Author : Brendan Garbee
My ex-husband shows up on my doorstep on a blustery day in the middle of a sunshower, and he puts his hands in his pockets and sways in a way that tells me he’s a little bit drunk. He smiles at me sheepishly and says, “I heard you didn’t live here anymore. But I guess I knew you’d be here, anyway.”
Fourteen years ago, a Black Hole opened in outer space and everyone started getting younger instead of older. Scientists say that time is getting pulled into reverse by the Black Hole’s gravity. I don’t know about all that, but last year the subdivision where I was living fell apart. The plot of land turned back into an abandoned stone quarry. My ex-husband and I separated 32 years ago, I sold this little house back then and moved away and now I’m 78, I’m physically 46 and I’m living somewhere I never thought I’d be again.
I offer him a seat on the porch, and go inside to fix us some drinks. When I come back out, he’s got his boots up on the banister just like he would have had them when this was his porch, and you can see in his face that he’s thinking about that. He hands me a cigarette.
“You quit years ago,” I protest as he holds the light for me.
“I smoke all I want, and each morning I’ve got healthier lungs than the day before.” He says. “Why not smoke?”
I shake my head. “They’re gonna fix this someday and time’ll go forward again.”
And he grunts and says, “No they won’t.”
He tells me that his niece has gotten so young that she’s in the hospital. “We’re all gonna turn back to zygotes someday. And in another couple million years the solar system will fall into the Hole and that’ll be that.”
“Jesus Christ,” I sigh. “I hope you don’t act that way when we lose our children.”
Distracted, he frowns. “I’m sure I won’t.”
He’s restless, tapping his foot in a way that would have irritated me the last time I was 46. “I quit drinking, you know. Completely quit. I was going to church, really trying to get my life in order. And I stuck with it after the Black Hole.” He sighs. “A few months back, I just stopped giving a damn. I don’t know why.” He grinds his teeth a little. “I tell myself I’m still an 80 year old man. I don’t have to go through all the bad stuff again,” he says, and I think that it sounds like he’s asking a question. I don’t have any answers for him, if he is.
I hug my knees to my chest. “When I got a job offer back here in town, I was astonished. When this old house showed up for rent, I was mortified. I didn’t even consider taking the place until a few months ago. Partly for fear that you’d be here.”
He smiles. “What changed your mind?”
I scoff. “I didn’t change my mind about you, buster.” Then I sigh and stretch my legs out in front of me and I’m quiet for a little while. “You remember that day we went out on Marty Larmine’s sailboat? Molly and him were still together then, and Randy and Cheryl were there. Our kids were just babies.” We glance at each other and then both turn away quick, shy like teenagers.
“I’d like to do that again,” I say after a minute, sighing. And we sit there on the porch watching the puddles collect in the street and ripple and then send their raindrops hurtling upwards into the billowing heavens.
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