“Shonda, look!” James exclaimed. Shonda was looking. Looking right out the window. She was looking as far as she could see. If she could have, she would have looked her way right out of that car, right out of her marriage, right out of her life. Not life itself, let there be no mistake about that, but her life. The one with all the mistakes. The one where she was married to a shoe salesman.
“Remember those orange shoes. Those prison orange shoes. The one that I told the boss he should send back because no one would buy them.”
Never one to miss the chance to correct him, she abruptly added, “The shoes you came running home to tell me about when someone bought them. The shoes that got you in a sour mood when I told you that you shouldn’t cut down your boss. Especially when it comes to decisions that he makes about the business he’s running.”
Shonda added to the mental hash marks she had acquired against him. James 36- Shonda 4078. Poor James couldn’t have even been right 50 times in 10 years of marriage. Not 5 times a year, not even every other month could he be right. Shonda had enjoyed it, particularly how every hash mark seemed to make him a bit shorter than he had been before.
He resolved to be silent. If he did not speak, she could not prove him wrong. Without that, she was nothing but a drain on the household economy. It would have been perfect if he could have pulled it off. You could tell that he couldn’t by just looking at him. If he got shorter and shorter every time she cut him down, those missing inches found their way to his waist. The members of his hairline were abandoning ship one-by-one. One-by-one isn’t too bad except when they are so anxious to leave that you have to wonder if they were taking numbers. The sweat stains on his shirt looked, even from a distance, like rings of frustration. No, this was not a man capable of orchestrating a silent treatment.
“There she is.”
“What are you saying now, James?”
“There she is. The woman who bought the orange shoes. I just thought you might want to see her.”
“Why would I want to see one of those discount shoe store shoppers?” She laughed as if she were somehow of a different caste than he. She laughed as if a discount shoe salesman/ice truck driver/midnight shift stocker wasn’t the man working three jobs so that she didn’t have to buy discount shoes. She laughed like she laughs when she beats him out of the driveway, he on his way to work and she on her way to the mall to buy things that will never divorce their price tags.
Despite the laughter, she looked up and saw a woman jogging, striding down the freeway naked, with the exception of those shoes. Instinctively Shonda took stock of the woman. She was young and taut. If she had a husband at home, she wouldn’t have all of that time for working out.
“What are you looking at?” Shonda accused James.
“Why can’t you talk nice to me sometimes,” James asked her, softly, still staring after his customer.
“Talk nice to you so you can feel warm inside while you watch these girls.” Shonda’s disgust dripped from her lips like blood from a boxer’s wound. Her condescension was strong enough to shroud the forest of jealousy that had sprung up around her.
Never before had James wanted to hit Shonda, but something vicious roused from its dormancy. It was hungry, it wanted to devour her. It told him that she had better be glad that they were stuck in the middle of traffic with so many witnesses. He knew that there were people with cameras ready to record the colors of his rage, crimson, cranberry, scarlet, the colors of her blood, poppy, brick, fire-engine. He bit at the insides of his mouth, not enough to draw blood, but enough to taste it, enough to keep him from hitting her, from grabbing her by the hair and pushing her face toward the dashboard. He wondered what it would feel like to break her nose.
“What’s the matter, James? You don’t hear me?” Shonda asked.
“What’s the matter with you? You can’t work?” The dam was weakening, the deluge growing nearer.
“What did you say to me, James?”
“You know what, Shonda, all I want to know is whether you saw the shoes?”
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