Feb 4 2013 Studio30 Writing Prompt
“That was Awkward”
They walked around the mall for a short while until they came to a store specializing in clothes that would actually work for her. Holding hands they entered and spoke with a saleslady. It only took a few minutes before she had assembled a lovely suit jacket, blouse, skirt and a broach to hold a silky scarf in place or accent the lapel.
“Your wife will really wow everyone at the office in this outfit,” the saleslady told Daddy as she totaled the purchase on the register. “Won’t your mommy look beautiful?” she asked the young girl. The girl smiled and nodded. She was glad Mommy’s birthday was today so they didn’t have to wait to surprise her.
That evening after dinner and cake, Daddy disappeared into the garage and returned with his present still in the beige plastic bag over the hanger.
“What’s this?” asked Mommy without getting up.
“A birthday present,” the girl squealed.
“What did you do?” Mommy asked Daddy.
“Nothing big,” answered Daddy. “Just something for your birthday.” He made his way clumsily around the dining room table trying to squeeze between the walls and the dining room chairs without bothering to push them in. The table shook when he bumped it and Pepsi sloshed over the tops of the glasses.
“I wish you’d be more careful,” Mommy said. She stood and laid napkins on the spilled liquid then sat down heavily and sighed.
Daddy stood near her chair and held the hanger high.
The little girl was disappointed there were no bows or wrapping paper. She watched her mother put a hand on the table to push herself to stand. She wasn’t smiling.
Daddy held the hanger while Mommy struggled to untie the knot at the bottom of the plastic bag. Finally she lifted the bag up, a little at a time, but she still wasn’t smiling. She didn’t unwrap her present the way the little girl usually unwrapped them. And Mommy didn’t gasp or smile the way other people unwrapped presents.
Mommy looked at the suit, still held in the air by Daddy but he was now leaning on a chair. He watched Mommy’s face and pushed the hanger a little toward her. She sat down and cried.
“This isn’t what I wanted,” she muttered. “This is not what I wanted. I told you I wanted a new dishwasher.”
“Well, that’s not a birthday present,” Daddy said, still holding up the suit.
“I’m never going to wear it,” she said and didn’t look at him, the suit, or her little girl. When she cried, she didn’t look like the women from commercials who cried when they opened jewelry boxes and brushed twinkling tears from smooth cheeks that were a little pink. Her mom’s tears ran over cheeks with brown spots and red splotches. Her mom cried loud and her chest heaved and she covered her face with her hands.
“I don’t know what you were thinking,” Mommy wailed, each word punctuated by a sob. “You never think about what I want. It’s always about you!” she shouted.
“I’m sorry,” he said but it sounded fake to the little girl. “I thought you would like this!” He shook the suit in the air and leaned his body over her crying one but she didn’t look at him.
“When do I ever dress like that?” she swatted the suit away. “When do I ever even look at those kind of clothes? No one in my office dresses like that! I’d look ridiculous!” She pushed away from the table and stood, still crying and grabbed the box of tissues from the windowsill. She blew her nose loudly and moved away from her husband and the empty suit. The little girl sat quietly and watched.
Mommy pushed the pile of unfolded laundry to one side of the couch and sat down, shading her eyes with one hand. She used tissue after tissue to wipe her eyes and nose and the sweat from her forehead.
Daddy hung the suit on the doorknob of the coat closet that still needed the old hook holes spackeled and painted not to mention the new hooks hung up. Coats laid in a small pile on the closet floor mostly covering their shoes. The broken umbrella still leaned in the back corner of the closet.
Daddy lumbered into the living room and fell into his armchair, his body expanding until it completely filled the seat. The cushions that were supposed to decorate the chair, stayed stuffed under the chair basically hidden by the overflowing newspaper rack next to Daddy’s chair.
“Well, you can just return it,” he said and reached for the remote.
She laughed with her eyes still covered.
“And why can’t you return it?” she dropped her hand and jabbed a finger in the air at him. “Now I have to walk in there with this…this…outfit that I would never wear and stand there and make up some stupid reason why it won’t work for me or isn’t my color. You always do things like this to me.”
He continued watching TV and the little girl sat at the dining room table sticking her finger through a hole in the vinyl tablecloth. It was soft and fuzzy underneath and she liked how it felt.
“I’ll take it back later,” he said after a long time of quiet but without looking at her.
“You can’t ‘take it back later.’ there are limits on how long they’ll take clothes back but you wouldn’t know that because you never buy your own clothes, or the kid’s clothes, you always expect me to do it. Like I’m your personal shopper. I have to know what you like and don’t like, your favorite color or what looks too much like the colors of some stupid sports team I’m supposed to know about.” She waved her arms in the air in a helpless way. “And then I have to listen to you complain about how nothing I picked out fits you right and that’s might fault, too.”
“That’s enough,” he said.
“Don’t tell me that’s enough,” she said. “I know your family blames me. Your mother has said it more than once. ‘Why did you let him get like this?’ she asked me. And I didn’t say anything. I didn’t tell her how you buy crap food and make us eat it and how you buy too much and tell me it shouldn’t go to waste or put too much on my plate and act offended if I don’t finish it. I didn’t tell her how you drink a six pack of beer in one night sometimes and eat a whole pizza and then lay around the next day like you’re some poor sick baby!” Her voice rose higher and higher. He sat there and watched TV and finally she leaned back into the couch and cried.