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Looking Ahead


Harry Buschman

 Faye sat at her dressing table and stared into the mirror. She leaned forward
and carefully studied her face. She sensed, more than saw, the beginning of
wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and a sharpness to her mouth that had to be
softened and made fuller – particularly this time of the evening after a tough

She was 33 years old and this had been a tough day. All her girl friends were
married and Stella called this afternoon to tell her she was pregnant. She was
so happy. She and her husband had been trying for almost a year.

The mirror told her something she already knew. She wasn’t getting any younger
and Stanley was looking better to her every day. They’d been dating more than a
month and tonight was the second night this week he asked her out to dinner. She
had dated lots of men before Stanley – slept with two of them, only to see them
drift away for one reason or another. It looked like it was going to be Stanley.

How would life be with Stanley? He was a line repairman with the electric
company – a good, steady job – strong union – lots of overtime. There wouldn’t
be a problem with money. But there was the ‘boys’ thing; he beered with them on
pay day. They played poker – there was always a football game.

“But he’s single, and he lives in a man's world,” she reminded herself. That
would stop when they were married. He would be devoted to her, and when the
children came along he would help them with their homework, read them to sleep
and ... and...

Faye looked deeply into the mirror. Her face was beginning to blur. She could
see through it –– she could look unto a series of small rooms. They were lined
up one after the other, something like a railroad flat – one room after the
other, with windows at each end. The reflection of her own bedroom faded now and
the mirror only revealed this strange tenement apartment she had never seen
before. The furniture was second-hand, shabby and out of style. The wall paper
was stained dark around the light switches and blackened above the old-fashioned
cast iron radiators.

It was not the house she lived in, and it wasn’t any house she had ever visited.
In fact it wasn’t a house at all. It was a place in her mind she associated with
poverty and unhappiness. Who lived here, she wondered? There was a woman and two
children in the kitchen and a man, sitting on a sofa, with a can of beer in his
hand, was watching television in the living room. The woman was feeding a boy of
nine or ten who appeared sickly and feverish. The other child was a girl,
slightly younger, who sat alone on a kitchen chair watching them.

The boy took a spasm of coughing and the woman stood up and looked nervously at
him. It was obvious to Faye that the woman came to a sudden decision; she
wrapped the boy in a blanket and ran into the bedroom. She got a coat put it on
hastily as she walked back into the kitchen and picked up the boy. The younger
child looked at her and began to cry. The woman tried to soothe her, then turned
and shouted to the man in the living room. He made no response. The woman, with
the boy in her arms the ran into the living room and confronted him.

Faye could feel the tension in the room. She could not see what the man was
watching on television nor could she hear the conversation between the man and
the woman. But the woman was in tears and the younger child continued to cry in
the kitchen. She felt like an intruder in this tense domestic scene, and at the
same time she sensed it concerned her. If she was there she knew she would be
able to help – to make the make the man see the problem – to get him to do what
a father should do.

The woman left with the boy in her arms but the man still sat in front of the
television set. He seemed to have difficulty concentrating, however. Evidently
the child crying in the kitchen was distracting him. He emptied the can of beer
and crushed it in his hand as she had seen Stanley do, then he got up and walked
into the kitchen. The little girl was still crying. He opened the refrigerator
and pulled out another beer, opened it and stood in front of the little girl.
Faye could hear nothing, but it appeared the man was talking to the little girl
– who continued to cry. Finally the man shrugged his shoulders and walked back
into the living room with his beer. He shut the living room door and sprawled,
rather then sat in front of the television.

A shadow seemed to fall over the scene and by degrees Faye's own room came back
into view. She could no longer see the run down tenement and sordid life of this
strange family who lived there. Who were they? Was the young boy sick? Was the
mother forced to take him to emergency? How could the father be unconcerned?
Could any father be that unconcerned with a sick child in the house ....

Could that be possible? She wondered what this man may have been like before
marriage and children – she looked at the hard lines in her face again, the
bitterness of her lips. "What happens to us," she wondered? "Where does the love

She hoped Stanley wouldn't call tonight, there was too much to think about.

But, the phone did ring. She let it ring.

©Harry Buschman 2006

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