Jacob knew it was all downhill from there. Really, he knew it right before, when she was red with anger and seemed to be inflating right before his eyes. Just my luck, he thought, trying to figure out why she was the one who was so mad when she was the one asking for a divorce while they were trying to enjoy a nice night out. Jacob was frequently caught off-guard like this.
When Ellen exploded, she had just barely finished a list of things that were wrong with Jacob, starting with his clothes (his shirt had been slightly wrinkly, a little worn) to his salary to his competence in the bedroom. There were more things peppered throughout, each inadequacy accompanied by tiny droplets of spit running over her bright red lips. Her skin was too pale for that color. Jacob was elsewhere, learning over the last few months to ignore the outrages, that they’d eventually die down and she would apologize and that would be that. But now the whole restaurant was staring at him, Ellen reduced to a steaming chair and all the guests with a bit or speck of her ruining their clothes.
“Sir?” The maître d’ was standing, one of Ellen’s manicured fingers held in his outstretched hand, at the table. With a small, embarrassed smile, Jacob took the finger, put it in his coat pocket and went back to cutting and chewing and sometimes even swallowing and even a few times actually tasting his rabbit cutlets.
“Another bottle of wine, please?” Jacob asked between bites, the maître d’ still standing there.
“Right away, sir.” And then leaning down to Jacob’s ear, “On the house. You seem to be having a rough night.”
Jacob finished the wine, abandoning the glassware in favor of drinking straight from the bottle, paid and got up to leave on shaky legs. He took a breath, straightened himself and walked outside, avoiding most of the stares, blocking out the whispers coming from the other diners. It was a nice restaurant, modern and sparsely decorated, table clothes that matched the curtains, dark and intimate but not too much of either. He walked out the door, nodding to the maître d’ who gave him a sorrowful smile.
Instead of calling a cab, and certainly instead of driving, Jacob walked the mile or so back to their apartment. The finger in his pocket twitched every so often, and he knew, soon, Ellen would compose herself and they’d have to talk about it. Talk about the divorce that she wanted and he didn’t. Or maybe he did. That might be why he hadn’t paid attention to her as she exploded, why he wasn’t distressed by the stray strands of hair that fell from above and landed across his food. Why he wasn’t too unhappy that they never had kids, never bought a home instead of renting, never backpacked through Europe like they talked about as kids. The sidewalk shone with thousands of stars, glittering the way city sidewalks do, broken glass spread in clears and browns and greens, galaxies of smashed bottles that crunched under his feet. A divorce would mean…what? Not alimony, hopefully. Not child support. She made more than him, she wanted the divorce, he never cheated on her—he could probably get out with most of his cash. Not too many marital assets. He would be okay. He would be free. Like he was in college. Whatever that meant.
Inside of their apartment is when Jacob noticed. As he set the finger down on the living room table, clearing away some papers, coasters, books, he caught the glint. The finger, the one the maître d’ had given him, the only solid piece of Ellen that he had noticed was the left hand ring finger, wedding band still attached. He picked the finger up, sitting back on the leather couch, and inspected every inch of the finger. He held it against his own hand, trying to remember how the finger felt when he held it and its companions during walks and movies. He put it to his cheek and tried to remember how it felt when he slid that ring on. He kissed the tip gently, wondering what he had said earlier that night to make her go off. It wouldn’t be long now before all of Ellen had pulled herself together. It wouldn’t be long now until telephone calls with attorneys and his parents. Through the window, the city rumbled past, early at night but still dark, everyone coming and going, headed to bars and clubs, out on dates and with friends and finding people that they wanted to fall into again and again and again. Jacob looked down at the finger in his hand, vibrating softly, elongating and growing. He pulled the ring off of the finger, sighing, and looked out the window.
Wyl Villacres is a man from Chicago. He writes and reads things for public enjoyment. He makes better tostones than his grandmother (please don’t tell her he said this). Connect with Wyl at http://wylvillacres.net or on twitter at @wyllinois.