Bob never wanted much. He wanted a simple life: no adventures, missteps, or bumps in the road. He had gone through school, gotten a degree in chemistry, and worked at a nearby chemical synthesis lab. He had a career, had fallen in a kind of love, then settled down and had two kids. Oh how he loved suburbia. He mowed the lawn and even had an ugly white picket fence, the kind you see in commercials. There had been no real bumps in the road, and he planned to grow old, retire, play golf, and die peacefully.
But life rarely goes according to plan.
Marriage counseling. How the hell had he ended up in marriage counseling? Oh, that’s right, he was keeping a secret and his wife was too perceptive to let it go.
It wasn’t any big secret, it happens to everyone at some point. It wasn’t an affair, that would have interrupted his wonderfully smooth life.
He had begun working late at night though, his desk piled with more forms and pens than usual. His wife noticed an uptic in business meetings. He wasn’t seeing a lover, he actually was meeting with other suit-clad men over desks and unsigned forms that longed for ink.
There were also doctor’s appointments. How he hated those, every time being forced to admit something had gone wrong in his idyllic life. He’d walk in, the doctor would look him over and frown. More unsigned forms, and these got their ink.
In response, he worked more and went to more meetings. It would be easier this way, like ripping off a band-aid when the time came. His life would always be ordinary.
“Bob is keeping a secret, and I can’t figure out what. He spends his time either with the kids or at work. I don’t get many spare moments, and he’s distant even during those.”
“Bob?” Was all the counselor asked. Bob just shrugged in response and looked down at the carpet. Why did this happen to him? His face tightened into a frown at the thought of his wife in pain over this. Just let it go, please. It won’t hurt as much later.
His lawyer would give him them all the letters he’d written when the time came, and he knew how much his family loved him.
He finished the counseling session without a word, his emotions mirroring every expression on his wife’s face. He smiled faintly at the end of the session, resigned.
He didn’t know the day, and preferred it that way.
The end, like the life, was ordinary.
He hugged his kids, kissed his wife, and drove off to work.
He died in the hospital that day, his family in tears at his bed. He never witnessed his ordinary life crashing down around him.
*Pieces with an asterisk are out of the chronological order that the rest of my work is organized in
~A squiggle next to the date means I have estimated the date I wrote that piece