Second Breath, Second Chance.

Sometimes a truer calling beats in the heart.

Photo by Doriana Dream on Unsplash

The sun was settling, another day coming to its inevitable end.

She’s determined that her life was soon to end. Her desperation was beyond what most might endure. Her husband cheated on her. The strange pain in her chest was persisting.

Her two kids had grown and were out of the nest. Her husband rarely spoke. She wondered how it might all be brought to an end. She considered by her hand or let nature take its course. She was certain she was being consumed by cancer.

She’d not gone to have it checked up. There was no money for such luxury. Had no insurance. Her two best friends had moved away in the last year and as time passed, they stopped reaching out, stopped emailing.

This was the way it was for a year after she caught Herman.

How life has changed!

Her job at the Post Office no longer fed her. Fed her in the sense of finding any joy in the effort. It surprised her that at one time she’d actually found enjoyment in that job sorting and stacking and distributing. She felt she was rather good at it. Her supervisor assured her so.

She knew that her lethargic frame of mind about going getting checked out was bullshit. Her Post Office job offered more than ample medical insurance. She still had a good eight years before she could retire comfortably from the Federal job. She couldn’t think of a single complaint about her job.

Not like most others who spent the days complaining. Why don’t they quit then if it’s so awful?

Thinking about the work and its perks comforted her. Uniforms were free, they discounted cafeteria prices for employees. The union was always there watching for any abuses, like working unpaid hours. But now that Herman was cheating on her, it was all she could do to drag herself out of bed, shower, dress in her whites and black striped gray slacks, get herself out the door to the bus stop.

The house was paid for. It took all of twenty years, never failing to fork over the required sum to the bank, consuming most of her monthly paycheck. Finally, the day arrived when in the mail the closing papers arrived, congratulating her and asking her to come into the bank to sign some final documents. It was a moment of celebration. She went alone, as Herman never got involved. He said buying was a mistake.

Their relationship had gone through changes. Emily and Herman both took the years as they came. Mostly accepting that things never stay the same. This despite the daily grind. As time passed, their visits to the museums and walks through Central Park dwindled. On Sundays, they’d made it one of their solid commitments to attend church, the huge cathedral on Morris. They’d never made friends at church.

Church was one of those affairs where they’d go, sit in a pew. The father said the mass, and it was done. Being a massive city church, there was little to no talking amongst fellow worshippers. As soon as the service let out, it was as though the church goers scrambled out of the building like so many frightened mice. Emily used to wonder had they lived in a small town would they have made friends from the church. Most importantly, though, she’d felt that the act of attending services brought a strengthening of their marriage. She believed this.

Herman eventually stopped going and chose his Barca lounger, football and beer over the outing.

Every Saturday, they’d decide on an a place to go. Taking the bus or train was easy, a picnic of ham and cheese sandwiches, dill pickles wrapped in foil, carried in paper bags. It was easy to spend the entire afternoon at Central park. She recalled the fun it was to stand near the entrance to the Plaza Hotel and watch the crème de la crème come and go. Often these rich people held dour expressions, other times they’d smile and laugh.

Emily and Herman joked, making up dialogue between the super-rich. Oh, darling, I do hate this Ferrari, it’s the color, my goodness, just awful.

In the art museum, Emily convinced Herman to join her in the art classes. These were a one-off thing. Perhaps once a month. The group of gathering attendees looked similar to Emily and Herman, she noticed. There was an opaqueness to their faces. Few young people. People attempting to squeeze the juice out of whatever life had to offer. Herman tortured through one class.

Free art class for a single session made for an afternoon’s activities. Marla, the bereted, young early thirties instructor, pulled Emily aside during class and told her she had talent that she would take her on for free, guide her. Emily blushed and thanked her. Never gave it another thought.

They’d left the museum holding their creative efforts rolled up in their arms and go to the nearest corner pretzel stand. Invariably, the pretzels were stale, but they didn’t care.

There was the time they’d lucked out, and the pretzels were fresh and they were delicious. She still remembered how good they tasted every time they’d bought them. If it was autumn or winter, a hot chocolate completed the feast. Snow fell gently on their shoulders as they walked New York’s sidewalks. After meandering for a while, looking into shop display windows, taking in the amazing Christmas décor put out by Macy’s, Bergdorf’s and so many others, it was time to head home.

Herman started arriving a little later from work a few months before. After nearly twenty years as a laundry loader at one of the Sheratons, they had promoted him to assistant supervisor, three dollars extra an hour. He’d been expected to stay a little longer even though his shift ended without pay. He, of course, didn’t complain, or he’d eventually be relieved of his job. Thus the later arrivals home.

One day, Emily was throwing the dirty laundry into her washer, and the note fell out of Herman’s green shirt pocket. His closet was full of the dark green uniform he’d worn all these years. The note said ‘Mi Amor, te quiero’ a bright red set of slightly opened lips pressed against the paper. She didn’t have to know Spanish to understand what it said. The lips were enough.

After twenty-five years, this came as a dagger through the night. Plunged deep into her chest, blood flowed down her blouse. She didn’t know what was expected of her. How to pull free the knife that was now second by second snuffing out her life.

Instinctively, she raised the damning piece to her nose, breathed it in. To her added shock, the woman had soaked the note in an awful perfume.

In a blind rush of tears, she attacked his chest of drawers. Threw them open one at a time, pulling everything out onto the floor. A single picture flittered to the floor, a Polaroid, a party, Christmas, a company fest. Youngish, long wild black hair, the beauty that reigns over the hearts of men south of the border. Full lips, laughter showing bright, white teeth with which to rip at one’s jugular. She stood, as though challenging, hands on marvelous hips, loose sun dress hemmed too high above powerful knees. Head leaning slightly left, those beautiful dark and sultry Latin eyes.

On its flip side the words: To Herman my love, Melinda.

Half his age! I can’t compete with that. My days are long past those times. Anger invaded her heart. It sat side by side with the pain. She would settle things. I will hurt him, the bastard. I will wait. As the moments passed, Emily found temporary composure that arises from planning revenge. She sat still, allowing her mind to work out the details for revenge.

As Emily sat on the edge of the bed crying, searching, her tears falling onto her hands, the woman’s note still in her hand. Thoughts of revenge took a strange segue. She went away from the desire to first kill, then to maim and hurt, to gouge eyes out, to cut off his miserably small dick to a place of contemplation.

She rearranged Herman’s drawers, replaced the young woman’s picture amongst the folds of his shirts.

She received him after he returned from work as if nothing had happened. She felt supreme in her calm. She never would have contemplated that she’d have such composure. It surprised her, yet gave her a certain pride. Despite this, she knew one day, one day…

There was a powerful sense of peace in simply knowing her husband was cheating on her and that he didn’t know. She knew he didn’t know she knew.

Power.

Herman, several days later, complained gently that Emily wasn’t cooking up the amazing dinners she’d always cooked, delicious lasagnas, or crunchy Au Gratins. Her pork stew was the stuff of a five-star restaurant. Lately it was hot dogs, string beans and boiled potatoes. He griped some more, and she told him in so many words to fuck off.

This is how things became. Life limped along, outings ended. Now it was because she didn’t feel like going. He tried to convince her once to go to the zoo to see the new eighty-year-old turtle. She refused.

She would not cut off his Willy as he slept, she decided, but neither would she smother him in food preparations that are the hallmark of a happy marriage. Herman knew something was amiss, but absolutely couldn’t put his finger on it.

No doubt, in the recesses of his thinking process, he had to stumble over the possibility that Emily had discovered him.

It was her need to keep a neat house, sheets washed, small patio maintained, floors swept, a sweet smelling bathroom, the way she was raised. She’d bake the world’s most delicious chocolate chip cookies, filling their small home with the baked delight. Rather than taking a plate load of cookies to him watching the game, she’d keep them to nibble on in the patio.

She would not abandon these lifelong habits. Though she did take to her desk. She’d purchased a large work table on discount from a dying business around the block. A bendable lamp now lit up her art space. Soon the table was covered in very neat stacks and assortments of works in progress, art and sketching tools. Her skill was rendering higher and brighter than life like images from black chalk and pencil.

&&&

Marla remembered Emily as she entered her office at the museum. Of course I will still teach you. I carry one student at a time. You will work with me for one year, at which time we will see. That’s all she explained. See what? She wondered.

They became friends, even though Marla could have been Emily’s daughter. A powerfully self-assured woman, Marla had her art hanging in a handful of galleries in New York and Chicago. You should know that I do this because I see something in your work, Emily. Your sketches display a lifetime of skill and yet you say you have never taken classes. This last batch you brought me are for framing and doing a show.

For the first time Marla took Emily to visit the mind numbing art supplies stores in the city. It was as though she knew exactly what she wanted. Helpful attendants tried to sell her all sorts of stuff, which she would firmly but nicely refuse. She knew exactly what she wanted. They offered coffee at a small sitting island at the store’s floor center, and so she’d often sit amidst all the art accessories, watched as buyers of all skill levels came and went, satisfying their needs for a large array of art things.

Her carefully marshaled pennies went to buying papers of all kinds, as well as artists’ pencils, one or two books, though not too much. Herman watched, surprised from a near distance. What is this, Emily?

Never you mind Herman, it’s what I choose to do with my free time.

This was a home for her. She felt its tug. One time sitting in the store, tears ran down her cheeks for no explainable reason. It wasn’t because of Herman. Going through the pages of a stack of art books on the coffee table, she was hopelessly captured by the drawings by Rubens, by Durer, with his impossible renderings. Of course she drank in Michelangelo, Leonardo. She embraced the more recent Hopper works and found Dali’s work breathtaking. She knew that somewhere in life she’d missed. She’d missed her path.

Sitting in the art supply store, she felt as she never had. Lifted. Everything resonated.

In moments, tiny mind gaps in certain sun light conditions, maybe when she was touching up a sketch, she’d remember. She loved doing the skyscrapers now. Last month it was wind swept pastures that suddenly inner pictures would arise. A neighbor did art, she remembered. It was in New Jersey as a little girl. She’d invite Emily over and sit her at a table with pencil in hand. All she’d say was: draw. She remembered this. Why had she forgotten?

Where was it she turned? Did I know that art is my life? Why didn’t I find this sooner? The years had passed, and this sudden reality now weighed. A dim recollection of her father abandoning them, the starkness after ward.

Once a week, Emily would catch the train to downtown and walk through Central Park to the vast museum. Marla always seemed pleased to see her as she stepped in the door.

&&&

Two years seemed to slip by as though a week. Emily was excited about her art show. Marla invited her to share the gallery with her for a showing. A big deal.

Fall had once again taken New York in its colorful embrace. A cool gust lifted fallen leaves off the still green grass and sent them flying past an exhilarated Emily. She noticed the colored leaves and in an instant happened upon a whole series of sketch ideas. She couldn’t wait. It was rich.

At the gallery not two blocks from the museum, the art show was an enormous success. Emily’s new artist’s friends had taken her into their artist’s world. They stood together in a circle, drinks in hand. Congratulations were shared. Things had come around. Emily never expected this new chapter, and yet it was hers. The warmth and joy she felt standing here, now surrounded by art. She smiled in disbelief.

Her work sold, moneyed clients wanted to be the first to commission special works, rendered in Emily’s deft treatment, dreamlike and yet somehow more powerful than what is considered real. Marla showed Emily how to do her taxes, amongst countless other necessities, patiently preparing her to fly on her own.

Marla had serious pull at the Museum and after the first year of working together as teacher and student she created a salaried place for Emily in her department. It was hard to leave the Post Office because of the hefty retirement plan but was no match for her passion in art.

Her home became her studio. After her divorce, she took over the remaining space and turned it into a vibrant place of artistic creativity. She’d delayed asking for a divorce at first. She was having second thoughts, and even felt sympathy for the now crying, pathetic man. At first, she wondered if she really could go it alone. Then she realized she’d been going it alone for so much of the time. Herman’s girlfriend soon flew off to greener pastures.

She moved all his stuff out to the curb, including his beloved Barca lounger.

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No Matter What People Tell You, Words And Ideas Can Change The World.

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Tom Jacobson

Tom Jacobson

Just discovered the world of Medium. utterly amazing! Published first book, romantic adventure in Guatemala and Nicaragua, on Amazon. Title Lenka: A love story.

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