Jean Jaquan Vallee forgot he loved his wife, his coffee, and his daughter one winter morning. But autumn is a pretty season because it is slight and everyone thought so too. He woke up and sitting up on his bed, lingered for a moment like never before. It was a simple swipe of the head, a swiping of the view from left to right.
His wedding ring on his right hand caught his attention; he looked to his left again and saw his wife sleeping like a drunk sinking into a cold pavement. He felt a kind of tenderness for her, he thought, but it felt wretched par all to have to actualize this tenderness.
He tiptoed out of the room and shutting the door behind him, stood leaning there on the toilet door. He had noticed the tepid coffee on the table; his wife must’ve been up a while ago. He thought he heard her shuffling under the cover.
He felt a vein of dry air run through his sweaty hair. A faint blue light leaked from outside through the window. It was dawn but too early yet for the usual din. Only a crow cawed hoary through the silence. He felt peaceful. ‘Incredible,’ he thought gazing at the bluing sky. He walked cautiously to the window and peered out- the light all over his puffed face, and squinted his sleepy eyes. He could hear a neighbor snoring, like a truck rolling down a hill. He knew it was going to be a hot day. The path skirting the bottom of the apartment was strewn with fallen leaves that scattered with the wind. But it was dark still, and he couldn’t see so well. So he waited; just stood there at the opening to outside. He heard metal clanging to the floor in other livelihoods and decidedly walked out of the toilet and towards the front door.
He slipped on his soles and dipped his face into the colder hours of morning.
The alarm went off and she woke up on her husband’s side of the bed. She fixed her gaze halfway through the room at nothing. She looked at the coffee standing on the table, and stepped over to the window. It was another bright day. She took the coffee to the kitchen and drained it down the sink.
She rushed through the usual occupancies, locked the door behind her, all in no time- the calculated, deft movements of the likes of a priestly profession, and walked to the bus-stop.
Neighbors greeted her, passers-by smiled, acquaintances on their way to the market offered to relieve her of her grocery-duties and she would sway her head profusely, ‘Thanks, partner, but I’ll find the time.’ And everyone smiled from ear to ear, inquiring after Jean Jaquan’s health.
She worked at a bottling factory, separating green bottles from defective green bottles, as seen through safety glasses. It was better in the afternoon, when the sun shone through the bottles and the room fitted inside a kaleidoscope. But the work-rate secretly slowed down: with the rays piercing adroit eyes at awkward moments it became difficult to focus on faults in green bottles.
Aimee had worked here for the past twenty years and Jean a year or two less owing to his fancy forgetting. In the afternoons, when the work load wasn’t faint, only felt faint, the workers would relieve themselves from their spots and sneak out in pairs and trios, and watch cars careening by, raising dust and leaves behind it, as they stood huddled around a cigarette doing the rounds. Soon, Jaquan and Aimee had coupled up and were seen walking out grinning like madmen in the green gargoyle factory, cigarettes sticking out from behind their ears.
She strained her eyes detecting air-bubble holes and pinstripe chinks until she herself felt like a bottle. By four in the evening, the workers thought they clinked every time they bumped into one another. It was a weary dream.
She left for home by five, with the sun skidding through the clouds, far below and further below. She kept bobbing her head at intervals as she walked, sat or gasped, like still keeping a lookout for defective bottles interspersed on the conveyor belt. The bus lurched and a mewling baby shrieked louder, so the father harried the driver.
She de-boarded at her stop on a carpet of fiery autumn leaves crunching under her as she walked. She kept to the curb, following the trail blaze. Then took a shortcut through the park and the leaves still strewn everywhere, walked through a grove or two and sighted her husband struggling to walk through a thicket of flowering thistles.
‘Jean,’ she started. ‘Jean!’
He looked around in his pajamas and shirt, his face crusted with the same sweat and dust as his linen. He stood there, one hand coiled in a nimble grip and raised above his head, his expression upended.
‘Wait, let me help you.’
‘I’m not Jean, please…’
‘Someone had fun today… look at you.’ She giggled, occupying all her senses with the love of her life, a Jean Jaquan Vallee.
He faced away awkwardly and stretched his neck trying to catch the last rays of the sun through the squeaking branches of a huge sinewy tree.
She watched the setting sun adorning Jean’s wispy, tousled hair that curled and unfurled in the wind. He stood there disoriented, twitching his knees occasionally and clearing his throat.
‘I…,’ Jean turned and started at the same time as Aimee.
‘Here… What?’ She held out a wipe.
He brought forward his coiled fist, slightly fitted with a yellowing leaf with terrible leaf spots. Realizing his passions compromised, he reeled in and held out the other hand for the wipe.
‘Thank you,’ he muttered.
‘I’d have been at the park too, if not for work.’ She stepped closer by his side.
‘I did not have fun,’ he muttered between clearing his throat.
‘But it was a bright day today.’
He looked at her askew.
‘Yes. Do you think it’ll rain tomorrow?’
‘I don’t know. Didn’t seem likely, did it?’
‘But it might?’
‘Oh,’ she jerked her shoulders.
He turned and holding the leaf at his stomach like a possession started walking away. ‘I’ll stay here. Keep watch for rain clouds.’
‘Please, I have food at home and we can also keep an eye out for rain clouds.’
‘How far is it?’
‘So, I leave for work early. You can even stay in tomorrow if you want.’