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
wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and a sharpness to her mouth that had
softened and made fuller – particularly this time of the evening after a
She was 33 years old and this had been a tough day. All her girl friends
married and Stella called this afternoon to tell her she was pregnant. She
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
and Stanley was looking better to her every day. They’d been dating more
month and tonight was the second night this week he asked her out to
had dated lots of men before Stanley – slept with two of them, only to see
drift away for one reason or another. It looked like it was going to be
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
be a problem with money. But there was the ‘boys’ thing; he beered with
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.
would stop when they were married. He would be devoted to her, and when
children came along he would help them with their homework, read them to
and ... and...
Faye looked deeply into the mirror. Her face was beginning to blur. She
see through it –– she could look unto a series of small rooms. They were
up one after the other, something like a railroad flat – one room after
other, with windows at each end. The reflection of her own bedroom faded
the mirror only revealed this strange tenement apartment she had never
before. The furniture was second-hand, shabby and out of style. The wall
was stained dark around the light switches and blackened above the
cast iron radiators.
It was not the house she lived in, and it wasn’t any house she had ever
In fact it wasn’t a house at all. It was a place in her mind she
poverty and unhappiness. Who lived here, she wondered? There was a woman
children in the kitchen and a man, sitting on a sofa, with a can of beer
hand, was watching television in the living room. The woman was feeding a
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
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
hastily as she walked back into the kitchen and picked up the boy. The
child looked at her and began to cry. The woman tried to soothe her, then
and shouted to the man in the living room. He made no response. The woman,
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
watching on television nor could she hear the conversation between the man
the woman. But the woman was in tears and the younger child continued to
the kitchen. She felt like an intruder in this tense domestic scene, and
same time she sensed it concerned her. If she was there she knew she would
able to help – to make the make the man see the problem – to get him to do
a father should do.
The woman left with the boy in her arms but the man still sat in front of
television set. He seemed to have difficulty concentrating, however.
the child crying in the kitchen was distracting him. He emptied the can of
and crushed it in his hand as she had seen Stanley do, then he got up and
into the kitchen. The little girl was still crying. He opened the
and pulled out another beer, opened it and stood in front of the little
Faye could hear nothing, but it appeared the man was talking to the little
– who continued to cry. Finally the man shrugged his shoulders and walked
into the living room with his beer. He shut the living room door and
rather then sat in front of the television.
A shadow seemed to fall over the scene and by degrees Faye's own room came
into view. She could no longer see the run down tenement and sordid life
strange family who lived there. Who were they? Was the young boy sick? Was
mother forced to take him to emergency? How could the father be
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
marriage and children – she looked at the hard lines in her face again,
bitterness of her lips. "What happens to us," she wondered? "Where does
She hoped Stanley wouldn't call tonight, there was too much to think
But, the phone did ring. She let it ring.
©Harry Buschman 2006