of Scotch and chain smoking as he watched the movers load the last of his hopes and dreams into a moving van.
The navy blue Ford Taurus backed skillfully down the front driveway into the street and navigated the few feet it took to turn into the back driveway.
He could tell by the way Frank drove that he wasn’t drunk, at least not yet. But knowing him, in a few hours he would be. All he had to do was wait.