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My Expiration Dates

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woman at windowI have a tendency to sleep with potential. Deep down I know the guy is an asshole, but then he’ll say something that could melt the heart of a hit man. Next thing you know I tell him to get some blood work and we’re doing the wild thing. Sometimes a woman’s love of being loved gets the best of her.

We all need affection. Sweet happiness you can taste…pleasure you can unbutton. Those magnificent emotions pillowed in promises that leave you giddy and dumb with desire. I guess that’s why I keep searching, even though it’s obvious I’ve got a shelf life when it comes to men. It’s as if every dude knows that I am best used before a certain expiration date. A one-night stand whose flesh is quickly admired, eagerly tasted, and then discarded with the enthusiasm of sorting recyclables…tossed curbside in haste like a shedding Noble Fir that has served its holiday purpose.

I still want to believe in the little flame that grows…the incredible sense of rest and release you find with another, but the fact is, most people have rarely laid eyes on a truly happy couple. They only see mates going through the motions, staying together out of necessity, routine, or the fear of losing their country club membership. Partners who are better equipped to describe a car ding to a claims adjuster than articulate their spouse’s hopes and dreams.

Take my neighbors, Frank and Beverly. Just recently they celebrated 20 years together. Their bathroom butts up against my kitchen window, and from the sound of things Frank can sit on the growler all day shitting out his innards while screaming at poor Beverly to bring him sandwiches and beer. Along with doing the obvious, he reads, coughs up phlegm, and rolls cigarettes. Around 4pm each day they venture out to a less-than-happy hour, then return to pick up the fight where they left off.

Frank and Beverly used to have a stable marriage…until the stillborn child. After that, the love just sort of leaked out of them. They bought a little casket, had a private service, and placed the afterbirth in a freezer with the date attached, as if that little frozen placenta patty could expire.

Yesterday things heated up next door. Multiple times Frank screamed for more toilet paper. I was about to toss a roll over myself when I heard someone bang against the bathroom door with enough force to blow the damn thing off its hinges.

“Get it yourself!” Beverly said, only her voice was different. The words shrill, sort of running together like she’d been nipping at the sauce a little early.

“Jesus, have you lost your mind?” he said.

“The goddamn toilet paper is under the sink next to you,” she fired back.

“You are crazy, you know that? Fucking crazy!” he yelled.

“And you’re a selfish prick who thinks of no one but himself,” she blasted.

“For the last time…We’re not adopting anything!” he said.

“I told you…I’ll raise it. You can just sit on that crapper like you always do,” Beverly baited.

“You know what’s wrong with you? That damn thing in the freezer is what’s wrong with you. A constant reminder of what should have been,” Frank barked.

“Don’t you touch it!” she screamed.

“Bev, we can’t keep doing this. It’s been twelve years. We need to get on with our lives.”

She slammed her fist against the door and began to cry from someplace deep inside her lonely fruitless womb.

I stepped away from the window and began heating water for tea. I needed to calm down. Frank and Beverly have a tendency to put me over the edge.

When the pot boiled I filled my mug and walked into the living room. Carefully I dropped myself onto the couch and tucked my legs under the corner of a blanket, not wanting to disturb the young man sleeping beside me. A real lumberjack looking guy whose gaping mouth revealed irresistibly straight white teeth camouflaged behind a full scraggly beard. He’d completed a third tour in Iraq and vowed never to cut his hair again. We’d met that morning at the Laundromat. It just sort of happened, and the next thing I knew he was jumping my bones on the sofa.

“That’s right” I heard Frank bellow, “The first thing I’m gonna do when I get out of this bathroom is throw that frozen block in the trash. You hear me?”

The commotion woke my woodsman whose eyes scanned my face for some sort of recognition and then smiled, raising himself upright to touch my breast. I put my tea down and let him gently pull me on top of him. I knew what would happen. The same thing that always happens.

The battle next door was growing louder as he entered me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s usually not this bad…the noise, I mean.”

“It’s sort of soothing,” he whispered. “You know…making love while they bomb.”

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38 Comments

  1. Poor Frank and Beverly. I’m going to dream about them tonight…

  2. I can’t believe you cheated on me.

    I’m going to write a post about you.

    • No No Nate, THAT was you! I was just trying to protect your innocence. They always say write about people you know only don’t be obvious. I assumed YOU of all people caught the similarities. The “young man” on the couch? The “irresistibly straight white teeth?” Granted I threw in a scraggly beard and three tours to Iraq, but that was to call people off the scent. Put the pen down, Nate!

  3. I love it. “Sometimes a woman’s love of being loved gets the best of her.” Yup.
    Her tenderness really came through in your writing, even though the emotions were so raw. Great work; can’t wait to read more!

    • Thanks so much, Astra. I started out this piece having the woman have a one-night stand with a weatherman. I kept trying to make the two hook-up but it didn’t work. So then I switched it to the girl next door being privy to Frank and Beverly’s gruesome troubles. It may detour again before the day is through! (Kidding, I hope.)

  4. “I have a tendency to sleep with potential” may be the best GD opening line I’ve read in forever.

    NB
    “The Home Fires Are Burning My Feet”

  5. “…most people have rarely laid eyes on a truly happy couple.”

    I’m deep into writing “The Illusion of Marriage” so these dynamics are utmost in my mind.

    What I’ve gleaned from my observations, and from my own experience is most consternation and conflict comes from trying to be happy as a couple when you’re not happy with ones self.

  6. Lynne, what a fabulous premise for a book. I think a lot of people presume that a marriage is either destined to make it or not. They either have the components already or they will eventually fall into the “Single and Searching” category once again. I’ve always liked a line from Lorrie Moore’s story “Real Estate,” in which one character says “Marriage is a fine arrangement generally, except one never got it generally. One got it very, very specifically.”

    I think that is what I was trying to get across with this story. The fact that this woman is not happy in her own skin. She is searching for someone to complete her. Someone to make her shine again, but what she doesn’t realize is she has to do the work herself and just maybe (if she still wants one after her inner quest) she’ll find a partner for the right reasons. Thanks for your comment, Lynne!

  7. This is a remarkable piece of writing. It jumps right off the page and grabs you by the throat and heart. There is disillusion mixed with the charm of hope. Really amazing!

  8. Wow Linda…that is such a nice compliment. THANK YOU!

  9. Lovely work, Annie. Each piece of yours is just getting stronger and tighter. And I couldn’t agree more about that kick-ass opening line. Whatever you’re eating these days, I want some. :)

  10. That means a lot, Jayne. Thanks!

  11. I couldn’t agree more with the previous comments. I actually thought this was you in the first paragraph. It was so personal and real and honest. It made me uncomfortable and depressed and sad, in a good way, and then I caught on. I truly loved it and I do want to read more.

  12. Dani, only you could feel uncomfortable depressed and sad in a good way. When I feel those things I’m looking for a long walk on a short pier. Really glad you liked it though. :) I appreciate your nice comments!

  13. Annie, this is really good. The emotions of every party are so clear, and completely agree about that opening. Awesome.

  14. Um.. I was going to say Poor Frank and Beverly. But now I just think Frank is an asshole, and Beverly should leave his ass and adopt her own baby.

    • You’re right, Meleah. Frank is sort of an asshole, but Beverly is stuck in her grief. Then there is the ease-dropping main character who can’t seem to stop motoring through men, answering false love calls from anything that might hold a spasm of delight. It’s as if she has no idea how these men end up in her. Messy, but fun to play around with misfits. Thanks for reading, Meleah!

  15. And, once again, I am IN AWE of your writing.

  16. Thank you!

  17. Brilliant writing, Annie. Really, really.

    I’m actually not so certain that Frank is an asshole. Behaving like one, yes. Actually is one? I don’t think so. I think both Beverly and Frank are lost. She lost her purpose and sense of self with the baby. He lost his child and his wife, in one fell swoop. Twelve years is a long time to live with afterbirth in the freezer. I’m guessing Frank didn’t turn into this overnight but I think, maybe, Beverly did.

    And the measure of a good story, Annie, is how people think and talk about the characters as if they were real.

  18. That is a great take on it, Nicky. I think you are spot on. Always wonderful when someone interprets what you are trying to convey in a perfectly succinct way. Thank you for that!

  19. Dear Annie, I too at first thought you were writing about yourself, but soon caught on. I am really, really curious to see how the story plays out, and how the lifes of the miserable couple next door eventually intertwine with the lead character. Your writing is beautiful. Incredibly captivating, draws the reader right it and begs for more!!! I am going to subscribe to your blog so I can read the rest of the story!!
    Lisa Weinstein
    Fee free to visit me -www.lisagradessweinstein.blogspot.com

  20. Thank you so much, Lisa. I appreciate that. Not sure where this piece is going, or if there is more to write. I certainly appreciate you subscribing to my blog and I hope that I don’t disappoint if that story takes a rest. I’ll be stopping by your site. Thanks for the read!

  21. Wow, that was a great, very realistic and gritty story. You should turn it into a full novel. I want to know more about the lumber jack guy. Did he stick around and turn into something? Fascinating stuff, Annie!

    • Monica, very sweet of you to say. I hadn’t thought of going further with this, but maybe I should. Really let er’ rip! Those two next door are a piece of work though I think I could definitely expand on them. Thanks again!

  22. I’m with Monica. I think you could turn this into a compelling novel. And who can’t identify with grief, stress, and choosing guys based on ‘potential’? Great story!

    • Thanks, Renee. Potential has certainly played a role in my life…and I think a lot of people may be able to relate to it. I appreciate you stopping by to read. It appears you got to the last day of your A thru Z writing challenge. Congrats!

  23. It’s my first visit here, Annie. It took me 2 seconds to be drawn into your post and about 8 comments to realize it was fiction. Very compelling. I’m going to poke around some more. Great stuff. Having not too distantly stepped, well clawed and cried and moved intentionally out of a bad marriage of 28 years – I’m always interested in the considerations of marriage. Glad I found my way to your site this morning.

  24. Hi Barb, so nice that you stopped by to visit. I’m so glad you found me. I will definitely be over to visit the Empty Nest Mom.

    Twenty-eight years is a hell of a long time to live with another. Even if I added up all the time I spent with different mates I don’t think I could come up with such a number. It must feel like you are truly starting life from scratch. Talk about potential. Although sad to say goodbye, I hope you are finding the path exhilarating and the road ahead hopeful. Thanks again for the visit.

  25. Annie, I love the raw emotions present in this post. The fighting couple is totally believable. I think I know a few who carry on in the same fashion! Great story that flowed from beginning to end. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks your work keeps getting better and better. How is that possible when you were so good to begin with? :)

  26. Bella, thanks for the nice words. I am glad you found the characters believable. That’s terrific!

  27. Something about this really grabbed me… No, not just the names!

    I love the way you portray the very RL inadvertent eavesdropping we all are forced to do. V. cool. (And, I referenced and linked to you in my last post, I finally got around to writing up my Bloggess week post.

  28. Thanks so much Beverly. I am glad we had a chance to meet in person at The Bloggess event. She was truly an inspiration. I’ll go check out your blog now!

  29. I just had the pleasure of reading this post now, Annie, and I can’t thank you enough for your beautiful writing. Somehow, it made me feel less alone.

  30. Ah, thanks so much, Wendy. What a great comment to wake up to this morning. I’m so glad you liked it.

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