Heartbreak at Valentine’s could be painful
The text alarm woke Johnny on a Saturday morning when he was anticipating sleeping in.
Janet was in the shower. It was her damn phone. He could hear the muffled water splashing and her humming one of those oldies ear worms that can’t be easily eradicated by normal pest control measures. Janet liked music all the way back to Junior High before the days when the seventh grade was not politically corrected with terms such as middle school. Johnny thought for a moment how those songs were different. You could understand singers actually pronounce the words. Even if the lyrics were about heartbreak, the melody would draw out your affection for the song. This morning the tune sounded like that song about drinking Pina Coladas in the rain. He thought if it is true that art imitates life, he should probably read the text; the one on her phone. So, he peeked and saw, ‘Are you ready for next weekend?’
There was no indication of who the mysterious writer had been; just a phone number from the out of state area code, 904. The water running in the shower turned off. It would be just a matter of moments before Janet emerged with her smooth skin still moist from the steam. Johnny turned over quickly and acted the sleeping lump in their king size bed.
She, in her way of showing care and comfort, quietly departed the room insuring the sound of the door did not wake her husband; after all he deserved a rest. He noticed the emptiness of the room, felt the sheets she had left warm with her imprint, and when he turned, the small cell phone on the bed stand loomed large. He wondered about the caller with no name. “Where the hell was that area code?” he wondered. His mind did contortions. Memories of the time they were kids and she would leave for the summer vacation with her parents. Those long days in June when he had to watch their packed car head off to the mountains where Janet would ride horses, swim in natural lakes, see the moon come up over the edge of a jagged horizon, and do who knows what with who knows who. The days became longer in July as her letters became less frequent, and he wondered if she would still be his girl friend when school started again.
One such fall day, she did tell him about the nice boy that would ask her to dance on Saturday nights at the country club. It had been innocent according to her reports as both sets of parents were just barely out of sight at the dinner table they shared. Johnny always wondered about the guy, and the way Janet said he was just a good listener and more like a girl friend. After seven years of marriage such alibis failed to ring true. The story about one of her girl friends getting pregnant under that mountain moon didn’t help. What Johnny imagined as some half baked story smoldered trying to catch fire in his mind, but he failed miserably at any attempt to get Janet to fan any flames of some teenage romance. Now, an out of state area code flashed in his mind. The possibility this guy had tried to stay in touch. Maybe Janet had written him infrequent letters during the winter the way she penned Johnny back home in the summer. Thoughts of Janet and another guy then began to fly at Johnny faster and faster.
He kicked off the sheets and fumbled his way downstairs to the kitchen where Janet had awakened Alexis with an order to play Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger; What Doesn’t Kill You.
“Hey, good morning,” he greeted.
She responded with a dance move and said, “Remember that?”
“That was number one seven years ago the week we got married.”
Johnny pondered the lyrics blabbing on about getting over some guy, breaking, up, and moving on, “Not what you would call a wedding song is it?”
“True,” she agrees.
“Seven years,” he opines, “Doesn’t seem that long.”
“Some call it the seven year itch,” she says; then asks, “Any regrets?”
Johnny thought how strange to see a conversation twist into something sinister before sipping the first cup of coffee. If he did not fall under the seven year superstition, however, maybe Janet was suffering from the malady made famous in the 1955 movie when Marilyn Monroe let the wind blow up her white dress while Tom Ewell stood with hands in his pockets smiling with his Fedora cocked back. Some old man gawking at a hot young blonde seemed normal in the abnormal happiness of the fifties. Johnny thought that casting goofy looking men with beautiful women really is an example of art imitating life since most every couple seen in malls, on the street, in the car next to you, endless family pics on Facebook, and even in the movies makes the image ring true. The thought was reassuring, not only to Johnny, but also to men everywhere that most pot bellied good old boys do not have to be James Bond to get the girl.
“I have no regrets,” he answered and caught his reflection in the sliding glass doors to the patio that made him wonder again about that text and who had become his competition. Who wanted to know about her upcoming weekend? As he watched the clouds of lactose free melt into his coffee he could not resist asking, “What about you? You have any new itches that need scratching? Maybe some old boyfriend?”
“What old boyfriend? Have you lost your mind?”
“Statistics are on my side.”
“I Googled it,” he said. “Divorce rates show couples, on average, divorce around seven years.”
Janet stops everything she had been doing. The look in her widened eyes showed her shock, “Divorce? Why would you bring that up? Is that what you want?”
“No way, it’s just the statistic I was using about the seven year itch.”
“Are you aware about what date it is?’
“Yeah it’s February ... something.”
“Today is the eleventh. You remember what the fourteenth is?”
“Oh, yeah. Valentines.”
“Bigger than that, Johhny. Our anniversary is coming up this weekend.”
He stares blank back at his bride.
“I have been planning a special weekend for some time for us. My friend Jessica told me about the Casa Monica Hotel and Spa in Saint Augustine. So, I have been working on reservations. The desk is supposed to text me back with more info.”
“Text?” asked Johnny, “What area code?”
She looked perplexed by such a question, but answered, “904.”