I’d know what he was ranting about, but I can’t hear him over her.
Her voice rises, crescendos above his, and what does she say?
“Yes, I agree.”
That’s the gist. Her words stumble over themselves, her tone grows shrill, her manner more excited. She rushes to cut him off with her agreement, with her affirmation. He ignores it and continues talking, continues to stand upon his soap box and spout his opinions.
She compliments him on dinner. Every night, her voice just as shocked, as appreciative, as it was the night before.
“My God, Ron, this chicken is incredible! The potatoes are amazing! So flavorful! You did really well with them!”
He shrugs it off. Reminds her that he’s been cooking for thirty years. She knows this. I know this. The dance, however, continues every night, endless and unappreciated, a thing of rote.
Just like the rest of the conversation. “Isn’t it amazing what you can make for so cheap? Who’d eat out when this is so inexpensive, so easy?” I don’t call him on it, on how our income is non-existent, on how his words are more for personal reassurance than anything he truly believes. Our dire financial straits are kept from the spotlight until they’re too big, too grand, to be hidden anymore. Then they will explode outward and I will, unfailingly, be fingered as their source, as the cause for such frugality, for such cutbacks. It’s my fault for still being here, for not having found a better paying job, for having student loans. She should never have cosigned my loan. He was against it, he says. He’d never agreed to pay for a fifth year of school. The words hiss through his teeth. Fifth year. Who needs five years for a four year program? Only his son, only the black sheep among his children.
He has forgotten within hours, or acts the part. His behavior has a schizophrenic element, jumping from personal attack to unreserved joviality, finding something external at which to direct his frustrations. He sits on the couch in his bathrobe and watches the TV, gives the dog bones she should not have, wonders why she feels ill the next day, shouts at the horses who beat his picks, watches the news for something to attack.
She watches it with him, feeds his rants, keeps him talking. The television is background static, inaudible before their heated agreement. If I did not hear the words, I would say they were arguing, but my silence remains, I watch and observe, wait for the moment when it ends, when he calls her “simple,” though she agrees with him. When the thought or moment she recalls frustrates him, unrelated, he says, to their current conversation. I hear the crack of the verbal whip in his voice and stand, walk away. I eat, to calm myself. I sit and talk to friends, far away. They offer entertainment, I respond with complaint. He goes to bed, I follow hours later. Dream, wake-up, hide in my room, called for dinner, repeat.
Repeat repeat repeat.