ALISON WALLER - LIGHTSWITCH
“It’s not in here!” he projects through the crane of his neck, burying his eyes deeper in the drawer.
“Yes, it is! It’s always--” she pauses. “I’ll be right there!” she calls back, rolling her eyes as she laces the used hand towel through the silver ring on the wall. She spits her toothpaste over her shoulder into the sink.
He closes the drawer and places his weight into his elbows on the floor as he inches his torso closer to the ground. Agitated, he opens the drawer beneath the previous one.
“Not in this one either, Lin!”
“Well yeah, you didn’t listen to me. Typical,” she mutters under her breath as she closes the door to the master bathroom.
“Where are you?” he calls, exasperated.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” she ensures.
She flicks the lever of the lightswitch upward, illuminating the bedroom.
“You could’ve at least turned the light on,” she laughs.
“Shut up.” He replies, clearly acknowledging that she’s right.
Standing above him, she reaches down and playfully pinches the side of his ribs, causing him to yelp mercilessly and rollover.
“Stop!! Stop!!! Please!!” He pleads through his grin. She giggles as she sits on the warm patch of the carpet and shuts the bottom drawer. She pulls the handle to the middle drawer above the one she closed.
“See? It’s not in there” he exhales as he stands up, adjusting his shirt.
She begins to laugh as she pulls out a navy blue binder, “You mean this?” She grins.
“You said blue!” he exclaims.
She stares at him, confused. “This is blue.”
“No, it is not! That’s black!”
“It’s navy!!” She chuckles, “Are you going colorblind? We may need a new healthcare plan.”
He scrunches his face at her. “Look. When someone says to me, ‘it’s blue,’ what am I supposed to think? Usually, they would specify light versus dark blue. But you-- you just said ‘it’s blue.’ That says to me that it’s just regular bl--”
“You sound just like your father,” she teases.
“Hey!” He retorts defensively.
“Rich, I’m teasing,” she reassures, placing a small peck on his lips.
She sinks into the loveseat and opens up the binder, revealing pages of laminated photographs.
“Oh my gosh, look at you!” she cackles, pointing at a photograph.
“What?” He asks, scurrying to the sofa.
“What on earth were you wearing?”
“Hey! Those were my good pants!” he pouts.
“Oh please, the only good part about those pants is when I took them off,” she grins and turns the page.
“I’m… not gonna argue with that,” he smiles.
She examines closely on another picture, incomprehension splattered all over her face.
“When was this?” she asks.
“That…” he pulls the binder closer to him. “That looks like my parents’ old house.”
“Oh definitely,” she replies, peaking over his shoulder. “But when? And why did my hair look like that?”
He laughs. “It probably was some family birthday party. And no, you looked beautiful.”
“Looked?” She retorts, sarcastically shocked.
“Correct. Now you’re old,” he chuckles.
She punches his arm and snatches the binder back.
“Not only are you colorblind, but you’re also blind blind” she bites, looking back at the photos.
He laughs even harder, which triggers an enormous coughing fit.
“Who’s old now, sucker,” she smirks.
He glares at her, teasingly.
She continues to flip through the pages of the binder, growing more frustrated with each turn.
“What about that one?” He reaches over her to point to a photograph.
“Hmm. I don’t know how my mother will feel about that one,” she replies.
“Why? They look great!”
“Oh, I know. But she didn’t exactly… like my father’s parents,” she says with slight laughter in the foundation of her voice.
“Well, how many pictures do we need?” He asks, pulling the pillow out from behind his back and sitting it on his lap.
“Probably about 10,” she says with uncertainty.
“And how many photos of your parents do you have here?”
She holds back a grin, responding, “... Probably about 10.”
“Exactly, we don’t really have the room to be nit-picky.”
She nods in agreement and slips the photograph out of the sleeve. She hands it to him with her eyes still fixated on the other photos.
“Put this on the desk” she demands.
“No ‘please?’” he chuckles.
She rolls her eyes, “would you please do as I say?”
He proceeds to roll his eyes as well as he gets up off the sofa.
She continues to study each photograph, stopping after looking at one in particular. She immediately bursts into hysterical laughter.
“Rich!” She giggles.
“What?” He calls from the opposite side of the room.
“Remember Tim’s birthday party?” She asks, her eyes wide and full of amusement.
In an eruption of laughter, he hunches his back as his creased forehead collided with the top of the wooden framed desk. He chuckles through his crooked teeth, smacking his hand against the surface of the desk. He can hear his wife’s cackle swirl around him from the sofa. As his posture straightens, he laughs into his hands, which proceed to smooth over the bare skin on his balding head.
“I haven’t thought about that in at least a decade.”
He has another coughing fit as she closes the binder.
“Remember his face?!” She says, barely able to squeeze the words out between the thick laughter.
His feet drag behind him as he laughs and hacks up a lung, making his way to the couch.
“His face, Rich!!” She practically yells.
He plops his body on the sofa next to her as his laughter slowly dies down.
“Can I at least see the picture?” He asks, regaining strength.
“Yes, yes.” She replies, opening up the binder and flipping through the pages of photographs that she has already scanned.
She points to a photo at the top of the page, and he leans down closer to see it.
“Who is that in the background?” He observes.
“Oh crap… His name starts with a C.” She taps her fingers against the binder as she thinks.
“Chris?” He looks back at her with enthusiasm.
“No, you’re thinking of Chris Fredding,” she dismisses.
“Right” he sinks a little into his seat.
“This is going to kill me,” she says, putting her head in her hands.
“Well that’s not saying much, you’re pretty damn old,” he snickers.
“I’m 53, Rich!!” she snaps.
“That is over half a century, you know,” he grins.
“You little-- Clark!” She shouts.
“I’m a ‘Clark?’” He replies, confused.
“No! Clark Jacobson!” She says confidently.
“Yes! That’s it!” He replies, sitting back up.
“That’s hilarious.” She sighs as she turns the page.
“This yours?” He asks, gesturing to a glass half empty of water on the coffee table in front of them.
“From hours ago.” She snorts.
“Good enough.” He takes a sip of her water while looking off into the wall, zoning out, as she examines another photograph.
She laughs again, nudging him with her elbow, causing the meniscus of the water to tremble. He looks over at the photo that she is pointing at.
“I can’t believe I put in a picture of me and Brett,” she shakes her head in amusement and begins to turn the page.
He puts his hand on the page to restrict her from turning it.
“Who?” He asks in a low, hushed tone.
“Who’s Brett?” He asks again, colder, looking intently at the washed-out photograph. It featured a tall, handsome man in a red basketball jersey; it brought out the orange in his coiled hair. His perfectly straightened teeth shine in the flash.
Through the picture, he can simply smell the extensivity of cheap cologne oozing from his pores as he sings his arm around a small and thin woman-- his wife.
The glare of the ceiling light conceals her identity, only revealing an oversized men’s sweatshirt draping down her bare mid-thigh.
There is an overwhelming amount of commotion in the background, he can practically hear the thunderous music accented by all the drunken slurs and obnoxious laughter.
The handsome man and the skinny woman hold red solo cups together, hers with pink lipstick smattered around the ridges.
“Brett Todrick, don’t you remem--” She stops the sound of her voice while turning the page, exasperated. “I don’t want to talk about it. I’m sorry for pointing it--”
“Who is Brett Todrick?” He asks with his tone growing more stern, standing up.
Intimidated, she repositions herself and puts the binder on the coffee table.
“Please Rich, this was decades ago.”
“Who the hell is Brett Todrick!” He shouts again, nudging his foot against the base of the coffee table, causing the water to spill all over the binder.
“Shit!” She reaches for the binder.
He snatches the binder out of her reach and throws it across the floor. “I don’t give a damn about that binder.” He sneers through his teeth.
She slowly stands up, “You need to relax, right now.”
“Relax?! You’ve kept this from me. And you were with me then.” He jabs, getting in her face.
“I told you about Brett! We sat and cried and yelled and apologized and… and everything!” She assures, taking a step back.
“You’re delusional. Then why do I not remember a goddamn moment of that, Linda?!” His knuckles turning white.
“I- I don’t know?! We’re old, remember?” She says, trying to make light of the situation.
“Don’t you fucking laugh at me--”
“Tell me every goddamn detail of this ‘Brett’ of yours or I swear I’ll--”
“Are you threatening me?!” She takes another step back.
“WERE YOU CHEATING ON ME?!”
Each syllable spewing out of his mouth strips away every inch of saturation on her face.
Silence peels apart the walls of the room, shred by shred.
He begins to pace the room, bursting with emotion.
“Linda…” He presses his hands against the wall.
“I can explain.” She pleads, looking at the blue veins bulging through the tough skin on his hand by his side.
He sits down and rests his feet improperly on the coffee table. He gestures to her with his arms that it’s time for her to talk; she has the floor. She slowly takes a breath, regaining her strength.
“Brett was a Theta Chi, whom we partied with a lot--”
“Rich, please just let me talk--”
She sighs and looks down again.
“Your first year in a sor--”
“Yes, I know I was stupid okay?! Just, please. Let me talk.”
He stares intently at her.
“We were good friends, as a lot of my sisters were with the guys--”
“Stop trying to justify--”
“Richard!!” She screams as she stops her foot. “Please. Let me speak. I know what I did was wrong, but do you want to know or not?!”
He says nothing.
“We spent a lot of time together at our parties, but he clearly wanted to be more than just friends,” she says, her voice starting to shake.
She brushes her hair behind her ear.
“But, I was not interested in him. I was very invested in my relationship with you, despite what you may believe. However, I…” she crinkles her nose, “I did find him to be… attractive. Very attractive.” She pauses. “All my sisters wanted me to be with him, but I wanted to be with you.”
He repositions himself on the couch, avoiding eye contact.
“One night, I was extremely drunk and…” her voice trails off.
She huffs and looks at him, ”Rich we’ve already talked this through years ago I really don’t want--”
“No, we did not! You--” he sighs, the steam puffing out of his ears smears defeat across his face. “Just tell me, please,” he mumbles through his hands, bathing in the sweat on his forehead.
She says nothing.
“Linda!!” He stands up.
“Sit down,” she growls.
He angrily obliges.
“One night, I was drunk at a party, and he was there. And… And we talked. A lot. There was so much conversation and music around us though that it was difficult to hear one another… so we went into one of his frat brother’s bedrooms and continued to talk. About college, life, a lot. And before I knew it… we… “ she bites on her lip, eyes fixated on the old and stained carpet.
“We were kissing. And… one thing led to another and…” she wraps her left arm around her torso, as her right-hand rubs her temple. “I… I slept with him.”
The remaining oxygen in the turned stale, inconsumable.
She stares at the lightswitch on the wall, focusing on the fingerprints plastered all over the white frame.
He lifts his head from his hands and releases them against his thighs. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but he refrains and bites down on his lip.
Slowly, he stands up. He walks right past her without even looking at her. He slams the door behind him.