Wednesday, March 3, 2010

welcome to the show

My class hated this piece. My professor hated this piece.

This is not autobiographical. It is written from a man's perspective. My coming marriage is not in peril.

Disclaimer end.

I sat in the car parked in the driveway. I mean shoot, I couldn’t turn the ignition off or get out until I heard the end of the story. It was one of those soft stories on the program sandwiched between market reports and world news. Human interest or what have you. So there’s this dog right? It’s a Japanese dog, a bigger breed, the gentle type. And this dog’s owner is a businessman. A Japanese businessman, obviously. No family or anything, just this dog. This really great dog named Hachiko. Every morning Hachiko sees Mr. Ueno, the owner, off at the train station. And every evening he greets Mr. Ueno as he steps off his train home. Then, out of nowhere, Mr. Ueno has a stroke and drops dead at the office. Can you imagine? It’s all over, just like that. But of course Hachiko doesn’t know. All Hachiko knows is that Mr. Ueno leaves the house in the morning, and comes home on a train. So these good people, close family, bless their hearts, try to give a Hachiko a good home, but Hachiko runs away. He heads back to his old house so he can see Mr. Ueno off in the morning, he’s not there, but Hachiko doesn’t know why. And he waits for Mr. Ueno to get off the train in the evening. He waits until all the passengers unload and he searches the crowd, doesn’t find Mr. Ueno, and walks home alone. And then he does the same thing the next day. And every day for ten years. Neighbors left food and water for Hochiko cause it was all they could do to help you know? You can’t sit a dog down and explain death and loss and mourning and all that. So ten years Hochiko waits for Mr. Ueno to get off the train at the end of the day. And then eventually Hochiko dies at the train station, waiting. Shoot. I’m a grown man and I sat in my running car crying.
This one night my wife rented Romeo and Juliet. It was alright I guess. But then all I heard about for days was how romantic it was and how passionate they were and how it was such a beautiful story. Such a sacrifice, she said, that they would kill each other for love. I don’t know about that. Sometimes I feel like it’s more of a sacrifice to live for someone than to die for them, you know? Anyway, we see lots of things differently. And I guess that’s why she couldn’t take it anymore. Three years and then it was over. No more spark, she wrote. Looking for something more exciting, or something not me.
I knew it was too good to be true from the start. She was way out of my league, just like my friends told me. I’m not bad, you know. My looks aren’t bad, and sometimes even handsome. And I mean I work hard and am fairly smart. But nothing compared to her. She’s tall and thin and has this long dark hair that curls at the bottom. And these eyes. Green and piercing. They take your breath away. We had college calculus together. She walked in late one day and sat next to me in the back. She just got it. I watched her take notes and solve problems and then smile cause it matched what the professor had written on the board. It would take me two hours in the library after class to solve what she did in five minutes. Class ended and she gathered her things. To say something to her would have been creepy, so I sat and slowly close my notebook, capped my pen and reached for my backpack, until surprisingly she leaned over to me and said “Hey, I’m Rachel.” “Tom,” I said and reached out my hand to meet hers in a shake. She’d seen me around she said, asked how I liked the class, then said goodbye and she’d see me next class period. Sure, I thought, not likely. But then by what must have been divine grace, next class she wasn‘t even late and she chose to sit right next to me. After she asked if I liked Humphry Bogart movies. I don’t really, but I said I did. We saw African Queen and we held hands and then we kissed. And I felt like the most fortunate fool the world has ever known.
She made a beautiful bride. Hell, she made a beautiful wife. And we were happy. We did all those happy couple things. The walks at sunset, the meals made together in our tiny kitchen, and laughed just because we were alive and young and in love.
We were excited for a baby. A little us, we thought it would be. But then it just didn’t work out. Well she was pregnant once, but then her body just couldn’t take it. We lost the baby. And things were different after that. I told her I still loved her and that it didn’t matter. She never really said the same thing to me. She sort of stopped smiling. Her green eyes that had once just lit up looked haunting and hallow. We tried more walks at sunset and more meals in our tiny kitchen, but things felt sad.
I picked up more hours at the office, and she started taking pictures. She said she wanted to travel to Egypt and New Zealand and Japan. I promised her we would someday when we could afford it. That didn’t seem to be enough for her. It was gradual I guess, our deterioration. We said less to each other every day, she was away with friends until late, and I was at work until I fell asleep at my desk. So I wasn’t terribly surprised to come home and find her things missing and a note left on my pillow. She’d gone to Egypt, I guess. And I couldn’t hold on to too much hope that she’d come back. Not too much hope but a little. I closed my eyes at night in my big, lonely bed, and I saw her walking through the front door smiling.


  1. i enjoyed that. immensely. i imagined listening to it on This American Life. and me sitting in my car waiting for the story to end..

    but i'm guessing it was the word "hell" that threw your class off.

  2. Transference. Such a wonderful thing.

  3. This is really touching... I really enjoyed it!

  4. okay, I'm going to take this opportunity to say that (perhaps) my favorite thing you've ever written was the good people of Excedrin... omg. so funny.

  5. I really enjoyed this. It was felt somehow...familiar. The stories. The tone. I'm not sure what it was. That's not true. I know that it was good.

  6. Is that story about the dog at the train station real? I read something very similar in the book _The Story of Edgar Sawtelle_.


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