Letting Turf Win
"Go home Jim."
"Huh? It's OK. I've just got a little bit more to get done."
"No, you don't. You’re starting the next project and we're not ready to do that yet. Go home. I'm your boss and that's a command."
"A command Steve? "
"Don't give me any shit. I'm telling you to leave work, this isn't supposed to be so hard. I'm going to unplug your system in three."
"Go home to that beautiful wife...Two..."
"I don't have a battery backup..."
"Three! " Steve reached under the table and pulled the power cord.
"I don't believe you did that."
"I can't believe that you're still here given how little I pay you."
"I can't afford to go out and have any fun."
"Screw off and for Christ's sake, go home!"
"OK OK... I'm leaving."
Jim didn't have much to pack up from his desk terminal. A phone and a few notebooks. The mini Spiderman clock that Tommy had given him. Within a few minutes, he was wrapping up his right pant leg for the bicycle ride home.
On his way to his bike, he thought about Linda at home now. Tuesday evening was the night Turf was there to give a personal yoga lesson. Turf. This was the name he'd chosen to go by. He was an aging new ager whose prime was sometime in the 1980s, although he did look great for an old dude, even with the suspiciously stretched forehead. And Steve wasn't kidding, Linda is beautiful. He'd seen Turf's eyes on her, unable to help himself even in front of Jim.
Walking by a dive bar, Jim stopped, briefly considered before entering. Not his normal thing but the thought of walking in on his wife and Turf was more than he felt like handling tonight.
He sat at the red bar stool nearest the door. He thought how he'd have told Tommy that they'd better sit by the door. We super secret agents can never be careful enough he’d tell him. He was tempted to ask for a vodka tonic, shaken, not stirred, but he asked for a beer.
He sipped and surveyed the bar. The TV was playing the football highlights from the weekend. He and Tommy were Patriots fans, Jim being a native to Boston. He'd told Tommy that he had been named after Brady but that wasn't true and Linda would always roll her eyes.
He'd already drained half his beer. He ordered one more before heading out.
A year now since Tommy died. The year had gone fast. But each day, each damn day lasted forever. He only got dressed in the morning because he was too cowardly to kill himself.
Within a block, he stopped at another dive.
A vodka straight. A double. Something Linda wouldn't smell.
Had Turf already seduced her? In his gut, Jim knew he had. He'd come home to Turf awkwardly leaving, not looking him in the eye with the smell of sex in the air. Linda barely caring to hide it, looking disheveled and not because of a yoga session.
It's actually not their fucking that irritated him. It's that she talked about him. Turf says that the preservatives in your bacon will give you cancer. Turf thinks we should repaint the living room to improve the feng shui energy. Turf was telling me that Koh Chang in Thailand is gorgeous. He has friends there.
She's so beautiful. Didn't she realize that she could have an affair with someone that wouldn't be so humiliating to him?
But he didn't blame her. He'd cheat too if he were married to him. Deep in the hole of depression. He couldn't have sex without thinking of children and Tommy. He used to masterbate about Linda when he wasn't with her. But no more. Linda made Tommy and he couldn't see beyond that anymore. He didn't even really ever touch her anymore. Even in passing.
He followed the vodkas with a bourbon.
Two hours later, he stumbled through the door at home. Turf was long gone and Linda sat wrapped in a fluffy robe on the couch looking freshly showered.
“I see your usual rounds.”
“I don't drink that much.”
“You didn't used to.”
“It doesn't matter.”
“Why always on Tuesdays?”
“I don't know. Steve's more of an asshole Tuesdays.”
“How was yoga?”
“Fine. I ended the sessions with Turf.”
“You did? Why?”
“I don't know. Guess I needed a break from yoga. Or him.”
“Do you come home late because of him?”
“No. Maybe. I don't want to disrupt the zen mood.”
“Did you think I was fucking him?”
“No. I don't know.”
“Why didn't you come home then? Catch me?”
“Why wouldn't you stop me? It's not like you to ignore something.”
“I don't know.”
“What don't you know?”
“I don't know if I care anymore.”
“I remember that I did. And I tell myself I still do. Like I tell myself to keep breathing. I don't feel it. I just order myself. It's all I can manage.”
“I'm like that, too. The yoga sessions, Turf, I just wanted a respite. I'm in the same hole you are. And it's dark and I know you are there but I can't feel or see you in here with me.”
“I'm sorry. I can't help you. I just can't.”
“Look Linda, if you think that you can find some way out of this hole...if Turf is offering you a lifeline, take it. It hurts so much in here, I can’t keep you in here with me. Of course it’ll hurt more but I’m at a level that it doesn’t matter. I want you to try and get better.”
Linda slid over on the couch beside him, tearful and shaking her head. Her robe partially fell away from her naked breast. He noticed the beautiful curve as it became her nipple and he took her hand.