and everybody was too fast, and sometimes he felt invisible.
He couldnât drive anymore. The last time he had tried, the police had stopped him for obstructing traffic. He had told the cop to stop and smell the flowers. He told the cop that he had been driving since before the cop was a glimmer in his daddyâs eye. It had been the wrong approach. The policeman took his license. The wife did all the driving now. Imagine itâwhen he had taught her to drive, he had to keep grabbing the wheel to keep her from putting the Model T into the ditch. What would the snot-nosed cop say about that?
The water was beginning to boil on the stove. Effrom rummaged through the old tin bread box and found the package of chocolate-covered graham crackers the wife had left for him. In the cupboard the jar of Sanka sat next to the real coffee. Why not? The wife was gone, why not live a little? He took the regular coffee from the shelf and set about finding the filters and filter holder. He hadnât the slightest idea where they were kept. The wife took care of that sort of thing.
He finally found the filters, the holder, and the serving carafe on the shelf below. He poured some coffee into the filter, eyeballed it, and poured in some more. Then he poured the water over the grounds.
The coffee came through strong and black as the kaiserâs heart. He poured himself a cup and there was still a little left in the carafe. No sense wasting it. He opened the kitchen window, and after fumbling with the lid for a moment, poured the remaining coffee into the hummingbird feeder.
âLive a little, boys.â
He wondered if the coffee might not speed them up to the pointwhere they just burnt up in the atmosphere. He toyed with the idea of watching for a while, then he remembered that his exercise show was about to start. He picked up his graham crackers and coffee and headed for the living room and his big easy chair in front of the RCA.
He made sure the sound was turned down, then turned on the old console set. When the picture came on, a young blond woman in iridescent tights was leading three other young women through a series of stretches. Effrom guessed that there was music playing from the way they moved, but he always watched with the sound turned off so as not to wake the wife. Since he had discovered his exercise program, the women in his dreams all wore iridescent tights.
The girls were all on their backs now, waving their legs in the air. Effrom munched his graham crackers and watched in fascination. Time was when a man had to spend the better part of a weekâs pay to see a show like that. Now you could get it on cable for onlyâ¦. Well, the wife took care of the cable bill, but he guessed that it was pretty cheap. Life was grand.
Effrom considered going out to his workshop and getting his cigarettes. A smoke would go good right now. After all, the wife was gone. Why should he sneak around in his own house? No, the wife would know. And when she confronted him, she wouldnât yell, she would just look at him. She would get that sad look in her blue eyes and she would say, âOh, Effrom.â Thatâs all, âOh, Effrom.â And he would feel as if he had betrayed her. Nope, he could wait until his show was over and go smoke in his workshop, where the wife would never dare to set foot.
Suddenly the house felt very empty. It was like a great vacant warehouse where the slightest noise rattles in the rafters. A presence was missing.
He never saw the wife until she knocked on his workshop door at noon to call him to lunch, but somehow he felt her absence, as if the insulation had been ripped from around him, leaving him raw to the elements. For the first time in a long time Effrom felt afraid. The wife was coming back, but maybe someday she would be gone forever. Someday he would really be alone. He wished for amoment that he would die first, then thinking of the wife alone, knocking on the workshop
Gabriel García Márquez, Gregory Rabassa