The Tuesday Paper

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a man who could only afford a paper ring.

Submitted: January 23, 2012

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Submitted: January 23, 2012

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Sarah Dunne

The Tuesday Paper

“How much is a newspaper ad today, you think?” His voice drifts lazily into my ears; I can’t tell if it’s his voice or me that’s tired.

“Depends,” I shrug in his general direction, trying to recall what cabinet the coffee is in.

He only laughs and looks back down at the Tuesday paper, folding the sleeves within each other, a skill I never mastered. “You should always read the paper. It’s not safe not to anymore.” That’s what he always tells me, except I always find the time to never quite hear it.

If I had read the paper two years ago, I would’ve known that it’s not safe to take the subways alone anymore. Grand Central Station is the next best Ground Zero. The large line graphs, the ones whose colors chartered your distances like a pirate’s treasure map, bear graffiti mausoleums, remembering the ones that couldn’t get far enough. Musicians still play here sometimes, I think it’s for the ghosts; the tunnels became our catacombs. Instead of rebuilding it, news reporters spread rumors supporting the government’s attempts trying to cover up the bombings in Washington and Los Angeles, too. Like Ryan said, you should always read the paper.

Anymore, anymore. I wish I could differentiate between those two words, to create more than just the recursive meaning of late, that first morning the buses don’t go to Brooklyn anymore and the next I can’t hold a toothbrush or button my shirt or even open a bottle anymore. I can barely steady my hands long enough to crack the eggs for breakfast or spoon the sugar into my morning coffee.

The sun is rising into our cramped kitchen, its slanted light favoring one side of the room to the other. Our lucky card table served us well over the years, with a few royal flushes and wearing the stained, thrift store tablecloth beautifully. Ryan’s origami-folded limbs don’t work well with the small amount of space given to us by this table, but we manage.

“There’s an article about you,” Ryan says to me, peering over the soft, inky paper, “and the NYU greenhouse.”

“Oh?” I was still too tired to form entire sentences, coherent enough to listen and comprehend, but not respond.

“‘I think it’s a great idea, I wish I could’ve had one when I was a student there. It can only do good.” For any other person, there would be no need for coffee after his screeching imitation of my voice. Not me.  

“They could use your falsetto on broadway,” I kiss his head, breathe in the dark aroma and take a careful sip.

Days never feel longer, just heavier. The warmth reaches everywhere, save for the very tips of my fingers, which only tingle every now and again. He poises my red wooden chair out for me; the cotton ties all are in disarray, the fanned out spokes creaking with age as I sit back.  

We met when I caught his eye one Thursday evening, when the rays of the setting sun glimmered through the curls of my hair. Without diploma, without level orange security threats, without Ryan’s picket fence smile to calm my anxious, shaking hands.

“Will you listen to my favorite song?” Ryan had walked up to me on the dock of the New York ferry, one hand gripping the messenger bag strap across his chest and the other shoved unceremoniously into his pocket for safe keeping.

“Does it have anything to do with dropping to the floor or summertime harvest?” I replied coolly. I liked the way his glasses were a little crooked and how he made my heart worry it was beating too loud.

He only smirked at me and placed his headphones over my ears. His favorite kind of music concerns the songs whose names no one can remember but knows they’ve heard before. Benny Goodman boomed into my ears, the drums and horns swinging to a song I’ve always known, but couldn’t quite remember. He later informed me, it’s called “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

On our first date we walked through central park, I kicked up the leaves with the scuffs of my shoes and Ryan fished for my knitted scarf tails, and then pulled me up to his waiting lips.

He’ll deny it, but I can see the toll slowly wearing him down. His short beard is peppered with grey hairs at twenty-eight, cracks of worry line his forehead and his words subtly detail a declining society. Two years ago, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from NYU and the best way he can use it is sitting in constant, mind numbing traffic. He’s taken to playing a little jingle as he drives his UPS delivery truck, like one that sells ice cream, to accompany the simultaneous feeling of excitement and misery caused by mail. 

We like our mornings quiet. The only sounds we hear are the eggs sizzling and the crunch of fresh toast, as he cuts out articles from the paper and sticks them into a sad scrapbook, replacing smiling faces and expensive appliqué stickers with subway bombings and NYPD obits and opinionated letters-to-the-editor.

He says he does it because he wants have more to show his grandchildren than just an impersonal slab of expensive stone, masquerading as a memorial. Ryan wasn’t the kind of person that would put down his life for his country, but the kind that wouldn’t let anyone forget the past.

 “Add some of that Cajun spice to my eggs, doll, I’m feeling a little festive today,” he says to me, looking up from his project. It’s a special occasion when we have power, eggs, and a newspaper all in the same week.

I get up from my chair and tend the eggs, haphazardly sprinkling the brown spice onto his food. His steady voice tugs the corners of my lips into a small smile, reminding me that we’re still poor six years after turning our tassels. I make sure to stop and smell the marriage of cayenne, basil, and cloves that we never get to grow anymore.

I look up at the windowsill to see three bottom bottle halves sitting our windowsill, full of fresh compost. Last month, Ryan bought three bottles of soda. I refused to drink them; upset that he would waste what little money we did have on something we didn’t need. Tall, delicate stems sprout from each half, tiny leaves budding off each stem. I gently press my fingers into the damp, dark soil, smoothing the grains over my fingertips.

I guess he caught me staring, because he’s up and standing behind me, breathing in the scent of my hair and threading my trembling, dirty fingers through his.

“Gerber daises, asparagus fern, and daffodils.” He points to each, holding both our hands out together and pressing his cheek against my temple.

“I made something for you. I fell in love with the little gap in your teeth and the way your strawberry hair waterfalls down your back. I know every tremor in your hands and I have to say, my favorite is when ecstasy ignites them when we make love,” he whispers into my ear, “Do you wanna wear this?”

He slips a paper ring on my left hand, a square diamond drawn into the grains, with weaving vines making up the band. I study it and see that today’s date, Tuesday, March 17, 2016, spans the inner rim. I try to close my eyes to hide the tears that fall onto our fingers but I can’t.

He spoons some egg into his mouth, as if there wasn’t a need for an answer, because there was barely a need for a question. The next article in our sad scrapbook was our engagement announcement, petals of my homegrown daises pressed in between the pages. 


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