Geraldo wanted her to listen to him. He wanted her attention. He stood there with his pants held by a rope where a belt is normally worn, the pants hanging on his lower waist, the hem wrinkled around his ankles showing only the tips of his dusty shoes. His white shirt was fatigued and grey colored, unbuttoned to his mid chest. His pearl grey whiskers denoting the time since he last shaved. His thick brown hair neatly combed with a few strands falling in front of his forehead.
His wife ignored him, keeping herself busy with the dishes. When she finished that she started taking out the dirty laundry from the hamper. He just stood there talking and talking, hoping she would stop and tum around to look at him. She just continued to ignore him. She became accustomed to tuning him out and focusing her attention to anything else rather than subjecting herself to his drunken rambling. He stood there and grabbed her by her shoulders and spittle the words that she didn’t respect him like she once did. She was once enamored with him. Francesca pushed him away and told him to leave her alone; she had too many things to do in the house than to pay attention to a drunken fool.
Geraldo, married to the same woman for over forty years couldn’t fathom what became of their marriage. What became of her? Of him? How, when did the nights and days drift away from his grasp? There wasn’t a job for him to worry about going to with a hangover anymore. Not since he lost his promotion as the night supervisor for drinking and gambling during his shift twenty years before he retired. He never missed a day of work since; and saved his weekends for drinking and gambling. Now–he was drunk every day. People would say they saw him sleeping on a park bench, roughed up as though someone had mugged him. Perhaps, but he wasn’t really sure if he was mugged or was having a good time with a fellow drunk. Either way, the neighbors reported their findings to his wife whenever they ran into her. Francesca pretended to have already known. “No surprise,” she would say. She figured if she acted as though she knew he was sleeping on a park bench every time her bed was empty, it was because she gave him permission to do so.
She worked all her life and they raised four children now living in different cities across the country. Francesca often thought of her children and wondered when her husband became the child that never left home. Geraldo stood there talking only in his mind now because Francesca won’t listen to his voice. There are a lot of words being said and she doesn’t want to listen. Geraldo knew why being drunk was better than not. When he was drunk, time slipped into a vacuum without distinction, without substance. When he was drunk, it didn’t matter to him, whether his wife, his neighbors, the strangers on the street listened to him because he knew that in his own head, he heard. Sometimes, Geraldo was his best audience and Francesca would stand and look at him as though he lost his mind. But she also knew that if he didn’t ramble on the way he did, worse, if she stopped to listen, his pain would reach her heart and she could not let that happen.
By Jo-Ann Rodriquez
All rights reserved. No part of the short stories may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” and email to firstname.lastname@example.org