A troubled sleeper, he never went to bed before 2 am, and, if sunlight were to transpire at such early hour, could be seen sipping on orange juice and reading The Economist by 5 am.
Beth had been nagging him about buying the kids new baseball gear. They had been doing well at school and they had really applied themselves on the field as well. They deserved new gear. Andrew knew that.
He also knew that he had been sacked a fortnight ago. He still woke up at 4:30, he still sipped on his juice and read the magazine at 5, he still showered at 5:30, got dressed and was ready to go by 6. What choice did he have but to take the car keys from the bowl where all keys and sunglasses were stored and to drive away.
He was driving down I-95, ever faster, the trees lining the highway getting blurry by means of his speed, or rather the car’s, for in him, nothing stirred. His gaze lazily fixed an imaginary point in the distance, exactly centered, so that he didn’t have to tilt his head in any way and he started to think about this morning’s actions.
Why did his wife insist on using one and the same bowl for both keys and sunglasses. The sunglasses inevitably would get scratched over time. He would have to buy new sunglasses for everyone too. He already couldn’t afford baseball bats and mitts. And why did kids have to grow so quickly. The intervals at which he had to buy new clothes for them grew smaller and smaller. How could he afford? To buy all theses things; to tell?
Then, as he passed another 6 cars, all already driving past the speed limit, the thought came to him, that maybe he didn’t have to do all this because, when he’d tell Beth that he had lost his job she would want a divorce, she would take the kids with her, marry someone rich. No, she wouldn’t take the kids with her. Andrew would be the one who’d have to go. It had been Beth’s parents, who had bought the house for the family, but on paper, for their daughter. She came from money, Andrew didn’t. Yes, she could ask her parents for financial help, but wasn’t that beneath them?
He neared a bridge and he started fixing one of the pillars, he accelerated, he stirred to the side…
He couldn’t have gotten away with it, he thought. If not punished by any exterior authority, wouldn’t he live to regret this? And wasn’t that maybe the definition of hell? Living on, fully able to regret the choices one has made for eternity. Guilt and guilt and even more guilt, packed onto one’s back as one is told to climb up the Matterhorn.
At 10 pm, he drove into the driveway. It had to be 10 pm, he had to keep up appearances. He was the hardworking husband. Long hours meant dedication. Spending time with the family was for lazy people without ambition.
As he fiddled with his keys, Beth opened the door, in tears: “I’ve lost my job today”, she said. “I’m so glad that at least you‘re still working. What with my parents having gambled away their fortune as well…”
Andrew loosened his tie, downed a glass of scotch and got back into the car.
That bridge was far away. Could he find another?