Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Patrick Trotti

Green with Envy

The plane’s constant moan kept Francis and Carol awake for the entirety of the trip. Francis wasn’t going to sleep regardless but Carol wanted to get there refreshed. Instead she ordered a procession of miniature sized cocktails and began flipping through glossy, trashy celebrity magazines. It was her one guilty pleasure. She felt safe up here, off of the ground. Safe enough in her anonymity amongst fellow travelers, faceless people she’d likely never see again, to blatantly indulge in her mindless hobby. Every few pages she’d glance over at Francis. She was amazed at him. Everything about him, his posture, his ability to remain still for hours after hour doing nothing except staring out the window into the dark, endless night, amazed his wife who was visibly giddy with excitement for their arrival and the beginning of their vacation. She was also jealous. But in a good way. She longed for his patience and his certainty of what he was doing was right in moments such as this. Carol wanted that and more from Francis. At the start of their relationship she’d gone out with him just to feel his energy vibrating off of him. She wanted to catch some of it, to somehow bottle it up and better herself, awaken herself because of it. Over the years, through everything, that energy hadn’t ceased. Instead it grew stronger and Carol loved her husband for that above all else.

Of course it wasn’t a vacation to Francis. Sure he could enjoy parts of the summer that lay before him. Moments of isolated solitude with just him and his wife enjoying a quiet breakfast in the city or a postcard view of the countryside on a weekend trip but those would be few and far between. His silence, although fooling his wife into a quiet admiration of him, was more of a muzzled energy that he turned inward, analyzing everything that he had to do once he touched down. This trip wasn’t a job to Francis; it was more, much more. It was a chance to reshape the economic and environmental future of his ancestral homeland. Up until now Francis had gone about his career with the acquisition of wealth serving as his guiding light. That certainness was his solace. The unceasing quality and value of money stabilized Francis in times of personal upheaval. Through hair lost, waistline expansion, even death to loved ones, Francis could always rely on his never ending quest to try and obtain more money. This goal was, at first, an attempt at the American dream, to provide his family with more comfort than he’d had growing up. It somehow morphed over the years. It was now a part of his personality; it was what made him feel whole, what got him out of bed in the morning. To resist this urge, to accept this job pro-bono and take on all of the expenses of the summer as an out of pocket loss, although he could afford to, was a defining moment in Francis’ life. He’d found a new mission thirty thousand feet above sea level over the dark, cold waters of the Atlantic.

It was early morning and the air outside the window had gone from a dark, uninviting blue that looked like a day old bruise after a fistfight to a light hue of powder blue sprinkled with rays of warm orange coming from the few places that the large, fluffy clouds allowed them to sneak out of.

Carol leaned in to try and share in the vision. She could still remember the first time she saw the west coast of Ireland. Its rolling green hills resembled a vast, never-ending quilt with its patchwork of different versions of green. She never knew color could have so many variations. That was before they were married. No kids, fewer responsibilities.

But now, with more than a dozen trips behind her, she took in the color and the quilt came to mind but the land, the vision, had more to offer her now. That quilt, once just a beautiful view now had a story behind it. She’d heard on her trips, around the fireplace at the pubs late at night in between songs or back at the cousin’s country farmhouse around dinner. She’d felt the knee-high walls separating Francis’ family’s farm from their neighbors. The cold, jagged rocks were stacked haphazardly.

She once asked why there were no large farms like back home. Francis looked at his feet. She detected a pinch of shame in his eyes.
“Because that’s all the Queen allowed them to have.”

Only in the early morning fog of one too many Guiness’ drank did he open up a bit more. Stories told of shared pasts, a common struggle. Carol didn’t share; she had no tales to tell. She listened, devoured it all. Each and every story. The famine. The wars and revolutions. The imprisonments. The struggle to somehow legitimize an entire people through government policies. The religious clashes. The anger now turned to guilt and shame. The repression of their native tongue in their own schools. The drunken revisionist debates over which leader to follow- Collins or de Valera. There was no wrong answer, only deeply personal allegiances. That much Carol was sure of.

As Carol saw the coast appear now she gently rubbed up against Francis resting at the base of his neck, just under the part of his neck where his stubble begins. She caught a glimpse of the coastline. That was enough for now. She had the entire summer. She focused on Francis. He hadn’t blinked since land came into view. At that moment, as her husband leaned his head up against the small glass window, faintly touching it with two of his fingers trying to desperately reach out and touch the beauty below, Carol knew that he was full. Full of joy, full of gratefulness, full of life, full, for the first time in his adult life, just full, of, life.

Before they touched down, making the journey complete and tangible, Carol’s appreciation of her husband’s contentment instantly vanished and was replaced by a deep, sharp feeling of self-guilt and loneliness. Maybe it was the other couples surrounding them, sharing in the excitement of anticipation, almost bursting at the thought of opening the door and stepping foot on Irish soil, or maybe it was the barely audible conversations: the mutual appreciation of the moment shared. Carol sat in silence. The seatbelt felt tight, constricting, locking her into place like the obedient partner she was. As Francis remained unmoved, his entire attention devoted to the bleak early morning view of the airport tarmac, Carol wanted to scream. Scream out to him, to remind him that she was there. That it was okay, somehow necessary, to communicate his feelings with her and make sure she was enjoying herself.

This wasn’t her trip; nothing about this summer was hers. She realized the childishness of her emotions but they were real, and growing by the moment. His demeanor reeked of fulfillment, making it difficult to penetrate. He’d built a wall around him and she couldn’t intrude. In times like these Francis reminded Carol of her father. His silence, especially in his later years, paralyzed the entire household, holding her mother ransom. She wasn’t going to let that happen to her. The plane finally stopped rolling, idling in place at the desired gate. Carol sat back and tried to let her feelings pass. This was important to her husband so, in turn, it was important to her. It should be that way; it had to be that way. Made things easier.

She wanted to take in the moment, own it somehow like Francis but something wasn’t right. She knew what the summer held for her. Lone trips to used bookstores, museums and historical sites. One ticket for plays, tables for one at small, family owned side street cafes.

Carol took comfort in the rationality of her feelings, her ability to work through it by herself.

The next three months would be the crowning of a life’s worth of being a plus one. Carol’s value was tied to the men in her life. Handed from her father on her wedding day to Francis. The old man silently nodding in the groom’s direction, signifying the unspoken transfer of modern day patriarchal ownership. She’d play the dutiful, happy wife. For his sake. His needs were paramount. Always had been. Carol recognized the imbalance in their marriage but this wasn’t the place to bring forth her argument for change.

She grabbed her bag from the overhead storage compartment and prepared to leave the plane. Francis grabbed her bag in one swift motion. No smile, no sincere declaration of manners just a simple act. Carol soaked in the moment; trying to hold onto it, somehow freeze it hoping that it would be sufficient enough to last until his next gesture.

© Patrick Trotti 2012

Patrick Trotti is a writer, student, and founder/editor of the online lit mag (Short) Fiction Collective. You can check out more of his work at Twitter:PatrickTrotti.

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