It is easy to confuse wants with needs.  And a sure thing often leads to destruction.  Enjoy this “slice of life” story.   

Fayetteville, Arkansas

MARIA SETTLED IN BED beside Peter.  She turned her back to him and closed her eyes.  She was not sleepy.  It was the opposite.  She was awake and waiting for the inevitable questions.  Questions to which Peter did not want the answers.  He would pretend that he did.  Then he would cut her off when she began to answer. 

If she was lucky, they would avoid that dance tonight.  She was exhausted.  When she was tired, she tended to say the wrong things—even if they were true. 

Peter cleared his throat.  Maria squeezed her eyes shut.  She wished she could close her ears.  Here comes the torture.  She often wondered if he enjoyed putting himself through it.  Or was it some form of aphrodisiac for him?

“The power and heat are still on,” Peter said. 

Maria sighed and was quiet.

“I thought you said it was ready to be disconnected,” he said.

“It was,” she said.

“And?” he asked.

“And it’s no longer in jeopardy of being disconnected,” she said.  “Not this month anyway.”

“And how did that miracle come about?” he asked.  His voice was a bit louder.  His tone was aggressive and condescending.

She sighed and turned over to face him.  “Do you really want to know?” she asked.  “Do you want us to discuss the electric bill?”  He did not answer.  “How about the insurance payments that we no longer have?  Why?  Because we dropped our coverage and are now driving illegally.  Or what about the kids’ lunch money?  Money that we are running a tab for.  It is so far behind we’re about to be put on a payment plan.”

He looked up at the ceiling.  “I’m doing the best I can,” he said. 

Now he regretted that he brought the subject up.  But in some warped way, he wanted to clear the air.  Have her answer him in the rawest form.  Put their cards on the table and admit to what they both knew.  It could prevent the hatred and trust issues that would surely come up down the line.

“And I’m doing the best I can,” she said. 

She bit her tongue to keep from blurting out what she knew he wanted her to say.  She was literally biting into her tongue.  To say it aloud would change who she was.  She could never go back to seeing herself as the person she knew herself to be.  And he knew that.  Why would he force her to do that?  What sick pleasure or gain could either of them derive from it.  Unless his goal was to ruin their marriage, some things were best left unsaid.

“I’ve decided I’m going to get the minivan,” she said.

“We can’t afford it,” he said, sternly.  “So, that’s off the table.”

“I’ll afford it,” she said.

“Maria, you’re talking about a Honda Odyssey or Chrysler Pacifica,” he said and sat up in the bed.  “They’re like thirty-five thousand dollars.  That we don’t have.”

“It depends on what you get with them,” she said.  “It depends on the package you buy with them.  I think.  I haven’t asked.  But you probably get options.  Leather seats, cloth seats, you know, those kinds of things.  I want leather.  And…”

“Damn it, Maria,” he said.  “It’s too much.”

“Do you want people to laugh at us forever?” she asked.  “Your Ford truck is twenty years old.  My Honda is twenty-one.  Having one of those vans gives us respectability.  The kids would love it.  I could pick them up at school in their new van.  And you know I’ll find a way to pay for it.  You don’t even have to worry about it.”

“Yes, I do,” he said.  “I do have to worry about how you’re going to pay for it.”

“Okay,” she said.  “Then let’s talk about that.  I’ll tell you.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” he said.  “I’m tired.  Let’s just go to sleep.”

She smirked.  “Fine,” she said and turned her back to him.

She knew he did not want to hear it.  She worked all day at that wood factory.  What she earned was peanuts.  At that rate, they would never afford anything.  And if she listened to him, they would always be broke.  Living hand to mouth.  He hated to know that she doubled her wages in three hours after work.  It was fast, easy money with no taxes on it.  Three clients in three hours was easy.  She was considering doing it five days a week, three hours a day.  Then she could quit that loser job.  Possibly quit him too.

That minivan was almost hers.  She could practically feel those leather seats.

Have a great rest of the week.

See you soon.

Stephen Wallace

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