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|Thu, 04-12-2001 - 2:50pm|
The daylight in the room was receding.
None of the lamps were lit while Jimmy sat on the old recliner in the living room. He hadn't notice the lack of light or the sounds of the busy street three stories below the apartment. He was deep in thought, deep in regret. This might be the very last time that he would be in this apartment; it was the place that he and Marie moved into after their divorce when they realized that they needed to be with each other. This was the place where it was hoped they would rebuild their life together.
But it hadn't worked out. Again.
He and Marie had been married for five years when they had gotten the first divorce. And a hell of a time that was for Jimmy. She managed to get the shark of all sharks for her lawyer, and Jimmy had spent months scrambling for enough money to pay for all of Marie's demands.
He still didn't understand why she had made the divorce so hard on him. He had never put up a fight at any time throughout their married life. He had always gone along with whatever she had wanted.
Well, he tried.
But his job meant long hours and irregular schedules. Marie knew about his job when they got married. He was an independent cabbie, and he had to hustle to make a buck. Yet, Marie started to resent all the hours he spent in the cab. She started to complain that he was never home, but when he took time off, she complained that the money was too tight.
Jimmy had tried to make her happy, but one day Marie stood in front of him and declared that the marriage wasn't working. He'd never seen it coming. After the lawyers milked him for every last cent he had, the divorce had finally gone through.
Three months later, with nothing in his dump of a lonely apartment to eat, he had gone to get supper in the neighborhood diner where he and Marie used to go all the time. When he walked in, he looked toward the booth that he and Marie had thought of as theirs, and had been disappointed to see it was occupied. He could see the top of someone's head over the high back of the booth, so he sat down in the booth next to it.
He had heard the sound of gentle weeping when he slid in, and before he knew what he was doing, he had climbed up on his knees to peek over the back of the booth, into the one next to it. The second he looked at the woman crying there he knew that he had recognized the sound. It was Marie crying in the booth. Their booth.
He will always remember that moment. Her big brown eyes were red when she looked up. When she saw him, her face first registered amazement that he was there, and then the expression turned into a look of pure, beatific joy.
It was the sweetest moment in his life.
Marie stood up then and embraced Jimmy, telling him that she missed him more than she could say. Three weeks later they had found a new apartment and had married again, in a civil ceremony at City Hall.
In a bar, the night before the second wedding, Robert, his oldest buddy, had patted Jimmy on the back and, laughing loudly, declared that Jimmy was a braver man than he was. Robert had bought the bar two rounds of drinks, toasting to Jimmy's happiness, calling out that Jimmy needed all the best wishes for luck that his friends could contribute.
He was a good friend and now, a year later, Jimmy was waiting for Robert to pick him up from what was soon to be his ex-apartment.
He sat in the growing darkness in his favorite chair, the green leather recliner, which he was going to leave with Marie. Robert was also divorced and Jimmy was going to stay with him until he could find a new place. There wasn't any money to pay for storage and Jimmy had no stomach to fight over possession of anything with Marie, so he wouldn't be seeing any of his furniture again.
It was only a short month ago that Marie had faced Jimmy and told him that it wasn't working, that they were too alike and that the second marriage still had all the problems of the first. Jimmy had been as surprised at the second breakup as he had been at the first. He thought they were doing OK. Marie was always a little moody and Jimmy made sure not to make waves. He had kept quiet, as usual, doing what he was asked to do around the house and minding his cab. He hadn't seen the second breakup coming at all
Sitting living room now, he still did not understand how he had once again failed Marie and his marriage. He felt like a stupid two time loser.
Maybe if he still had his hair, it wouldn't have happened again?
He glanced at his watch. It was early. He had told Robert to pick him and the last of his things at up five, an hour before Marie was due home from her job, but Jimmy had fewer things to take with him than he thought. He had finished packing quickly.
Suddenly he remembered that there were cans of beer in the fridge. Marie didn't like beer and Jimmy thought that a few cans would go down good right then, to celebrate yet another bad milestone in his life. Wearily he lifted his thin frame out of the chair and he slumped into the kitchen.
He had switched on the overhead florescent light and was already sucking at an opened beer can when his eyes happened to settle on the refrigerator door.
In all the time he had spent with Marie, he knew that she had the habit of decorating the refrigerator door with an assortment of cute magnets: miniature bunches of grapes, tiny watermelons, brightly colored letters and numbers. He had never really looked at it though. The magnets held up assorted notes and receipts and pictures. As Jimmy stood in front of the refrigerator he looked at the photographs with growing interest.
There was the picture from their second wedding. Another just-married couple had taken it in front of city hall and mailed the photograph to them not three days later. Marie had been teary eye at the kindness of the couple when they had insisted on taking their wedding photo, and when the picture came in the mail, Marie had cried again. A note had been included with the picture from the other newlyweds saying that sharing their wedding day with Jimmy and Marie, who looked so much in love, was a blessing to them.
Jimmy felt tears welling up as he stood there remembering.
There was also a picture of Marie from last summer and another picture of Jimmy, where he was laughing at something someone had said. He thought it must have been taken at Marie's sister's house. Yes, it had been at her sister's twelfth anniversary barbecue that the picture had been snapped. Jimmy recognized other photos from assorted family celebrations. There was her brother Tony, the cop at Christmas. There was a picture of Marie's sister Emily with her new short, short haircut and there was yet another picture of Marie and Jimmy with their arms around each other, looking happy.
Jimmy remembered those days. He had felt real good, surrounded by family and food and friends. Now he shook his head and finished the beer. That happiness was all gone now; he didn't feel one trace of it left.
He grabbed a paper towel, wiped tears off his face and blew his nose loudly. It wouldn't due to let Robert know that he'd been crying. Robert wouldn't make anything of it, but Jimmy thought he wouldn't be able to stand it if Robert knew that he had cried that day. He opened the fridge, popped the tab on another beer and drank, leaning on the kitchen table. He stared at the refrigerator door.
Suddenly, he realized something, and he wished it with all of his heart. He wanted his picture to remain on Marie's refrigerator.
He was never the type of man who even thought of picture taking, he had none of his own, but suddenly he would have given anything to know that he would remain up there, magnetized to the door of Marie's refrigerator. His heart ached to remain there, a happy member of Marie's family. Forever.
In a way he knew it was dumb. Why should he care? It's just some pictures, but still…
He didn't have any relatives of his own and the guys from the cabbie garage were just associates. His close friends were all bachelors and divorcees like him, who didn't make the effort to collect pictures for any reason, much less to display them on a fridge. Suddenly Jimmy knew in his heart of hearts that there wasn't any hope in the world that he would ever be a part of a crowd on anyone's refrigerator again. He was a man twice divorced with no children, and he had the sneaking suspicion that there would not ever be another marriage or kids in his future
That thought made him sadder than hell. He stood in the kitchen and, accompanied only by the droning of the refrigerator's motor -- he wept.
Abruptly, Jimmy put the beer can down on the kitchen table and, tears streaming down his face, he rushed into the hallway near the bedroom. He opened the linen closet and rummaged thorough the shelves until he found the item he had been looking for. Aware that it was getting late, because of the darkness spreading in the apartment, he rushed back to the kitchen and found a box of film that Marie always kept in the refrigerator -- to keep it fresh, she had insisted -- and he loaded the film into the instant camera.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ When Robert showed up at the apartment, Jimmy met him at the door with a smile on his face and the rest of the beers packed into a paper bag. He told Robert that they would drink the beers when they got to Robert's apartment, to celebrate the beginning of his new outlook on life.
In his jacket pocket was an envelope packed with pictures of Marie's refrigerator door taken at different angles and distances and he had an idea where he could get a good camera, cheap.
Jimmy knew that by the time he found and moved into his own new apartment, he would have lots of pictures of friends and their families, making them his own family of friends. And he knew exactly where all the pictures would go.
And somehow, he felt a lot better.