Track 03 - If Only

The man of the house floated down from the top of his stairs, merrily whistling a tune from last night's show that stuck in his mind. In his kitchen the wife was mothering over the stove, cooking up their breakfast. She smiled as her husband came inside her kitchen. She lofted a pleasantry which he responded to in kind.

"New tune," she said, the stovetop crackling.


"Your whistling. You got rid of the old one."

"Oh yeah," he said. "Pretty good."

"Don't tell me it's your new favorite?"

"Better than most." New and vibrant, yet old and familiar. For years and years it was his favorite. Now, though…

The wife put breakfast on the table which they ate together, pleasant as always. She always made good food, and he always kept things in stock, ready for her to use for her cooking duties. Everything was quite alright. He talked to her about a few of the things he planned to do that day. She talked about other things. It was nice conversation. They always had nice conversation.

A knock at the door interrupted their serenity. He stood up and excused himself to see who was visiting. A moment passed. She thought she heard talking, but she wasn't sure.

"Dear?" she called out.

"Honey!" he called back. "You won't believe it!"

She didn't. It was a woman from his past, an old friend he cherished dearly. She was traveling through the area and had stumbled across his home. He wore a large smile when he presented her.

"How do you do, maʼam?" She asked the wife, something like reassurance smeared over her face.

The wife stood up to properly greet the newcomer. Her husband beamed about meeting up with this old acquaintance; he asked his friend if she had eaten. She had eaten breakfast about an hour ago, and was quite full from that. She didn't expect to stay long. She merely wanted to say hello.

"She can stay for lunch, right dear? It'll be fun to catch up after all these years."

The wife smiled and promised to clean up while the two reminisced. They left her in the kitchen as she cleaned off the table, nibbling at what scraps she didn't throw away. Thirst. She fished out from the fridge her half-finished drink from the night before. So easy to find. Everything in its proper place. After a long sip, the fluid, cold and constant, descended her esophagus, and the contraction of her swallow swelled into the base of her jaw. When she was young, she broke a sit-up record.

A bout of laughter echoed through the hallway. She grabbed two glasses and poured the remainder of her beverage into each. She carted the drinks out to the back porch, the source of the laughter. The two were together out back, slow-dancing with each other in the center of the porch to the music playing on a nearby radio. They moved gracefully in each otherʼs arms, swaying with each other to the beat of the music, turning in step with each other, the sun casting a shadow over the circular porch, a thin line that represented their interlocked forms. At last they turned enough for one of them – itʼs hard to say whom – to notice the wife standing in the doorway, clutching the glasses, staring blankly at the couple of them.

Her husband unlocked himself from his friendʼs grasp and rushed over to his wife.

"Oh, hello dear. We were sitting here talking and this song came on the radio, it was the song we danced to at the senior prom, and one moment we were sitting here talking about it and the next we were all of a sudden dancing. It just kind of happened."

The wife shook her head and smiled. "No, no, itʼs quite alright. You two are old friends. These things arenʼt odd at all. Here, I've brought you both something to drink."

She smiled, as always, handed them both their glasses and went back to the kitchen. It was really no big deal, no big deal at all. They were old friends, that was all. She need not fush her cheeks and wring her hands – it was time to make lunch.

She moved a few items from the fridge to the old, natural gas stove that she longed to kill. It loved to erupt, the flames shooting up the panʼs edges and singeing her fingers. More annoying than hazardous, but it still hurt every time she tried to cook something for him.

Let's see, what ingredients did she have? Well, it didn't really matter, she always went away with a wonderful creation. It was actually rather fun to squeeze pleasure out of things. She looked over what she grabbed; nothing out of the ordinary. A stir-fry sounds good, something quick and easy to make for her husband and that woman friend. She coated a pan with olive oil and tossed in the items. She imagined the slight smile that would creep onto his face as he swallowed her food.

The stir-fry started to smoke a bit. She jerked it a bit and the burner erupted, the pan slipped from her grasp, bounced at an angle off the stovetop, and dove for the floor. Visions of chaos flooded her mind. What did she do to deserve this? Why did life punish her for doing the right thing?

Why was he dancing?

Her hand bolted from her side, pulling her arm with it, and managed to grab the handle of the pan in midair. It was still upright, and nothing had fallen. I hadn't meant to do that&ellip;

Focus. It took some effort, but she managed to finish. She called her husband and the friend, whatever her name was, into the kitchen. Without thinking, the husband immediately offered the wifeʼs spot to his friend. Of course he didn't think about it, itʼs merely a chair at a table. The wife served lunch and grabbed another chair for herself. She sat the plate down in front of her husband, who had awaited it with an expectant look, but when he stared down at the plate he frowned.

"What kind of stir-fry is this? Did you just pull out random ingredients and toss them into a pan?"

The wife said nothing. She poked at her stir-fry, her eyes locked onto a sausage poking out from the middle of her plate.

The other one spoke up suddenly. "Excuse me, please, I need to use the bathroom."

The wife smiled, very pleasantly. "Of course, down the hall. Donʼt trip on the furniture and hurt yourself." The friend left the kitchen and found the bathroom. It was a nice bathroom, very well kept. She didn't actually use it; she just wanted to get away from the moment. She gazed into the mirror, looking at her refection.

She'd lied, and licks of laughter leaked from her lips. Oh sure, she'd simply 'stumbled across a house'. As if. She wanted her friend. He'd married, and they danced on the porch – was he just being nice? – and she remembered that smell. Like pine and ice cream. But he was taken.

She went back to the kitchen. Heated noises muffled their way through the door. Gulp. She knocked and the noises faded away. Slowly she went inside. At the table they both sat, wearing someone else's smiles.

With great difficulty she found words. "I very much appreciate your time. You especially, maʼam, you are truly a saint; your food was delicious. If you'll excuse me, I have things to find. Thank you."

"Take her into town, would you husband?"

The husband grabbed his keys and led his friend out to the car and they made the drive into town. Some ways in he found a corner with a cab, and he gazed longingly into her face. It would be so easy to reach in, to cusp her chin, to kiss her. Would it be so wrong to allow himself this one corruption, this one gratification of his heartʼs desire?

She may have sensed his struggle, because her eyes turned slightly red, the color drained from her cheeks. She touched his face lightly, softly, caressing it.

"Youʼre a good man. Goodbye."

She got into the cab and went away. He was still at the wheel. He suddenly felt the urge to go outside, and he did. He stood there for a moment, staring dumbly at the empty space before him as the little flickers of tender warmth still clinging to his skin got ripped away by the wind. He sat back down in the car. The engine rumbled. He stood back up outside. Somewhere, surely, buried in the howl of the wind, hid the poetry of restitution.

Rain fell as he drove home, washing away the last few traces of snow. The woman he loved was gone forever. He cursed himself, the choices he made, his lifeʼs course so permanently set. He was always doing what he ought, always doing the right thing. Oh, if only one moment were ever to arrive where he could free himself from the morality imposed upon him by the world… if only!

He reached his home and went inside. The aroma of grilled chicken, drenched in lemon and garlic, wafted through the hallway and into the foyer, beckoning him into the kitchen where his wife labored over the stove.

She didn't need to turn. "So itʼs done?" He nodded silently and sat at the table. She thought about asking him, "Sheʼll always be there, wonʼt she?" But she knew the answer. Her hands moved simply from one item to another, somewhat managing the cacophony before her. It didn't really matter. She could make manna from heaven; she would make water in the desert. Might as well burn it all to the ground.

The dinner was finished, and it was delicious, of course. She sat across from her husband, watching him peck at her labor. In her mind, she saw that woman rush into the room and embrace her man in eternal bliss and happiness. Then she imagined herself standing up, smiling calmly, and shooting them both dead. But she would never get the pleasure, for he never kept a gun in the house.

Abruptly, she left, taking some things with her. She left him behind, sitting there, his head in his hands, his heart in pieces, convinced that his entire destiny was shrouded by the darkness of sorrow and depravity. She left him behind, and there was nothing he could do but try and fail to find his release in the steadily pounding rain.

Slowly, gradually, it all went cold in the room. His entire form convulsed as a hot, ineffectual breath left his lips.

"If only."

track 01 - snapshØt
track 02 - fØØd
track 03 - if Ønly