February 4, 2012
Sally stormed out of the apartment and slammed the door. Jim should have chased after her, but he remained on the loveseat while his cell phone vibrated on the table. Heaving a deep sigh, he told himself it was for the best. The phone slid a few inches. “Goddamnit!” He stood up and paced back and forth in front of the table. Last week, after they had yet another argument, he made up his mind to break up with her. But then he changed his mind on Sunday. And again on Monday. Tonight, he finally ended it once and for all. He covered his eyes. No, no regrets, it was the right thing to do. The phone kept buzzing. He groaned and picked it up. It was Patty. Christ, what does she want?
March 9, 2014
“Do you mean marriage? I’m sorry, Patty, but I’m not ready to get married.” Patty didn’t say anything, but the tension in her face told him everything. She sniffed. “Fine.” Then she scraped the chair against the floor and hurried toward the door. Jim rubbed his forehead. You think I’m going to chase you? Forget it. He lowered his head, stared at the curdled cream surface of his coffee. Heat rose to his neck and face. He didn’t want to raise his head. He didn’t want to face the other patrons surrounding his table inside the Throwback Cafe. Even though they didn’t know him, they judged him just the same. After all, why wouldn’t he marry Patty? She’s a good woman, they’d say. He pushed the coffee aside, pulled his phone out of his coat pocket, and scrolled through his contacts. Sally. Even though they had broken up over two years ago, he kept her number in his phone. He stared at the five letters that made up her name—S-A-L-L-Y—before starting a new text.
April 23, 2016
“I’m going out with friends tonight,” Patty told Jim as he was feeding their infant son, Matthew. Jim furrowed his brow. “What do you mean? You went out last night. It’s my turn!” Patty’s mouth dropped. “What do you mean it’s your turn? You always go out—I never go anywhere!” But Jim didn’t answer. His fingers curled into fists, his teeth clenched, his body filled with anger. He had been home with Matthew seven nights in a row, and lately the baby had been unable to sleep without being held by one of his parents. For seven nights, Jim had lain on the couch and stayed up all night, staring at the muted TV until dawn just so Matthew could sleep. All Jim had wanted was one night of relief, but she wouldn’t give him that. He took five twenty-dollar bills out of his wallet and slapped them on the counter. “Find a babysitter,” he said before stomping past her. She tried to call him back. “Where are you going? Don’t you walk away. Don’t—”
Jim got into his car and screeched out of the driveway. “Here we go again.” After speeding out of the neighborhood, he turned onto the highway, not knowing where he was going. He and Sally used to go for long drives with no destination every Saturday. They were supposed to go on one the night he had broken up with her. Jesus Christ, what the hell was I thinking? If only he could relive that day four years ago. After driving south for thirty miles, he pulled onto the exit that led to the Throwback Cafe.
March 9, 2014
Every time the bells over the door rang, Jim jerked his head over. Then he would check his phone. Nothing. He rubbed the stubble on his cheeks and smirked. Even if Sally did come to meet him, she wouldn’t take him back, not the way he looked now with his plump, wooly face and his paunch. And what would he say? I’m sorry, I thought I didn’t need you anymore, but now I need you more. He rolled his eyes. Sounded like a bad pop song from the eighties. He glanced at his phone again. Still nothing. He threw up his hands. She wasn’t coming. Why would she after the way he had treated her on that cold February night? The bells tinkled again, but this time he ignored them. He stood up, zipped up his jacket, and put his phone away. When he looked up, Sally was standing across from him.
February 11, 2012
Sally rushed past her mother and charged out of the house. Jim walked backward down the brick steps, tumbling onto the cement pathway behind him. “What do you want, Jim? Why are you bothering us?” Sally, eyes red and raw, stood at the top of the steps, wearing a black sweater and gray skirt with a pattern of L-shaped curves. “Say what you need to say but then get out of here. I never want to see you again.” Jim’s mouth dropped. “Buh—buh—” Sally wiped her eyes. Her skirt swayed in the wind. “Patty told me,” Sally’s voice cracked. “She told me everything.” Jim lowered his head and sighed. “How could you? With my best friend?” Jim kept his head down, mumbling I’m sorry over and over again. By the time he stopped, he caught one last glimpse of the skirt before she slammed the front door.
Christopher Iacono lives in Massachusetts with his wife and son. You can learn more about him at cuckoobirds.org.