The door closed quietly and Martin Major heard a soft click and some metallic sounds and his wife Toni’s voice once more saying Good-bye and See you soon. Byebye he said, his voice thin but expressive of a child’s resignation. He stood and gazed at the smoothgrained door, teak like all the trim and doors and half the furnishings in their apartment, his eyes roaming up and down as if searching for something vague but expected, the lock that perhaps he was seeking not too cleverly camouflaged on the knob under clear duct tape. Not only did his eyes fail to discern the tape over the knob’s dark brass lock but his hand did too as he gripped the knob, tried vainly several times to turn it, and finally conceded with a slight grimace to his imprisonment. He’d already forgotten where she was headed, the hardwardstore? the drugstore?
Byebye, byebye he said. See you later alligator. He snapped off his glasses, scratched at a lens with his pinkienail, returned them. In some other life. My sweet. His eyes remained on the door for a full minute, his face blank as the smooth wood, before he turned to behold the vast room before him.
At least it seemed vast to Martin Major, whose gaping eyes and sharp intake of breath were more apropos to the first sight of a glowing canyon than to the narrow atrium and ordinary livingroom that he would enter as soon as he collected himself. Byebye he said once more, he lowered his head passed his hands through his thinning hair, gray with some remaining streaks of hazel running through it, and ambled across the hardwood floor, turned to see where he’d come from then turned back, his eyes roved visually over the smart Danish furniture and appointments, the fine leather cushions the pillows the vases and pottery, all the dried flowers and stems, the spare iron lamps, he pursed his mouth and nodded, It’s all good he might have said, yes indeed.
I wonder when . . . he squinted , blinked hard with one eye, jerked his head in resignation. I wonder when whatshername. He stopped his amble, tilted his head a bit downward and pursed his lips, he closed his eyes drew a hard straight line of his mouth tightened his face stood there, he knows her name, it’s so close, just at the tip of his tongue, he hears a voice, Don’t do anything to yourself now do you hear me, you be careful with yourself, I wont be long, I’ve just got a couple of items to buy you’ve got to be here for me when I get back, he nods his head almost shyly, but when was that he thinks, was that now or when, resigned and with effort he wags his head. Damn. I’m hungry. He turned, raised his eyes, they locked on a picture which he approached, a painting in oils, oranges and blues and browns, thick black outlines active strokes, a man on a corner with a dog in his arms peering around a brick building down an empty street. His brows knitted, he seemed to be studying the image. Why is this here he thought. Ugly. He backed up a few steps before turning, getting his bearings, he noticed on the floor beside the cordovan sofa a more familiar object, a black dumbbell, twenty pounds, he approached it and picked it up with a tight grip, he curled it once, twice, twentyfive times, then lightly tossed it to his left hand and repeated the motion, enjoying the tension in his arm with a smile that faded at eighteen and turned into a grimace at twentyone, always harder on his left arm than his right, but he managed as always to finish. He bent and replaced the weight on the berber rug and, breathing hard, began to pace, peering at his wristwatch every ten seconds, then he retrieved the dumbbell and repeated the exercise. He felt the familiar bulging in his upper arms, the tension against his shirtsleeves, and when finished with the set he clutched his biceps in turn with a widely arcing hand and smiled.